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Lessons Menu - Lesson 1 - Lesson 2 - Lesson 3 - Lesson 4 - Lesson 5 - Lesson 6 - Lesson 7 - Lesson 8

Lesson Plan 3 - Transportation
download lesson03.pdf

This lesson introduces students to the general history of transportation in Sacramento County, provides an overview of the types of transportation that were important to Sacramento, and highlights Sacramento's role as a transportation hub. You can view or print most single images directly as a JPEG file. However, some documents are in Adobe Acrobat PDF format and must be viewed or printed with Acrobat Reader. In Lesson 3, students use the Sacramento History Online database at

1. Locate Sacramento, Sacramento County, and the Sacramento River on a map.
2. Name five important types of transportation from the 1840s through the 1920s,
    and place them in the order of their arrival in Sacramento.
3. Analyze several photos to determine how transportation changed over time.
4. Use the SHO database to find specific historical information.

4.1.3 - 4.1.5 Physical and human geographic features that define places and regions in California
4.4.1 - 4.4.4 California's rise as an agricultural and industrial power

CLICK to open this article in a separate window that can be printed with most browsers.

Click to download this PDF document, which then can be viewed and printed with Adobe Reader.


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DOCUMENTS TO DISCUSS (view online or print screen)
The documents shown below provide examples of how Sacramento has changed over time. In this set, all documents are photos or prints, except for #4a, which is a PDF file. CLICK on an image to view or print the document.

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1. Californie. Vue de la Ville de Sacramento
[ca. 1850]
View of Sacramento from the Sacramento River looking east.

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2. Sacramento wharf area with the steamboat, Yosemite.
[ca. 1874]
At the dock of the California Steam Navigation Company.

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3. Inundation of the State Capitol,
City of Sacramento

Depiction of the 1850 flood, one of many over the years. Eventually the downtown streets and many buildings were raised as much as 10 feet.

Changes over Time (downtown streets, changes over a day, over years)

download PDF file
4a. Street and river scenes - Sacramento [1878]
The top image is a street scene downtown, possibly 12th and I Streets, while the middle picture shows Front and K Streets in what is now Old Sacramento. The bottom view is the Sacramento River waterfront and the first railroad bridge.

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4b. K Street near Seventh.
[ca. 1910]
View looking east down K Street; post office at left; horse-drawn wagons and carriages, automobiles, bicycles, and people fill the streets and sidewalks.

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4c. Automobiles, horse-drawn vehicles, trolley, downtown Sacramento
[ca. 1910]
This image is taken at the same place as 4b, probably on the same day by the same photographer.

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4d. Street cars on J Street
[ca. 1924]
This image shows cars and streetcars in downtown Sacramento about 14 years after #4b and #4c. Most wagons have been replaced by cars.

Changes over Time (same downtown street ca. 1909 and ca. 1924)

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5a. Horse-drawn vehicles, pedestrians Sixth & K Streets, downtown Sacramento
[ca. 1909]
This is the same location as in #5b.

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5b. Automobile, pedestrian traffic, downtown Sacramento,
Sixth & K Streets

[ca. 1924]
Same location as #5a, 15 years later.
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1. Print any of the documents shown above that you will use in your discussion, as well a Student Activity Sheet 3 and Key. (Label the documents abov by their number to identify them in the instructions).

2. Read Background Article 3. You may wish to read it to your students or have them read it by themselves. Discuss any questions that they may have.

3. Find Sacramento and Sacramento County on a California map. Find the Sacramento River. Ask if any students have been to Sacramento. What did they see on their trip?

4. Show and discuss Document 1, Californie. Vue de la Ville de Sacramento. Tell students that the picture shows the city of Sacramento. Ask students what kind of document it is. (print) How old do they think the image is? (1850) Why do they think so? What kinds of transportation do they see?

5. Document 2, Photographic print of the Sacramento wharf area. How many kinds of transportation can they find? (steamboat, electric train, wagons) What kind of document is this image? (photograph) Do they think Document 2 is older or more recent than Document 1? Why?

6. Document 3, Inundation of the State Capitol. Students may remember a similar image from Lesson 1, which shows a flood in 1862. Ask students what they think the word inundation means. Ask them why they believe that the city often flooded. (rivers) What are the benefits of living by a river? What are the problems?

7. Documents 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d. These views of downtown Sacramento (I, J, and K streets) show changes in transportation over time. Documents 4b and 4c look almost identical but were taken at two different times, probably on the same day. Show students all four images and ask them to help you with some detective work. Have them identify the document type. (a is a print; the rest are photos) Ask them to put the images in order by date. (a, b or c, d) How can they tell which image is older than another? Students should be able to see that the automobiles gradually replaced wagons. How can students tell that b and c are not identical? Why do they think that these images were found in two different archives?

8. Documents 5a and 5b, Sixth and K Streets Downtown Sacramento. These images show the same intersection, almost 15 years apart. Ask students to identify which image was taken in 1909 and which in 1924. What changes do students notice? (lack of overhead wires, no carriages in later image)

9. Give students Activity Sheet 3: Sacramento Transportation History Overview (printed from the PDF file). After they have finished the activity, discuss their answers as a group.

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1. Find an image in the database that shows two different decades. Compare the types of transportation shown in each picture.

2. By looking at the materials in the database that come from different time periods, which decade do you think you would have liked best? Why? Pretend that you live in that decade. Write a letter to a friend, telling about how you traveled to see a relative in another location.

3. If you do not live in the Sacramento area, find out about the transportation history of your own community. Can you find any websites that will help you learn more? Where else can you find search information?

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Edinger, M. Seeking history, teaching with primary sources in grades 4-6.

Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2000. (includes a CD-ROM).

Holden, W. Sacramento: Excursions into its history and natural world.
  Fair Oaks, CA: 2 Rivers Publishing Co., 1988.

Kalman, B. and Calder, C. Travel in the early days.
  New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2001. (juvenile)

Neasham, V.A. and Henley, J.E. The city of the plain: Sacramento in the nineteenth century.
  Sacramento: The Sacramento Pioneer Foundation, 1969. (includes many old photos)

Wilkinson, P. and Pollard, M. Ideas that changed the world: Transportation.
  New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1994. (juvenile)

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Bridges over the Sacramento River (Tower Bridge, I and M Street Bridge)

California: Sacramento and the Delta

Historic Drawbridges of the Delta

Our Century
Series of articles on how Sacramento has changed since the turn of the 19th century.

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Sacramento History Online © 2003 - 2004