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Lesson Plan: Milling

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 an event in Minnesota history. Your 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 itself. The sections of this site are not intended to be complete histories of the people or events involved, but examples of what students might find in their own research attempts.

Why Was Milling Important?
St. Anthony Falls became the largest flour milling center in the world during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sawmills and flour mills were built along the Falls and in effect helped build Minneapolis as a city, tourism, and financial center for the time period. Mill owners, aware of the risk posed by the erosion of the Falls, worked to preserve the source of their waterpower and to encourage more growth in the area.

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, instruct them to do the following in this order (you may wish to do this with them on 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 St. Anthony.
  4. Click on Milling.
  5. Read the introductory information about milling and click Enter.
  6. This will bring you to a screen with a diagram of a dust collector. This is the first primary source the students will encounter. Let them know that they can see a larger version of this diagram 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 diagram 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. Remind students to use the Activity button on each source to help direct their research.
  9. 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:
What follows is a listing of each source provided on the "Milling" section of the web site and a transcript of the activity questions for each source (these are found on the site by clicking on the Activity button).

Diagram 1
Click on the Diagram 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a cross-section of part of a flour mill.

    1.1)Near the bottom of the diagram, a wheel with a rope is used to power the mill. What is the power source that operates this mill?

    Possible Answer: This mill is powered by water and the water turbines that generate power. The waterfall at St. Anthony is the source of this waterpower.
    1.2) How is the waterpower brought to the mills from the turbines?

    Possible Answer: The power is transported by a rope connecting the turbines below the mill with the machinery on floors above, inside the mill.

    1.3) Once the flour has been ground and is ready for use, where does it go to get packed into bags or barrels and sent to buyers?

    Possible Answer: The flour goes into another flour bin and gets packed into bags (8) on the third level of the mill. Packers measure and weigh each bag of flour to make sure it is the correct quantity. In earlier years, barrels were used more frequently to pack the flour for transport.

    1.4) What might be the importance of a dust collector machine in a flour mill?

    Possible Answer: The dust collector removes the flour dust from the air. Flour dust can ignite easily, causing an explosion. The dust collector is designed to prevent fires and explosions and make the mill a safer place to work. On this diagram, the dust collector is the machine directly between numbers 5 (sifting) and 6 (re-grinding).

Photo 1
Click on the Photo 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a photograph of a worker standing by a roller mill.

    2.1) What kinds of dangers might workers face while using the machinery in the picture?

    Possible Answer: Hands, long hair or loose clothing caught in the belts and pulleys which are not covered. The room also seems small or crowded, which leaves very little space to move away if something breaks or explodes.

    2.2) How would the clothing worn by the workers in the picture be appropriate for their job safety?

    Possible Answer: There is no loose clothing that could get caught in the machinery. Hair was kept up under hats. Skin was covered by long sleeves, pants, and heavy boots.

    2.3) What do you think the tubes (called spouts) attached to the top of the roller machines are for?

    Possible Answer: They are for feeding grain into the machines. Grain flows into the top, is ground up inside by rollers, then drops through more tubes or spouts to the next level below.

    2.4) What might you guess from the fact that only one worker is in the photo?

    Possible Answer: These machines were automatic and didn't require someone to make them operate. The worker is probably responsible for watching over all of them and making sure they keep running.

Photo 2
Click on the Photo 2 button to open the primary source.
This is a picture of a worker with flour barrels in the Washburn A Mill.

    3.1) Does this photograph give you any details about what this man's job might have been like?

    Possible Answer: You can tell he worked in a large building, and that he probably had to do some heavy lifting, but other than those details, the photograph does not tell us much about his job or responsibilities.

    3.2) What relationship do you think the packaging materials for flour and the way in which flour was measured might have?

    Possible Answer: Flour was measured and sold in bbls (barrels), so there was a definite relationship between how the flour was weighed and how it was packaged.

    3.3) Why do you think we don't buy our flour in barrels today?

    Possible Answer: Our flour today is packaged in bags, which are easier to transport and more convenient for the buyer. They are also cheaper to produce.

    3.4) What can you tell about the construction of this mill from the photograph?

    Possible Answer: The mill appears to be built with wooden rafters and floorboards, but it looks as if there are stone pillars or outside walls.

Data 1
Click on the Data 1 button to open the primary source.
This is a table of injuries that occurred in mills.

