Teach PA History
Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Equipment & Supplies
  • Supplies and equipment: Basic art supplies (paper, rulers, colored pencils)

Supplies and equipment:
Basic art supplies (paper, rulers, colored pencils)


Day One

1.This lesson should be situated in the general context of a discussion of the Gilded Age. As such, students should already have an understanding of the basic themes of industrialization and the growing wealth of big businessmen during that period. Students should already be able to identify Andrew Carnegie and describe his importance as a business leader. If possible, prior to class, student desks should be arranged into at least three clusters. (Depending on the size of the class, more than one cluster could be assigned to work with a given resource.)

2.Begin the period by identifying several of the wealthiest individuals in American history. Names such as Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Oprah Winfrey should be included on the list. Point out to the students that these individuals earned their fortunes through very different industries and techniques. Ask the class to identify the "common thread" among these wealthy individuals from different time periods (Each of them has made a significant commitment to philanthropy). Then ask students to develop a definition of philanthropy (a consensus answer should describe the use of an individual's fortune for the benefit of the rest of society).

3.Next, ask students to brainstorm a list of factors that might motivate an extremely wealthy individual to become a philanthropist and give away his fortune. Responses can be listed on the board for the class to see. (Student answers may include altruistic factors such as a desire to create a better society or also more selfish factors such as a desire to improve one's legacy).

4.Explain to students that as industrialization increased during the late nineteenth century, business leaders developed huge fortunes while many of their workers endured harsh conditions. Describe to the class the concept of distribution of wealth. (Here you could ask students to speculate on the current distribution of wealth in their community or in the nation and use current census data to provide accurate statistics. You may go to for this information.) Tell the class that, while most of the newly-wealthy individuals at that time planned to leave their fortune as an inheritance for future generations, Andrew Carnegie expressed a radically different idea.

5.At this time, introduce marker Student Handout 1 - Background Information. Ask students to read Student Handout 1. This handout will provide students helpful background about three authors[FIX ME ’–"“”]Andrew Carnegie, Henry George, and Joseph Fels–and their concepts of wealth distribution which will be reflected in primary resources the students are about to review.

6.Next distribute to each group station one of the following primary resource handouts:

marker Student Handout 2 - Andrew Carnegie: The Gospel of Wealth,1889 marker Student Handout 3 - Henry George, Excerpt from Progress and Poverty, 1879 marker Student Handout 4 - Joseph Fels, "…A Letter to Andrew Carnegie", 1910and marker Student Worksheet 1-Primary Source AnalysisGive the class approximately 15 minutes to answer the questions related to their document.

7.When all groups have had sufficient time to work with their document, have students move to the next work stations. Repeat the process until all students have had the opportunity to work with each of the primary source artifacts. This part of the activity will need to be continued on day two.

Day Two

1.Ask students to complete any primary source review which they were unable to finish on Day One.

2.Then begin with a brief group discussion of the primary sources. You may wish to use the marker Teacher Guide to Student Worksheet 1-Primary Source Analysisor to paraphrase some of the questions from Student Worksheet 1. In addition, depending on the ability level of the class, it may be possible to propose some more open-ended discussion topics. These topics might include:
•Is it possible for an individual to have "too much" money or wealth?
•Why are some people rich and others poor?
•What is the purpose of obtaining wealth (beyond sustenance)?
•What should be the role of government in regulating wealth and poverty?
•Would you vote for a political candidate who favored Socialist programs?

3.After the review of the previous day's lesson, students are to create a political cartoon expressing an opinion relating to this lesson. They will also prepare a short essay to explain their viewpoint in greater depth. Students may work with a partner, in a small group, or individually, depending on your preference. Suggested "points of departure" for brainstorming cartoon topics include: the current distribution of wealth, public opinion of the wealthy, wealth and politics in current affairs, the estate tax debate, contemporary public figures (Gates, Buffett, etc…) and their fortunes. See marker Student Worksheet 2-Project Guidelines

4.Once the cartoons and short essays have been completed, you might wish to display them on a bulletin board.
Back to Top