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[Detail] U.S.S. Alert. Photographer - W H Jackson, 1901 or 1902

Creative Writing: Journalism and Postcard Making

The photographs in this collection can serve as a catalyst for various creative-writing projects:

Imagine that you are a reporter for a nineteenth-century newspaper. Browse the collection and select a topic such as the Spanish-American War or the 1906 California earthquake. Research the general history of the topic and, if possible, the context of a specific image in the collection. Write an article using historical fact and imagined interviews with either the subjects in the photograph or nearby witnesses. A series of articles can be written from different perspectives to cover various aspects of a single event.

Or, choose a series of scenic images from the collection to document an imaginary journey across the late-nineteenth century U.S. Download and print out the images on recycled file folders to make postcards for the trip. Write messages on the back of the postcards to document your journey from the perspective of a traveler. Keep the following questions in mind.

  • Who are you writing to?
  • Where did you come from and where are you going?
  • What is the purpose of your trip?
  • What type of transportation did you use (horse and carriage, steamboat, locomotive, etc.)?
  • What sites did you see on your trip?
  • How did you feel when you saw these people and places?
  • Are you looking forward to going home?