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Fitz Henry Lane Online Educational Resources

Farms and Fish: A Closer Look at Cape Ann's Industries

Lesson plan 2B: Grades 6-8

 Fitz Henry Lane Online Lessons are designed to encourage students to make observations while looking closely at artwork and archival documents, to carry out their own investigations into the nineteenth-century world of an artist and his surroundings, and to foster critical thinking at multiple levels. Lessons were designed with a 30-45 minute timeframe in mind for observation and group discussion. Assessments were designed for completion with the teacher during additional class time or independently at home.


How can a painting shed light on the relationship between the environment and the economy? Fitz Henry Lane lived at a time of growing prosperity for Gloucester and greater Cape Ann. Industries like haying and lumbering were common occupations up and down the coast, but not all communities had access to the dangerous yet lucrative fishing and granite industries. This lesson explores the natural resources in the area and the various Cape Ann industries as depicted in Fitz Henry Lane’s artwork.


  • Students will identify natural resources in paintings of Gloucester, Massachusetts.
  • Students will work together to analyze how Gloucester’s environment influenced its economy by taking a close look at paintings and supporting resources.
  • Students will identify the various industries that make up nineteenth-century Gloucester’s economy as they complete a chart.
  • Students will orally report their findings to the class. 


Wall chart of worksheet 1

Copies of worksheet 1 for each student (download here)


Please note: it is recommended that the teacher preview the site including the paintings, interactive features and historical materials for the lesson in advance.

 Begin by posing the essential questions: What are natural resources? How do people use natural resources in their businesses? What examples of natural resources can be seen in paintings that tell us what goods and services local businesses and industries provided for the citizens of Gloucester? How did Gloucester contribute to the industrial growth of America in the nineteenth century? What evidence can we find to support our answer?

Explain to students that they will be thinking about these questions as they look at paintings created by Fitz Henry Lane in the nineteenth century. When done, they will be asked to answer the last two questions in front of the class.

 Post the teacher-made wall chart of Worksheet 1 with the headings: I see… I think… I wonder… I know… Hand out Worksheet 1 to all of the students. 

 Put students into four groups. Make sure each group has their own device for viewing Fitz Henry Lane Online. Assign each group one of the following paintings: /entry:29/, /entry:38/, /entry:45/, /entry:10/.

 Each painting sheds light on various aspects of Gloucester’s economy in antebellum America. As the students closely examine the primary and secondary sources they will learn more about fishing, quarrying, marsh haying, tourism and trade. Students should keep in mind the essential questions while filling in their charts.

 Show students how to access Fitz Henry Lane Online with the class. Pull up Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester, 1863 inv. 10.

Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester, 1863 (inv. 10)

Have students look closely at the image. Show them how to navigate their way around the painting and how to access the interactive feature as well as historical materials. Have each group fill out the chart for their painting as they share what they see, think, and wonder about. Have them work together to fill in the “I know” section.  Once the chart is completed, students should use the information to answer the question: How did Gloucester contribute to the industrial growth of America in the nineteenth century? Students should cite specific evidence to support their answers.


Each group will stand in front of the class and report their findings, answering the question: How did Gloucester contribute to the industrial growth of America in the nineteenth century? Students should use Fitz Henry Lane Online to cite specific evidence to support their answers. 


Students can use their findings as a foundation to determine the status of that industry in Gloucester’s economy today or in the greater global economy. 


National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies

Theme 3. People, Places, and Environment

Students will understand the theme of people, places and environments involves the study of location, place, and the interactions of people with their surroundings.

Students will understand the physical characteristics of the region and the interactions of people in these places with the environment.

Massachusetts Social Studies Frameworks

Grade 7 Concepts and Skills

History and Geography

4. Distinguish between primary and secondary sources and describe how each kind of source is used in interpreting history.


8. Define and apply economic concepts learned in prekindergarten through grade 6: producers, consumers, goods, services, buyers, sellers, natural resources, taxes, specialization, savings, entrepreneur, prices, markets, scarcity, trade, barter, money, medium of exchange, supply and demand.

 USI. 27 Explain the importance of the Transportation Revolution of the 19th century (the building of canals, roads, bridges, turnpikes, steamboats, and railroads), including the stimulus it provided for the growth of a market economy.

USI.28 Explain the emergence and impact of the textile industry in New England and the industrial growth generally throughout Antebellum America.

 Common Core State Standards

CCSS RH.6-8.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

 CCSS RH.6-8.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

 CCSS RH.6-8.7

Integrate visual information (e.g. in charts, graphs, photograhs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

 CCSS SL.7.2.

Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats(e.g., visually, quanitatively, orally) and explain how ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.

 CCSS SL.7.4

Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

Citation: "Farms and Fish: A Closer Look at Cape Ann's Industries." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. (accessed March 1, 2024).
Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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