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Antebellum Economy - Understanding Employment in 1850

Activity Description


Students will examine a table of 1850 Census data on employment to understand the professions of free men across the United States at the time, calculating the percentages working in different industries. Students will also compare and contrast economies in the North and South during the Antebellum Period.

Suggested Grade Level


Approximate Time Required

60 minutes

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to interpret a primary source from 1850 to calculate percentages.
  • Students will be able to compare and contrast northern and southern economies in the years leading up to the Civil War.
  • Students will be able to write and answer their own questions about 1850 Census data.

Materials Required

  • The student version of this activity, 7 pages
  • Calculators

Activity Items

The following item is part of this activity. The item, its source, and instructions for viewing it online appear at the end of this teacher version.

  • Employments of the Free Male Population of the United States Over Fifteen Years of Age – 1850

Teacher Notes

Blooms Taxonomy

Blooms Taxonomy

Students will create and support their own inferences after examining census data.


High School History


  • Antebellum Period
  • Economy

Skills Taught

  • Comparing and contrasting
  • Examining primary sources
  • Synthesizing data
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