Author: Matt Prince
Grade Level: 10
Length of lesson:
1 class period
Download Activity

Historical Context:

  • Theme: Change and continuity in American democracy: ideas, institutions, events, key figures, and controversies
  • Era: Development of Modern America (19th and 20th centuries).


Students will have read chapter 11 in the textbook The American Journey. While the text discusses the rising influence of Nativist groups in the middle part of the 19th century, it only mentions that the Irish were a frequent target. The text doesn’t mention the specific ways in which the Irish and other immigrant groups were perceived by Nativists. This activity is designed to provide greater depth—through the examination of primary documents—so that students understand the prevailing negative stereotypes of the time period.

Primary Sources

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has links to four primary source cartoons that were first published in Puck in the late 19th century, entitled:

Copies of the images are also provided in the download. Printed copies or online access to the images is required for this lesson.

Lesson Plan

  1. Ask each student to divide a blank piece of paper into a grid with four major sections, with each section divided into two columns. In one column students should write a description of each image; in the other, students should identify the specific negative characteristic given to the Irish.
  2. After taking 15 minutes to discuss each of the images and the idea it attempts to convey, lead students into a larger discussion on anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States.
  3. In a discussion or as a writing prompt/exit card ask students to identify other groups that have been similarly victimized and whether or not they see shades of Nativism in the current national debate on immigration reform.


Student understanding can be assessed informally by looking at their exit cards or observing their participation in the discussion.


6.3 Historical Connections
6.6 Being a historian
6.12 Movements and Settlements
6.6 Institutional Access
6.12 Human Rights
6.14 Forces of Unity and Disunity