Teach PA History
Crossing the Delaware: A Visual Myth or Reality?
Equipment & Supplies
  • Chalkboard/chalk Overhead projector/ transparencies

Distribute copies of Emanuel Leutze's painting, Student Handout 1: Emanuel Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware. Allow several minutes for students to observe and contemplate the painting.

Ask students what they already know about the painting. (Possible responses might include the setting, time, and place; the characters; preceding events; and/or following events.)

Create a list of student responses on the chalkboard. Save the list to use in the evaluation.

Distribute Student Worksheet 1: Historical Painting Analysis form. Explain to students that they will complete the analysis worksheet based upon their observations, their inferences, and their questions. Read the directions at the top of the worksheet aloud, including the example provided. Permit students to work in pairs to develop the analysis.

Using the Background Information for Teachers, provide the students background information about the painting. Stress that Emanuel Leutze's painting was completed in 1851–about seventy-five years after Washington crossed the Delaware River.

After students complete Student Worksheet 1: Historical Painting Analysis, have the groups volunteer their responses and write them on the board.

Distribute Student Handout 2: Descriptions of Washington Crossing the Delaware and the text of the markerWashington Crossing Marker story. Ask students to read those documents (or have students read them aloud to the class) and revise their "analysis" worksheet based on the readings. Query the class and list on the chalkboard a list of inaccuracies depicted in the painting (see Background Information. for Teachers).

Discuss the symbolic significance of Leutze's painting (even if historically inaccurate) for Americans. Ask students to speculate why the painting is so popular even though it is not accurate.

Distribute copies of marker Primary Source 1: Excerpts from the Diary of Col. John Fitzgerald, concerning his experience in 1776, along with the evaluation assignment, below.

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