Mapping South 4th Street to Fabric Row

Although they may not realize it, many students are already quite familiar with Geographic Information Systems (GIS). From the use of MapQuest for driving directions to watching a weather map on the evening news, GIS influences many aspects of daily life. It has also become a valuable educational tool in the history classroom. Its ability to integrate data into a visual, geographic format develops interpretative and analytical skills in the young historian. This lesson will utilize GIS maps of the vibrant commercial and residential area of South 4th Street in Philadelphia. To produce these maps, historical data was gathered from several archival sources. Census records provide details about the ages, ethnicities, addresses, and occupations of city residents. Fire Insurance maps provide information about land usage giving valuable insight into the commercial and residential landscape. These maps also present visual representations of what city blocks looked like at different periods of time. This historical information is integrated and displayed visually on the maps allowing students to analyze the ethnic composition as well as the commercial development of blocks or neighborhoods over time. Additionally, students place these changes in the larger social, economic, and political context.

Teacher Resources

Student Resources

Background Reading

Resources for Additional Activity

Census and Land Use Data

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