Teacher’s Answer Key

Worksheet 1: Keywords


1. Considered the basic building block of wood. Cellulose
3. The railroad drastically changed the perception of time, space, and distance in America.
6. The Industrial Revolution was a period in American history marked by rapid industrialization, vast technological improvements and increased urbanization.
8. A framework consisting of vertical, slanted supports and horizontal crosspieces supporting a bridge. Trestle
11. Forest products come from the renewable resource of trees.
12. Amount of goods that people are ready to buy for a given price. Demand
13. A beam or rod, typically made of wood, that supports and connects the rails of a railroad track. Crosstie
14. Amount of goods available for meeting a demand or for purchase at a given price. Supply


2. Until the growth of railroads after the Civil War, steamboats transported most people and goods in the U.S.
4. Barbed wire helped shape life in the American West by greatly reducing the number of trees used for wooden fence posts.
5. A cone-bearing tree, often evergreen. Conifer
7. New technology, most specifically the chemical treatment of wood, helped reduce the amount of wood used by American railroads.
9. Sticky material found in many trees and plants that hardens when exposed to air. Resin
10. Compound derived from the oils of plants and trees. Terpene

Worksheet 2: Essay Analysis

1. List three common uses for wood in America before the advent of the Industrial Revolution.

a. Building houses; b. Cooking meals; c. Heating homes and other buildings (three possible answers) Other answers include, wood was used for tools, transportation (boats and horse carriages, for instance), and furniture.

2. Describe how the rapid increase in the population of the United States during the latter half of the nineteenth century affected American forests.

Extensive forestland was cleared to make room for the increased population in the United States during the late nineteenth century. In urban areas with swelling populations, vast amounts of wood were used to fuel the fires of industrialization and in rural areas, many people cleared forests to farm. The increased number of people living in the United States resulted in great demands placed on American forests.

3. How did steamboats place strain on American forests during the nineteenth century?

By 1850, over 700 steamboats were transporting goods to and from major American ports. Besides typically being constructed of wood, steamboats consumed large amounts of fuelwood on a daily basis.

4. What role did the economic principles of supply and demand play in the amount of wood used during the American Industrial Revolution?

Because wood was relatively cheap for much of the nineteenth century, due to its plentiful supply, the majority of people and companies saw no reason to look for ways to increase the life of wooden products such as crossties. However, by the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, the supply of wood decreased in the East leading to an increase in the price of the product. Furthermore, since the demand for wood was high across the country, especially in areas having limited access to the resource such as the plains and prairies, the cost of wood continued to rise. Because of the steadily rising cost of wood, American railroad companies (among others) began to implement measures to increase the durability and average life span of the wooden products they used in their operations.

5. Provide two examples of how technology helped conserve trees during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Supply evidence to support your two examples.

One example of how technology helped conserve trees was the chemical treatment of crossties. Before the evolution of chemical treatments, crossties typically lasted between 5 and 7 years; the addition of preservatives increased the life span to between 30 and 40 years. The chemical treatment of crossties therefore decreased the amount of trees used by American railroads. Another example of how technology helped conserve trees was the invention of barbed wire. Instead of using wood for fences, many Westerners used barbed wire to fence in their animals and prevent open grazing, thereby decreasing the number of trees cut down for this purpose.

6. Explain how the nickname “iron road,” could be considered a misleading description of nineteenth-century American railroads.

Despite the fact that railroad tracks were forged of iron, railroads used more wood than any other resource. For instance, station houses, bridges and trestles, railroad cars, and telegraph poles normally were constructed of wood during the nineteenth century. The most significant way that railroads relied upon wood was in the construction and replacement of wooden crossties – the average mile of track required over 2,500 crossties.

7. Compare and contrast forest products of the past in the United States with modern goods derived from trees.

In the past, Americans used wood to build homes, fences and furniture, and for recreational equipment such as baseball bats and jigsaw puzzles. Early Americans also used wood to cook food and heat their homes and enjoyed the consumable components of trees like nuts, fruit, and maple syrup (to name just a few). In modern times, although much furniture and some sporting equipment is constructed of wood, research and development has led to more diverse uses for forest products. Many everyday items such as toothpaste, shampoo, and liquid cleaners, often contain derivatives of trees.

Worksheet 3: Wood Keeps the Fires Burning

Answers will vary but below are examples of some acceptable responses.

Fact Conclusion
Photo 1 shows a bridge and trestle that contains over 1 million feet of timber. The notes state that wood was the primary material in most bridges of the 19th century and early 20th century. Most bridges of the time period were constructed of wood.
In the notes it states that, “was not until 1905 that railroad passenger cars were made of steel.” The notes also state that even though railroads were called the “iron road,” for most of the 19th century only train engines and rails were made of iron. Before 1905 railroad cars most likely were made of wood.
The notes state that by the late nineteenth century railroads accounted for between 20 and 25 percent of the total lumber consumption in the U.S. American railroads needed a substantial amount of wood to operate during the late 19th century.
Lumber production increased 8 times between 1850 and 1910 and the mileage of U.S. railroads increased 30 times during the same period. During the Industrial revolution there was an increased demand for wood.

Worksheet 4: Using a Line to Graph History

Graph #1: Railroad Crossties

Graph #2: Miles of Railroad Tracks

Graph Questions

1. In the 10-year period between 1900 and 1910, how many new miles of track were built? How many crossties were installed for the tracks built between 1880 and 1940?

