Adventure 3

History Center Excursion

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Be a Museum Curator!

Look at what we found in that old trunk!

You have been asked to assist the curator at the History Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The curator is collecting information about early farming practices. Your job is to research information found in Beulah Usher's trunk and report your discoveries.

Step 1 - Explore the childhood of Beulah Usher

To begin, read the biographical information about Beulah Usher, a girl who grew up on a farm near Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Step 2 - Brainstorming questions

Here are a few questions to help you get a picture of life as a child living on a farm in the early 1900's.

  • What did Beulah Usher enjoy doing as a child?
  • Why do you think she enjoyed those activities?
  • What were some of the ways that Beulah helped on her parents' farm?
  • How was Beulah's school different from your school?

Add two or three of your questions to this list, and uncover the answers in the biographical information.

Step 3 - Develop a historical comparison chart

Your next challenge as assistant curator is to compare three phases of Iowa agriculture:

  • Pioneer farming in 1850
  • The horse farm of the early 1900s
  • Farming today

First, make a chart like the one below. Divide your chart into three columns to show how work was done on the pioneer farm in 1850 and how it was done on the horse-powered farm of 1900 and how it is done today.

Farming Yesterday and Today

1850… Pioneer Farms

1900… Horse-powered Farms

TODAY… Modern Farms


In each column, describe how farmers plowed, planted, and harvested crops and the kind of equipment they used.

  1. Fill in the first column with info from these two timelines created by the US Department of Agriculture.
    Life on the Farm
    Farm Machines and Technology
    and by reading the books and websites in the Media Center.
  2. Next, complete the middle column of the chart by reading Early 20th Century Farming Practices and reviewing the photos in the documents file and websites in the Media Center.
  3. Complete the last column by researching today's farms as you explore the excellent books and websites in the Media Center.

Step 5 - Summarize your findings

What do you think were the most important characteristics of each phase? Prepare to share your findings with the curator by writing three paragraphs, one for each phase.


1. Mary and Henry P. Usher wedding

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2. Florence and Beulah Usher

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3. Map - Usher Farm

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4. Stoney Point School

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5. Students of Stoney Point

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6. Florence & Beulah with the sheep wagon

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7. Florence & Beulah going to school

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8. Beulah, Florence, Henry P. Usher and their mother

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9. Beulah as Red Cross Volunteer in Iowa City

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10. Beulah driving four-horse team

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11. Horse -drawn manure spreader

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12. Horse-drawn cultivator

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13. Beulah operating the binder

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14. Beulah shocking oats

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15. Beulah harvesting potatoes

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16. Usher family collecting potatoes

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17. Wagon-load of potatoes

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18. Red star engine and thresher

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19. Threshing crew

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Media Center

Books to Read


History of Farming

Bial, Raymond. The Farms. (Building America series). Benchmark Books/Marshall Cavendish, 2002.
Examines the history of farming in the United States and discusses the role of farming in the development of the country. Includes photos and descriptions of different farm buildings and their uses.

Gunderson, Mary. Pioneer Farm Cooking. Blue Earth Books, 2000.
Discusses the everyday life, family roles, cooking methods, common foods and recipes of pioneers who settled in the Midwest during the late 1800s and early 1900s

Halley, Ned. Farm. DK, 2000.
Describes different aspects of farming through the ages including equipment, domestic animals, crops, and the future of farming

Farming Today

Ancona, George. The American Family Farm: A Photo Essay. Harcourt Brace, 1997.
Describes the American family farm in text and photos, focusing on the daily lives of three farm families in Massachusetts, Georgia, and Iowa

Bial, Raymond. Portrait of a Farm Family. Houghton Mifflin, 1995.
Looks at the daily lives of an Illinois farm family, showing how all family members contribute in running the farm. Explains the daily routine, including milking the cows and canning fruit and vegetables for the winter.

Other Resources on the WWW

Early Farming

Iowa Agriculturist
Describes the types of plows used by American farmers from the pre-1800s until the 1860's.

Pioneer Farming
Describes crops, farm implements, and livestock on pioneer farms in Indiana in the early-to-mid-1800s

1850 Farm
Describes activities on an 1850 pioneer farm in Iowa with photos from exhibits at Living History Farms in Des Moines, Iowa

1900 Farm
Describes a horse-powered farm of 1900 in Iowa with photos from exhibits at Living History Farms in Des Moines, Iowa

John Deere Self-Polishing Cast Steel Plow
Describes John Deere's invention of improved plows beginning in 1837 and the impact of that equipment on Midwest agriculture

Development of Farming Through the Years

Farmers and the Land
Presents a timeline of the important developments in American agriculture from 1776-1990 including statistics on the number of farms and the total farm population

A History of American Agriculture
A History of American Agriculture. by decade, by category. 17th-18th Centuries · 1800 · 1820 · 1840 · 1860 · 1880 · 1900 · 1910 · 1920 · 1930 · 1940 · 1950 ...

Interactive Census Maps for 2002 Agriculture Census Highlights
Includes statistics on the number of farms and the total farm population

Farming Today

Farming Today And Tomorrow - A Day in the Life of a Farmer- Fun Farm Facts
Presents a list of 36 facts about today's farmers; including expenses, education and technology needed to run today's farms

Farming Today and Tomorrow - A Day in the Life of a Farmer - Interview a Farmer
Provides interview questions which may be asked of a farmer today

Life on the Farm
Two Midwest farm families and their children share real-life experiences about farm life in the United States today. Includes photos of today's farming practices

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