    4.1) What kinds of injuries were you least likely to have if you worked in the mill? What injuries were you most likely to have?

    Possible Answer: The least-reported injuries were scalds and burns. You were most likely to be bruised, cut, to lose one or more fingers, or to break bones.
    4.2) Why might the injuries in question 2.1 be more uncommon than others?

    Possible Answer: Since milling mostly involves grinding up wheat, there probably wasn't a lot of equipment that would cause heat injuries. Steam engines and boilers were used, however, when the water level in the river was low, and these could cause heat injuries.

    4.3) In which time period were the fatalities in the mills the highest?

    Possible Answer: The most fatalities occurred during 1909-1910, but the chart does not provide us with any information about why fatalities were high that year or why they dropped in later years.

    4.4) Does the change in the number of injuries from year to year have any important meaning?

    Possible Answer: Probably not. The numbers are actually pretty steady throughout the years. The tables tell us something about who got injured and how, but don't seem to indicate a big change.

Data 2
Click on the Data 2 button to open the primary source.
This is a chart showing the types of jobs workers did in a mill.

    5.1) How many different jobs were there in a mill, according to this chart?

    Possible Answer: There are 22 different milling jobs listed on this chart. Workers were usually trained to do only one of these jobs. Millers were skilled laborers and were trained to use the milling equipment safely and efficiently.

    5.2) Together, wheat loaders and packers made up approximately what fraction of the total number of workers?

    Possible Answer: The total number of loaders and packers was 190 + 210, or 400 people. This is about half of the total number of people hired. Many people were required to move in and ship out the huge amounts of wheat being milled.

    5.3) It's unlikely that a mill would hire nearly thirty people to fight fires. Other than a fire fighter, what might a fireman be?

    Possible Answer: The fires that these firemen worked with were probably in the boilers at the mills. These men were responsible for shovelling coal into the boilers.

    5.4) Some jobs, like flour tester, required only a small number of people. What might be a reason for hiring only a few people to perform a job?

    Possible Answer: A job might be small enough that it only required a few people to do it. This doesn't mean it was necessarily an easy job though. In fact, it's possible that it was difficult to find larger numbers of educated people like chemists.

Ad 2
Click on the Ad 2 button to open the primary source.
This is a listing of milling jobs from the paper.

    6.1) What can classified ads tell you about the job qualifications needed for mill work?

    Possible Answer: Mill workers were skilled laborers. They needed to know how to keep the account books and manage a clean and safe mill. They also needed to be able to work well with their employers and the mill owners.

    6.2) Often advertisements for positions like these appear in newspapers like the Northwestern Miller, but sometimes they might appear in other places. What other things might millers do to look for jobs?

    Possible Answer: They might advertise in the regular local newspapers, they might send letters to friends in other cities and ask about possible job openings, or they might visit other cities looking for a job and meeting with mill supervisors.

    6.3) What things do these ads NOT tell us about working in the mills?

    Possible Answer: They don't tell us how much a mill worker would make in wages or if they got any kinds of benefits such as vacation time or medical leave (they probably didn't), and they don't tell us the actual name and address of the miller who would like a job.

    6.4) Why do you think the ads in this paper don't include the home addresses of the people who are hunting for jobs?

    Possible Answer: It's possible that the person looking for a job hasn't told their current employer yet that they would like to leave. It's also possible that the miller wanted to look at potential offers through the mail before choosing whom to talk to about a new job. It is still unusual today to find advertisements that list personal information.

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. Using a variety of sources to learn about a topic is one way to gain a broader knowledge of the topic you are studying. This section of the web site uses advertisements, charts, and diagrams to demonstrate some of the different parts of the milling industry in Minnesota. What skills do you use when you are studying a map, diagram, or chart in your research? How is this different from the way you study a letter or a newspaper article?

  2. Historians often use charts and diagrams as research sources for their work. List the strengths and weaknesses of using charts and diagrams as sources in historical research. How might these strengths and weaknesses affect how you use the source or how reliable you think the source might be?

  3. Classifed ads (such as the ones shown on this site) can tell us something about the people who lived during a time period and what their work was like, but they cannot by themselves provide us with a detailed story of the person who placed the ad. What other sources might give you a clearer picture of someone who placed one of these ads? How might you go about "tracing" that person's history? What sources might you use if you wanted to find out who the person was and whether or not they got a job from the ad they placed? How likely do you think it might be that you could find information about the person in the advertisement?

