Back to Lesson Menu

Lesson Plan: Edmund J. Longyear

For Teachers - An Introduction:
This lesson is designed to introduce your students to historical research with primary sources. They will be presented with a set of six primary sources relating to a person in Minnesota history. Students will be provided with source data, online activity questions to direct their study, and a worksheet designed to help them draw conclusions about the sources they have seen and about primary source research in general. The sections of this site are not intended to be complete histories of the people or events involved, but rather serve as examples of what students might find in their own research attempts.

Edmund J. Longyear:
As a pioneer businessman, mining explorer, and mining engineer on the Iron Range, Edmund Longyear was the first to bring the diamond-drill technology to the area. He eventually expanded his business to do contract work for a number of miners on the range and changed his office space a number of times to accommodate a growing volume of business and equipment. His work as a real estate agent also helped him succeed during Hibbing's early years.

What You Will Need for This Lesson:

  • Access to a computer lab with Internet capability for at least one 40 minute class period.
  • Photocopies of the worksheet and a printed key (download both in the Student Materials section of the site).
  • If you have not already done so, we encourage you to explore the site for yourself ahead of time to become familiar with the navigation and features available to you and your students.

Skills Objectives:
The student will be able to:

  1. access primary sources online for research and study
  2. identify and summarize the different kinds of sources in the exercise
  3. identify advantages and disadvantages to using particular primary sources
  4. explain and synthesize source information to evaluate its usefulness and reliability

Using this Lesson in Your Classroom:
When the students are in the computer lab, lead them through the following sequence (you may wish to use an overhead projector screen):

  1. Go to the Communities web site.
  2. Click on Communities on the left hand side of the screen.
  3. Click on Hibbing.
  4. Click on Edmund J. Longyear.
  5. Read the introductory material on Longyear and click Enter.
  6. This will bring you to a screen with a photograph of Longyear. This is the first primary source the students will encounter. Let them know that they can see a larger version of this photograph by clicking on the View button underneath the thumbnail image. Show students the Activity button and have them click on it to view questions and possible answers about each source.
  7. Once students have studied this photograph and read the appropriate questions about it in the Activity section, direct them to the other sources that are accessible through the blue menu bar running across the top of the page. Each of these buttons will take them to another source to explore.
  8. When the students have completed studying each source and reading the questions for each item, they should be able to complete the worksheet they were given (see below).

What Your Students Will See In This Lesson Online:
Below is a listing of each source provided on the Longyear section of the Web site and a transcript of the activity questions for each source. (The questions are found on the site by clicking on the Activity button.)

Photo 1
Click on the Photo 1 button to open the primary source.

Longyear was the first prospector to bring diamond drill technology to the Iron Range. He created a successful business by doing drilling for other prospectors and by investing in real estate.


Letter 1

Click on the Letter 1 button to open the primary source.
This letter was written by Longyear to his uncle in Michigan.

    2.1) Why do you think Longyear would have addressed this letter to his uncle "Dear Sir" instead of something more personal?

    Possible Answer: This is a business letter and Longyear is describing his business interests and work to his uncle, who has hired him to do some prospecting on the range.

    2.2) What details in this letter might suggest to you that Longyear's uncle is also in the mining business?

    Possible Answer: Longyear writes about details in the mining and prospecting process that might be difficult for someone who did not have a mining background to understand. The fact that Longyear does not have to explain all of this details to his reader tells us that his uncle probably knew and understood the processes involved in mining and prospecting.

    2.3) What in this letter might suggest to us that Longyear is taking some risks in this adventure?

    Possible Answer: Longyear says that he is "laughed at" by other miners because he is looking for ore farther south on the range. He is hoping that his guesses and theories about where the ore is located are correct, because he will have a greater chance to buy the land before anyone else realizes what he has found.

    2.4) Why would it be important to Longyear that the county was planning to build a road nearby?

    Possible Answer: With a conveniently located road, it would be easier for Longyear to transport ore, supplies, and workers to and from the mines he is hoping to own. This would make the process of mining less expensive and more efficient for him, and therefore would allow him to make more money.

Letter 2
Click on the Letter 2 button to open the primary source.
This letter was written to Longyear to request some drilling work on the range.

    3.1) The return address on this letter states a street address in the city of Chicago. The address given for Longyear is simply "Hibbing, Minn." Why do you think this would be?

