Materials: Internet or library access, 24 strips of 8 ½” x 11” paper cut in half length wise, chalk/white board markers or a long length of butcher paper, markers/crayons/colored pencils
Objective: Students will understand how technology developed over time and how it affected the community.
Information relevant to the Fur Trade:
The first American trappers actually started working in the northeast part of the country over 200 years before the Rocky Mountain fur trade began! By 1600, the French were swapping small trinkets to the Indians in Canada for beaver, otter, mink, and fox furs. The British soon followed, trading for furs along the St. Lawrence River.
As the number of people in America grew, the further west it spread, and it was almost always the trappers who dared lead the way. Fur traders were busy around the Great Lakes before they moved on to the Mississippi Basin area. By 1800, the trappers had traveled as far west as the Missouri River, and the Rocky Mountain fur trade was just around the corner. Many trappers at this time were excited about Lewis and Clark’s description of the west, and they were eager to set their traps in this new land. While the Fur Traders were the trailblazers into the frontier, it was their countrymen who led the way in technology and inventions.
Have students (in groups or individually) look up who invented each of the items below. You may want to assign an invention to a student or a group of inventions to a small group of students.
photograph – 1839
straight pin – 1824
phosphorous match - 1836
stage coach – 1835
electric light bulb - 1879
Levi pants/jeans – 1850
safety pin - 1849
lawnmower – 1849
telegraph - 1844
machine gun – 1861
harmonica - 1827
bicycle – 1818
upright piano - 1800
postage stamps with glue on the back – 1847
baby carriage - 1848
washing machine – 1848
chewing gum – 1867
phonograph – 1877
cash register – 1879
zipper – 1841
bathtub (in the U.S.) – 1842
sewing machine – 1846
revolver – 1835
After they have done the research, give the students thin strips of paper. Have them write what the invention is, the year it was invented, who invented it, and what it replaced in the past or what replaced it in the future. For example: the typewriter replaced writing documents by hand and was later replaced by the computer.
If there is room and time students may decorate the strip of paper.
On a chalk or white board or on a long role of butcher paper draw a line for a time line it will begin at 1800 and go until 1900. Make sure you write both end dates on the timeline and for reference for the students in the middle of the timeline mark 1850.
Now call on students one at a time and have them attach their invention to the appropriate place on the timeline using tape.
Move the inventions as necessary to fit them all on the timeline in the right spot.
Next highlight the time frame for fur trade (1820-1840).
Have students imagine they are a mountain man, ask them to pick one item that was invented after the fur trade (1840). Have them write a short story as to how the mountain man’s life would have improved if had been invented during his time.
Follow up by having the students read their stories aloud to the class or to a partner.