Students watch a video and learn about the use of steamboats on the Red River as industries boomed and faster ways of transporting goods were needed. Using a map, students track the route that steamboats, on and off the river, had to take.
This unit is part of "Great States: Minnesota | Unit 7: Iron, Lumber, and Milling" where students will assess how new technology and new people influenced the development of Minnesota during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
22.214.171.124.1: Describe how and why the United States claimed and settled the upper Mississippi River region in the early nineteenth century; explain the impact of steamboat transportation and settlement on the physical, social and cultural landscapes.
126.96.36.199.1: Analyze how the rise of big business, the growth of industry, the use of natural resources, and technological innovation influenced Minnesota's economy from 1860 to 1920.
188.8.131.52.1: Create and use various kinds of maps, including overlaying thematic maps, of places in Minnesota; incorporate the “TODALSS” map basics, as well as points, lines and colored areas to display spatial information.
- Video: Solve a Problem | Steamboats on the Red
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
- A class set of Steamboats on the Red worksheet
- Notebook paper
- Red markers
- Strips of paper (1” x 11”) (Regular printer paper cut up into long strips)
- Explain to students that as industries were creating more products for people to use, they also needed to find easier, faster ways to transport and distribute loads of goods to the Minnesota population and beyond.
- Play the video, Solve a Problem | Steamboats on the Red [4:36]. Ask them to pay attention to the cities that the narrator mentions.
- Once students have watched the video, pass out the Steamboats on the Red worksheet. Tell students to trace the Red River in red marker, crayon, or colored pencil.
- Next, ask if any student heard the name of a town or city of Minnesota that the narrator mentioned. Re-watch the video a second time and pay closer attention. Tell them that not all the towns will be shown on the map. Tell them they will be tracing the journey that Anson Northrup made with his steamboat (on land). Here are the two towns of most importance:
Brainerd: the closest present-day town where Northrup started to bring his steamboat from
Moorhead: the town ten miles south along the river that his steamboat was lowered into the water
- Have students mark with dots of black marker the approximate beginning (Brainerd) and end (Moorhead) of Anson Northrup’s land journey.
- Give each student a strip of paper. Have them mark the map’s scale (lower left of the worksheet) on the strip of paper, and then use that scale to measure approximately how far the man’s journey was when he transported his steamboat in pieces on land.
- Answer: approximately 125 miles
- Put this number in perspective for students in one of several ways:
- Tell students that today that takes almost 2 1/2 hours to drive from Brainerd to Moorhead.
- If you walked nonstop with no sleep, it would take 48 hours—two full days—to walk from Brainerd to Moorhead.
- Remind them that Northrup took this journey with horses lugging the pieces of his steamboat.
- Mention the bad weather (such as extreme cold and huge snowdrifts) that Northrop encountered would add to these times.
- Mention a familiar location that is roughly 2 1/2 hours driving distance away from where you are.
- Next, discuss why his trip was worth it. Discuss the length of the Red River (at least the portion that’s in Minnesota) and how it continues up into Canada which isn’t visible on this map. Remind students this distance is not on foot or by horse, but by boat. While boats at the time still needed a lot of work, they made it much easier to move heavy cargo.
- Students might try to measure the length of the Red River with their scaled ruler, but because rivers wind and bend, it is actually much longer than it appears on the map. To prove this point, have them measure (approximately 225 miles when using a straight-lined ruler).
- In reality, the Red River winds for approximately 395 miles through its US portion.
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