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Teacher's Best - The Creative Process

History Through a Lens Poster Series Education Posters
for world and American history classrooms and home schoolers.

social studies > history > HISTORY THROUGH A LENS < art history

The “History Through a Lens” poster series depicted famous photographs of historic events with commentary as teaching resources.

Use the series idea to emphasize both the event and the role of photography in social reform, and the use video and cell phone cameras.

Events featured in the series include the transcontinental railroad, the Wright Brothers first flight, child labor, Migrant Mother, the Hindenburg Disaster, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, World War II concentration camps, Integration at Central High School, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Escape from Vietnam.

• Did you know that the person credited with coining the word “photography” is Sir John Herschel, the son and nephew of astronomers William and Caroline Herschel?

History Through a Lens - The Railroad: East and West, Art Print (May 10, 1869)
The Railroad: East and West,
Art Print

The Railroad: East and West
May 10, 1869

On May 10, 1869 the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads met at Promontory Summit, Utah. Their rails joined to create a railroad line that connected the eastern and the western parts of the United States and opened the middle of the continent. The transcontental railroad was the longest, .... project in the history of the United State up to that time. It took six years of backbreaking labor to complete the railroad.

When the railroad was finished there was a ceremony to mark the linking of the wol lines. Thomas Durant, the president of the Union Pacific, tapped a silver spike into a pre-drilled hole on the last railroad tie. The Leland Stanford of the Central Pacific struck at a golden spike on the tie. .... a telegraph operator tapped out the word “done” to officers around the nation.

Andrew J. Russell took this famous photograph of Stanford and Durant* shaking hands after the ceremony. A Civil War photographer, Russell made three trips to 1868 and 1869 to photograph the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad. He brought a darkroom, ..., glass plates for negatives, chemicals, and two cameras - one weighing 30 pounds. This photograph, called “East and West Shaking Hands,” was one of 600 pictues he took on his trips. Russell's photographs ....in a news magazine called ......... . In those days, newspapers and magazine could not print actual photographs. Instead, publications ran pictures, made from woodcuts of the photos.

*FYI ~ Wikipedia identifies Samuel S. Montague of the Central Pacific Railroad, shaking hands with Grenville M. Dodge, in the photograph.

The original ceremony, set for May 8, was postponed because of bad weather.

History Through a Lens - First Flight Wall Poster
First Flight

First Flight

Poster Text: Orville and Wilbur Wright chose the windy, sandy beaches of the Outer Banks, islands off the coast of North Carolina, to test their gliders and their first airplane. The two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, made Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, famous when their airplane took off and flew under its own power – the first time a motorized airplane actually flew. This picture records the first flight of the Wright Brothers' plane on December 17, 1903. Orville was at the controls. Wilbur ran alongside holding on to a wind to keep the plane balanced, and he let go as the plane rose in the air. Wilbur had set up the camera, and the picture was taken by John Daniels, a local man who came by to help the brothers. On this first flight the plane stayed in the air for twelve seconds and flew 120 feet. The Wright brothers made four flights that day; the longest light lasted 59 seconds.

The Wright airplane was the first great invention that ws fully documented by photography. Wilbur and Orville had taken up the photography as a hobby before they became interested in aviation. During the four years they worked to build their airplane, the found photography to be a valuable tool. They used photos to record their experiments and to analyze their mistakes. And, in the end, a picture proved they had made the first machine to fly under its own power.

Spindle Boys, Art Print
Spindle Boys,
Art Print

Spindle Boys

Poster Text: In 1908 Lewis W. Hine took this picture of boys working in a Georgia cotton mill. His notes about the picture says the boys “were so small they had to climb up on the spinning frame to rewind broken threads or replace empty bobbins.” When Hines was young he had worked in factories up to thirteen hours a day, six days a week. He photographed working children to show the harsh conditions they faced everyday. He took pictures of children working in mills in Massachusetts and in the South. He photographed children working in mines, as newspaper boys and on farms. He made notes of the children's stories and their work histories. The children were paid less than adults. Most didn't have the chance to go to school. And because of their size, many working children were at a greater risk of being injured.

