Inventing America

Inventing America
Mary Lincoln: Science, Medicine, Inventions and tech

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: Two to three class periods


Abraham Lincoln was the only president to be granted a patent, so Mary Todd Lincoln undoubtedly was familiar with the ideas and processes of invention.  Even without such events going on in her own house, she was certainly aware that the time in which she was living was a momentous period, filled with a steady stream of new inventions that literally “invented” a new America—both in agriculture and in industry.  


The purpose of this lesson is to allow students the opportunity to investigate and research the major technological changes that occurred during the nineteenth century.     

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Access to print reference materials.


1.  Using the websites listed below, as well as others they may find on their own, students should identify a particular invention/inventor in the 19th century of interest to them.  Students can work individually or in groups.

2.  Conduct research on that person and his/her invention.

3.  Prepare a report of the findings, either a paper, a PowerPoint, or other technology.

Extending the Lesson:

The teacher might prefer for students to identify the evolution of invention in a particular area, e.g., industry, communications, agriculture, medicine, and prepare a portfolio on that category of inventions.  Also, students might, either individually or in groups, identify an inventor/invention and prepare a proposal for the Patent Office as if they were actually trying to get a patent.

Sources & Resources:



This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.