Tag Archives: culture

"Bridging The Golden Gate"

“Footbridge ropes stretch across the Golden Gate during the construction of the bridge, September, 1935”

The wonderful people over at the California Historical Society have a free eBook–Bridging the Golden Gate: A Photo Essay–that follows the creation of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.  Follow this link to get your FREE copy downloadable through iTunes.

This photo essay and the digital collection at Calisphere provide amazing views of the bridge’s construction. Showing perilous catwalks workers used to navigate between towers and the enormity of the undertaking.

“Looking towards Marin County from Fort Point in San Francisco, as the floor of the Golden Gate Bridge takes shape, October, 1936”

For the elementary school classroom (or even the high schoolers to make them smile) try this great book, Pop’s Bridge by Eve Bunting.  The story follows Robert’s father and his adventures as a “skywalker” building the bridge.


Cycling, Walking, and Health Conscious Fashion

As May is National Bicycle Month, we thought we would offer some drop-in lesson ideas that included the bicycle!

Just as bloomers earlier in the century caused a ruckus, so to did the riding costumes of the bicycle era. Explore changes to women’s attire and how that corresponded to other movements such as the women’s rights movement, technological advancements, and efforts to improve health and wellness.  Check out these historical Fashion Magazines from the Library of Congress.

Ad for Sear’s Catalogue, Women’s bicycle suits, 1897.


Ad for Eureka Health Corset, 1880.


“Road Queen”


Leisure Time and Entertainment

As May is National Bicycle Month, we thought we would offer some drop-in lesson ideas that included the bicycle!

Wild West Shows, circus acts, and spectator sports such as baseballfootball, and tennis filled leisure time at the end of the nineteenth century. The Barnum & Bailey Shows even began to highlight cycling in their acts.

Try this lesson plan from EDSITEment! for ideas on “Having Fun” nineteenth century style. Or this issue of “Central Illinois Teaching With Primary Sources Newsletter” all about the circus.

National Bicycle Exhibition, Madison Square Garden, 1895.


Poster: Professional cycling, 1905.


Cartoon: Tennis and women in the 1870s.


Poster for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, “Annie Oakley and Johnnie Baker” 1898


Bike Your Way Through May

National Bike Month is halfway over, but there is still time to join in!  This week we bring you ideas for “drop-in” lessons or ways to incorporate this fun and approachable topic into your classroom.

Engage students in a discussion of technological advancements of the 19th century. With the communication and transportation revolution coupled with the emergence of the factory and more sophisticated farming equipment, how did these changes transform life for ordinary citizens? See this lesson from EDSITment! for suggestions on activities and documents. For more primary sources on the early bicycle visit “Gearing Up for Bike Month with Primary Sources” from the Library of Congress.

Saturday Evening Post ad for National Bicycle Week, “This is happiness week” 1921

Ad for Columbia Bicycle Co., Hi-Wheeler, 1886.

“Washington Meet of the League of American Wheelmen” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 1884.




Teaching the Women's Rights Movement

Women’s Rights Movement series, part 5

This past week we’ve delved into the various aspects of the early Women’s Rights Movement. Today, Debra Schneider, social studies teacher at Merrill F. West High School, provides us with her expertise and hands on experience for teaching this subject in the classroom.  Click here for more from Debra Schneider.


For years, I have taught a unit on social movements of the 20th century in my 11th grade US History course, primarily focusing on the African American civil rights movement. Our focus is to explore issues at stake and strategies for gaining civil rights. This makes it easy to shift focus to any other social movement of interest to my students, such as the disability rights movement, the Chicano Youth movement, the marriage equality movement and others, continuing to explore issues and strategies. One problem: so many movements, so little time!

Then, a few years ago, after attending a fantastic Gilder-Lehrman Teacher Seminar on women’s history designed by Nancy Cott at The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, I made the commitment to always include the women’s movements of the 20th century in the social movements we study. In addition to making sure women are part of our study of the Progressive era, the Great Depression, America at war, and other time periods, I have collected and created a series of lessons to study “two waves” of feminism.

I start by accessing students’ prior knowledge of the role of women with the concept of separate spheres:  the “private sphere” of women and the “public sphere” of men. I admit I am quite dramatic and exaggerate these to set up a sharp dichotomy between the two, but later use images of women at work to show the myths in this ideology. I also introduce the idea of two waves of feminism that have tried to change this ideology, with the expectation that we’ll evaluate how far we have come at the end of the unit.

