print header

Industrialization and Innovation: Lumbering in the Chippewa Valley -By: Lisa Sedlock

Introduction to the Unit


This unit covers a variety of U.S. history themes in the Second Industrial Revolution such as innovation and improvement on innovation, organization of production and factory methods (assembly line), mass production, new sources of energy, emerging corporations and big business, and entrepreneurs promoting industry nationally by working through local businessmen who brought benefits to the local community.

This unit teaches these broader, national themes through a local perspective by looking at the lumber industry in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin and the greater Chippewa Valley. By focusing on the Chippewa Lumber & Boom Company and its “Big Mill” in Chippewa Falls, students are able to analyze the relationship between industry and communities in general. This unit also analyzes the connections between individuals and industry. To do this it focuses on Frederick Weyerhaeuser, a nationally recognized lumber baron, and William Irvine, a local businessman.

Through this local case study, students learn the larger, national concepts of the second industrial revolution through a local lens that may be easier to understand, more concrete, and more engaging. Students can then apply this learning to assist with understanding the rise of other industries throughout the nation. Students also learn this content at the same time as they learn social studies skills by analyzing various forms of primary sources.

Saw Mill

All necessary elements are included in this unit and available through the Center for History Teaching and Learning website, so teachers are not required to do extra work in order to teach it. There are also a variety of resources and exercise providing teachers with numerous options. This unit, although designed with 8th grade students in mind, is easily adaptable for a variety of grade levels simply by selecting the desired sources to analyze and by changing the amount of guidance for the activities.

In each lesson there is a PowerPoint to be used as a teaching aid. The PowerPoints direct the teacher through each lesson and provide details on background information, instructional guidelines, and directions for activities. The PowerPoints also contain slides of the primary sources used in this unit. To print these slides, open PowerPoint then go to the file tab in the upper left and scroll down to print. A new window will open, and where it says “Print what” select Slides. If you only want to print certain slides, on the “Print range” section select Slides and enter the slide number(s) desired. Teachers will want to print the notes pages for each PowerPoint prior to teaching with it. To do this, follow the directions above, except where it says “Print what” select Notes Pages.