Farmer Boy, Chapter 3

Social Studies
Timeline 
This story took place in 1866. What was life like in the 1860’s? There was a large influx of immigrants from Europe from 1820 – 1860. These immigrants could not compete with the slave labor in the south and settled mostly in the New York and New England areas. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States. By 1861, numerous southern states including South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. The Civil War broke out. On January 1st, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was issued stating that all slaves held in rebelling territory were declared free. There are many battles, with both sides winning and losing. Lincoln was reelected in 1864. In 1865, a year before Farmer Boy takes place, the Civil War came to an end, Lincoln was assassinated, and Andrew Johnson became president. In 1868 Ulysses S. Grant was elected President.

When this story took place there were no cars, telephones, or electricity. But Almanzo would see all these “firsts” in his lifetime. In 1876, ten years after the story takes place, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. In 1880, New York streets were first lit by electricity. 1880 was the first year that canned fruits and meats appeared in grocery stores. In 1885 Karl Benz invented the first practical automobile.

How would you feel about living in the 1860s?

Science
Leather 
Almanzo took care of his leather moccasins. He weatherproofed them by rubbing tallow into them.

The skins of animals have been used for making shoes, clothing, bags, and accessories for thousands of years. As interest warrants, you may enjoy a study of how leather is made, and maybe even visit a leather shop if possible.

The most commonly made skins are those of cows, goats, horse, pig, and sheep. After the animal dies, the dead skin begins to lose water through evaporation, leaving the skin very stiff. The skin of an animal is made up of three layers, the outer layer or epidermis, the middle layer or corium and the bottom layer or flesh. The first step in making leather is loosening and removing the epidermis and the flesh, leaving only the corium. The corium is the part of the skin that is turned to leather. A process called tanning is then used to make leather strong, flexible, and waterproof. Up until the late 1800’s, the most common method of tanning was vegetable tanning.

With vegetable tanning, tannins derived from plants such as oak and chestnut trees were used. The leather was placed in baths of vegetable tannins, over a long period of time. Vegetable tanned leather can take up to two years to produce. This process softens the stiff leather, making it tough and durable, and leaves the leather colors ranging from a pale brown to a reddish brown, depending on the plants used.

After the tanning process, the leather was oiled, and depending on what it would be used for, was sometimes rolled or hammered. The leather was then finished to make it more attractive and to protect it. Traditional finishing processes include staining or coloring of the surface, dyeing, and/or embossing a pattern on the surface.

Beginning in the late 1800’s, chemical tanning began to replace much of the vegetable tanning. The tanning process took a lot less time with chemical tanning, and the use of chemicals revolutionized the leather manufacturing industry.

Popcorn 
Corn is a species of tall cereal grass, which is grown for its seed and used as food for people and animals. The Native Americans were the first to introduce corn to the early pioneers, but archaeologists have found ears of corn in New Mexico that were nearly 5,600 years old! There are numerous different kinds of corn but only one kind that pops. Popcorn grows on a cob, just like the sweet corn you eat in the summer, but popcorn farmers let the corn dry before they take it from the plant. Americans consume 16.5 billion quarts of popped popcorn annually. Only 70% of that is eaten in the home, the rest is consumed at theaters, ballparks, and the like. Popcorn is nutritious too. One cup of popcorn provides 1.3 grams of dietary fiber, and also has more protein, phosphorus and iron than most other snacks.

Do you know what makes popcorn pop? While a kernel of dried corn does not seem wet, inside there are tiny drops of water. As the dried corn is heated up, the drops of water turn to steam and expand. The steam bursts out and flies out into the air, leaving a fluffy white jacket behind.

Other than popcorn, what products do we get from corn?
corn oil, cornstarch, corn meal, ethanol fuel, corn flour tortillas, corn chips, corn bread or muffins,
corn fritters, Corn Pops, etc

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