Past Events & Activities

Primary Sources

Tutorials

Lesson Plans

Links and Resources

Meet our partners
Staff/Management Plan
Contact Us!

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson Plans - With Picks, Shovels and a Song

NAME OF LESSON:

With Picks, Shovels and a Song

GRADE(S) DESIGNED FOR: 8
TIME REQUIRED:

Two 80 minute class periods

NAME OF AUTHOR:

Geoffrey Raywood
PRIMARY SALEM in History CORE THEME ADDRESSED:

An Industrious People: American Economic History

ADDITIONAL SALEM in History CORE THEME(S) ADDRESSED:

SALEM in History Topic Addressed:

“Westward Ho!”: Westward Migration in the 1840s and the 1850s: Who, Where, Why, How?

Lesson Summary | Frameworks | Essential Question(s) | Lesson Objectives
Historical Background Essay | Materials List and Pre-Arrangements/Preparations Needed
Vocabulary | Lesson Activities | Student Product or Performance
Assessment Criteria | Possible Modifications | Possible Extension Activities
Cross Curricular/Interdisciplinary Links/Activities | Sources and Resources
Additional Resources for Students and Teachers


LESSON SUMMARY:

Through the investigation and use of songs sung by the men who went west to California in the 1840’s–1850’s, (learning to play on instruments and sing) students will discover the living and working conditions that were commonly present in the lives of most pioneers who became miners.  Contrary to the popular belief of pioneers from the East (the States) who were convinced by stories of wealth and fortune, this lesson will use the lyrics of songs to illustrate that most people going west were unsuccessful in striking it rich and faced numerous hardships. Students will be encouraged to find out what role music had in the lives of those caught up in the notion of a new and wealthy life.     

^return to top

PRIMARY SOURCES & SOURCE TYPES USED in LESSON:

Tuttle, Henry A. Passenger’s Journal on Bark La Grange, March-September 1849.
Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum. {Excerpts} Transcription by Abaigael Duda. (LOG 1849L)

Black, Elenora and Robertson, Sidney, compilers.  The Gold Rush Song Book: Comprising a Group of Twenty-Five Authentic Ballads as They Were Sung by the Men Who Dug for Gold in California During the Period of the Great Gold Rush of 1849.
San Francisco, California: The Colt Press, 1940.

^return to top


ESSENTIAL QUESTION(S):

  • What conclusions can be drawn about the living conditions of pioneers going west in the 1840’s–1850’s during the California Gold Rush? 

  • What use did music have in the lives of these miners? 

  • What historical significance do these songs have?  

^return to top

LESSON OBJECTIVES

            LEARNING/CONTENT OBJECTIVES:

    • Students will be able to determine the many challenging conditions that pioneers faced when they traveled west to California in search of gold.

            CONCEPT/SKILLS OBJECTIVES:

     As a co-curricular lesson:

    1. Students will be able to interpret the significance of song lyrics and the relevance of the meaning in the lives of the miners.

    2. Students will learn several songs of the gold rush era, either by singing or performing on an instrument of their choice.

 

^return to top


CORRELATION WITH HISTORY STANDARDS FROM the 2003 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORY AND SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK

MA FRAMEWORK STRAND: US History I

MA FRAMEWORK UNIT/THEME ADDRESSED:

Western Migration in the 1840’s – 1850’s

MA FRAMEWORK LEARNING STANDARD(S) ADDRESSED:

History

3.13 Explain how objects or artifacts of everyday life in the past tell us how ordinary people lived and how everyday life has changed.  Draw on the services of the local historical society and local museums as needed.   

5.43 Explain the reasons that pioneers moved west from the beginning to the middle of the 19th century, and describe their lives on the frontier.          

Music

1.3 Sing from memory a variety of songs representing genres and styles from diverse cultures and historical periods.

1.8 Sing music representing diverse genres and cultures with expression appropriate for the work being performed and using a variety of languages.

3.9 Perform music representing diverse historical periods, genres, and cultures, with expression appropriate for the work being performed.

4.9 Compose and arrange short pieces for voices or instruments within the teacher-specified guidelines, using the elements of Music to achieve unity and variety, tension and release, and balance.