    Possible Answer: Since Hibbing was still a fairly small town in 1901, and Longyear was well-known, it was probably not necessary for a street address to be given in order for the letter to reach him.

    3.2) Why might the authors of this letter not be able to do the drilling work themselves?

    Possible Answer: The author of this letter has inherited the land on which he wishes to drill and probably doesn't have the experience or the equipment to do it himself. Longyear was known to have some of the most advanced drilling equipment at the time and often was contracted to set up drills on test sites for landowners who could not afford the equipment or the time themselves.

    3.3) Why would the author of this letter suggest that Longyear contact Mr. Olcott with questions about him?

    Possible Answer: Since Longyear and the author do not know each other, the author is providing Longyear with the name of a reference so he can make sure that the author is honest and will pay for any work Longyear would do for him.

    3.4) What is Longyear's response to the letter and request? Why might we guess that Longyear did not actually write a response to the author himself?

    Possible Answer: Longyear says that he cannot do the drilling at this time because he has too much other work to do. We can assume that Longyear had a secretary who wrote the actual response for him, since Longyear's note at the bottom asks someone else to "tell him" (the author of the letter) that Longyear can't accept the job.

Ad 1
Click on the Ad 1 button to open the primary source.
This ad promoted the new mining town of Bovey.

    4.1) What might be some advantages to living in a town that is "in the midst of great bodies of iron ore"?

    Possible Answer: The presence of a major industry in your area would be a positive opportunity for you in many ways. If you were a miner, there would most likely be work for you in and around the town. If you were a merchant, you could set up a store to sell supplies to the miners. If the mine was successful, the town might have enough money to build better schools, roads, or other community projects that would make the town a good place to live.

    4.2) What might be some disadvantages to living in a town that is "in the midst of great bodies of iron ore"?

    Possible Answer: Some mining towns failed because the nearby mine wasn't as productive as they had first thought or because the railroad failed to bring service to them. Towns like Hibbing ended up being built too close to the iron ore and had to be moved eventually. Miners often did not make much money in wages, and mining companies sometimes controlled prices in the local stores, so goods might be more expensive than in other towns.

    4.3) Why might the presence of the Great Northern Railroad be an important feature for those considering moving to Bovey?

    Possible Answer: The railroad would bring more efficient transportation of goods and people to the area. People might also assume that if the railroad would be nearby, it would be more likely that a mine and mining town would succeed. The ad also mentions that the new town is only nine miles from Grand Rapids, which might also make its location convenient for potential residents.

    4.4) Why do you think Longyear's company might have been involved in promoting this town?

    Possible Answer: Longyear was involved in large contracts for drilling and supplied much of the drilling equipment that was used on the range at that time. The development of a new mine and new land purchases for a town (he also worked in real estate) could be highly profitable for him and his company.

Document 1
Click on the Document 1 button to open the primary source.
This log (or record of drilling) kept by Longyear describes the drilling of the first hole on the Mesabi.

    5.1) Why do you think it might have been important to Longyear to keep a log like this?

    Possible Answer: By using this log as a reference for later holes, he would have been able to get an idea of what he could expect to find in the drilling process and how long it might take. This might also be a helpful way for him to keep track of geologic formations that he encountered when drilling and how well his equipment worked with each one.

    5.2) What other procedures (according to the log) did Longyear have to go through before he could actually drill on the site?

    Possible Answer: After finding the location for drilling, he was not able to get his equipment to the site. He had to cut a road through the woods and have the equipment delivered. It then took two days to set up the machine and prepare for drilling.

    5.3) When the standpipe became stuck and could not go much farther, what did Longyear have to do in order to continue?

    Possible Answer: He blasted the area with dynamite to get the standpipe to continue.

    5.4) What in this log suggests to us that he could have been drilling around the clock at some points? Why might he do this?

    Possible Answer: He mentions drilling at night a couple of times and that he had to cancel the "night shift" once, which might suggest to us that he had a separate drilling crew that worked every night. He might wish to drill day and night in order to make faster progress toward the ore. The process could be lengthy and expensive, so working around the clock might allow the prospector to move on to another site more quickly if one site did not produce ore.

News 1
Click on the News 1 button to open the primary source.
This newspaper article describes Longyear's mining work in the area.

