Chicago 2009 – Reflection



It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago-she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.

Mark Twain “Life On The Mississippi,” 1883


East meets West and Chicago is a tie that binds.  The 2009 Expedition is but a memory, but one that will last in our minds and hearts.   “Why Chicago?”  No longer will this question be asked.  American History without Chicago?  That is the better question.  Another success in our journey through America (look out New York, we’re experienced now)!
Progressivism is the resounding theme of the trip.  We began with Lincoln and his landmark decision to emancipate those bound in slavery.  We visited the Chicago History Museum and heard outstanding lectures.  We visited The Chicago Museum of Art, the Museum of Industry at the site of the Great White City and we walked the city streets taking it all in.  We experienced Chicago at its heart.  We continued on and into Hull House, Madison, and wrapped up our journey in Haymarket Square and the Chicago Stockyard.  We saw first hand how the Progressive Movement was due large in part by bold events that took place in Chicago and this forward thinking is rooted in the culture of the city today.  It is that culture, that spirit that we went to experience and Chicago most certainly delivered.  A city of dreams and aspiration, a city of joy and of sadness, Chicago is a pillar among the nation’s greatest offerings and we saw them first hand. 
A melting pot of ethnicity, Chicago is rich in culture and history.  Not all of it pleasant, but all of it addressed.  Few inequities took place in and around Chicago that did not make it to the forefront of discussion.  Forward and Progressive thinkers were at home in Chicago and their contributions will remain cornerstones of American society.  Where else could Jane Addams and Frank Lloyd Wright discuss over the dinner table the actions necessary to reshape a nation?  It all happened in Chicago.  Goodbye for now, Chicago, but we will be back and our students will be along for the journey.

June 13, 2009: Chicago Labor History

The Haymarket Square Riots


The face of Labor history in Chicago changed dramatically with the Haymarket Square riots.  Management and workers came to impasse and before America could blink, labor issues dominated the economic and social well-being of the Nation.  The Progressive Movement opened a new chapter and the labor industry changed forever.

Walking in the footsteps of those involved in the great labor dispute was sobering.  Placing roses on the memorials of those who changed American History was humbling.  It is not the elite of our society that always guides the masses, the story of the common man in turn-of-the-20th Century Chicago is one of tragedy and triumph.  The realities of the danger of being a meat packer in Chicago just trying to make a life for a family became crystal clear on our tour of  Haymarket Square.

stockyard gate

The neighborhoods of Chicago depict the evidence of the past even today.  The multi-ethnic relationships that were born in a city out of necessity have created rich and diverse culture in 2009.  During turn-of-the-20th Century Chicago, those diversities were not necessarily celebrated.  Bias, segregation, and predisposed ideology created tension.  Immigrants were at the disadvantage, but nonetheless, made Chicago into the celebrated multi-cultural city of 2009.  The neighborhoods still exist and each, with their own cultural tastes, give Chicago a rich mix of heritage and diversity.  Travel the City, look at the neighborhood maps of the past, walk those streets of the present, and allow the nostalgia to take you back in time. 



June 12, 2009: “The Badger State”


Wisconsin, the land of cheese, the Packers, brown lakes, and the Progressives?  The success of the Progressive movement, according to our speakers today, at the Wisconsin Museum of History and the Wisconsin Historical Society, was due large in part by the actions that took place in the state of Wisconsin.  An industrial state first and the dairyland later, Wisconsin has a history rich in progressive thinking.  Labor, immigration, social welfare, and women’s rights are among the issues addressed in Washington thanks to actions in Wisconsin.  Forward thinking has long been attached to the history of the state.  Today, liberal and social thinking still resounds around the busy city of Madison.


Can a community influence a nation?  Dr. Schultz Professor of History at the University of  Wisconsin, Madison suggested that we as educators have a responsibility to engage our students in the study of the Progressives.  Maybe this forward thinking can actually encourage students to think about their own world and take an active role in bringing about improvements.  Tying the Progressive movement to our current state might actually get students motivated to step up.  One point that Dr. Schultz mentioned that was rather ironic, the same issues that were on the table at the turn-of –the-last Century are the issues we are dealing with in 2009.  It has been 100 years and we are still faced with the same challenges.  This is the problem that I want to present to my students.  Now, how do we fix it? Are we a proactive nation or are we more reactionary?  Are social programs going to solve the problems?  Is a Democratic agenda going to answer the call or do the Republicans have the right ideas?  Are these lines between liberal and conservative having an influence on the mission?  How about this, do we as American’s even have a mission?  Tough questions, but our students are our future, let’s ask them.  Just how “progressive” are we?

