Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How fast is fast?

Fast is a relative term.  In our U.S. History classes, one theme we trace is the development of new transportation technologies, from the National Road (then through the Erie Canal, Transcontinental Railroad, urban subways, cars, and airplanes) to space ships.

I just read about a great source to show our students to help illustrate this theme.  It poses a simple question (How far could you go on one day of travel from New York City?) and illustrates the answer in a map.

In 1800, a traveller would be hard pressed to get much farther south than Philadelphia or much past New Haven to the north in a day.  Antebellum New Yorkers near the eve of the Civil War could get to Maine or Cleveland.  Air travel helped the travel savvy New Yorker get past the Rockies by Black Tuesday and to the Pacific Ocean just a few years later.

Classroom connection: It would be fun to show your students this map, and ask them to research examples of primary sources describing what early transportation was like for these stagecoach, rail, and air pioneers.  Other students could look for advertisements offering travel on these new carriers.  A third group could investigate the impact these new transportation technologies had on different social and economic groups.


I learned about this map in a terrific post today (while following the New York Public Library's Division of U.S. History, Local History & Genealogy) by Dana Schulz (@danaschulzNYC) in the 6sqft blog.  Dana's post was based on a post in Quartz by David Yanofsky (@YAN0) (NB: That last character is the number zero).  Thanks to both Dana and David!


Keisha Rembert said...

Great idea! Thanks!

Adam said...

Have you seen any maps of the same kind for different forms of transportation? It would be interesting to compare the different dates of the different forms and see which forms spread quicker than others.