Author: M.C. Helldorfer
Illustrator: S.D. Schindler
Summary: Nineteenth century travelers along the National Road help make sure that the birthday gift that Lucy’s great aunt has sent makes it all the way from Maryland to her family’s farm in Illinois.
Literature Based Unit Study by Mary Machado
Lucy and her family start out in Baltimore, Maryland. Locate Baltimore on a map and mark it. The federally funded, National Road began in Cumberland, Maryland and went to Vandalia, Illinois. Find those two locations on a map and mark them. As automobiles replaced wagons as a means of transportation the old road was improved and Highway 40 was created. Highway 40 follows the National Road. When Interstate 70 was built in the 1960s it ran close to Highway 40 and follows it in many locations. Look on a current map and trace I-70. Compare it to Highway 40 and see how closely the follow each other.
Maryland state facts (flag, flower, tree, etc.)
Illinois state facts (flag, flower, tree, etc.)
History – National Road
The National Road was authorized by the federal government in 1806, in response to the need to connect East and West by a national transportation system. A road already existed from Baltimore to Cumberland and the federally funded portion began in Cumberland in 1811. It was originally meant to go to St. Louis, MO but funding ran out before that could be completed and ended in Vandalia, IL in 1839.
The road was expensive to maintain, with holes and ruts developing due to heavy transportation of good and people moving west and east. Toll houses were constructed about fifteen miles apart. Their purpose was to collect money for road maintenance and to pay the toll keepers. Taverns (inns) and Drovers Houses were established along the route to accommodate the multitude of travelers.
With the arrival of railroads in the 1850's, traffic over the road declined, and after the Civil War it was used mostly for local trips. The invention of the automobile in the early twentieth century rescued the road from disrepair, and by the 1920's the National Road was revived as U.S. 40.
National Road information
National Scenic Byways – National Road
History – Mail Delivery
America’s present postal system came from a system Benjamin Franklin planned and placed in operation. In 1788 the US Constitution provided the power to establish post offices and post roads. Contracted stagecoach companies were used to carry mail on heavily traveled routes though on some routes riders on horseback were used. The stage method was favored until 1845 when the railroad became the primary method of transport.
Postage was based on the number of sheets in a letter and the distance the letter traveled. In 1863 rates were simplified and were based on weight, no difference for distance which is our current system.
Historic means that have been used to move mail included steamboat, stagecoach, railroad, and horse. The Pony Express was an overland express route and is big part of the history of the old west though it was in operation only 18 months; early 1860 until fall 1861 when the transcontinental telegraph was completed. It went through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. Riders covered 75-100 miles per day. They changed horses at relay stations set 10-15 miles apart, transferring himself and his mochila (saddle with pockets for mail). On average it took 10 days for mail to move from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA which was considerably shorten than earlier delivery modes.
The National Postal Museum has great resources for the history of the postal service and several interactive games and activities.
The History of the United States Postal Service: An American History 1775-2002 is available from the US Postal Service and on-line.
History - Famous People
The author’s notes give the names of some of the famous travelers on the National Road. Have your student tell you who these people were or what they were famous for. If he doesn’t know, have him look up the person and tell you what that person did.
History – Transportation
Many different modes of transportation are shown or described in the book. See if you can find an illustration of each mode of transportation and mount on an index card - stagecoach, handcart, covered wagon, carriage, traveling show wagon. Label cards.
Sequencing a Story
Each person who came in contact with the gift box for Lucy added some item to it. In the end it was full of all kinds of surprises for Lucy. Make a card for each of the people who helped take Lucy’s box to Illinois. Have student arrange the cards in order of who carried the box. Or alternately make a card for each item that was added to the box along the way. Have the student arrange the cards in the order that each was added.
Create a Surprise Story
When reading the thank you note, Aunt Liza expressed surprise at the mention of the various items it contained. You can create a fun story with unexpected situations and happenings by completing a Mad Lib activity using Mad Libs activity books or Mad Libs online. It is a great review of the parts of speech as well as fun.
Writing a Thank You Letter
After receiving the box, Lucy sends a letter to Aunt Liza thanking her for all the gifts. It is good manners to send a thank you note to show appreciation for a thoughtful act, expression, or gift. Think of a gift you have recently received or an act of kindness that was extended to you and write a note to thank that person.
baggage – suitcases, trunks or bags that a person takes when going on a trip
handcart – wheeled vehicle that can be pushed by a person
stage – short for stagecoach (a large, closed coach pulled by horses)
drover – person who guides or herds a large group of animals along a path
peddler – a person who travels from place to place to sell goods
tavern – a place where travelers stay overnight, an inn
brim – an edge or rim
portrait – a picture of someone
whirlwind – a spinning column of air
ditch – long, narrow hole dug in the ground to drain water
Why did Aunt Liza not want to head west with the family?
