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EIU Teaching with Primary Sources

Childhood Lost: Child Labor During the Industrial Revolution

childhood lost header

Introduction | Primary Sources and Analysis Tools 
Library of Congress Resources | Primary Source Set

Choose a link below to access printable PDF versions of these materials including additional information, color images and citations.
Childhood Lost:Child Labor During the Industrial Revolution Resource Booklet | Primary Source Set

Primary Sources and Analysis Tools

This page contains information about incorporating primary sources into learning activities and links to primary source analysis tools. Examples of primary sources relative to our topic are included in the printable version of the resource booklet and primary source set above. You are also encouraged to visit the Library of Congress Resources page above to locate collections, exhibits and more sources of digitized primary sources. Of course, you should always go to and conduct your own search for primary sources that you can use in your classroom! If you need assistance feel free to contact the EIUTPS staff or use the Library of Congress "Ask A Librarian" links.


Why teach with photographs?
Photographs are powerful tools that can activate a student’s background knowledge on a particular person, place or event and spark an interest to learn more. Teachers may effectively use photographs to present historical events, people and places in a personal way that students can connect with. The idea that photographs never lie has a long history, with many debates resting on photographic evidence. Some argue that photographs can indeed lie -- they can be doctored, staged, or faked in many ways.

Connecting to our topic of Child Labor, Activists and Reform …
There is much more to a photo than the subject in the center. People, places, things and conditions in a photograph may offer a more complete view than what we see in the expression of the subject. 

The Library of Congress holds more than 5000 images taken by Lewis Hines of child labor across the United States. Each image tells a different story or may invoke a different emotion. Using a photo analysis sheet, students can take a closer look at these images and form opinions about the “big picture” of children in the workforce. 

Students may discover details that were missed at first glance. Backgrounds, faces of children, environment and more that we see in these pictures help to share a graphic story of child labor.

Analysis Sheets: The More You Look Photo Analysis Sheet | Put Yourself in the Picture |


Why teach with maps?
Maps serve as representations of geographic, political or cultural features on flat surfaces. Maps are visual records of knowledge valued by people in an area and they point to belief systems as well as boundaries. Teachers may effectively use maps to illustrate concepts that may otherwise be difficult for students to understand, such as settlement patterns, trade routes, economic growth and development. 

Maps can be an important source of information for investigation. A map is a visual recollection of where people lived, roads and rivers passed, and natural geographic features once stood.  A map represents a place that has been reduced in size, and chosen to focus on a particular theme. The results are then presented with symbols. The map reader, who may live in a different location and time, must decode the symbols and techniques used to understand the map. To read a map, students should have a foundation of information to place it within the correct geographical, chronological, and cultural contexts.

Connecting to our topic of Child Labor, Activists and Reform...
When we typically think of a map we expect outlines of states, a legend, maybe even battlefields. When we look at maps relative to the issue of child labor, many of the items expected to be found aren’t visible. These maps were created and were displayed in exhibits to inform the public of the dangers and the shocking numbers of children working in the United States. When you use the map analysis sheet, not every question will have an answer. Feel free to revise the form to fit your classroom or lesson.

Analysis Sheets: Map Analysis Sheet


Why teach with poems?
A performance, speech, story or poem is individualized in the mind of each audience member who brings their unique experiences and perspectives.  Poetry may present reactions and experiences of average Americans to significant events or day to day happenings creating an intimate connection with a listener or reader. A personal connection is formed as the recipient forms mental images to go with the words and sounds heard. Poetry may focuses on specific events rather than broad topics which can help us understand the relationship between individuals and major historical events.  The personal nature of poems and the acceptance of varying and individual responses often draw listeners in.

Connecting to our topic of Child Labor, Activists and Reform...
Poetry has been used throughout time to tell stories, inspire feelings and reveal emotion. It has also been a tool used in protest. The poet can help us understand their perspective or sometimes lead us to change our own. By placing a reader in a desired time and place, the poet causes the reader to think and possibly expose them to a different opinion than they originally held. When images accompany words it can often take a reader down a specific path and make the message stronger. A poem can help us mentally create an image of the emotion the poet is trying to share.

Analysis Sheets: Poem Analysis Sheet

Posters and Broadsides

Why teach with posters and broadsides?
Propaganda is a tool used as a weapon freely during war.  Famous images and slogans that originated on posters of past wars are still recognized today.  Some of the same techniques that were used to invoke emotion are used today in advertisements, something students will be able to understand.  Posters attract our attention and often immediately appeal to some type of emotional reaction.

When we look at posters as historical documents, we must consider what the poster implies. In less than a single sentence, and on occasion with no words at all, posters are highly selective in the way that they depict the world. The way that a group, race, class or gender is portrayed in a poster can be very biased or skewed to fit the needs of the creator or to raise the desired reaction from viewers. 

Connecting to our topic Child Labor, Activists and Reform...
As with maps, these posters were used as exhibits to educate the public about the occurrence of child labor. When you initially view a poster, your eyes typically go to the image. Do these images accurately convey the intended message of the poster? Text offers details to support the cause of the creator of the poster. Some posters have few words while others provide detailed statistics or explanations. In the posters for child labor the images are vivid to attract and engage readers to investigate and learn more about the fight of child advocates.

Analysis Sheets: Poster Analysis Sheet


Why teach with cartoons?
Editorial or political cartoons divulge opinions on issues, events and people in the public eye. They are present in major, local and regional papers and appeal to most readers. The people who create editorial cartoons possess an awareness of society and cultural events as well as art skills such as the use of symbolism, satire, and the use of caricatures. Editorial cartoons can be used to teach students to identify current issues or themes, analyze symbols, identify stereotypes and caricatures, think critically, recognize the use of irony and humor and understand the need for a broad knowledge base.   Cartoons are terrific tools for developing higher-level thinking skills. Students can discuss, analyze and create original works that reflect their perceptions of current events and issues. Editorial cartoons used to be utilized in language arts and social studies, but today, teachers of all subject areas can use cartoons with a wide range of topics.  

Connecting to our topic Child Labor, Activists and Reform...
Cartoons were created to disseminate information and expose the public to child labor issues. Child labor abuse was present in both rural and metropolitan areas, however these audiences were perceived as very different. The ability to publish a cartoon in a poster or newspaper allowed the same message to be shared in a variety of geographic areas.

Analysis Sheets: Cartoon Analysis Sheet

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