Adventure 4

History Center Excursion

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Be a Museum Curator!

Look at what we found! The Douglas family papers!

You have been asked to assist the curator at the History Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in developing an exhibit about the Douglas family. You have a collection of old family papers and photographs that were given to the museum. What story do they tell?

Step 1 - Look at the inventory list

Trunk KeyTo begin putting the pieces of the puzzle together, read this biographical information about the Douglas family. Then, look at the inventory list of documents and click on each one to preview the old photographs and letters.

Step 2 - Write research questions

Develop your research questions and identify which artifacts will help you answer those questions. Here are a few questions to begin your research.
  • What did George Douglas look like as a child?
  • What did George Douglas look like as an adult?
  • What did the Douglas home look like?
  • What did his company produce?
  • What hardships did his company face?
  • What companies make products out of corn today?
  • How do we use these corn products every day?
Write two or three more research questions.

Step 3 - Review the inventory and find your answers

Look at the inventory list of family papers and photographs. Identify which documents, books and websites in the Media Center will help you answer each question.

Step 4 - Take a virtual field trip

Brucemore c. 1909 Brucemore c. 1909 To learn more about George B. Douglas, take a virtual field trip and visit to Brucemore, home of George and Irene Douglas and their three daughters, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Step 5 - Solve the history mystery

As part of your collection of materials, you found two letters you want to display at the museum. But you need to give the museum visitor some background information on the letters. In your research group, use the following resources to develop hypotheses (guesses) about these two letters. When you have explored these resources, develop a statement about each letter. Tell what you absolutely know about the letter. Then "fill in the blanks" with a hypothetical statement (educated guessing) about what you believe to be true about the letters. Share your conclusion with the class.

Step 6 Photo analysis

Complete the photographic analysis activity to learn more about an amazing thing that happened to the company.


Inventory list for Douglas Family Papers

1. Portrait - George B. Douglas

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2. Portrait - Wife, Irene, and two daughters

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3. Portrait - Irene Douglas, c. 1925

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4. Photos - Views of the Douglas home at 1st Ave, and 20th St. S.E.

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5. Engraving - North Star Mills, c. 1875

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6. Photo - North Star Mills, c. 1887

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7. Photo - Jones, Douglas & Co. (cracker factory) c. 1887

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8. Map - Douglas Starchworks, c. 1905

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9. Photo - Douglas Starchworks, c. 1906

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10. Photo - Douglas Starchworks, c. 1918

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11. Map - Douglas Starchworks, c. 1918

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12. Photos - (4) Starchworks disaster and downtown damage, c. 1919

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13. Photo - Aerial view of Penick & Ford late 1920's

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14. Letter - March 3, 1912

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15. Letter - July 31, 1913

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Media Center

Books to Read


Bial, Raymond. Corn Belt Harvest. Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
Text and photos illustrate the cycle of corn production from field to factory.

Cooper, Jason. Corn: Farm to Market. Rourke, 1997.
Examines the importance of corn and explains how it is grown, processed, and shipped to the grocery store.

Hakim, Joy. An Age of Extremes. (History of the United States series, Book 8). Oxford University Press, 1999.
Covers important events in U.S. history from the 1880s to World War I.

Landau, Elaine. Corn (True Books-Food & Nutrition). Children's Press, 2000.
Describes the history, cultivation, and uses of corn.

Leuzzi, Linda. Transportation. Chelsea House, 1995.
Describes the early years of various forms of transportation, showing how people traveled during the last half of the 19th century and into the early 20th century.

Other Resources on the WWW

Corn Refining and Uses of Corn

History of Corn Refining
Provides a brief history of corn refining from its beginnings in 1844 to the present day.

The Corn Refining Process
The Corn Refiners Association presents a step-by-step description of the procedures in processing corn.

Corn Refiner's Association - Products - Starch
Describes the current uses of corn starches.

New Uses
The Iowa Corn Grower's Association describes new uses of corn in manufactured products.

What Can You Get From a Bushel of Corn?
The Ohio Corn Marketing Program presents a brief listing of what can be extracted from a single bushel of corn.

A Zillion Uses for Corn!
The Ontario Corn Producers' Association presents a comprehensive list of common products which are derived from corn.

A World without Corn

Products that Use Corn
The Ontario Corn Producers' Association presents a comprehensive list of common products which are derived from corn.

Controlling Grain Dust Fires and Explosions
Describes the four ingredients necessary for a grain dust fire to occur.

Grain Dust Peril
Describes the history of grain dust explosions in the United States and discusses measures which can be taken to prevent explosions.

Twentieth Century History

EyeWitness to the Twentieth Century
Presents key events of the twentieth century listed by year of occurrence.

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