5.11 Listen to formal and informal performances with attention, showing understanding of the protocols of audience behavior appropriate to the style of the performance.

MA FRAMEWORK CONCEPT AND SKILLS STANDARD(S) ADDRESSED

GRADE(S) AND SUBJECT(S):

 Grade 8 History and Music

NUMBER(S) AND DESCRIPTION(S):


History and Geography

7. Show connections, casual or otherwise, between particular historical events and ideas and larger social, economic and political trends and developments. (H,G,C,E)

8. Interpret the past within its own historical context rather than in terms of present day norms and values. (H,E,C) 

9. Distinguish intended from unintended consequences. (H,E,C)

10. Distinguish historical fact from opinion. (H,E,C)

Music

10. Interdisciplinary Connections.  Students will apply their knowledge of the arts the study of English language arts, foreign languages, health, history and social science, mathematics, and science and technology/ engineering.                      

 

^return to top


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND/CONTEXT ESSAY: 

Pioneers migrating west to California during the 1840’s and 1850’s, in search of gold, left us with an abundance of first hand accounts in their journals, newspaper articles, maps of land and water routes and also in their songs.  Although primarily used as a means of entertainment, song lyrics contribute in many ways to the wealth of documentation that describe experiences and conditions people have had to deal with throughout history. 

Songs may give us insight into a more personal account of the lives of gold rush pioneers. Henry A. Tuttle, in his first journal entry at the beginning of his voyage from Salem, MA to San Francisco, California, enters the lyrics to a song being sung at the wharf that reflects upon the long journey ahead. He immediately shares with us what his aspirations are as well as his feelings on being away for two years from those friends left behind.

“We’ve formed our band and are well man[n]ed
To journey afar to the promised land
Where golden ore is rich in store
On the banks of the Sacremento shore.”

In the song, Life in California, a farmer from Maine describes hearing about successful “diggings” in California.  He decides to sell his farm, leave his family, and sail for California to make his fortune.  He describes his unfortunate predicament this way:

“But I’m a used up man,
A perfect used up man,
And if ever I get home again,
I’ll stay there if I can”.

The lyrics of this song continue to refer to the unfortunate circumstances under which pioneers often found themselves.  It is with historical reference and a whimsical air that this lesson examines the lives of those people willing to give up the lives they knew and migrate to California in search of wealth and their dreams, as recorded in song.      

 

Henry A. Tuttle, Passenger’s Journal on BarkLa Grange, March-September 1849, 1-2, transcript by Abaigeal Duda, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem,  MA.

Ibid.

Elenora Black and Sidney Robertson, The Gold Rush Song Book,( San Francisco, California:  The Colt Press, 1940): 4-5.

^return to top

MATERIALS LIST AND PRE-ARRANGEMENTS/PREPARATION NEEDED

MATERIALS LIST:

* Copies of several songs from The Gold Rush Song Book for each student

* Copy of the first entry of Henry A. Tuttle’s Passenger Journal on the Bark LaGrange

* Each student playing an instrument will need their instrument

* Classroom piano

PREPARATION:

Transpose music for needed instrumentation

* Photocopy music and put in folders. 

* Group students by instrument/vocal choices so the combination creates a good exhibition opportunity.

* Help with rehearsal if needed.

^return to top


VOCABULARY:

    Bark

    Pike County, Kentucky

    Brigham Young

    Mormons

    Cape Horn

    Ballad

^return to top


LESSON ACTIVITIES:

GUIDING QUESTIONS: Use the song lyrics to answer the following questions:

  • What were the modes of travel used to get to California in the 1840’s-1850’s?
  • What were the travel conditions like, (by sea, by land, for example)?
  • What were some of the advantages/disadvantages of each route?
  • What did the pioneers give up, as described in the lyrics of the songs?
  • What were the living and working conditions like for the pioneers going west to California?
  • Did most pioneers strike it rich?
  • Did the pioneers use a humorous approach to their misfortunes (as referred to in the lyrics of the songs)?  If so, why?  
  • Why do you think pioneers might choose to make up songs to sing rather than express themselves through a letter, or a journal?

