Paper Assignments: Connecting Historical Events and Objects – The Hamburger You will write a four-or-more page paper connecting a set of events and objects with each other and the mass production of h

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Paper Assignments: Connecting Historical Events and Objects – The Hamburger

You will write a four-or-more page paper connecting a set of events and objects with each other and the mass production of hamburgers by 1900.


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This paper is worth 50 points.

Required Reading/Watching

Prior to completing this assignment, you should have:

  • Read Chapters 16, 17, and 18 in The American Yawp and taken notes.
  • Watched video lectures 16,17, and 18 and taken notes.
  • Read through the entire assignment.


This assignment teaches how historical events and objects do not occur in isolation. They are combinations of many phenomena. In this case, we look at several everyday objects, inventions, and historical events, to explore how they are interrelated. In effect, the goal here is to have you experience everything in your life in a new way – to see, taste, smell, hear, and feel with a greater awareness of their vast and intertwined origins. In other words, know that the three-step process of History can make you feel more alive.

Learning Outcome(s) Addressed

  • Analyze historical facts and interpretations
  • Analyze and compare political, geographic, economic, social, cultural, religious, and intellectual institutions, structures, and processes across a range of historical periods and cultures
  • Recognize and articulate the diversity of human experience across a range of historical periods and the complexities of a global culture and society
  • Draw on historical perspective to evaluate contemporary problems/issues
  • Analyze the contributions of past cultures/societies to the contemporary world
  • Recognize the impact of geography, environment, and the natural world on the course of history and how choices are often limited by physical factors beyond the control of human beings

Criteria for successEarning a high score:

  • Gathering evidence: A successful exploration will include twenty or more specific statistics, events, and examples from the reading. Some of this evidence can be repeated, because most of the objects and events are directly connected with one another. You can also use your textbook and lecture notes for evidence in addition to the readings below.
  • Analyzing the evidence: A successful examination will connect every object and event to the mass production of hamburgers in the United States by year 1900. The paper will also connect every object and event directly or indirectly with each of the other objects and events. This analysis must be supported by evidence from the reading.
  • Communicating honestly to yourself and others: Successful communication will include four or more pages with detailed evidence and analysis, with major topics (such as technology) organized into paragraphs, with correct grammar and spelling.

Earning a moderate score:

  • Gathering evidence: A moderate exploration will include ten to twenty specific pieces of evidence.
  • Analyzing the evidence: A moderate examination will connect every object and event to the mass production of the hamburger by year 1900, and will connect most of the objects and events with each other.
  • Communicating honestly to yourself and others: A moderate communication will include three pages with some evidence and analysis, with major topics organized into paragraphs, with mostly correct grammar and spelling.

Earning a low score:

  • Gathering evidence: A poor exploration will include fewer than ten specific pieces of evidence.
  • Analyzing the evidence: A poor examination will connect some but not all events and objects to the mass production of the hamburger by year 1900, and connect some but not most of the other events and objects to each other, with little to no supporting evidence.
  • Communicating honestly to yourself and others: Poor communication will include two or fewer pages with little to no evidence and analysis, with few or no separate paragraphs, and/or poor grammar and spelling.

Submission Instructions

  1. Select Course Work from the course menu
  2. Select Assignments
  3. Select the appropriate assignment folder
  4. Submit your assignment as a Word document (.docx)

Connecting Historical Events and Objects of Modern US History

Though many places claim to have invented the hamburger, it first appeared in US cities around the year 1900. The sandwich quickly became popular among urban working class and middle-class people looking for inexpensive, quick, and filling food during their busy day. To date, United States citizens have eaten literally billions of these. Read about the following events and objects below.

Skills and tasks:

Step 1, Gathering Evidence: Following are several historical objects and events. Read each one, gathering evidence about each event or object.

Step 2, Analyzing the Evidence: After reading about each object and event, plus reviewing your textbook and lecture notes for Unit 1, analyze how the evidence for each links it to the eventual mass production of hamburgers by the year 1900. In addition, analyze how each of these objects and events could be connected to each other in Modern US History.

Step 3, Communicating your findings honestly through evidence: Write a paper (minimum four pages), in your own words, communicating your analysis of how each object or event is historically connected to the mass production of hamburgers and to each other. Show the detailed evidence (statistics, events, and examples) that leads you to your analyses.

German Immigration in the 19th Century

German-speaking people began to immigrate to the Americas in the early 1600s. Though they traveled to many places, from New Orleans to Maine, they preferred Pennsylvania, with a climate and landscape that reminded them of home.

Not until By the 1820s, German people began to arrive in large numbers. Frustrated by monarchs and wealthy landowners who refused to share land or power, hundreds of thousands of Germans – mostly working class and middle class – left Germany’s main port of Hamburg and sailed to other places, primarily New York. From 1820 to 1900 alone, some five million Germans came to the United States, more than any other ethnic group during that time. Most eventually lived in the Northeast and Midwest, bringing with them their cultural habits, including farming, homes made of logs and stone, foods such as beef, bratwurst, and breads, and educational practices such as Kindergartens.[1]


Humans first domesticated animals around 10,000 years ago in the Middle East. Cattle were tamed and multiplied for their hides, beef, milk, and hauling power.

Beef cattle first came to the Americas in the late 1400s, brought by Spanish conquistadors. Although the Spanish and other Europeans viewed the livestock as valuable sources of survival, the animals proved devastating to the Native Americans and their crops. Cattle and other large domesticated animals from Europe rapidly devoured Native crops of beans, squash, corn, and potatoes.