    6.1) Why do you think it was important to Longyear's success that he had the first diamond drill in the area?

    Possible Answer: Being the first to have a new technology in the industry was important. Since Longyear worked at first for his wealthy uncle, it is likely that he had access to the newest and highest quality equipment, which could be easily rented or contracted to other miners in the area for a fee.

    6.2) Where might we go to look for more information about how a diamond drill worked?

    Possible Answer: A diamond drill was a drill with dark diamonds built into it so that it would cut through most rock more cleanly and quickly than other drills. The Longyear company produced catalogs of its drills, and many mining resources list their use and information about them and how they worked.

    6.3) How might this article help us find the buildings where Longyear's offices were located?

    Possible Answer: The article lists the addresses of his offices over time, so a map of Hibbing could direct us to them. If the buildings are still standing, we could visit Hibbing to see them. If the buildings are no longer there or the street names have changed, we could consult an old map of the city or photographs of the area to see their location and appearance.

    6.4) The article mentions that Longyear built an office "finished with plate glass and mahogany." What could that tell us about him and his success?

    Possible Answer: Both of these items were only used in the houses and offices of the wealthy at this time, because they were expensive. This would suggest to us that Longyear had made a large amount of money in his business and was very successful.

Thought Questions for online Exploration:
During the online lesson, your students should complete the accompanying worksheet for this section. (Download from the student materials the pdf file containing the worksheet and key.) The questions for this worksheet are provided below. Since questions relating to specific sources are used during the online activity, the following worksheet questions are designed to help students synthesize and apply the material they have learned from the online activity and to analyze the kinds of information and the credibility of various types of primary sources when taken as a whole.

  1. The letters used as sources in this unit are both business letters. Why might a business letter be a good source for your research? What problems might arise when using a business letter as a source? How might you use a business letter differently than you might use a personal letter?

  2. Newspapers often publish anniversary editions or commemorative editions of their papers to celebrate or mark a special event. In this case, the Hibbing newspaper published an issue celebrating the town’s first 10 years. How might an anniversary edition be a good source for a historian to use? What might be important cautions to consider when using an anniversary edition as a source?

  3. Longyear kept a notebook of his work drilling for iron. What kinds of things can we learn from notebooks like this kept by scientists? Why might it be important for future scientists to see these notebooks? Why might research done years or even hundreds of years in the past still be helpful?

  4. TThe advertisement in this section is encouraging people to buy land in a developing town on the range. What might we do if we wanted to find out if this town survived over time? What sources might help us learn more about its early years? What sources might help us find out more about the town today?

Extending the Lesson: Historical Themes Edmund J. Longyear
You can also use the sources provided on this site to encourage higher-order thinking about a number of historical themes and issues that relate to Longyear. Below are possible activities and discussion starters to extend student application of the content material provided in the sources. The information provided in the sources about Longyear does not provide a comprehensive picture of these issues, but it can serve as an introduction to a theme or as supplementary material to enhance your work with a theme that is already part of your curriculum.

Possible Themes:
1. Business on the Range
2. Technology and Mining

Theme One:
Business on the Range

Objective:
The student will be able to:

  1. Define and describe the role of business on the Iron Range
  2. Define, evaluate, and describe the role business plays in the development and success of a community
Class Discussion:
In small groups, have students discuss the following questions. You may wish to provide these questions on an overhead transparency or supply a handout for student reference.

  • List as many local businesses as you can and write them on the board. Discuss the following: What service or product does each business provide for your community? How would that need be met if the business did not exist in your area? What do you think people did before all of these businesses were here? (For example, did they "do without," go to another community for the service, etc.)

  • Consider the role competition plays in your community. Look at the list of businesses you wrote on the board. Which of these businesses are the ONLY place in your area to provide that service or product? Which businesses compete for your buying dollars? Do you think competition helps you as a consumer? Why or why not?

  • What businesses do you think your community might need that it doesn't yet have? How might local citizens encourage those businesses to open in your community? What benefits or special qualities does your community have that might encourage new business?

  • What other factors (such as competition with a larger town nearby, a poor economy, etc.) can influence how successful your local businesses are? What can local communities do to strengthen their local businesses? What can happen to a community when its businesses leave?
Optional activities:
  • Divide students into groups and ask them to plan a new town in your area. What issues need to be considered? How would the land be obtained? What would be the main industry? How would they convince others to live there? What public services would need to be in place to make the area desirable for new residents? Have students prepare posters and campaign to "convince" classmates to move to their new town.

