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Overview of Industrialization Classroom Activities

The industrialization activities are designed to help students understand, interpret and appreciate the story of early industrialization in Waterloo. Specifically students explore the concept of interdependence as applied to population growth, transportation development and industrial expansion. This study of Waterloo’s ag-industry becomes a case study in economic development as students interpret artifacts including biographical sketches, advertisements, photographs, and news clippings. These primary sources reveal how industry, transportation and the community resources worked together to become a mutually beneficial, self-sustaining economic ecosystem.


1 – Cause and Result Relationships
After exploring photos and reading background information related to Waterloo’s early development, milling, railroading and meat packing, students work in pairs to create a fishbone diagram illustrating how various economic factors were connected to each other through cause and result relationships. Understanding the key vocabulary words, cause and result, will be essential to completing the diagram.

2 – Profiles of Early Ag Businesses
Ask students to identify how early the businesses and industries in Waterloo developed interdependently. Then have students read the business profiles describing some early industries of Waterloo. Ask individual students become “experts” on one industry that they will profile for the class. Then with a partner, have them complete the graphic organizer identifying the similarities and differences between these businesses.

3 – Where Are the Women?
As students read the background information and analyze the visuals, the following large group discussion questions will help to focus their work:

  • Why were very few businesses started or owned by women in 1900?
  • Why were women not considered equal to men?
  • What kinds of work did most women do in 1900?

Use the photos and discussion as the basis for a career education research activity where students work with a partner to review current advertisements for available jobs. In addition to investigating the kinds of job options today, have students explore current job opportunities for women. Then have students write a paragraph comparing employment opportunities for women in 1900 with today’s world of work.

4 – Industrial Classification
Students will read and interpret information about selected industries that thrived in Waterloo during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Then, students create a classification system to group the industries by type. The activity closes with students identifying the companies that still exist today and writing a paragraph explaining why these companies have survived for over 100 years.

For students who won’t be able to cut and paste a copy of the list of companies, it may be helpful to print a copy of the following for each student prior to the lesson:

Put a star beside each company that is still in business today.

  1. The Altstadt & Langlas Baking Company
  2. Beck-Nauman & Watts Company
  3. Canfield Lumber Company
  4. Waterloo & Cedar Falls Rapid Transit Railway
  5. William Galloway Company
  6. Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company
  7. Rath Packing Company
  8. William A. Welty Company
  9. Litchfield Manufacturing Company
  10. The Iowa Dairy Separator Company
  11. Deere & Company (originally The John Deere Company)

5 – Production Prediction
Ask students to think about how industrialization increased the scale of production and brought about manufacturing systems.

In this activity, students will read about the concepts of mass production, specialization, and division of labor. Then they work with a partner to complete a chart and predict which industries in 1900 would likely have used specialization, division of labor and mass production and which ones would not.

Next, partners will complete the Mass Production Matrix. Specifically they identify the advantages and disadvantages of mass production from the perspective of factory owners, factory workers, and consumers.

Finally, partners list items found in the classroom which were mass produced and those that were made by hand. Provide an opportunity for students to share their lists with the class as an oral presentation.

6 - Evolutions and Revolutions in Transportation
After observing photos and exploring background reading information, students will describe how railroads helped factories and food processing industries grow in the early 1900’s.

Then students will review the Prairie Pathways map, and write a paragraph describing how transportation routes have changed from pioneer days to modern times.

Extension Activities

  1. Ask students to research how industrial development changed the lives of ordinary people. How would industry of the past be compared to information-based society of today?
  2. Ask students to research the role of company managers and investigate what skills (mathematical, linguistic, critical problem solving) are important when running a business today.
  3. Ask students to create a timeline for 1890 through 1920 listing important national and international events for the time. Ask students to hypothesize how historical events influenced industrial development.
  4. Have students research important American inventors for the period 1880-1920 evaluating the long-term impact of their inventions.
  5. Ask students to research the energy sources that powered the factories of the industrial age. How do they compare to energy sources today?
  6. Ask students to create a diagram illustrating the economic interdependence: raw materials are processed in factories which make various products. A worldwide transportation network is used to distribute products to market throughout the world. Products are purchased by consumers. Consumers work for companies and organizations which produce goods and/or services that are marketed throughout the world…..and the cycle goes on.
  7. Lesson Plan: Who Really Built America? Students examine how work affected the American child within a rapidly growing industrial society between 1880 and 1920.

Field Trips

The Field Trip Guide provides things to do before your class visits the Grout Museum and activities for your class to do after visiting the Grout Museum District.


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