We use the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments as our baseline to see what women’s role in society was in the mid-1800s and to start our study of suffrage. We explore a set of images I have collected that show arguments for and against suffrage, including political cartoons, broadsides, and some anti-suffrage documents from the Stanford History Education Group. Students usually understand the pro-suffrage arguments easily, so we spend more time on the anti-suffrage movement. Students are shocked to learn that many anti-suffragists were women!  Students learn about the 19th Amendment, but see that there were still more rights to be gained.

Ad: Pictorial Review, “The CHANGE that has come to WOMAN” 1931.

Next we move on to the changing role of women through the 20th century. For this, I use a great set of resources created by Carolynn Ranch for the UC Davis History Project showing women through from the 1940s to the 1990s with advertisements, song lyrics, primary source expository texts, biographical sketches, and depictions of television show characters. Groups of students study and discuss each decades’ sources and use them to decide: How are women depicted in this decade? Before the lesson, they usually hypothesize that women will have more and more freedom and rights over time. After the lesson, they are surprised to find that women’s rights and freedoms seemed higher in the 1940s than in the 1950s, for example.  Here’s where they come to see that gender roles are often constructed by the nation to fill its changing needs.

Next we study the women’s liberation movement of the mid-century, starting with excerpts from Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. Many students are aware of this wave of feminism and hope to enjoy its benefits, but there is often a lot of nostalgia for “the good old days,” so I also introduce the ideas of Stephanie Coontz’s The Way We Never Were.

Most of my students think that the goal of the mid-century women’s movement was to encourage all women to move into the world of paid work, and perhaps with some parity with men (because this is the observed experience of many of them). My purpose in this lesson is to have them discover the complexity of the feminist movements, their intersectionality, and to see that women had conflicting and multiple ideas about what women’s problems were and how best to address them. I use documents expressing differences among racial/ethnic groups to illustrate the conflicts.

The last activity is a scored class discussion that asks, “How fair and equal is life for women in America today?” We discuss three topics: employment and wages, education, and political participation. Students use the Seneca Falls Declaration, everything we’ve learned so far, and a fact sheet on women in the US today as their sources. This has never failed to create a lively discussion with well-supported arguments that usually lasts two class periods.


The complete Women’s Rights Movement series includes posts on: the early movement, bloomers, anti-suffrage cartoons, and the 19th Amendment.  Join us next week for another Women’s History series!

Revolutionizing the Recording Industry

“The Manufacture of Edison’s Talking Doll” in Scientific American 1890.

Well before the iPod and mp3’s became a staple of daily life, portable music was only available by the phonograph and tin sound recordings.  In 1877, Thomas Edison created the phonograph and by 1888 was on the hunt for a novel way to use his invention.  Seeing an untapped market in children’s toys, Edison thought to place tin recordings in dolls.  By 1890, these talking dolls were on sale to the public.  While they failed as a significant financial venture for Edison, they represent several firsts in the recording world.  The women hired by Edison to record voices for the dolls are some of the first recording artists, and the tins themselves represent the first recordings intended for mass sale—the birth of the recording industry!

“Talking Doll” manufactured at Edison plant, NY, 1890; men made body, women dressed it.

For more information on Edison’s talking doll, check out this National Park Service article.  The National Park service also includes links to an original sound recording, as well as additional primary sources including Edison’s Laboratory notebook and  two articles “Dolls that Really Talk” from New York Evening Sun and “Talks with Wise Dolls” from New York Press.

Thanks to Edison, we experience toys and music alike in a whole new way!

Valentine's Day Recipe

Valentines day

For more information on the above ads visit the following links:

(starting from top left)

1. Ad: Middishade Blue Suit, ‘Correct at every tick of the clock’ 1928

2. Ad: L’ECHO of Paris, ‘New Dance Frocks’ 1928

3. Ad: Holeproof Hosiery Co., 1924

4. Ad: Spur Ties, ‘All tied for you. Husband, friend, or brother’ 1929

5. Ad: Jewelers’ Association, ‘Love Token for the Ages’ 1927

6. Ad: Packard, ‘Packard was born into the world of taste and refinement’ 1928

7. Ad: Johnston’s Chocolates, ‘Rudy Vallee autographs his photograph for the sweethearts of America’ 1931

Let's Go Shopping…19th Century Style!

