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Celebrate the Century:
Search the Web for U.S. History of the 1900s

Search the Web to learn more about the stories behind the stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service, commemorating the people, places, events, and trends of the first decade of this century. Explore Web sites related to the Wright brothers and Frank Lloyd Wright, Ellis Island and the St. Louis World's Fair. Included: An Internet scavenger hunt for students!

Celebrate the Century Graphic "These stamps help us remember some of the greatest achievements from the beginning of the century," said John Ward, a Postal Service vice president, as he introduced the first stamps in the U.S. Postal Service's Celebrate the Century program.

"The stamps celebrate things we pretty much take for granted today. They remind us that cars and planes are inventions from nearly a hundred years ago -- that we wouldn't want to live without."


The following text is from the 1900s Celebrate the Century stamp sheet.

"Sixty percent of Americans lived on farms or in small towns. Immigrants were arriving at an average of 100 an hour. Railroads dominated land travel, but 1900 saw the first U.S. auto show and 1908 the first family transcontinental car trip. In 1908, Henry Ford made automobiles more affordable with the Model T. The Wright brothers stunned the world with their first airplane flight in 1903, and the game of baseball grew up.

"President Theodore Roosevelt protected 148 million acres as national forests. The first daily comic strip, "Mutt and Jeff," appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. The Ash Can School brought realism back to the art world.

"Muckrakers exposed corruption: Ida Tarbell attacked monopoly in the oil industry, and Upton Sinclair revealed shocking conditions in the meat industry. In 1909, the newly formed NAACP promoted equal rights for African Americans. New words crept into the American vocabulary in this decade -- words such as cheerleader, filmmaker, phony, and psychoanalysis. "


So sets the stage for the 15 stamps commemorating the first decade of the century.

The activities that follow will engage students in exploring Web sites as they search for information related to ten of the 1900s stamps. For each stamp, a question is posed and a Web site URL is presented. Challenge students to use the listed Web sites to answer all ten questions. Click here for the answers to the questions.

Stamp Graphic


Ellis Island was the nation's principal immigration station between 1892 and 1954. During the peak decade, 1900 to 1909, an average of 100 immigrants arrived each hour.

Question 1:
How many immigrants came into the United States through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954?

The Web site:
You can find the answer to that question on the Ellis Island Immigration Museum Web page.

Stamp Graphic


The Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 was also known as the St. Louis World's Fair. Americans were already enjoying ice cream, but the ice-cream cone became popular at the fair.

Question 2:
At the Word's Fair, Festival Hall was a large, gold-domed building that housed a 3,500-seat auditorium and the world's largest pipe organ. After the fair, that organ was dismantled and loaded into 13 railroad cars. Where is that organ today?

The Web site:
You can find the answer to that question at the Meet Me at the Fair Web site. Visit The Heart of the Fair.

Stamp Graphic


On December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, achieved the first controlled, powered flight in an airplane.

Question 3:
The Wright brothers are most famous for their air exploits, but before they got involved in flying, they had a successful "ground" business. What kind of business did they own?

The Web site:
You can find that answer at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, a National Park Service Web page.

Stamp Graphic


The low-priced, 4-cylinder, 20-horsepower Model T Ford made the automobile more affordable for the average American. One of its nicknames was the "Tin Lizzie."

Question 4:
The 1909 Model T came in four styles -- the touring car, the runabout, the coupe, and the town car. How much did a brand new Model T Touring car cost in 1909?

The Web site:
The answer to that question can be found on the Web site of The Model T Ford Club International. Look for the Prices link.

Stamp Graphic


The 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, promoted conservation and earned the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to negotiate an end to the Russo-Japanese War.

Question 5:
Teddy Roosevelt became president when President William McKinley was assassinated. Before he became president, Roosevelt was the governor of New York and a war hero. In which war did he lead a group called the Rough Rider Regiment to victory?

The Web site:
You can learn the name of that war on the White House History and Tours Web site. Go to Teddy Roosevelt on the Presidents of the United States page.

Stamp Graphic


Frank Lloyd Wright is considered one of the nation's most innovative architects. The masterpiece of his early work, constructed in the Prairie House style, is the Robie House in Chicago.

Question 6:
Robie House caused quite a stir when it was completed in 1910. Construction of the house had gone quickly. How many months did that construction take?

The Web site:
You can read about one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous projects on the Frederick C. Robie House Web page.

Stamp Graphic


The championship games of 1903 are considered baseball's first (modern-day) World Series. Boston, of the American League, beat Pittsburgh, of the National League, five games to three in a best-of-nine series.

Question 7:
Most people didn't expect the Boston Red Sox to win the 1903 World Series, but the Sox did it by winning the last four games. What was the score of the final game of the series?

The Web site:
Find the answer to that question on the History of the World Series: 1903 Web page from The Sporting News.

Stamp Graphic


An educator and author, W.E.B. Du Bois promoted the cause of equality for all Americans. He helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Question 8:
As a young man, Du Bois left his Massachusetts home and moved to Tennessee. There he saw the horrible conditions in which many rural black people lived. The move to Tennessee changed his life! Why did Du Bois move to Tennessee in the first place?

The Web site:
To find the answer to that question, take a look at a biographical essay The Achievement of W.E.B. Du Bois.

Stamp Graphic


The first box of Crayola crayons was produced in 1903. It cost 5 cents and contained eight colors: black, brown, blue, red, violet, orange, yellow, and green.

Question 9:
Binney & Smith, the company that makes Crayola products, got its start making pigments that were used in red paint (for painting barns) and that gave tires their black coloring. Soon the company also began making products for use in schools. What were the first two school products that Binney & Smith produced?

The Web site:
To find the answer to that question, go to the Crayola Web site and click on Inside Crayola to read about the company's Colorful History.

Stamp Graphic


The Great Train Robbery, directed by Edwin S. Porter in 1903, was one of the most successful story films. This box-office hit became part of the Western genre.

Question 10:
The first narrative film ever made, The Great Train Robbery, was based on a true event that happened in August 1900 near Table Rock, Wyoming. Where did director Edwin S. Potter film the movie version of this story?

The Web site:
To learn where the film was made, read the story behind The Great Train Robbery.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1999 Education World

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