The Library of Congress
Who Really Built America?
Students are immersed in primary source materials that relate to child labor in America from 1880-1920 to gain a personal perspective of how work affected the American child within a rapidly growing industrial society. This project is student-driven. Students engage in visual and information literacy exercises to gain expertise in analyzing historical data. Most importantly, students emerge from this experience with a very personal sense that children significantly and heroically affected the building of America. Procedure

Evaluation & Extension

Objectives: Students will:
  • gain expertise in analyzing historical data through exercises in visual and information literacy; and
  • gain a personal perspective on work in an emerging industrial society and its effect on the American child.

Time Required:

This is a long-term investigation. Students should receive an introduction to the unit early in the course, pursue completion of the project components throughout the course and share final projects with peers and teacher at the project's end.
Grade Level:
Grades 7/8; adaptable for use in grades 6 - 12.
Curriculum Fit:
Social Studies, Humanities, Language Arts, Information Technology, Industrial Arts

McREL 4th Edition Standards & Benchmarks

Historical Understanding
Standard 2. Understands the historical perspective

Language Arts
Standard 9. Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

US History
Standard 16. Understands how the rise of corporations, heavy industry, and mechanized farming transformed American society
Standard 18. Understands the rise of the American labor movement and how political issues reflected social and economic changes.



American Memory Collections:

American Life Histories, 1936-1940

California As I Saw It: First Person Narratives, 1849-1900

Taking the Long View, 1851-1991

Touring Turn-of-the-Century America, 1880-1920

Words and Deeds in American History

Other Web resources:

A Curriculum of United States Labor History for Teachers

Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage

In the Depths of a Coal Mine

Samuel Slater, Father of the American Industrial Revolution

Using Primary Sources in the Classroom

Text Blumenthal, Shirley. Coming to America; Immigrants from Eastern Europe. New York: Delacorte, 1981.

Blumenthal, Shirley and Jerome S. Ozer. Coming to America: Immigrants from the British Isles. New York: Delacorte, 1980.

Brimner, Larry Dane. A Migrant Family. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1992.

Cahn, Rhoda. No Time for School: No Time for Play. New York: Julian Messner, 1973.

Cole, John Y. On These Walls: Inscriptions and Quotations In the Buildings of The Library Of Congress. Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 1995, pp. 28-30.

Foner, Moe. Images of Labor, A Bread and Roses Book. Pilgrim Press, 1981.

Freedman, Russell. Immigrant Kids. New York:
Scholastic, 1980

Freedman, Russell. Kids At Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor. New York, Clarion Publishing, 1994.

Holland, Ruth. Mill Child: The Story of Child Labor in America. New York: Crowell, Collier, 1970.

Kraft, Betsy Harvey. Mother Jones: One Woman’s Fight for Labor. New York: Clarion, 1995.

Lewis Hine: Photographs of Child Labor in the New South. John R. Kemp, ed. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1986.

Markham, Edwin, Benjamin B. Lindsey, George Creel. American Labor: From Conspiracy to Collective Bargaining. New York: Arno and the New York Times, 1969.

Massie, Larry B. and Peter J. Schmitt. Kalamazoo, The Place Behind the Products. Kalamazoo: Windsor, 1981.

McCutcheon, Marc. The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s. Writer’s Digest, 1993.

Morris, Richard B. The U.S. Department of Labor Bicentennial History of The American Worker. Washington, DC

Sandler, Martin W. Immigrants. New York: Harper Collins, 1995.

Spahr, Charles B. America’s Working People. Longmans, Green & Co., 1900.

Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s Economy, Politics, Culture and Society. Volume Two. New York: Pantheon, 1992.

Visual Aides Child Labor: DPA poster series: Documentary Photo Aids, Box 956, Mount Dora, Florida 32757.
Handouts and reference information are available on the Procedure page and for quick download on the Course Materials page.

Procedure | Evaluation and Extension

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Last updated 03/10/2003