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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Around the World in the 1890s

[Detail] Railway train - Italy, 1894

Critical Thinking

1) Historical Comprehension

From the end of the Civil War to the early 1900s, railroading in the United States experienced a golden age. Rail transport changed the landscape, the political scene, and the way people lived. Did the building of railroads and other transportation systems have the same effect in other countries? Students can study the details in a photograph to

  • identify effects of railroad technology on a country's physical and human environment; and
  • analyze the thesis that transportation technology creates change.

search on railroad tracks, and landforms such as mountains and rifts to identify routes in relation to geographic features. search on railroad workers and place names, such as Madras, Bombay, Sri Lanka, and Australia to study images illustrating the effects of railroads on everyday life.

2) Historical Analysis and Interpretation

A number of photographs, such as Darjeeling - Joseph Pangborn, depict members of the World's Transportation Commission in various poses and locations.

search on World's Transportation Commission and William Henry Jackson for photographs of the travelers on tour. Students can make inferences from these images to discuss what they reveal about:

  • the photographer's point of view, background, and interests;
  • the motives that these men, as American businessman, may have had for making this journey; and
  • the group's perspectives on what they observed -- their attitudes and values.

The discussion might lead students to pose a set of questions regarding the relationship between the photographs in the collection and the social, political, and economic events taking place in the United States during 1894-1896.

3) Historical Research Capabilities

These Indian Women sit in a railway coach beneath signs reading "Native females" and "Third Class." Commission members saw evidence of segregation of classes, sexes, and ethnic groups in several of the countries they visited.

Students can use images from Around the World in the 1890s to learn more about women's lives in various parts of the world during the 1890s. Photographs show how women dressed, how they lived, the kinds of work they did, and the technology that was available to them.

search on women, women in Russia, women in China, or women in India for a general overview of the subject.

search also on terms describing specific situations, such as cooking, laundering, strolling, or on occupations such as street vendor.

search wives of chief, and native women to note divisions among economic classes. Have students select a group of images and use them as the basis for a "Women's Lives: Then and Now" documentary. The documentary can address questions such as these:

  • What economic opportunities are available to women in the 1990s that were not available in the 1890s?
  • What segregation issues still exist between men and women?
  • How have women's daily lives changed?

4) Historical Issue-Analysis and Decision-Making

Despite the economic depression that was taking place in the U.S. during the mid-1890s, American businesses were interested in developing new markets abroad for their products and services. One of the objectives of the World's Transportation Commission was to gather information about the countries visited, keeping in mind the possibility of new markets.

Students can search on cities, markets, harbors, factories, farms, and plantations to view images of various forms of economic activity in the countries visited. Challenge students to use these photographs to identify factors that Commission members would probably consider in recommending a particular place as a potential new market for American goods. Discuss which of these factors are still valid and identify new factors that are important in selecting new markets today.

5) Chronological Thinking

William Henry Jackson's professional life as a photographer took him to many different parts of the United States and the World. Using the timeline of Jackson's life, students can examine when he travelled to and documented these various locations.

There are two other collections in American Memory where photographs created by Jackson can be found. Search on William Henry Jackson in Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920 or search on his name in Detroit Publishing Company to fine evidence of his work over time.