The Turn of the Century


The turn of the century was a time of amazing growth and change for America. The face of the entire world was changing and America was at the heart of the change. Invention, experimentation, industry and innovation were the hallmarks of the turn of the century. These and the personalities of the people who created them transformed America into the diverse melting pot that it has become.

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The Task

You are a historical person from the turn of the century. You have been invited to attend a celebration for the President of the United States, William McKinley. A fancy tea will be held in the president's honor at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City on December 2, 1900.

In order to show the variety of supporters the president has, the organizers of the tea have invited a wide cross-section of society. Along with many of the famous writers, inventors, industrial mogols and politicians of the time, many suffragettes and common workers will be in attendance as well.

As a guest, you have been instructed to stand and introduce yourself. Your introduction will not only tell about who you are, but also what you believe in. Briefly explain what issues you think the President should address, the current national problems, the causes of those problems and the possible solutions you recommend.

After the introductions are complete, the various groups at each table will have a discussion over tea. Table discussion topics will be located in the center of each table. Discussing these topics will give each small group a chance to ask questions of the other guests as well as defend or reconsider their positions on the topics. Remember, the people you are having tea with are some of the most influential figures of the turn of the century. These people have the power to influence the future of America and they may be the key to getting what you want.

The Process

Your teacher will allow you to draw the name of the figure you will portray out of a hat. You may randomly draw the actual person or the historical person's aide or companion. Before you are able to assume the character of that historical person, you must first research his/her life and beliefs.

If you are an aide or companion to a historical figure, you must complete the same research as you would if you were the actual person. The historical figure and the aide or companion will partner up and do the research together. The historical figure and the aide or companion will give separate introductory speeches but will work together to support each other's points later in the conversations at the tables.

Here are some good general history sites to get you started:

Here are some guide questions to help you stay focused on your historical character:

                       My name is ______________________________________________
                             I am ______________________________________________
           Some people think I am ______________________________________________
                     I am certain ______________________________________________
                           I want ______________________________________________
                            I say ______________________________________________
                        I believe ______________________________________________
                             I am ______________________________________________
 The Constitution and The Bill of 
Rights support my beliefs because ______________________________________________


Here is a listing of the table groups along with some very helpful sites for gathering information on your historical figures:







Introduction Speech

Once you have thoroughly researched your historical character, you are ready to prepare your introduction speech. Be sure your speech is clearly written and organized. Keep it to 5-7 minutes.

Try to use primary sources and original quotes whenever appropriate in your introductory speech. You may use any visual aid in your presentation, such as a chart, graph, or poster. Try not to make it too bulky because you are presenting at a tea.

If you are an aide or a companion to the historical figure, you must also introduce yourself and work with your historical figure to interject information or point out specific points and issues.

Table Topics

The table topics are located in the center of the table. Ask each question of the entire table and give each person one - two minutes to respond. To be sure that each person at the table responds to the topic, select one person to take notes in writing of who is responding! In addition, your teacher will walk around to evaluate the table topic discussions. Here are the topics:

Learning Advice

Attending the tea in costume will help you "get into" the character. As you research your historical figure, take notes on the clothing and appearance of people.

Be sure to look at the evaluation section of this activity so you are aware of what you will be specifically evaluated on.

Here are some helpful hints when giving your speech:

[IMAGE] Evaluation

The class will develop a rubric based on the following criteria:


The turn of the century created major changes politically and socially in America. Think about the impact that the turn of the century has had on the America of today. What inventions and what thoughts do we still consider important? How did the figures of the turn of the century change the way we think and live today?


Technical questions on the website to:

Last Revised: 04/06/06