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In this activity, students are guided through a close reading of The Journal of Sean Sullivan: A Transcontinental Railroad Worker, a fictional book for young readers based on historical sources. Students will read a short excerpt from the beginning of the book and determine the meaning of key words. Working in groups, students will then read…
A passage from Matthew Josephson's The Robber Barons outlines the often unsavory history of the railroad industry in America. As Josephson tells it, the history of the railroads traced a trajectory of corruption, scandal, popular outrage, largely failed attempts at legislation and regulation, and finally accommodation as the railroad barons became…

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Item Type: Book (excerpt)
Date: 1934

In this activity, students read a series of primary source documents, including the 1872 print "American Progress," that depict the social, political and cultural conflicts between settlers and Native Americans during the 19th century. Then, working in small groups, students will consider the events from the perspective of Native Americans, and…
After the Panic of 1873 plunged the U.S. economy into a severe and lasting depression, corporations such as the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company found themselves cutting costs, usually by reducing employees' wages, as this letter from the company's president dictates. In an era when most workers had yet to be organized into trade unions, they…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1877

This excerpt from Sidney Dillon's article "The West and the Railroads," from an 1891 issue of The North American Review, credits the railroad with the growth and positive transformation of the American West. The president of the Union Pacific Railway Company, Dillon dismisses criticisms of railroad companies and their fraudulent and unjust…

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Item Type: Newspaper/Magazine
Date: 1891

This set of worksheets provides reading questions and writing tasks that cover five themes (work, corruption, tensions among immigrant groups, conflict with Indians, boomtowns) found in the historical fiction book, The Journal of Sean Sullivan.
This is a list of the book’s themes along with the related journal entries.
This is a basic vocabulary list to use with this book. There are other words and terms that your students may want to add in the space provided at the end.
A massive labor strike in 1877 shook the very foundations of American politics and society. Starting with a spontaneous railroad strike in West Virginia, the “Great Uprising” spread rapidly across the country. In many cities, entire working populations went out on strike. When state and federal troops fired on workers in several cities,…