Economic Expansion in the 1800s Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

What factors led to the economic expansion during the 1800s in America? This lesson plan addresses this question with the support of a video lesson. An activity places students in the role of an 1800s entrepreneur.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Discuss the population boom of 1800s America
  • Analyze the social and economic influences of innovation in transportation during this time
  • Summarize the economic front in America in the 1800s


45 to 90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.


  • Paper copies of the worksheet from the associated video lesson
  • Drawing paper
  • Markers


  • Begin by asking students to consider potential causative factors for the economic expansion that occurred in America in the 1800s.
  • Ask the students to share some of the ideas in an open discussion format.
  • Play the video lesson Economic Expansion in the 1800s: Slavery, Immigration and Corporations for the class, pausing it at 1:49.
    • What events accounted for the population growth that took place in the 1800s?
  • Play the video lesson for the class. Pause it at 2:46.
    • What was happening to the American demographic in the 1800s?
    • What is a land rush?
    • Why was a push toward the west appealing for many at this time?
  • Play the video lesson again and pause it at 4:17.
    • How did innovation in the transportation industry change the face of America?
    • What did the expansion in transportation do for the economy?
  • Play the remainder of the video lesson for the class.
    • How did the changes in population and transportation prime the country for a shift toward a market economy?
    • How did cities change in light of a market economy?
  • Pass out the paper copies of the worksheet to the class.
  • Have students work together in small groups to complete the worksheet.
  • When everyone has completed the worksheet, review each question and answer with the class as students follow along checking their work.

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