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Interpreting the Evidence

Life Then and Now: Analyzing a Student Journal Entry from the 1888 Blizzard

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Industrialization (1870 - 1900)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    Capital District
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Emma Nielson's Snowstorm Account, March 1888 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Topic: Journaling, NYS Geography, Life in the 1800s

Skills: Compare & contrast, Using a graphic organizer, Paragraph writing

This document shows the historical significance of journaling, life in the 1800s-utilizing vocabulary (lanterns, icehouse, horse-cars)and the impact of the Great Blizzard of 1888

Historical Context: The climate in late 19th century New York State can be researched by students to understand extreme cold weather conditions that Northern states experienced. The Great Blizzard of 1888 was one of the worst storms to hit the eastern coast, but the northeast states were hit the hardest. Transportation methods during this early industrial time period were still limited to horse-drawn carriages/sleighs.  It would be important to note that when the author references snow plows these would also be drawn by horses or manpower.  It would also be useful to discuss the term ‘ice-houses’ and ice-harvesting since a refrigerator would not have been in use at this time.  Instead, ice-houses were created to store large chunks of ice.  These chunks were stored in sawdust and could be broken down for use in the family ‘ice-box’.

Essential Question: How does life in 1888 compare to life today?

Related Using Primary Sources Video: Teaching with Written Documents