Between 1908 and 1918, Hine traveled across the United States taking some 5,000 photographs for an organization called the National Child Labor Committee. The photographs were published in newspapers and other publications. Most important, they were used in National Child Labor Committee publications across the nation. Hines' pictures helped pass child labor laws that kept employers from hiring children under the age of 14 and prohibited child labor in factories and mines.

Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor
Images of Labor posters
child development posters

Dorothea Lange - Migrant Mother, 1936 Photographic Print
Migrant Mother, 1936
Dorothea Lange -
Art Print

Migrant Mother

Poster Text: Photographer Dorothea Lange took this picture in March 1936 when the United States as in the depths of the Great Depression. This was a time when millions of Americans had no jobs and many businessess failed. The photo, of a poor woman and some of her children, came to be called “Migrant Mother.” The woman had picked peas in California, but the crop had frozen in the fields, leaving her unemployed. She is called a “migrant” because she went from place to place looking for work. She and her seven children were living on the frozen vegetables they gathered from the fields and on birds the children managed to kill. When the picture was taken, the woman had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. The photo shows the misery and degree of the depression. The photo appeared in a California newspaper, and it was then in a book that Dorothea Lange wrote with her husband.

Dorothea Lange was working for a government agency called the Farm Security Administration, FSA, when she photographed “Migrant Mother.” President Franklin Roosevelt had set up the FSA to provide loans and other help to poor farmers. The FSA hired photographers to take pictures that showed the suffering in the rural areas – the rural slums, ruined farms, and migrant camps. The FSA then sent these photos to news publications. The pictures helped convince Congress to support the programs President Roosevelt proposed to assist poor people.

famous women posters
Oklahoma posters
Story of “The Picture” as told by Florence Owen's grandson.

Hindenburg Explosion, Art Print
Hindenburg Diasaster,
Art Print

Hindenburg Disaster
May 6, 1937

Poster Text: The Hindenburg was a German dirigible, or airship, that carried passengers across the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the main body of the 800 foot aircraft was filled with hydrogen, a lighter-than-air gas that kept it afloat. The airship also had an engine to push it through the air and a cabin called a gondola for passengers and crew. The gondola contained sleeping rooms and a dining room. The Hindenburg had just completed its eleventh crossing of the Atlantic with disaster struck.

On the evening of May 6, 1937, the airship had finished a three day trip from Germany to the United States. It was ready to dock, or tie up, at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Suddenly there was a small explosion. A larger explosion followed immediately and the rest of the dirigible caught fire. Within seconds, the entire airship hit the ground in flames. Thirty-six of the 97 people aboard were killed. It is now believed that the highly flammable skin of the airship caught fire and caused the gas to explode. Regardless of its cause, the disaster ended passenger travel in airships.

The docking of an airship was really a news event and many photographers and newsreel cameramen were present when the Hindenburg tried to land at Lakehurst. Photographer Sam Shere took this picture. The crash of the Hindenburg was the first disaster to be photographed as it happened. Pictures of the disaster appeared in newspapers around the world.

aviation posters

Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima, Art Print
Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima,
Art Print

Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima

Joe Rosenthal's photograph of Marines Ira Hayes, Mike Strank, Rene Gagnon, Harlon Block, Franklin Sousley, and U.S. Navy corpsman John Bradley, raising the U.S. flag atop Mt. Suribachi on the fourth day of the Battle of Iwo Jima, February 23, 1945, is possibly the most reproduced photograph of all time.