  4. Injuries were common in many industries during this time period. What other sources (other than the injury chart we provided) on this section of the site might suggest to you how someone could get injured? What other sources might you be able to find that would give you more details about how someone could get hurt in a mill? Where could you find information about what happened to someone if they got injured on the job?

Extending the Lesson: Historical Themes in Milling
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 the milling industry. 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 milling does not give us 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. Technology and Industry
2. Career Exploration

Theme One:
Technology and Industry

The student will be able to :

  1. use information gathered from primary sources to evaluate the role of technology in milling
  2. describe and evaluate the role of inventions and technology in daily life
  3. evaluate advertising and promotion for new inventions and determine its reliability as a historical source
Class Discussion:
Have students discuss as a class (notes on the board) or in small groups the following questions about technology and industry today and in the past:

  • Describe the impact of current technology on your daily life.

  • List some technologies of the past and how they might have helped those who used them.

  • What are some advantages and disadvantages to using technology?

  • How has technology made your life and work safer?

  • Most industries today are working to create new technologies in order to simplify and improve their production and the working conditions of their employees. Describe some changes you can see between factory work today and the images of factory work in the 1800s that you saw on the web site (teachers may wish to provide photocopies of the milling photographs or diagrams for students reference).
Optional Activities:
  • Take a class tour of a factory in your town and have students note the safety features the factory uses, the dress of the workers, and the machinery used in production. Ask students to prepare their own set of six "sources" that might be used by a historian who would study that factory 100 years in the future. Students can present these to the class as a poster or "time capsule" and describe what future historians could learn from them.

  • Have students identify and evaluate the technology used in their classroom or school. They should describe how this technology has made their school day simpler or more efficient. What technologies might help them even more? Ask students to invent and draw a diagram of a new technology that would make their school day more productive. You may also ask them to design the machinery or factory that would be needed to produce their invention.

  • Ask students to research early technology that was used in flour milling and compare it to the technology in use today. What changes have been made? Have some machines or tools stayed much the same? Have some been eliminated or replaced completely? Students may wish to choose one particular tool or piece of machinery and trace its development to the current day.

  • Have students talk to their families or other adults about technologies they use in their work and report back to the class in oral or written form. How do these inventions make their work more efficient? What inventions do they use that might not be recognized by people who do not work in the same industry? You may even wish to challenge students to find the most unusual technology used in industry today. If possible, students could bring in the invention or a photograph of it to show the class and describe how it works.

Theme Two:
Career Exploration

The student will be able to:

  1. evaluate and describe careers which interest them
  2. investigate those careers that interest them and evaluate their suitability for the student
  3. determine what course of education would be necessary to obtain the jobs that interest them
Class Discussion:
As a class, create a list of possible careers on the board. Have the class discuss each career for the level of education needed, the earning potential, availability and general working conditions involved. Their ideas about each job may be based on opinion or "guesses" more than actual facts. Students will be able to compare their impressions about certain careers with actual interviews and information they gather in the activity section.

Optional Activities:

  • Ask each student to choose one of the careers on the board to research. They should use newspaper want ads, do library research and interview people who work in that field to learn about its working conditions, training, and other issues. Students should report to the class and compare their findings to the impressions they had about the job before their reserach began. Ask students to evaluate whether or not they would want this career now that they have studied it. Are they more or less intersted in it?

  • Invite a personnel manager or recruiter to come to the class and describe what kinds of qualities are important in an employee. Students in your age group will be getting summer jobs in the coming years and need to know about proper behavior and workplace etiquette. What are employers looking for in an employee? What level of education is needed for most jobs? What behaviors are important in getting and keeping job?

  • Take a field trip to a working mill or factory in your area. Ask students to compare the equipment they see on the trip with equipment shown in the photographs on the website. What improvements have been made in safety and working conditions? What dangers still exist?

  • Have students design and draw (or make a model of) their own mill. What equipment would they use and how would it work? How many workers would be necessary to keep the mill running? What safety measures would they take to keep their workers from getting hurt? What products would the mill produce and how much would it cost to run? What power source would be used to keep the mill in operation? Have students describe their mill to the class. You may even suggest that they create a list of important questions and "interview" potential mill employees from among their classmates.

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