Teach PA History
Vanished Occupations: Life on an Iron Plantation
What to Know
Teaching Time
2- 50 minute sessions
Grade Level
Elementary School
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Economics
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
  • Geography
  • History
Historical Period
  • Colonization and Settlement - 1601-1760
  • New Nation - 1761-1800
  • Expansion and Reform - 1801-1855
Iron plantations were villages centered on the making of iron. Plantations were built where the main ingredients of iron–iron ore, forests, water, and limestone–were plentiful. Because Pennsylvania had an abundance of these natural resources, many plantations were created across the state during the 18th and early 19th century. The heart of the plantation was the furnace where the iron was smelted and where most activity of the iron workers could be observed. The plantation was typically owned and managed by the ironmaster. He hired workers to make the iron and, in turn, gave them a modest wage, place to live, and looked over their basic needs.


Students will be able to: 1. Analyze photographs to understand life on an iron plantation. 2. Understand why iron plantations were created and what natural resources are needed to make iron. 3. Visualize the layout of the buildings and where specific jobs occurred on an iron plantation. 4. Work in a group to understand a specific job at the plantation better. 5. Compare the duties, skill-level, location of work, and housing of four types of iron workers. 6. Use imagination and sensory details to evoke a better understanding life on a plantation. 7. Synthesize information of iron plantation life in a creative writing assignment.

Standards Alignment

  • Arts and Humanities

    9.2.5. A. Explain the historical, cultural, and social context of an individual work in the arts.

  • Economics

    6.2.6. A. Describe market transactions in terms of goods, services, consumers, and producers.
    6.3.6. C. Describe the natural, human, and capital resources used to produce a specific good or service.
    6.4.6. D. Explain how the locations of resources, transportation and communication networks and technology have affected Pennsylvania economic patterns.
    6.5.6. A. Recognize that the availability of goods and services is the result of work by members of the society

  • Geography

    7.2.6. A. Describe physical characteristics of places and regions.

  • History

    8.1.6. B. Explain and analyze historical sources.
    8.2.6. A. Identifies political and cultural contributions of individuals to Pennsylvania history
    8.3.6. A. Identify and explain the political and cultural contributions of individuals and groups to United States history from Beginnings to 1824
    8.3.6. B. Identify and explain primary documents, material artifacts and historic sites important in United States history from Beginnings to 1824.

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

    1.2.5. A. Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas.
    1.4.3. B. Write informational pieces.
    1.6.5. A. Listen to others.
    1.6.5. C. Speak using skills appropriate to formal speech situations.
    1.6.5. D. Contribute to discussions.
    1.6.5. F. Use media for learning purposes.

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