What did she mean by saying there was “nothing out there but hog music?”
Who first took the box for Aunt Liza?
What happened to the straw hat at the inn?
What did Silas do to make up for the damage to the hat?
What was Aunt Liza’s reaction when she read the thank you letter from Lucy?
What did Aunt Liza decide to do after
receiving the letter?
Construction and Leveling
The National Road was thirty foot wide and employed the latest road construction technology, the “macadam” surface named for Scotsman John McAdam. He devised a method of compacting three layers of broken stone to create a more solid and weather-resistant road. He had noticed that coaches with narrow wheels that moved at relatively high speed were causing significant damage to roads, but that areas of small broken stones were most resistant to damage. He used smaller stones of three sizes – one for each layer. He embanked roads a few feet higher than the surrounding terrain to cause water to drain away from the surface.
-Information about macadam roads.
Experiment with making roads for toy cars using different size gravel/sand and layering them.
In the book, a wooden bridge is shown breaking under the weight of the wagon driving over it. In reality most of the bridges built along the National Road were made of stone and in a style called S-bridges. Building a bridge at an angle was more complicated and expensive than building the bridge perpendicular to the water flow and banks. So bridges were constructed at 90 degree angles to the bank then two approaches were constructed at opposite angles to direct the traffic flow from the road. This gave the bridge an “S” shape.
Find out about bridge construction and why various styles of bridges are used in different circumstances. A helpful resource which includes bridge building activities is Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design, Build & Test
Suspension bridge activity
PBS: Building BIG Bridges
Build a Bridge Game
Use Homeschool Share's FREE Pig Lapbook to learn more about these animals.
Go back through the story and count how many people “carried” the box before it reached Lucy.
On the page where the family is driving away in the Conestoga wagon, they are going by some corrals of animals. Count the number of each type of animal (chickens, geese, sheep cows). Make a simple bar graph of the number of each animal seen there.
Which animal is pictured in the greatest number?
How many more geese are there than chickens?
As mentioned, tolls were charged for those traveling on the National Road. Different tolls were charged depending on the type of vehicle and the numbers of animals. At the toll houses they had to calculate the tolls for travelers on the National Road. The following were the rates that were charged.
Sheep & Hogs-6 cents each score(20)
Horse & Rider-4 cents
Sled Drawn by 1 Horse - 3 cents
Dearborn, Sulk, Chair or Chaise with 1 Horse-6 cents
Additional Horses-3 cents
Chariot, Coach, Coaches, Stage Phaeton or Chaise with 2 Horses and 4 Wheels-12 cents
Carts & Wagons, Wheels 3" not exceeding 8" Breadth-4 cents plus Each Horse Drawing the Vehicle-2 cents
Wagons Over 8" Wheels were FREE
Refusal to Pay Toll-$3.00 FINE
Some samples to calculate:
How much would a drover have to pay if he was herding 100 hogs past the toll house?
How much would a wagon (with less than 8” wheels) drawn by 4 horses have to pay at each toll house?
How much toll would a wagon (over 8 inch wheels) with a pair of oxen followed by 20 sheep have to pay?
At the time of the National Road, early in the American history, there were no cameras or photographs. People relied on painting pictures to capture a likeness of someone. Silas Turner painted miniature portraits of people for a living. Cut a small circle or oval from cardboard or use precut craft wood shapes. Paint the form white and have the student paint a small portrait or picture of an animal on it using markers or acrylic paints. Loop some ribbon and tape to the back of the portrait to hang for display.
The illustrator includes many pictures that create the look of textures. Look at the pictures of water and grass. How does the illustrator make it look like water? Like grass?
Perspective creates a sense of depth in a picture. In a drawing, depth can be created using line, size, and overlapping; all three give the picture dimension. The page where Lewis Munger, the hog drover, is moving his hogs along the road includes excellent examples of each of these techniques for creating depth. Look closely at the picture and see if you can identify how each of these techniques is used in that picture.
Line: the lines of the fields and the fences angle in to the vanishing point which creates a feeling of being further away.
Size: the houses and the trees are much smaller than Lewis Munger and the hogs which also creates the feeling of being further away.
Overlapping: the hogs in front are pictured completely and cover up parts of the other hogs. This creates the feeling of depth and helps you see that those hogs are in front of the others.
To help you student experience the technique of overlapping, cut out about eight construction paper pigs - outlines of a pig (reduce size). Have student glue them on a poster board, overlapping parts to create a feeling of depth in the picture.
JUST FOR FUN
-Young Henry added a clay marble to the box. Marbles was a common game for children in the pioneer days. Learn and play a game of marbles. Marble Game Rules
- Another mischievous monkey in children’s books is Curious George. Read a Curious George book or your choice.
-Take a field trip to the post office to see how mail is sorted and delivered today.
-If you live in an area where the National Road runs, visit some of the historic sites along the route.