As the holiday season gets into full swing, engage student’s shopping preoccupation with nineteenth century department store ads and photographs.  The Marchand Archive holds dozens of intriguing posters that will get students thinking about the differences between department stores then and now.

Take for example this 1885 ad for Hill Brothers Millinery Goods storeroom.  Perhaps students notice how well dress the shoppers are.  Maybe they recognize that all the sales associates are men.  Or even, notice the differences and similarities with today’s stores layout of goods.  No matter what draws them in, they will soon forget they are engaging in a historical conversation!

Ad poster for Hill Brothers Millinery Goods salesroom interior, New York City, 1885

Search here for more examples!


Manhood and Success

From the Culture of Character to the Culture of Personality

Bradley and the "Culture of Personality" click on image to see full version

Douglas and the "Culture of Character" click on image to see full version

Commentary from Tim Yates, former History Project staff member: The Marchand Collection offers a wealth of images that can be used in the classroom to illustrate and prompt discussion of what cultural historians mean when they abstractly describe the shift from a inner-directed nineteenth-century culture of character to an other-directed twentieth-century culture of personality.    The socioeconomic causes of this shift also involved other abstract historical concepts such as the shift from producerism to consumerism, for which the Marchand Collection also provides useful illustrations beyond the ads discussed in this post.  While Douglas and Bradley are both products of the longstanding American emphasis on self-improvement, they are different historical types.  Douglas represents the successful inner-directed producer come industrialist who helped Americans overcome scarcity through factory production.  Expanding factory operations enabled the kind of industrial mass-production pioneered by Henry Ford in the early twentieth century.  The productivity of nineteenth-century middle-class men such as Douglas led to the emergence after 1900 of middle-class men such as Bradley, who increasingly found themselves selling mass-produced goods or doing other kinds of white-collar work in the office environments of large corporations or public bureaucracies.  Success in many of the jobs created by mass production and consumption required other-directed management of social impressions.  Advertisers and self-improvement promoters offered twentieth-century self-makers a range of new solutions for the changing circumstances, solutions that centered on personality enhancement.  Explore the Marchand collection for examples of advertising appeals to personality enhancement as well as images depicting the rise of mass production.  This chapter of American history raises other historical questions that the Marchand Collection might help elucidate.  How did middle-class American women experience of the cultural shift from character to personality and the underlying shift from a producer-oriented to a consumption-oriented economy?  When and how did working-class and ethnic-minority groups experience this new twentieth-century culture?  How did the rise of a mass-production and mass-consumption economy shape American politics over the course of the twentieth century?  How does the nineteenth-century emphasis on character influence our society today?  How does the more recent culture of personality influence your life?


Douglas and the Culture of Character: This advertisement for W.L. Douglas shoes vividly illustrates popular nineteenth-century American ideas about manhood and success.  The ad promotes W.L. Douglas shoes in an appeal emphasizing the qualities of Douglas the shoemaker, a self-made man sincerely dedicated to the craft he began learning it as a young child.  Cultural historian Warren Susman has argued that nineteenth-century America “was a culture of character” rooted in “producer values” that idealized thrift, discipline, work, morality, duty, citizenship, and reputation.  Americans considered these qualities prerequisites for true success.  Douglas has these qualities.  He contrasts both the nineteenth-century drunkard who weakly squandered money and became a slave to alcohol, and the confidence man, who spent his energies in criminal schemes hinging on the cultivation of false social impressions.  Douglas is a hard-working man who has achieved self-mastery by directing his energies inward to develop discipline.  He frequently spends his days in Boston thriftily purchasing his own supplies to eliminate the  middleman costs, which, the ad assures readers, his stores do as well.  Upon returning from Boston, he often works alone late into the night.  Relentlessly efficient and productive, Douglas is a sincere man of character, and character translates into affordable shoes with quality.

