The American Commercial Revolution Lesson Plan

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Consider using this lesson to introduce your students to the economic changes in the North following the Civil War. Students will participate in a group simulation to experience the factory system.

Learning Objectives

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

  • describe the economy of the North in the Antebellum Period.
  • identify inventions and technological advancements that contributed to a commercial revolution in the North
  • describe how the factory system and other industrial practices encouraged the growth of industry in the North


1-2 hours


  • Napkins
  • Plastic utensils

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.


  • Ask students to brainstorm what types of products are made in factories. Have them discuss how they think the items are made including what machines and industrial practices allow these items to be created.
  • Play the video lesson, Economic Developments in the North: A Commercial Revolution, pausing at 4:10.
  • Have students discuss the following questions:
    • How were the economies of the North, South, and West different before and after the Civil War?
    • What were some 19th-century inventions that impacted the economy of the North?
  • Finish playing the video lesson, and have students discuss the following questions:
    • How did the factory system help industrial growth in the North?
    • Why is it said that the Antebellum period was a commercial revolution for the North?
    • How did an increase in industrialization affect the cities of the North?
  • To assess students' knowledge of the lesson's concepts, have them complete the lesson quiz.

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