Between 1900 and 1910, 47,000 miles of railroad track were built and 293 million crossties were installed between 1880 and 1940.

2. In what 10-year period between 1840 and 1930 was the rate of mile of track installed the greatest?

The rate of mile of track installed was the greatest between 1880 and 1890.

3. Over time did the miles of railroad track built increase or decrease? Over time did the number of crossties installed increase or decrease? How do you explain the discrepancy?

Even though the miles of railroad track built increased during the late eighteenth century and into the early twentieth century (due to America’s expanding economy and continued industrialization) the number of crossties installed during this same period decreased. The reason for the decrease can be explained by the fact that beginning in the early years of the 20th century, the majority of crossties were being treated with chemical preservatives—the treatment increased the life of the average crosstie, thereby substantially decreasing the number installed each year.

Worksheet 5: It Comes from a Tree

Answers will vary, but below are examples from each of the five boxes distributed to the class.

Name of Object Connection to Forest Descriptive Words or Phrases
Instant hot chocolate Contains cellulose, the building block of wood. - Good to have when it is cold
- Tastes good after playing in the snow
Spearmint chewing gum The spearmint flavor of chewing gum comes from terpenes, an organic compound derived from the essential oils of plants and trees. - Makes your mouth feel fresh and clean
- Some come with comics, others with trading cards
Lotion Wood extracts formed during the paper making process often are found in lotions that contain Vitamins A and E. - Makes your skin feel good
- Many types including some that help prevents sunburns
Liquid cleaners Lemon-scented liquid cleaners often contain resins and terpenes that come from the stumps of pine trees. - When floors, counters, or tables are dirty, this helps make them look good again
- Sometimes smells like lemon
Hair spray Tree resins, sticky substances that harden when exposed to air, can be found in hair spray. - Some types of this product have been found to cause damage to ozone
- aerosol

Assessment 1: Test

1. Describe some of the uses for wood before the American Industrial Revolution.

Before the American Industrial Revolution wood was used to construct houses (and other buildings), fences, furniture, roads, bridges, and carriages. Wood also was used to heat homes and cook food. Finally, wood was used in the smelting of iron throughout the eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries.

2. Explain the relationship between crossties and concerns regarding forest depletion.

When the supply of timber seemed plentiful railroad companies did not need to find methods to make wooden crossties last longer. However, concerns about forest depletion, due to the fact that railroads and other industrial segments consumed so much wood, prompted research and development regarding the possibility of increasing the average life span of the crosstie. By the early twentieth century the majority of wooden crossties were treated with preservatives, thus reducing the number of trees needed by railroad companies for their operations.

3. What were some of the technological advances during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that helped conserve trees?

One of the most significant technological advancements that helped conserve trees was the chemical treatment of wooden crossties used by railroads. Whereas untreated crossties normally lasted between 5 and 7 years, chemically treated ones usually last between 30 and 40 years. Preservatives injected into wood used for fence posts also helped conserve trees because it took much longer for the posts to deteriorate. Finally, the invention of barbed wire for fencing drastically reduced the number of wooden fences constructed in the U.S., thereby helping to conserve trees.

4. Explain the impact railroads had on American forests during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

American railroads used wood for many purposes during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although it was nicknamed the “iron road,” railroad companies used wood in the construction of station houses, telegraph poles, railroad cars, bridges and trestles, and fences. However, the most prevalent use of wood by railroads could be found in the crosstie. On average, every mile of track required over 2,500 crossties. Hence, American railroads, because of their extensive use of wood, placed considerable strain on U.S. forests.

5. Explain the impact railroads had on American society during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Railroads had a significant impact on American society. First, railroads altered people’s perceptions of time, space, and distance. People could travel places on railroads that they previously believed inaccessible. Moreover, the amount of time necessary to travel from one point to another drastically dropped. Second, railroad construction (mainly the transcontinental railroad) helped unite a growing country. Railroads facilitated the formation of political and commercial networks between regions of the nation and the ability to disseminate goods and information in a timely manner further united the American public.

6. Provide two examples of materials extracted from trees in the production of common household items. Name two items in either your classroom or home that are derived from trees.

Cellulose, the building block of wood, and resin, a sticky substance that hardens when exposed to air, are two examples of materials extracted from trees in the production of everyday household objects. Hair spray (containing resins) and toothpaste (sometimes contains resins and/or cellulose) contain materials extracted from trees.

7. How did steamboats utilize wood during the nineteenth century?

During the nineteenth century, steamboats remained an important form of transportation in the United States. Typically constructed of wood, steamboats also used wood as fuel for much of the century because of its plentiful supply and relatively low cost. Steamboats often stopped twice daily at wooding stations (small, unauthorized stations where people cleared forestland they did not own) in order to buy wood for fuel.

8. Explain the significance of wood in the American Industrial Revolution.

Although often overlooked, wood played a significant role in the American Industrial Revolution. Wooden steamboats transported goods to and from commercial ports, and railroads, despite being called the “iron road,” relied heavily upon wood. Besides using wood in the construction of railroad cars, station houses, telegraph poles, and bridges and trestles, railroad companies needed large quantities of wood for crossties. All in all, it is fair to say that wood fueled the fires of industrialization.