WW II posters
Flag posters
Historic Documents / Images

Survivors at Ebensee, Poster
Survivors at Ebensee,

Survivors at Ebensee

Holocaust posters
Elie Wiesel posters

History Through A Lens - Integration at Central High School, Art Print
Integration at Central High School, Art Print

September 23, 1957 Integration at Central High School (Little Rock, AR)

Elizabeth Eckford was 15 years old when she helped integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. When the Little Rock school board decided to allow a few black students into all white Central High, 80 African American students volunteered to integrate the school. School and local NAACP officials selected six girls and three boys from among the volunteers. They became known as the Little Rock Nine.

The night before school opened, the local NAACP president called to tell them to go to the school together. Because Elizabeth Eckford's family did not have a phone, she didn't get the message. Elizabeth went to the school alone.

On the morning of September 4, 1957, a crowd of white people gathered outside the school. Arkansas Governor Orvil Faubus had called out the state's National Guard to keep the black students from entering the school. Elizabeth Eckford walked steadly through a large crowd of jeering whites. At the school entrance soldiers blocked her way, and she was forced to walk back through the crowd. A little later, the other black students showed up and were also turned away.

News photographs showing Eckford surrounded by the angry students appeared around the world, embarassing the United States. Three weeks later President Dwight Eisenhower sent U.S. troops to Little Rock and put the Arkansas National Guard under federal instead of state control. The soldiers protected Elizabeth Eckford and the other eight black students when they entered Central High on September 23. U.S. troops and the National Guard kept order in the school for the rest of the year. The black students were called names and bullied at Central High, but they had opened the school doors for other African Americans.

Black History posters
1997 - 40th Anniversary Desegregation Observances
September 2007 - Commemorating 50 Years of Integration

History Through a Lens - Lee Harvey Oswald Shot Art Print
Lee Harvey Oswald Shot

Lee Harvey Oswald Shot

That a person could be shot and killed on live television was unthinkable in the early 1960s. But the unthinkable happened on November 24, 1963, when television and newspaper cameras ... the .... Jack Ruby stepped out of a crowd and shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Charged with assassinating President John F. Kennedy on November 22, Oswald was being transferred by police between jails when Ruby killed him. The ... of the murder appeared again and again on news programs. This picture, which was printed in newspapers ... capturing the stunned expression of the police officers and Oswald's mouth open to a cry of pain. Bob Jackson of the Dallas Times-Herald took this widely ... photograph.

The tragic events of November 1963 began when President John F. Kennedy was ... while riding in a motorcade through the streets of Dallas. Texas Governor John Connally, who was in the car with the president, was wounded by the gun fire. On the same day police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald.

Escape from Vietnam Art Print
Escape from Vietnam
Art Print

Escape from Vietnam
April 29-30, 1975

Poster Text: In early April of 1975 this photograph of an American official hitting a Vietanese refugee during the evacuation of .... appeared in many newspapers and news magazines. The American was trying to knock the refuee's hold on the door of an already over.... helicopter. The image captured the panic of those fleeing from the approaching communist forces. The picture also reminded Americans that millions of South Vietanese would be left behind to face their enemy.

The United States was involved in the Vietnamese conflict for nearly twenty years. In the 1950s, a group of people rebelled against the government of South Vietnam. The United States was .. to ... the South Vietnamese army to fight the rebels. Later American troops helped defend South Vietnam from North Vietnam which supported the rebels and intended to united the two Vietnams into .... Many Americans opposed the long, bloody war in Southeast Asia. In 1973 the United States withdrew in ... from South Vietnam but promised to provide military aid in the form of money and weapons. US ...

In 1975, the North Vietnamese broke through the South Vietnamese defenses. On April 7 word reached, ..., a coastal city in South Vietnam, that the North Vietnamese were approaching. US helicopters evacuated Americans and refugees from the ..... .... to an airfield where larger planes took them further south. This picture shows a helicopter that was landed at the US embassy. Similar events occurred in other cities as the North Vietanese army pressed its way south. On April 30, 1975, the war ended when South Vietnam surrendered.

• more Vietnam War Era posters

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