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NY Underground (image map with 11 selections)


Teacher's Guide



Photo of 2 sets of tracks and 1 train
Time Period: 1866-1904
Themes: urban development, labor, urban politics, transportation, architectural engineering

When mountains of snow paralyzed New York City in 1888, there was no doubt that the city needed an underground transportation system. Built almost entirely by hand, the first line of the IRT subway system opened in 1904. The electric-powered trains ran over twenty-six miles of track at an unheard of speed of thirty-five miles per hour--transforming the neighborhood in its path.


Before Watching
1. Have students choose a technology invented during the Industrial Revolution and research how it affected society, the economy, and the average citizen's daily life.

2. As a class, brainstorm a list of different transportation modes in society today. How has each mode changed society and people's lives?




After Watching
1. How did Boss Tweed influence businesses and the building of the subway? How have past and present politicians wielded the same level of power?

2. Why were Belmont, Hewitt, and Parsons successful?

3. Ask students to take on the role of an average citizen who rode the IRT in 1904. Have them write a journal entry about how subway travel changed their daily life and their perceptions of the city.

4. Ask the students to describe the labor workers in the program. Have them research the contributions of migrant workers throughout U.S. history.

5. Have students work in pairs to design a local public transportation system. They should make a rough drawing of their system, list the factors they considered while designing, and predict the changes the system will bring.


program transcript | web and photo credits

ABOUT THE PROGRAM | THE SECRET SUBWAY | BEYOND THE IRT | DEATH BENEATH THE STREETS | BIBLIOGRAPHY | TEACHER'S GUIDE

TELEPHONE | BIG DREAM SMALL SCREEN | NEW YORK UNDERGROUND | TECHNOLOGY TIMELINE | FORGOTTEN INVENTORS