Day 1

Have students read lyrics of songs to the class.

Identify usage of slang terminology. 

Answer guiding questions as a class.

Divide class into groups that contain a balanced instrumentation, (including vocals) and have each group pick a song that describes migration by land and sea.

Each group will be responsible for identifying and explaining the meaning of the lyrics of the song chosen.

Have each student learn to play on various instruments and sing, songs that the group picked for exhibition.  Allow for appropriate rehearsal time.

Day 2


Allow students to review (rehearse) their exhibition pieces and prepare for their exhibition.

Set up a performance/ exhibition area in the front of the classroom

Exhibit work as follows:

1. Each group will give an oral presentation of the meaning of the songs lyrics (i.e. from an historical perspective, a humorous point of view, etc.) to the class.

2. Each group will present their renditions of songs selected.   

^return to top

ASSESSMENT/STUDENT PRODUCT or PERFORMANCE:

1. History component: assessment will be based on content knowledge by oral presentation of each group (i.e. discussion of the meaning of lyrics to a song).

- Individual students must show comprehension of the meaning of lyrics 

2. Music component: assessment will be based on performance/ exhibition.

- Individual students must show comprehensive participation in the performance/ exhibition of the songs selected.

^return to top

ASSESSMENT CRITERIA:

    How well does a student:

    - show understanding of the material through preparation and participation in an oral discussion of the lyric content.

    - contribute to the ensemble performance of the musical material based on usage of proper rhythmic and melodic notation (i.e. blend and balance of sound) from the songs selected. 

    -understand relevance of lyrics to migration by land or sea.

^return to top


POSSIBLE MODIFICATIONS:

    Teacher may have to re-write songs that are beyond a student’s learned ability to play. Additional transposition of music may be needed to coincide with vocal ranges of students.     

^return to top


POSSIBLE EXTENSION ACTIVITIES:

Acquire recordings of songs (i.e. collections by ethnomusicologist Sidney Robertson Cowell, author) and play for the class.

^return to top


CROSS CURRICULAR/INTERDISCIPLINARY LINKS/ACTIVITIES:

This lesson is a cross curricular activity in History and Music.

     

^return to top


SOURCES AND RESOURCES

PRIMARY SOURCES USED USED IN LESSON:

Tuttle, Henry A. Passenger’s Journal on Bark La Grange, March-September 1849.  Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.  [Excerpts]  Transcription by Abaigael Duda. (LOG 1849L)

This journal contains the song, Long, as sung by the Barker family along with a crowd of people on a Salem, MA wharf, on March 17, 1849, as they witness the departure of the Bark, La Grange, which is headed to California by sea.  The song is full of symbolic language of the riches that the trip will behold.  The journal itself describes the harrowing trip and includes many sketches by Tuttle.

Black, Elenora and Sidney Robertson, comp.  The Gold Rush Song Book: Comprising a Group of Twenty-Five Authentic Ballads as They Were Sung by the Men Who Dug for Gold in California During the Period of the Great Gold Rush of 1849. San Francisco, California: The Colt Press, 1940.

This song book contains twenty–five authentic songs sung by the men who migrated west to become pioneer miners in the period of the gold rush in 1849.  The songs included describe conditions that were faced by those willing to sacrifice everything they owned (or to escape from what they owed) to go west to find wealth and fortune only to realize that the propaganda that enticed such decisions was usually false.  Conditions pertaining to travel by land and sea are present throughout the book

SECONDARY (PRINT) SOURCES USED IN LESSON:

(none suggested)

 

WEB RESOURCES USED IN LESSON:

(none suggested)

 

SECONDARY (PRINT) SOURCES USED TO CREATE LESSON:

(none suggested)

 

WEB RESOURCES USED TO CREATE LESSON:

(none suggested)

 

^return to top


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS AND/OR STUDENTS:

Whitmer, Mariana. “Songs with Social Significance: An Introduction.” Organization of American Historians Magazine of History, July 2005, 9–16.

This issue contains many references to music recordings as well as print and online resources for additional lesson planning on a wide range of historical topics. 

           

 
^return to top