Teacher’s Guide to American Machine


Welcome to the teacher’s guide to the Tennessee History for Kids booklet called American Machine.

Rather than buying a single classroom set, please consider buying one for every student. We sell these booklets for $2.50 and print them on non-glossy paper because we want students to write in their booklets and keep them.

Please do NOT copy the booklets. That is a violation of our copyright and makes it difficult for our organization to exist. The reason we sell them for only $2.50 is so teachers will not be tempted to copy the booklets.

If you would like the answers to the questions which appear in this booklets, email Bill Carey at bill@tnhistoryforkids.org.


Chapter One


When you create a booklet, maps often can’t be blown up as large as you like. Click here to see a much much larger version of the Transcontinental Railroad map on page 4.

Make sure you take your students on a field trip to Golden Spike National Historical Park in Utah. (Okay, that’s a joke. I realize you can’t do that.) Instead, click here to check out the park’s website.


Chapter Two


We are “bison.” You got that?

An earlier version of this booklet referred to bison as buffalo, which, it turns out, is inaccurate. As the Encyclopedia Britanica states: “Contrary to the song “Home on the Range,” buffalo do not roam in the American West. Instead, they are indigenous to South Asia (water buffalo) and Africa (Cape buffalo), while bison are found in North America and parts of Europe. Despite being a misnomer—one often attributed to confused explorers—buffalo remains commonly used when referring to American bison, thus adding to the confusion.”

So… let’s go over the list of American places and institutions that are named wrong: Buffalo, New York. Buffalo Valley, Tennessee. The buffalo nickel. The Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant chain.

Also, the battle referred to as “Custer’s Last Stand” On page 8 is now formerly known as the Battle of Little Bighorn. Click here to visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.


Men who mined coal at the Dunlap coal mines in the 1920s.
PHOTO: Dunlap Coke Ovens Park

Chapter Three


Quite a bit of supplemental information for this chapter can be found on the Tennessee History for Kids website.

Click here for a virtual tour of the Dunlap Coke Ovens and here for a ride through the history of the Tennessee Central Railway.

Here for the White County history site and here for the Grundy County history site.

And here for a column about how a railroad line known as the “Mountain Goat” shaped the history of Franklin and Grundy counties.

Currier and Ives image

Chapter Four


Two images in this chapter deserve a closer look.

Click on them on the right, and the left, to make them larger.

Library of Congress photo

Realizing that a lot of this information is complicated for fifth grade students, I spent some time searching the internet for videos that might be used to help teach it to students of younger grades. I found several educational videos–but all of them targeting much older students (such as adults or high school age). I found the History Channel series The Men Who Built America very entertaining (click here to learn about it) but certainly not for fifth graders.

Please email me at bill@tnhistoryforkids.org if you find anything better!


The Menlo Park Museum
Photo: Swampyank/Wikipedia

Chapter Five


There is a wonderful Thomas Edison Museum in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Click here to check it out.

There is also a really cool George Washington Carver museum in Tuskegee, Alabama. Click here to be taken to its website.


Chapter Six


Click on the image on the left to see a larger version of the newspaper shown on page 27.

Although the movie Citizen Kane is about many things, the rough outline of the film is clearly based on the life of William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper publisher who reportedly helped cause the Spanish American War. Click here for a very memorable scene in the movie in which Orson Wells repeats the famous line “You provide the prose poems. I’ll provide the war.”

Finally, this interesting tidbit about the Spanish-American War: the first shot in the war was reportedly fired by a gunboat called the USS Nashville. Several sailors from the USS Nashville received the Medal of Honor for their service.


National Archives photo

Sidebar: Nation of Immigrants


The photograph on page 30 is a remarkable one. Whenever I look at it closely I start to wonder who all these children were and what became of them. My eyes are also drawn to the girl clutching a doll in her right hand. Click on the image on the right to make it larger.

Also, the image at the left was a Jeopardy clue which aired in July 2019. I immediately took this image of it because the answer to it is on page 31!


Chapter Seven


Our fifth grade primary source booklet called Powerful Words 5 contains (among other things) an excerpt from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, with questions about the text. Click here to find out how you can get copies of it.


Chapter Eight


Click here for a column about Anne Dallas Dudley and Sue Shelton White.


Chapter Nine

The Marathon car at the TN State Museum
TN State Museum photo


Although it did not make money and didn’t last long, it is interesting to note that there was a car assembly plant in Nashville between 1904 and 1915 called the Marathon Motor Works. Click here to learn more about it.

