Ten Ways to Use the novel Grace’s Pictures to Teach History

1. Study the immigration process.
a. What credentials were Irish immigrants required to have when coming to America in
b. Why was it important that Grace have a place to go when she arrived?
c. Why did the immigration officials mark some people with chalk? What was Grace
afraid that it could signify?
d. Why did Augustus Sherman, the Ellis Island photographer, take Grace’s picture?
2. Who was Augustus Sherman?
a. What was his real job?
b. Examine some of his photographs. What do they signify?
3. Study the history of the New York City Police in the early 20th century.
a. What advancements had Theodore Roosevelt made?
b. What was Tammany Hall and how did it influence the police department?
c. What corruption remained?
4. Study the politics of New York City in the early 20th century.
a. Who was Big Tim Sullivan?
b. What was gladhanding and why did politicians employ it?
5. Study the drug culture in New York City at the turn of the 20th century.
a. Which drugs were the most common?
b. What drugs was society at the time most worried about?
c. How was cocaine used?
d. What might have happened if stronger efforts had been made at the time to block the
entry of drugs from coming into the country?
e. In Grace’s Pictures there is a gang called the Hudson Dusters. Learn about the real
6. Study photography.
a. Why was the introduction of the Brownie camera revolutionary?
b. How did it operate?
c. What were some of the innovative ways Kodak used to market the Brownie?
d. How did the Brownie camera change public privacy? How was this portrayed in
Grace’s Pictures?
e. How were mugshots used by the police in this era? How was the mugshot wall used
in Grace’s Pictures and how might it have been more useful?
7. Study events in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century.
a. Who was in power?
b. Why were the Irish people sent to poorhouses?
c. Why did so many Irish girls come alone to America?
d. Where did the term peeler come from?

8. Who was Jacob Riis?
a. How did his photographs of the tenements help raise awareness of the poor?
b. What are lantern slides and why do you think they helped Riis get his point across in
his lectures?
c. Read the book (or parts of the book) How the Other Half Lives.
d. How can we use the technology available today to raise awareness of the plight of
9. Learn about immigrant aid societies.
a. Who ran them?
b. Why were they started?
c. Write a fictional story about a girl who comes to live at one of these societies. What
would life be like for her? What would she be expected to in return for her stay?
10. Learn about the life of a domestic servant at the turn of the 20th century.
a. What obligations would he/she have?
b. How much money would he/she make?
c. Why were some called Biddy?
d. What did many save their money for?

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