“Bradley” and the Culture of Personality: This 1922 ad for “Nerve,” a series of six pocket-sized self-improvement courses created by William G. Clifford and promoted by Fairfield Publishers, Inc., offers a new narrative of success, one that differs from the W.L. Douglas shoe ad in historically important ways.  Here the individual–a man named Bradley–is subjected to a new set of psychological demands for self-mastery conveying a new model of success.  In this ad the language of character has been replaced with the new language of what Susman identifies as emerging culture of “personality,” which generated new models of success and manhood emphasizing self-confidence, self-realization, and self-gratification, and celebrating the kinds of impression manipulation that formerly signaled the immorality of the nineteenth-century confidence man. The ad informs readers that Bradley, who once lacked self-confidence and a sense of self-worth, has become a man whose “vividness and charm” magnetically attract “favorable attention,” and a man consequently awarded with a $12,000-a-year job. Whereas the Douglas ad featured imagery of individual productivity, this ad shows Bradley walking into a room and commanding favorable attention.  Bradley is a success because he is well-liked and charming.  His self-improvement bears little or no resemblance to Douglas’s thrift, hard work, and long-honed skills at producing a purchasable good.  Instead, Bradley is a success because he has “gain[ed] the self-assurance that strongly impresses people,” “overcome nervousness,” developed “an impressive and winning personality,” and mastered the ability to “deal with ‘big’ people as easily” as easily as he interacts with “his closest friends” by learning to “dominate and control” both “business and personal conditions.”

Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women:  A Study of Middle Class Culture, 1830-1870.
Jackson Lears, Fables of Abundance:  A Cultural History of Advertising in America.
Roland Marchand, Advertising and the American Dream:  Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940.
Warren Susman, Culture as History:  The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (see especially “Personality and the Making of Twentieth-Century Culture,” pgs. 271-285).

Timothy (Tim) Yates received his Ph.D.  in U.S. History in 2007 from U.C. Davis, where he worked for the History Project as a digitizer of images from Roland Marchand’s and Karen Halttunen’s teaching collections, a research assistant for summer programs, and a Teaching American History grant contributor.  Tim currently works as a consultant for ICF International analyzing the history of built environments for development projects requiring federal and/or state regulatory compliance.  Tim’s most notable recent work for ICF has consisted of researching and writing histories of National Historic Landmark sites and resources such as Mission San Gabriel and the Doyle Drive and Veterans Boulevard Highway Exchange (the south approach roads to the Golden Gate Bridge).

Complicating the Aztecs

Codex Telleriano-Remensis: Historical Chronicle 1383-1399, c. 1563

Title:  Codex Telleriano-Remensis: Historical Chronicle 1383-1399, c. 1563

About the image: The destruction of Colhuacan by the Aztecs and Tepanecs. Colhuacan had been founded by the Toltecs under Mixcoatl and was the first Toltec city.

Why does Professor Andrés Reséndez at U.C. Davis find this image interesting?

“In class we often present the Aztec empire as timeless: always powerful, always an empire.  Yet the Aztecs had a history too.  Their rags-to-riches story is so extraordinary that it is hard to believe (and rightfully so, for we know that they rewrote their own history!)  According to this version, the Aztecs were originally a lowly band of wanderers arriving to the valley of Mexico when it was already occupied by several other city-states.  Colhuacan was one of the dominant powers in the fourteenth century.  The leaders of Colhuacan tolerated the late-arriving Aztecs by employing them as mercenaries and giving them other menial tasks while also forcing them to live in marginal lands.

Yet, from these humble beginnings, the Aztecs rose to power by skillfully establishing alliances with other city-states of the valley.  This folio of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis shows the moment when the Aztecs allied with the Tepanecs finally defeated Colhuacan.  I find it especially interesting for what it reveals about the Aztecs’ evolving culture and identity.  Two Aztec warriors no longer clad in animal skins (as they are depicted in earlier folios of the codex) but dressed in cotton (and therefore fully assimilated to the sedentary culture of central Mexico) are battling the mighty city-state of Colhuacan and setting it on fire.  They were no longer outsiders but important players.  Undoubtedly, this victory was a turning point in the history of central Mexico, but a turning point all but ignored in a historical narrative that almost always begins much later with the Spanish arrival.”

Related Topics/Themed Collections: Ancient Mexico, Arts & Architecture, War, Religion

Lessons in the Marchand Collection:

Resources Available in the Marchand Collection:

  • Jacques Soustelle, Daily Life of Aztecs: On the Eve of the Spanish Conquest
  • David Carrasco, Daily Life of the Aztecs: People of the Sun and Earth
  • Gisele Díaz and Alan Rodgers, The Codex Borgia: A Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Mexican Manuscript
  • Miguel Léon-Portilla, The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico

Share your ideas! How would you use this image? Let us know here.