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The Rise of Technology

Questions to Consider

What new technological advances emerged in the early 1900s?

How did peoples’ daily lives change as a result of new inventions and technologies?

How did the United States change in response to new mobility and improved communications?

About the Images

At the turn of the 20th century, new technological advances such as electricity, flight, and the gasoline engine found expression in new modes of transportation and communication. The images in this topic reflect how these inventions changed daily life in small and large ways.

Overview

Airplanes, electric railways, and automobiles joined railways to fuel Americans' growing sense of mobility. They came to characterize the progressive spirit of the new century. As a result of these new modes of public transportation, people were able to travel faster and more easily within and between cities, changing settlement patterns. One image in this group depicts John J. Montgomery, the first American to fly a heavier-than-air machine, and his glider “Santa Clara” in 1905. An invitation to an air show in San Jose in 1910 suggests the popularity of this potential new mode of transportation.

Several cities had electric streetcars that ran on tracks, and images in this group include streetcars in San Diego, San Jose, and Los Angeles. The hand-tinted image of the Interurban Electric Rail Road running between Saratoga and Los Gatos suggests that in 1908, this was enough of a novelty to rate a postcard.

The automobile industry was also growing rapidly. Before the internal combustion engine took the lead in the 1910s, cars ran on a variety of fuels; steam, electricity, and gasoline competed for a number of years. This is clearly evident from the two ads that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post for the steam car, and several images of people enjoying both electric- and gas-powered cars.

Some inventions aimed to make life easier at home. The photograph of a storefront in 1925 shows the existence of appliances such as washing machines, ironing machines, and vacuum cleaners. In their new-found leisure time, people listened to the radio, an invention that was fairly new at this time. Two photographs taken in the mid-1920s show Charles Herrold, the “Father of Radio,” operating radio equipment. The combination of new technologies, more free time, and the ability to get from one place to another relatively easily and quickly allowed people to enjoy new forms of entertainment, as indicated by the photograph of a car in front of a movie theater.

Expositions were a popular venue to showcase the latest in technology, and several images here represent expositions that took place in San Francisco and San Diego in 1915 and 1916. One photograph depicts a panel of men at the opening of the phone wire between San Francisco and New York for the first time.

California Content Standards

English-Language Arts

Grade 4:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write information reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Make informational presentations.

Grade 8:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write research reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.3 Deliver research presentations.

Grade 10:

2.0 Reading Comprehension
2.5 Extend ideas presented in primary or secondary sources through original analysis, evaluation, and elaboration.

3.0 Literary Response and Analysis: Literary Criticism
3.12 Analyze the way in which a work of literature is related to the themes and issues of its historical period. (Historical approach).

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology
1.3 Use clear research questions and suitable research methods (e.g., library, electronic media, personal interview) to elicit and present evidence from primary and secondary sources.

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write expository compositions, including analytical essays and research reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver expository presentations.

Grade 11:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.4 Write historical investigation reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver oral reports on historical investigations.
2.4 Delivery multimedia presentations.

History-Social Science

Grade 4:

4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s. (4.4.6)

Grade 8:

8.12 Students analyze the transformation of the American economy and the changing social and political conditions in the United States in response to the Industrial Revolution.

Grade 10:

10.3 Students analyze the effects of the Industrial Revolution in England, France, Germany, Japan, and the United States.

Grade 11:

11.2 Students analyze the relationship among the rise of industrialization, large-scale rural-to-urban migration, and massive immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. (11.2.1)

11.5 Students analyze the major political, social, economic, technological, and cultural developments of the 1920s. (11.5.7)

Visual Arts

3.0 Historical and Cultural Context Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of the Visual Arts. Students analyze the role and development of the visual arts in past and present cultures throughout the world, noting human diversity as it relates to the visual arts and artists.

Analysis Tools

6C's of Primary Source Analysis (PDF) (Source: UCI History Project)
Photographs (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)
Posters/Visuals (PDF) (Source: Bringing History Home)
Written Documents (PDF) (Source: NARA)
Primary Source Activity (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)