THE IMPACT OF ELECTRIC LIGHTING
ON AMERICAN FAMILIES
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did life change for the average American family after the introduction of
electric lighting a positive or detrimental force for the cohesion of
Setting the Purpose
students think-pair-share things they typically do in the evening,
especially after sundown, and record their responses on the board
a substantial list has been established, ask the students which of these
activities would not be possible without electric lights. As the students name these
activities, draw a line through them.
the altered list on the board, ask students how significantly the advent
of electric lighting changed life for the average American family and have
them discuss whether these changes would support or undermine the unity of
the family. Have students
write down the essential questions and inform them that these will be the
focus for this series of lessons.
Edison’s development of the improved electric light and introduce the
documents of 1) Edison’s patent of the new light
bulb and 2) the cartoon drawn by Edison’s lab
aide of the smiling light bulb (“I shed the light of my shining
with students what the lab aide’s doodle implies about Edison’s plans for
his invention (electrification/lighting of the country on a large scale)
Local Primary Sources and Secondary Sources
the satellite picture of the United States at
night and Early American Museum pictures
of 19th century lamps, noting the contrast in power of electric
light and oil lamps.
the drawbacks of oil lamps while presenting the pictures: inefficient, weak light source,
smelly, dirty, and often dangerous (esp. camphor lamps). Discuss also how these drawbacks
might have influenced people’s decisions on whether or not to stay up.
the age of electric light with night pictures
of Parthenon in Memphis lit up with electric lights.
Divide the class into small heterogeneous groups of 3-4
people after having set up several stations around the class where there are
copies of the local primary documents and secondary documents. Instruct all class members to take with
them a paper divided into three columns.
1) how life changed, 2) positive impacts on the family, 3) negative
impacts on the family. Tell them
to spend 10-15 minutes at each station (this will be over a couple of days)
reading/discussing the documents and recording their findings in the
appropriate columns of their papers.
At the end of this activity students should have several items under
each heading. These columns will now
serve as the raw material for their R.A.F.T. activity. At the end of this activity, have
students verbalize their understanding of the relationship between the national
sources and the local sources.
of Edison’s patent for the electric lamp and lab aide’s doodle of smiling
American Museum photographs of the history of lighting
Night Widow’s Club” Chicago
Daily Tribune. March 22, 1903
Excellent Record” Chicago
Daily Tribune. October 31, 1880
Professor Sheds Light on Darkness in American Cities.” University of Conneticut webpage November 17, 2003
of Orpheum Theatre program
Benefits from Electricity on Farms”
Chicago Daily Tribune. July 23, 1931
the Evening” Chicago Daily
Tribune. December 26, 1897
Evening Can be Ruined by Homework”
Chicago Daily Tribune. June 15, 1948
A. Roger. At Day’s Close.
New York: W.W. Norton
& Company, 2005. pages