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Lesson Plan: Victor L. Power

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.

Victor L. Power:
Elected mayor of the village of Hibbing 10 times, Victor Power was a prominent lawyer and vocal supporter of the labor movement. His efforts to improve the town of Hibbing and to increase the power of the mine workers made him many friends among the working class of the area. He levied taxes on the mining companies to help pay for village utility improvements. He ran for congressional office more than once, but was always defeated. He was often encouraged to run for state governor, but always refused.

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 Victor L. Power.
  5. Read the introductory material on Power and click Enter.
  6. This will bring you to a screen with a photograph of Power. 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. 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:
Below is a listing of each source provided on the Power 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.

Power was mayor of Hibbing for many years, and was a firm defender of labor issues. His work in Hibbing included supporting the miners’ strike and improving city services for citizens.

News 1

Click on the News 1 button to open the primary source.
This article describes the first council meeting with Power as town president.

    2.1) What do some of the details in this article tell us about what Power's job as village president was like?

    Possible Answer: He had the authority to appoint citizens to various committees and village jobs, and he could also recommend salaries for those employees. The village president also did not normally send a message to the council, because the article mentions that this was the first time that had happened.

    2.2) Why do you think so many people might have attended a council meeting like this?

    Possible Answer: The article suggests that everyone was interested in knowing Power's appointments for city officials. It is also possible everyone wanted to learn about the goals and plans Power had for the new town.

    2.3) What might we do if we wanted to learn more about the other members of the village council?

    Possible Answer: Other newspaper articles describing meetings of the council might give us some more information. We might also look up city records in a local Hibbing museum. Since the council members were involved in Hibbing politics as late as 1913, it is also possible that some of their descendants might still live in the area.

    2.4) Why do you think the Recorder read Power's message instead of Power giving the message himself?

    Possible Answer: Their rules for meeting may have required that the recorder be in charge of reading correspondence or messages to the council. This would help them keep records of what was said and ensure that no one spoke who was not prepared.

News 2
Click on the News 2 button to open the primary source.
This newspaper article was written in response to suggestions that Power run for state legislature.

    3.1) This article is not signed. Whom could have written it?

    Possible Answer: We can't really know for sure who wrote the article, but we might guess that since it was on the first page and unsigned, the editor of the paper could have written it. We might also guess that it was a "letter to the editor" written by a local citizen, and that it was considered important enough to place on the first page.

    3.2) What opinion does the author of the article have about Power?

    Possible Answer: He seems to think that Power is doing a good job as mayor and that he could be mayor for a very long time, since many people in Hibbing seem to like what he's doing.

    3.3) The article says that Power already has a law practice in town that is important to him. What does that say about the job of mayor in Hibbing at the time?

    Possible Answer: The fact that Power still has his law firm and has not quit working as a lawyer while he is mayor might suggest that the job of mayor was either low-paying or didn't take up a large amount of time.

    3.4) What does the title of this article suggest to the reader about Power's opponents?

    Possible Answer: The title suggests that the mayor is being lured away from local government by people who would like him to move into a more powerful position, or that he is being lured away by people who would like to see him out of Hibbing. The author of the article seems to think that some people just want to see him out of Hibbing's city government.

News 3
Click on the News 3 button to open the primary source.
This newspaper article describes Power's support of picketers (strikers) during a strike.

    4.1) The council meeting described in this article was arranged to prepare a meeting with other village councils to discuss the strike. What does this tell us about the strike situation at the time?

    Possible Answer: The fact that other village councils were getting involved tells us that the strike was affecting more than one community in the area. They were going to work together to control the strike and bring it to a peaceful end.

    4.2) On what issue did Mayor Power disagree strongly with his council?

    Possible Answer: The council wanted it made known that they would protect workers who broke the picket line and went to work during the strike. Mayor Power disagreed with this because he believed that the strikers had a right to strike, and he also didn't want Hibbing to get any more bad publicity from the strike situation.

    4.3) Why would protecting strikebreakers help the mining companies' case in a strike?

    Possible Answer: If workers were allowed to cross picket lines, the work of the company would continue and the strike would be less of a hardship for the owners of the company. If the company able to manage well enough without the striking workers, the owners might be less willing to negotiate a settlement to bring the strikers back to work.

    4.4) Why do you think the council would suggest helping the mining companies protect strikebreakers instead of helping the strikers?