As Hispanic populations migrated into the steppes of North America, English and French colonizers arrived from the Atlantic coastal areas, bringing similar breeds of cattle into the pasturelands and plains. In time, Europeans began to drive out and kill off Native bison herds, in favor of their own relatively tame cattle, which produced softer leather and more tender beef.[2]

The McCormick Reaper

Invented in 1831, the McCormick Reaper became a major feature on Midwestern farms by the 1860s. Even small versions could harvest grains such as wheat, rye, oats, and barley ten times faster than by hand. Farmers who could afford loans for these machines became very productive, being able to export large amounts of cheap grain to the cities, where growing factories replaced small bakeries, producing breads and cereals in large quantities by the late 1800s.

Grain farmers who lacked adequate collateral for loans often could not attain these reapers. Consequently, these poorer farmers could not match the productive output of the reaper farms, and many ended up either working for their wealthier neighbors or left rural areas to work in urban factories. Ironically, some of these families ended up in Chicago at the growing McCormick factory, building the very reapers that drove them out of business.[3]

Barbed Wire

Invented in the 1860s, barbed wire proved to be a lasting and inexpensive way for ranchers and farmers to keep possession of their livestock on vast open plains. The wire was initially made of iron, mined mostly in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. By the 1880s, major deposits were found in northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and central Alabama (today, the annual college football game between Auburn and Alabama is known as the Iron Bowl).

Massed produced in urban factories by the 1880s, barbed wire became inexpensive enough for ranchers to buy thousands of miles of it and lace the American West, claiming, buying, and controlling land that was previous open and seemingly endless.

Also known as “thorny wire,” the mass-produced product proved deadly to wild animals, especially bison, who could not see the thin wire until they were entangled in it. Cut off or trapped from grazing and watering areas, untold numbers of bison died of starvation.[4]

Mexican American War (1846 – 1848)

When the United States Congress annexed Texas in 1845, the US and Mexican governments bitterly disagreed about the location of its southern border. Very quickly, this disagreement created a destructive war between the two countries.

Newly independent from the Empire of Spain, Mexico did not yet have the organization and technology to fight effectively. In less than two years, the US military entered the capital Mexico City and forced a surrender. Following negotiations, Mexico gave up over half of its territory, a massive amount of land that would eventually become Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, and Utah. Many Mexicans in the annexed region found themselves without a country. Some went to work for an increasing number of European-American landowners, including skilled horsemen and cattle ranchers.[5]

Grain Roller Mills

Invented in Hungary in the 1830s, steel or porcelain grain rollers crushed grains like wheat, rye, and corn into flour much faster, cleaner, and finer than the standard mill stones that were in use for nearly 2,000 years. The process enabled mills to produce wheat flour at least six times faster than before.

Introduced into the United States at Minneapolis, Minnesota, this technology spread through the United States by the late 1800s. Steam engines also replaced windmills and water mills, which increased the roller’s speed and operating hours. Engineers also added “purifiers” or air jets to remove rough and harsh-tasting bran and wheat germ, which made for a tastier product but removed many of the nutrients.

While major investors, farmers, and consumers benefitted from the increased demand and availability of wheat flour, local millers and bakers often lost their small business as a result.[6]

The Growth of Railroads

The first railroads in the United States were built in 1815. Slow and unreliable, most transported people short distances in eastern urban areas. By 1860, the US had far more powerful steam engines and stronger forms of iron. Although the Transcontinental Railroad (finished in 1869) may be the more famous rail line, it was only a small part of a massive network that grew mostly in the Midwest and Northeast.

By 1890, the US had over 190,000 miles of rail lines, almost enough to reach the moon. Raw materials, livestock, finished goods, crops, and people traveled across the US faster and cheaper than ever before. Between 1815 and 1890, the cost of transporting something over land fell by 90%, and the time to transport something dropped 95%.[7]

The Indian Wars (1861-1890)

Following centuries of European and Native American conflicts, the US government initiated systematic military operations against Natives starting during the Civil War. In a series of wars within the war, US troops attempted to force Native tribes onto ever smaller reservations. These reservations were often far away from traditional tribal lands and possessed little to no value for farming, fishing, herding, hunting, logging, mining, or ranching.

While some Natives assisted the US Army to exact revenge against old enemies, and as an attempt to survive under very difficult conditions, most actively resisted attempts to relocate and reduce tribal connections. With few exceptions, Natives lost most of the military engagements, leading to displacement of hundreds of miles, disease, poverty, death by exposure, some massacres, and starvation. From 1790 to 1890, Native Americans went from holding over 60 percent of North America to holding less that 5 percent of the land, most of it barely capable of sustaining life.[8]

The 1862 Homestead Act

In 1860, the oldest, largest, and strongest political party in the US were the Democrats. At that time, Democrats were fiscally conservative, against Civil Rights, pro-military, supported low taxes, and favored an aggressive foreign policy. In contrast, the newer, smaller, and almost totally northern Republican Party at the time supported education, technology, higher taxes, some Civil Rights, and economic support of citizens.

Ironically, when the Republican Abraham Lincoln scored a surprise win in the 1860 presidential election, eleven southern states attempted to secede from the United States in 1861, splitting the Democrats in two and leaving Republicans in control of much of the federal government. Consequently, a Republican Congress and President started to pass relatively liberal legislation, including the 1862 Homestead Act.

The Homestead Act essentially gave away 160 acres of federal to anyone willing to “improve” it, which included making a farm, building a sawmill, raising cattle, etc.. Most of this land was in the Midwest, and it enabled many people along the overcrowded east coast to “go West” and populate largely Native lands with Whites. Eventually, the government sold around 80 million acres of land, which is about the same land area as all of Iowa and Nebraska combined.[9]

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