D and E

June 11, 2009: Jane Addams and Hull House

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The influence of Jane Addams and her Hull House changed the lives of Americans not only during the Progressive Era but for generations to come.   The experience of the Hull House was not just that of another museum, it was one of progressive thinking and as a genuinely conservative thinker, it was a good look into some social views that normally never find their way into my time or thought.  Addams ideas with regard to healthy living for everyone, not just the elite are still a mission of the House today.


Jane Addams, raised in wealth saw life not as competition, but as experience.  Survival of the fittest mentality was commonplace around the turn-of-the-Century, but Jane Addams took a look at life through a different view.  She physically moved herself in and amongst the poorest area of Chicago and there began social programs beginning with children, immigrants, and the downtrodden.  Progressing through all aspects of home economics and finding their way to Washington, her ideas on social welfare, child labor laws, and general human well-being changed the face of Chicago and a nation.  Her influences created a whole new school of thought with regard to social welfare and she along with many other progressive thinkers came together around her dining table to change the face of the country.  Life is beautiful and worth living for all people of all ages.


The urban garden at Hull House sparked an idea that would be really neat if we had the facility.  The resident gardener at Hull House explained that even during the winter months they can grow hardy vegetables like lettuce.  It would be really fun and educational to have an urban garden at our school similar to the one at Hull House.    Students would learn not only how to grow and tend vegetables, but also healthy food choices and simple food preparation.  In my American Problems course I teach a unit on the obesity crisis, if I had an opportunity to assign my students an urban garden project, it could really turn into an amazing life-long learning experience.


It is interesting that home economics was fundamental to the progressive thinking coming out of Hull House but no longer a priority in our current education system.  Our schools were and some still are equipped to teach courses in home economics, but due to budget constraints, we no longer offer the courses.  This current generation of students is the first expected in many to live fewer years than their parents due in part to poor eating habits.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could take the money that we are spending on reactionary measures to fund treatment of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity and use it for proactive education in the home economics programs that Jane Addams pioneered?  We need to work smarter, not harder and health needs to take a priority in our schools.

June 10, 2009: Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Prairie”

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“God is the great mysterious motivator of what we call nature, and it has been said often by philosophers, that nature is the will of God. And, I prefer to say that nature is the only body of God that we shall ever see. If we wish to know the truth concerning anything, we’ll find it in the nature of that thing”  – Frank Lloyd Wright

His brilliance cannot be measured.  The masterpieces that are the work of arguably the most progressive architect in American history today remain as lasting monuments to the great Frank Lloyd Wright.  By age 21, still an apprentice, Wright had accomplished genius with his techniques of lines, shape, flow, and nature.  By the time of his death and beyond, his work is recognized and heralded world-wide.  His innovation in design was novel emerging out of the Victorian Era and his memory will be preserved as one of America’s most influential progressives.

Clean lines, textures, sculpture, and nature combine in the Frank Lloyd Wright Studio and Home to showcase the novel and innovative design that influenced an entire nation during the turn-of-the-20th Century United States.  He traveled to the orient and brought back with him ideas of linear design.  He focused his work around function and leisure.  He appreciated making life easier, enjoyable, and beautiful.  Wright’s forward thinking took immediate hold in the nation and his prairie style home became not only a functional, but popular attraction.  He suggested to American’s that homes did not only have to serve function, but were extentions of ourselves and nature, the world in which we live.  His designs brought about a whole new way of thinking with regard to American living.

Family seemed to be central to many of his designs.  He was clearly not of the mindset that children should be seen and not heard.  He created in his designs, family rooms where children could play, quiet areas where parents could find solitude, and nursery’s where babies could do what they do best, cry.  He incorporated natural light into his structures and state of the art technology like electricty and forced air heating.  His work was as beautiful as it was functional and American’s began seeing their homes as sancturaries, not just a place sleep.

The Oak Park neighborhood of Chicago has streets lined with Wright influence.  Americans took not only his design to heart, but also his love of nature.  Gardens and beautification projects began springing up throughout the period during Wright’s lifetime and can still be awed today.  People were working to improve their society and create better livelihoods for themselves and their families.  Wright, together with other Progressives like Jane Addams saw the beauty in the world and believed that it belonged to everyone. 

Today, do our students really take a look at the world around them?  Do they take pride in what they see, hear, taste, smell?  Do they even notice?  The inspirations of Frank Lloyd Wright might be an excellent way to get kids engaged in the world in which they live.  Do they notice the beauty?  Do they notice the plight?  Progressives during the early 1900’s began addressing social issues and working to beautify their surroundings both aesthetically and socially.  Maybe the works of Wright and his forward thinking designs might inspire them?  Maybe get them thinking about their own place in the world?  Like many of his Progressive counterparts, Frank Lloyd Wright’s forward thinking innovation helped to create a period of rebirth and advancement.  Maybe one of us has the next influential progressive thinker in our classrooms, maybe it’s time to spark that flame of inspiration in our own hometown. 

