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Interpreting the Evidence

School Sanitation, c. 1911

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load School Sanitation, c. 1911 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Two run-down outhouses next to a school building, circa 1911.
Historical Context
Typhoid was a fast-spreading disease in the early 1900s.  This disease was a highly infectious, often deadly disease transmitted through contaminated water or food.  The cause of many of these outbreaks was traced to a poor and/or non-existent sewer system.  Leakage from outhouses seeped into wells, contaminating much of the water supply and drinking water.
Essential Question
How do human settlement patterns impact individual health and well being?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the impact of these conditions on the local community.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Graph and analyze the number of people that died from diseases related to sanitary conditions (cholera, typhoid).
Science: Explore medical inventions and discoveries that have improved the life expectancy of US citizens.
English Language Arts: After examining conditions of some rural schools, write letters to public officials demanding improvements be made of sanitation conditions.