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[Detail] Railway train - Italy, 1894

Arts & Humanities

1) Picture Postcards

As the World's Transportation Commission traveled in different countries, photographer William Henry Jackson took pictures of important tourist sites.

search on some of these popular places: Pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt, ruins of Carthage in Tunisia, emperor's palace in Peking, and the Taj Mahal in India. These images are often seen on picture postcards.

Students can search Around the World in the 1890s to identify other types of images of "picture postcard" places, such as temples, mosques, or ancient gates, and people, such as warrior, chief, beggar, and maharaja. After collecting an interesting group of photographs, students can create postcard messages that might have been written by a Commission member. The messages can describe the visitor's impressions or compare the postcard photograph with something familiar or previously seen.

2) Travel Brochure

Have students create a travel brochure describing places to see and things to do in one of the countries included in the World's Transportation Commission tour. Use the Trip Itinerary to locate a country.

For example, a brochure inviting Americans to visit Russia might include Close-Up of Bactrian Camel Caravan with an invitation to join a camel caravan and travel on ice. A brochure for India could show photographs of dining at a wealthy maharaja's home, visiting palaces, riding elephants, and touring cities such as Bombay, Hyderabad, and Calcutta. Encourage students to use photographs from the collection to illustrate their brochures and to write the text to reflect American viewpoints of that time.

3) An Anthropologist's Notebook

An anthropologist, one who studies social customs and cultures of groups of people, might find many interesting images in this collection.

search on clothing, food preparation, eating customs, homes, houses, places of work, mosques, and temples for examples of social customs and practices. search on specific names of native groups such, as Fijans, Samoans, or aborigines, to see pictures of different cultures.

For example, this Warrior, probably from the Gilbert Islands in Oceania, wears ceremonial armor and carries a 3-pronged object called a triton.

4) Literature Report

Have students select and read a book about life in one of the countries highlighted in this collection. Students can then report on what they learned about the country's culture, comparing their impressions from the book to those from photographs in the archive.

Students might choose from these books:

  • E.M. Forester, A Passage to India. Racial and religious tensions affect romance and friendship in this story set in India during the 1920s.
  • Jung Chang, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. (Nonfiction) The lives and experiences of three generations of Chinese women reflect the huge changes in that country between the early 1900s to the present.
  • Suzanne Fisher Staples, Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind. An 11-year-old girl seeks to find her own way within a tradition-bound family in modern-day Pakistan.
  • Elizabeth Peters, The Last Camel Died at Noon. This mystery is set in Egypt during the 1890s, complete with camel caravan.
  • Jill Ker Conway, The Road from Coorain. (Nonfiction) Conway describes her Australian childhood, which was characterized by sheep and British attitudes that ignored the native culture.
  • Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days. Here is a lighthearted adventure in which the characters cross three continents and two oceans by trains, elephants, sleds, and steamers.
  • Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar.(Nonfiction) The author describes people, places, and landscapes -- not to mention the trains themselves -- in Siberia, India, Japan, and other places in Asia.

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