From the 1700s to present day, the economic success of St. Thomas was dependent on the maritime trade passing through its large and protected harbor. This artwork, from around 1850, shows the harbor at the peak of its prosperity under Danish rule, when it was frequented by both sailing and steam ships of all nations.
In this activity, students will use questions from an Analyze Artwork worksheet to observe a lithograph of the Charlotte Amalie harbor. They will examine the boats in the harbor and consider the theme of changes in science, technology and society.
Primary Sources in this Activity
Suggested Teaching Instructions
If this is the first-time students are working with a primary source, take a few minutes to introduce the definition of primary source and to provide a few examples. Ask students if they can think of additional types of primary sources. If none are provided, give more examples. Explain how a primary source is different from a secondary source.
Load the lithograph onto an interactive smart board and have students make observations together. You must zoom into the lithograph to examine the details. If there is not a smart board, students can work in small groups at computers.
Also load the Analyze Artwork worksheet on the smart board or on computers so that you can lead students through answering the questions on the worksheet.
Information for the teacher: You and the students may notice slight irregularities in historic drawings and paintings. Sometimes drawings and paintings were made on location, sometimes the artists took notes and then they make their artwork in their studio from memory and their notes, in still other cases someone was sent to make observations and notes, and they then described to an artist what they saw, and the artist drew or painted a scene that they never saw themselves.
Analyze the Primary Source
Can students identify which ships are powered by sail and which are powered by steam. What details in the lithograph help them make their choices? There is a boat powered in another way, not sail or steam, can students identify it? How is it powered?
Have students list all the types of boats and watercrafts they can think of, past and present. The teacher can write them on the smart board. Then ask students to look at the list and think about how changes in science and technology have affected the design of watercraft. Explain their answers.
For students on St. Thomas: look carefully at the waterfront area in the lithograph. What do you notice? What are some similarities and what are some differences compared to what it looks like today?
If students need help, the teacher can point out that the building today used as the Virgin Islands Legislature and Fort Christian are still there, the small piers along the water’s edge are no longer there, and that today there is a road along the waterfront. The waterfront has been transformed through land reclamation projects, road construction, and the recent Veteran’s Drive expansion and promenade.
For students on St. Croix and St. John: The teacher can present a current photo of the Charlotte Amalie waterfront, from a similar angle as the lithograph, and have students compare the current photo and the lithograph in order to discover the similarities and the changes listed above.
Print and distribute to students, the coloring page of Charlotte Amalie located at Virgin Islands Coloring Pages. Have students color it in class or at home. Students can use it as a show and tell piece to describe to someone at home what they learned in class about the harbor and the types of ships that have visited the harbor in the past, and that currently visit.