A car built at the Marathon Motor Works is on prominent display at the new Tennessee State Museum.


Imperial War Museum

Chapter 10


If you look closely at the photo on page 48 (click on the image on the left to make it larger), you will see that there are five men in the photo. See if your students can find them.

Having found these five men, you might ask your students to draw conclusions about what life would have been like in a trench during World War I.


Chapter 11


More on the subject of this chapter in this column.

Chapter 12


I don’t know of any way to explain the Great Depression without having to first explain the stock market crash of 1929, and I don’t know how to explain the stock market crash of 1929 without first explaining what a public company is. I did my best. If you have any suggestions about a way to do it better, feel free to email me at bill@tnhistoryforkids.org.



Chapter 13



There is more about events in Tennessee during the Great Depression in the spring 5th grade booklet called Work for Freedom.

Meanwhile, here (see images to the left and the right) is an article in the August 30, 1932, Nashville Tennessean that illustrates in great detail how people were affected by the Great Depression.

Click on the images in the order indicated on the cutline that goes with each one.


In spite of what you might think, there weren’t very many articles in the newspapers during the Great Depression that talked about how bad things were. Newspapers generally saw it as their civic duty to pretend that things were great.


However, in this article, reporter Pollye Braswell writes about how people were pawning their valuables during the Great Depression at pawn shops that were located on Lower Broadway in Nashville.

Today, the stretch of Broadway between Fourth and Fifth Avenues has become a tourist and music mecca. However, as recently as the 1990s, there were several pawnships on Lower Broadway. In fact, some of the buildings on Lower Broadway are still owned by families which once leased their businesses to pawn shops.


Chapter 14


There is a lot of complicated content in this chapter. I’ve done my best to word it and present in as simple a manner as I possibly can.

I will say this: Since World War II is in the fifth grade curriculum, and since I don’t think you can begin to understand World War II without knowing the saga under which the Soviet Union started as an ally of Germany and ended as an enemy of Germany, the content on pages 63 and 64 is absolutely vital.


Chapter 15


Joe Rosenthal/ Associated Press

First of all, in an early edition of this booklet, there is a typographical error on page 70, which I’m sure teachers noticed. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on DECEMBER 7, 1941. We have no accounting for that date being incorrect, and apologize if your edition of this booklet says otherwise.

Corporal Harold Schultz, USMC

Some of the most famous war photographs ever taken are featured in this chapter. I would like to draw your attention to the one on the right–the one taken of the second flag raising at Iwo Jima, taken on February 23, 1945.

Days after this photo was taken, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the U.S. Marine Corps to find out the identity of the men shown in it. The Marine Corps did so, and concluded that three of the men shown in the photo had been killed in the fighting that took place during the days that followed. The other three men were taken away from their units and sent on a national tour to help raise money for the war effort. They became national celebrities (albeit reluctant ones), and their names (Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley) became well known.

About 70 years later, thanks to the persistent investigation of two history buffs, the U.S. Marine Corps admitted that John Bradley was misidentified in the photo. The person who was thought to have been Bradley was, in fact, Corporal Harold Schultz.

Incredibly, Schultz kept this a secret his entire life. He had died in 1995, long before the U.S. Marine Corps made the announcement.


Sidebar: Propaganda and Victory Gardens


Here’s an interesting teaching idea:

Using the posters on the inside back cover as a guide, have your students all create their own version of a propaganda poster.


Chapter 16

Hull with undersecretary Gideon Wells
Library of Congress photo

Cordell Hull was a Tennesssee native. Click here to be taken to the Cordell Hull Birthplace, in Pickett County.

Some of the content in this chapter refers to the Space Race. Not to state the obvious, but a great place to learn about the Space Race is at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama–just across the Tennessee state line.

Chapter 17


When cars were first becoming the rage between 1910 and 1930, Tennessee became famous for having really bad roads. Click here to read a column about the Volunteer State’s long saga to create its pars of the Dixie Highway after World War I.

The original plan for interstates through Memphis

Memphis is one of the few cities in which the federal government’s original interstate plan was altered. Because of opposition to Interstate 40 going through Overton Park, a long legal battle ensued. In the end, the interstate went around Overton Park instead of through it. Here is a column I wrote about this.

Chapter 18


Please note: There is much more about the Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee in the spring 5th grade booklet called Work for Freedom.

Also, our fifth grade primary source booklet called Powerful Words 5 contains (among other things) an excerpt from Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, with questions about the text. Click here to find out how you can get copies.