    Possible Answer: The owners of the mining companies probably had more money and power than the labor organization that supported workers in the area, so the owners could have more influence on the council. Because the mining industry provided a lot of money and jobs for the town, council members might consider it economically dangerous to go against companies and side with the strikers.

News 4
Click on the News 4 button to open the primary source.
This obituary, or death notice, for Victor Power appeared in the local paper on the day he died.

    5.1) Why do you think Hibbing was known as the "richest village in the world" while Power was mayor?

    Possible Answer: The Mesabi Range at this time was one of the most productive and successful mining regions in the country, and Hibbing was a major part in that success. The mining companies in the area paid large amounts in taxes, which gave the local government money for improvements.

    5.2) Where could we find more information about Power's congressional campaigns?

    Possible Answer: State records of elections and campaign literature might provide some more information. His own journals or records could mention the campaigns, and we might be able to find some newspaper articles about the campaigns or the elections themselves.

    5.3) This is only a section of a longer obituary for Power. What other information might we find in the rest of the article?

    Possible Answer: There will probably be information about his birth and early life, his work before he became a politician, his family life, and his last few years of life.

    5.4) What information about his political campaigns will we probably NOT find in this obituary?

    Possible Answer: Obituaries are usually written with a very positive description of the person who has died. Sometimes these articles are even written by close family members or friends of the deceased. Therefore, we are not likely to read anything about a political scandal in his obituary, or to see any comments about why he did not get elected to office.

Diary 1
Click on the Diary 1 button to open the primary source.
This journal page is from Power's notebooks.

    6.1) Power kept a page like this each day for many years. How do you think this kind of information might have been useful to him over time?

    Possible Answer: These diaries could have become kind of a series of reference books for Power. He included newspaper articles, notes about the weather, and notes about business transactions or meetings. He could look back on them to find out what was said at a meeting, what a business agreement contained, or what his schedule might have been on a certain day.

    6.2) Power clipped newspaper articles about topics that interested him and placed them on his journal pages. What can the articles he chose tell us about him?

    Possible Answer: If we were to study more of his journal pages and read the articles, we could get a stronger impression of what was important to him. If all of the articles were written about a certain topic or theme, we might guess that the topic was one of interest or one that he felt strongly about. Since he doesn't seem to make notes about the articles themselves in his journal, we can't tell without further research whether he might agree or disagree with the issues in the articles.

    6.3) The information on the right side of the page in his own handwriting describes a land purchase Power had recently made. What information about this purchase does he tell us?

    Possible Answer: We know which piece of land he has bought (we could probably look it up on a map using only his description here), how much the land cost ($3500), what he paid as a down payment ($500), and what his interest rate was going to be (6 percent). We also know that he is planning to erect a building on this land, and the building will cost $30,000.

    6.4) Many people during Power's time and earlier wrote daily accounts of the local weather in their journals. Why could this information be helpful for a researcher?

    Possible Answer: If dates are not provided on the journal pages, weather information could help us guess the season of the year when the page was written. It could also inform us about major weather events that happened at the time (blizzards, tornadoes, etc.) and how local citizens reacted.

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. Editorials like the one in News 2 can teach us much about the community in which they were written and the interests of that community’s citizens. What things do we learn about Hibbing from this editorial? What do the editorials in your local paper tell you about your community and its concerns? How can an editorial be used as a primary source for your research? What challenges does an editorial present for the researcher?

  2. Obituaries can give us a great deal of information about a person’s life. What information do we need to know in order to locate an obituary? What information contained in an obituary like Power’s can lead us to more detailed information about him and his work? What sources might we use to search for that information? Why might using his obituary alone as a source be a problem for our research?

  3. Power was recognized as a “friend of labor” and supported the strikers in their efforts in many ways. How might we find out what kind of relationship Power had with the owners of the mining companies, since he was the mayor of a mining community? What sources would tell us more about what the company owners thought of him?

  4. The sources in this section show us some of the ways in which Power influenced his community as mayor and as business leader. What other sources might tell us more about how he influenced the community through his personal life or leisure activities? How could those sources provide us with a more complete picture of the man and his life?

After your students have completed these questions, you may either collect them to be graded and discussed later or go over them in class as a discussion outline. When you downloaded the file with these questions you also downloaded a teacher's key for your use.

Extending the Lesson: Historical Themes Victor Power
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 Victor Power. 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 Victor Power 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. City government and its role
2. Politics and your community

Theme One:
City government and its role

The student will be able to:

  1. describe, evaluate and explain the role of city government in their community
  2. examine and describe the importance of positive leadership in city government
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 role do you think your local government leaders have in changes that are made in your community? What kinds of changes are occurring in your community? Do you think these changes are good or bad? How can you communicate your opinions to your community leaders?

