Joint article and forum with sister column the Flensburg Files in conjunction with the series on In School in Germany. Except this example focuses on Infrastructure, using Historic Bridges as an Example.
A while back, shortly before my debut teaching about industrialization in the US and Germany between 1870 and 1914, I had put out a question as to how to approach the topic of infrastructure in that era, in particular when it comes to bridge building, and how it ties in with the usage and proliferation of the material of steel- a replacement to iron. For more information on this inquiry, please click here for details.
Here is the follow-up on this particular topic, which has me thinking about a creative way of getting students acquainted with infrastructure and industrialization:
During the block-session, which consists of two 45-minute sessions into a 90-minute one, students had an opportunity to write down their notes in a small pocket brochure, compiled on my part. This is what the pocket brochure looked like:
The notes to be taken by the students (consisting of high school juniors) were in connection with a series of mini-presentations that they were supposed to give, based on the following topics that were given to them to prepare two weeks beforehand:
Iron and Steel
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871
The Chicago School of Architecture
Inventions (Electricity, the Telephone, etc.)
Each presentation was 3-5 minutes long, with questions to follow. The exception to the topic was the one on bridges, presented by yours truly. The topics were presented in a way that materials go first, for they played hand-to-hand in the development of other forms of infrastructure and transportation.
The results were astounding. Lots of information on American and European inventors making their marks, yet one would need a couple more sessions to digest all the information presented. Some questions in connection with this topic you can find in the Files’ article here.
The problem with presenting infrastructure and industrialization is that the development of both Germany/Europe and the US was exponential, that it would be difficult to cover everything. It even applies for bridges, as dozens of American and European bridge builders were responsible for hundreds of bridge designs and bridge examples that existed during that time (and still do today). Plus some of the bridge builders of that time period had their own colorful history that is worth mentioning; especially when it comes to those immigrating to the US from what is today Germany, Poland, Austria, France and Hungary (where they were once known as The French Kingdom, Prussia and later the German Empire, Austro-Hungarian (or Habsburg Empire) and the Russian Empire (as Poland became part of the empire in 1795 as part of a partition agreement with Prussia)).
The end result was a compromise presented by the history teacher upon evaluating the session: a pocket guide to certain aspects of infrastructure with a focus on a country and some key examples worth noting. If divided up into the aforementioned topics, it would make the most sense, as for each aspect, one can present some key facts that are relevant to the topic of infrastructure and industrialization, along with some fun exercises . Plus if the booklet is 10-15 pages per topic, it will be sufficient enough for pupils to get a whiff of the aspects of history that have been left at the wayside, while the remaining artefacts become a distant memory, but at the same time, be encouraged to preserve what is left of history or take measures that matter to them. After all, when we talk about environment and protection, our heritage technically belongs to this fragile umbrella.
For the pontists and historians alike, some ideas of how to construct such a booklet pertaining to bridges is a tricky one, for especially in the United States, the topics and the number of bridge builder and bridge examples have to be narrowed down to only a handful of examples. So if we look at the proposal for such a booklet for Germany, we have the following:
Part I: German emigrants- focusing on John Roebling, Albert Fink, Gustav Lindenthal, Wendell Bollmann, Joseph Strauss und Lawrence H. Johnson
Part II: German bridge engineers (who stayed in Germany)- Friedrich Voss, Hermann Matthäus, Gustav Eifel, Hermann Gerber, Franz Meyer
Part III: Areas of bridge building- Cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Halle (Saale), Leipzig, etc.- choosing three; Canals (Baltic-North Sea, Dortmund-Ems, Elbe-Lübeck) and a pair of River Examples
Part IV: Notable Works- using two bridge examples, like the Rendsburg High Bridge, for example, and presenting some interesting facts about them.
If you were asked to construct a booklet similar to the one mentioned here, for the US, how would you structure it? What contents would you put in there and what examples would you include? You can place your comments here, on the facebook pages under the Flensburg Files and/or Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, or in the LinkedIn page under The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Do not be surprised if you have a question coming from either the author or one of the readers pertaining to a booklet on a similar topic but pertaining to Canada or another country.
Those wishing for a copy of the booklet I made for my history class or a power point presentation on bridges in Germany and the US can contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now to the Files’ Guessing Quiz pertaining to Industrial History, which you can click on here.