Transformation of Texas Transportation
This lesson plan was written for grades 9–12.
- learn about how the growth of railroads led to an industrial revolution in Texas;
- understand that cities located where the rail lines met, such as Austin, Dallas, and Houston, saw rapid gains in population and increased economic activity;
- analyze bird’s-eye views of Austin, Dallas, and Houston for increases in housing, businesses, and railroad activity;
- read a newspaper article debating whether the Indianola, Lavaca, and Austin Railroad Company should come to Travis County;
- write a newspaper article and/or participate in a debate taking a side on the railroad question and defending their position.
Materials needed are:
- bird’s-eye views of Texas cities projected for the class to see;
- article “Shall We Take the Stock?” from the December 14, 1871, Austin American Statesman;
- paper and pencils or pens for each student.
Note: Those without classroom Internet access may use the poster of the 1891 Fort Worth view to complete portions of this lesson. The poster is available through the Amon Carter Museum’s Teaching Resource Center.
1. Explain to students that the growth of farming and railroads led to an industrial revolution in Texas. Between 1879 and 1889, 6,000 miles of railroad track were laid in the state. Have students brainstorm about how the railroad helped the economy of a city. (Possible answers include the following: businesses could now ship goods to other parts of the country, new immigrants could arrive in Texas to work and buy goods, goods could be brought in from other places, and new businesses could develop.)
2. Tell students that cities located where the rail lines met, such as Austin, Dallas, and Houston, saw rapid gains in population and increased economic activity. Working as a class or in groups, have students look closely at bird’s-eye views of Austin, Dallas, and Houston.
- Comparing the 1873 and 1887 views of Austin and reading the text that accompanies each one, have students answer the following questions:
- How many years separate the two views of Austin?
- When did the railroad first arrive in Austin? Which railroad company was the first to arrive? Did a second railroad arrive in Austin? If so, when and what was its name? Locate the railroads in both views.
- Describe the city’s status in 1873. For example, what was its population and how was it fairing economically?
- Describe the city’s status in 1887. By how much had its population grown?
- How did Austin change from 1873 to 1887? Which of these changes might have stemmed from the development of the railroad?
- Comparing the 1872 and 1892 views of Dallas and reading the text that accompanies each one, have students answer the following questions:
- How many years separate the two views of Dallas?
- When did the railroad first arrive in Dallas? Which railroad company was the first to arrive? How many other railroads were completed in Dallas in the 1870s? Locate the railroads in both views.
- Why was railroad transportation especially important to Dallas in 1872?
- What problem concerning the railroad had arisen in Dallas by 1892? How does the 1892 view reflect this problem?
- Comparing the 1873 and 1891 views of Houston and reading the text that accompanies each one, have students answer the following questions:
- How many years separate the two views of Houston?
- Had the railroad already arrived in Houston by 1873? How does the railroad’s name on the 1873 view symbolize Houston’s civic pride? Locate the railroads in both views.
- How did the strong railroad network in Houston help the city’s economy?
- Compare the 1873 and 1891 views. How did the city change? Which of these changes might have stemmed from the strength of the railroad in Houston?
3. As evidenced in the Austin, Dallas, and Houston views, numerous railroad companies had their eyes on Texas cities. Explain. Have students read the article “Shall We Take the Stock?” from the December 14, 1871, Austin American Statesman. Tell students that in 1871 Austin was deciding whether to allow the Indianola, Lavaca, and Austin Railroad Company to come to Travis County. This letter to the editor supports the position of the Indianola, Lavaca, and Austin Railroad Company.
4. Two options for the concluding activity are as follows:
- Have students write a letter to the editor opposing the viewpoint of this author. Students should state their position and give reasons to support it.
- Divide the class in half and have them debate over whether the Indianola, Lavaca, and Austin Railroad Company should come to Travis County. One half of the class should support the railroad’s arrival, while the other should not. Both groups can use the December 14, 1871, letter to the editor to support their position.
- (2) History. The student understands the political, economic, and social changes in the United States from 1877 to 1898. The student is expected to:
- (B) analyze economic issues such as industrialization, the growth of railroads, the growth of labor unions, farm issues, and the rise of big business;
- (C) analyze social issues such as the treatment of minorities, child labor, growth of cities, and problems of immigrants.
- (8) Geography. The student uses geographic tools to collect, analyze, and interpret data. The student is expected to:
- (B) pose and answer questions about geographic distributions and patterns shown on maps, graphs, charts, models, and databases.
- (23) Science, technology, and society. The student understands the influence of scientific discoveries and technological innovations on daily life in the United States. The student is expected to:
- (A) analyze how scientific discoveries and technological innovations, including those in transportation and communication, have changed the standard of living in the United States.
- (24) Social studies skills. The student applies critical-thinking skills to organize and use information acquired from a variety of sources including electronic technology. The student is expected to:
- (B) explain and apply different methods that historians use to interpret the past, including the use of primary and secondary sources, points of view, frames of reference, and historical context.
- (1) Writing purposes. The student writes in a variety of forms, including business, personal, literary, and persuasive texts, for various audiences and purposes. The student is expected to:
- (A) write in a variety of forms using effective word choice, structure, and sentence forms with emphasis on organizing logical arguments with clearly related definitions, theses, and evidence; write persuasively; write to report and describe; and write poems, plays, and stories.
- (7) Reading/comprehension. The student comprehends selections using a variety of strategies. The student is expected to:
- (F) identify main ideas and their supporting details;
- (G) summarize texts;
- (H) draw inferences such as conclusions, generalizations, and predictions and support them from text.
- (10) Reading/literary response. The student expresses and supports responses to various types of texts. The student is expected to:
- (A) respond to informational and aesthetic elements in texts such as discussions, journals, oral interpretations, and dramatizations;
- (B) use elements of text to defend his/her own responses and interpretations.
This lesson plan was created by the Education Department of the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, to accompany the Texas Bird’s-Eye Views Web site and was made possible by a generous grant from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation representing BNSF Railway Company.