  • As a class, study a town in your state that did NOT succeed (a so-called "ghost town" - in Minnesota, one example would be the town of Ninninger). What factors contributed to its failure? What role might technology have played in its failure? What things might have made it successful? You might ask the local historical society for some information and assign groups of students to different topics for study (railroads, industry, agriculture, development of the town, events that led to its failure). If possible, interview former residents of the town or their families for more information. What made your community succeed while other towns did not?

  • Longyear started in business by working for a relative. Discuss as a class the pros and cons of working with a family member as your boss. What ground rules might need to be established? How might suggestions for change in the family business be discussed or decided upon? Ask students to role-play some examples of issues that might arise when working for a family member in a business and develop ways to peacefully and effectively negotiate them.

  • Invite a number of local businesspeople to your class to discuss what it is like to start a business. Students may want to ask questions similar to these: What risks need to be taken to start a business? How do you get customers? What challenges do you face from competitors or other neighboring communities? What made you decide to go into business for yourself? After the discussion, ask students to create a plan for a business that may interest them. Ask them to identify a need in the community for their business (for example, a safe place for kids to spend time, a bookstore for children, a repair service for a certain type of machinery or vehicle, etc.) and write a basic business plan describing what they will call their new business, where it will be located, who will work there, and what they will do to make the business successful. Students can then describe their new businesses to the class (you may even want to encourage them to make an advertisement promoting their new business as part of their report).

Theme Two:
Technology and Mining

Objectives:
The student will be able to:

  1. Define, describe and evaluate the uses and impact of technology on the Iron Range
  2. Identify the role of new technology in their community
Class Discussion:
In small groups, have students discuss the following questions. You may wish to provide these questions on an overhead transparency or supply a handout for student reference.

  • What are the differences between technology used in industry today and the technology that was used when your grandparents were children? List some examples of differences in production, speed of production, or the quality of a product. Students may mention that we can now produce more items (food, books, clothing, etc.) in a shorter period of time, or that the quality of certain items may have improved as a result better technology or declined in quality with loss of craftsmanship.)

  • Look around the classroom. List all of the technologies that you have today in your classroom that probably weren't available to your parents or grandparents. In what ways is your school day different from the school days your parents and grandparents experienced?

  • Technology can change our lives in many ways. What technologies make our lives easier? Which ones can make our lives more complicated? Which can do both? How can you control the impact technology makes on your life?

  • Businessmen like Longyear did large amounts of research before adopting a new technology. What kind of research do you do before buying something new like a computer or stereo? What kinds of information do you want to know about the product? What sources do you use to learn this information? What makes you decide to choose or not choose a certain product or brand of product?

Optional activities:

  • Have students research examples of technologies that have changed the way we live, do business, or relate to the world around us. They should research the history, creation, and evolution of an invention and how it has impacted their own lives. Ask them (if reasonable) to go without using that technology (for example, phone, TV, computer, stereo, etc.) for one day and report on how their life was different.

  • Take a field trip to a local factory or manufacturing plant. Encourage the guide to specifically discuss the role of technology in their business and production. What advances in technology are making their jobs easier? What technologies make working in the factory safer than it was years ago? What kind of training is required for using this technology on the job?

  • Ask students to study some technologies of years ago. They may want to study an invention such as the cotton gin, the first automobile, the telephone or telegraph, for example. Have students prepare a written or oral report describing their findings and the effect that the invention had on the community or communities in which it was used. They may wish to present a skit describing how life was improved with the technology (acting out what life was like before and after), or prepare a comic book, poster, or model describing the technology, its origins, and its uses.

  • Create a classroom "museum" of technology. Ask students to bring in (or draw pictures of, if the item is too valuable or difficult to bring in) a technology, either past or present, that tells something about their lives. It might be the tape recorder they had when they were little, or an old telephone they borrowed from their grandparents' attic. Display the items as if they were in a museum, with captions and stories about the item written by the students. Encourage other classes to visit your museum and think about the changes technology makes in our lives.


 Minnesota Historical Society· 345 Kellogg Blvd. West, St. Paul, MN 55102-1906· 651.296.6126  Copyright © 1999
ˇ