  • What qualities do you value in a city leader? How do you evaluate whether or not a city official is doing a good job?

  • What role do you as a citizen of your community have in determining what the government does or does not do? What can you do (even if you can't yet vote) to influence your leaders and let them know what you think?

  • What other issues do you think government leaders need to consider when making a decision? Sometimes government decisions look "easy" from the perspective of the voters, but what other things might have to be considered when making such a decision? What positive and negative effects could a decision have on your local community?
Optional activities:
  • Have students interview past or present community leaders (or invite them to visit your class) for their views about community leadership and what it takes to be a good leader. Compile a class list of qualities that are necessary for leadership and brainstorm ways students can develop and encourage those qualities in themselves and others.

  • Ask students to examine the election process in your community. What methods do candidates use in their campaigns? What do each of the political parties represent? What issues are important to your community right now and how do candidates address those issues in their campaigns? Hold a mock election in your classroom for city officials. What is the outcome and why did students choose their candidates?

  • Choose a local government issue to study as a class. This could be a bond or referendum issue, a property discussion, or a general issue of concern to your community. Ask each student to survey 5 to 10 people about their feelings on the topic (all students should ask the same questions, which can be written as a class). As a class, compile these responses and evaluate why survey respondents answered the way they did. What effect will this issue have on your community? What are the positives and negatives on each side? Ask students to weigh the pros and cons of the issue and write a statement or essay describing their opinion and why they feel the way that they do.

  • Ask students to rank for themselves the 5 or 10 most important qualities or features they value in their community (examples might be sports facilities, good shopping, large yards with trees, a youth center). Compile these lists and make a chart on the board of which things your class sees as its top local priorities. How realistic are these goals for your community? Which of these are already part of your community? What can they do to make their goals a reality, if they are not so already? What efforts are community leaders making toward these goals? What can students do to encourage their leaders and let them know their views?

Theme Two:
Politics and your community:

The student will be able to:

  1. describe and evaluate the role of politics plays in community issues
  2. describe and explain how politicians serve our communities in positive ways
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 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word "politics"? In many cases, students will mention elections, the White House, Congress, or campaign speeches. It is possible that students may mention negative images, and you may discuss why this would be so as part of the following questions. Have studenst define the term "politics" in their own words and post these in the room for future reference.

  • What do you think politicians do after they are elected? What tasks can they do as politicians to help your local community? Make a list of these on the board.

  • What improvements have been made in your community in the last few years that required help from a politician? Some examples might be a new sports arena, better roads, more money for schools, more police protection, or a new park in your community. How would those things have been accomplished if there had not been someone involved in local or state government to secure the finances or persuade government leaders?

  • Victor Power worked as a mayor of Hibbing for many years and was instrumental in making changes in the town and its facilities. One person can have a huge impact on a community if they are able to get their voice heard. What other examples of people (local, national, or worldwide) can you think of today who are making their voices heard and trying to improve their communities?

Optional activities:

  • Invite your local state representative or senator to class to discuss what his or her work at the Capitol entails. Encourage them to discuss what they do on a daily basis at the Capitol, their main goals for your community, how they handle community members or other politicians with opposing opinions, and what prompted their decision to become a state representative or senator.

  • Ask students in groups to study the history of a political party. Take them to the school resource center to use reference books and history books to learn about the beginnings of the party they choose and why it did or did not succeed. Ask students to present their information to the class in the form of a costumed drama, a music video, or a campaign speech.

  • If it is an election year, break students into groups and have each group follow one candidate through the election by watching their speeches on TV, reviewing their advertisements, and creating a chart describing where their candidate "stands" on each issue during the campaign. After their research, ask students to write a short essay describing why they would or would not support the candidate they studied.

  • Examine the role advertising and the media play in politics. Have students look at local newspapers for issues that may be dividing your community. (You may wish to choose a national or world issue, if the local issues are too controversial, or if there is not enough information about local issues.) Read letters to the editor, advertisements and newspaper articles, and watch television shows or commercials to learn both sides of the issue. Discuss how a politician can decide which side of an issue to support and what responsibility the politician has to make a decision voters will appreciate. Students can create a collage or bulletin board of newspaper clippings, advertisements, and quotes about the issue and debate the issue in class.

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