June 9, 2009: Chicago History Museum Part II


The DBQ (Document Based Question)

 and Chicago History, A Match Made In Heaven!

Chip Brady and his DBQ Project are a fabulous thing to happen to history education.  The ideas and pedagogy shared in this morning’s lecture are invaluable to the learning, writing, and retention of historical events.  The DBQ process is one that hooks and engages students through the entire journey of acquiring historical knowledge.  The best part about the DBQ is the functionality of the process.  Teacher’s can take the process to advance levels for AP or STS students or keep is simple for just about any grade level above 4th.  It’s versatile and most of all, it’s smart. 

The most functional aspect of teaching the DBQ is the concept of “bucketing”.  This can be made as simple or as challenging as an instructor deems necessary.  The concept is great because it require students to take information and basically organize it into workable form.  It is an excellent way to take complex ideas or abstract concepts and get kids to really analyze them by having to organize them by topic.  The bucketing leads students directly to well organized thought which in turn leads to well organized writing.

The lesson framed around Prohibition was an excellent choice.  This is one topic that can be used on many levels and fit various standards.  American Problems is a great class for discussing this issue.  The decisions that were debated during the passing of Prohibition are echoed today in the argument over the legalization of marijuana.  Tying the past to the present is always a great way to engage students and this topic is fresh and on the minds of our youth.  By starting with the DBQ lesson on Prohibition introducing the debate over legalization of marajuana becomes more than a ridiculous social argument over drugs, but an intellectual debate over the issues surrounding the legislation. 

Chip’s presentations are valuable and full of fresh and usable ideas.  Time well spent!

A Walking Tour of Old Chicago:

Beauty is Everywhere, Just Take A Look

The walking tour of Old Chicago was a great way to see how times have shaped the neighborhoods and also how people live in large cities as compared to the smaller towns like Pueblo.  Our guide gave a valuable history lesson in the daily lives of the residents of Chicago past and present.  Enjoy some of the shots, a look at Chicago, if you will, through Wendy’s eyes.

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June 8, 2009: Chicago History Museum Part 1


Dr. Sarah Marcus gave an exceptional lecture on the time-line of significant events happening in and around Chicago at the Chicago History Museum this morning.  Her words defined Chicago’s influence in national and international history.   While we know that U.S. History was shaped by certain events taking place during turn-of-the-20th Century Chicago, I would argue that some decisions made in our own hometown of Pueblo, Colorado during the same time period were also based on what was happening in Chicago.

Prior to the lecture today, the Great Chicago Fire was always a negative in my mind.  It brought about thoughts of devastation, destruction, and death.  While it was a tragedy, out of that devistation came a great rebirth.  One that I had never contemplated before.  Restoration came about immediately.  Thanks in part to resounding support from cities all over the globe, Chicago began the great rebuilding of the city.  An economic boom with general trends of increasing mechanism that included massive factories and an expanded railroad network were the backbone of the new growth. 








 Out of this economic growth came innovation and imagination with regard to urban planning.  Chicago drew international attention as the epitome of urban design thanks to Progressives like Daniel Burnham and his “Plan of Chicago”.  Cities like Pueblo paid close attention and this urban beautification became of great interest.  Mineral Palace Park home of the once great Mineral Palace constructed in Pueblo mirrored many of the buildings built in Chicago’s “White City”.  Unfortunately, the construction of the building was just about as steadfast and it is now gone, but the inspiration is clear.  The Colorado State Fairgrounds were initially located near Mineral Palace Park and at the turn-of-the-Century and Pueblo was making its mark as a progressive industrial Western city.  Chicago influences were vast, and even include our own hometown!  

mineral palace


Choosing a lesson plan topic is always the most difficult part of the journey for me, but today, I think I stumbled upon a great plan idea.  I believe that I will focus on the influences that turn-of-the-century progressive Chicago had on other cities of the United States.  I will focus on the economics of the time period to include labor, urban development, and immigration.  My plan will incorporate Colorado, the steel industry, cattle, immigration, and the parallels between Chicago’s issues and our own.  My plan will be presented to primarily my AP/STS Economics students so I will certainly tie the examples to some macro-economic theory as well.

Today was a great experience for me and really got me thinking about how my own world was influenced by decisions made in a city in the Midwest.  It makes me question, if the Great Chicago Fire had never taken place, would we have progressed as quickly through the social and economic turmoil experienced at the turn-of-the-century or would it have taken much longer?  A disaster paved the way for an opportunity for forward thinking and Chicago took advantage of that opportunity.  A truly amazing series of events in American History took place in a city that was dubbed, “Second” to everybody else,  ironic.