Emanuel Benjamin Oliver was born on May 29, 1876, in Monserrat. He moved to St. Croix around 1897 to teach at Reverend Paul’s School, a private school. On St. Croix he served for many years as a teacher, and later as a principal at the St. Croix Dane School, and the Frederiksted School. In 1919 he got married to Maud, and they moved to St. Thomas. He worked as a public-school teacher on St. Thomas. In 1927 he was appointed principal of the Abraham Lincoln School (later called J. Antonio Jarvis School). He initiated a night school, teacher training program. He taught at the night school. When Mr. Oliver retired from public service in 1942, he started the Goodwill School, a private school for grades 1-9. He taught at and ran the private school until his death. He died on January 31, 1948. He was honored in February 1948 by the Municipal Council of St. Thomas and St. John in recognition of his dedicated services. In 1975 an elementary school in Tutu, St. Thomas was named in his honor. The E. Benjamin Oliver School ranked top among best designed schools in the nation at that time. The school has been closed since 2017. (Sources: “Profiles of Outstanding Virgin Islanders”, Project Introspection, 1972 and “Brief Historical Notes on Schools of the Virgin Islands”, Project Introspection, 1982)
In this activity, students will analyze E. Benjamin Oliver's Identity Card for Insular Travel from 1920. They will determine the types of information one can gather about individuals from early 20th century travel documents. They will also compare the information asked for in 1920, to the information asked for on today’s passport application. They will learn that E. Benjamin Oliver was an educator in the US Virgin Islands.
Primary Sources in this Activity
Suggested Teaching Instructions
Before beginning this activity, help students to understand what a primary source is, have students provide examples of primary sources, help them with examples if needed, discuss why a document can be a primary source, and discuss the difference between primary sources and secondary sources.
Ask students to explain what a passport is, and why people get them today. If no definition is given, the teacher should provide students with the explanation. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines passport as “a formal document issued by an authorized official of a country to one of its citizens that is usually necessary for exit from and reentry into the country”. Passports were not required for travel until 1941, however the Department of State has issued passports to American citizens since 1789.
Load the document onto an interactive smart board and have students make observations together. If there is not a smart board, students can work in small groups at computers.
Also load the Analyze a Written Document worksheet on the smart board or on computers so that you can lead students through discussing their answers to questions on the worksheet.
Analyze the Primary Source
You may load the Analyze a Document worksheet on the smart board or on computers so that you can lead students through answering the questions, print the worksheet and distribute to your students, or adapt the questions from the worksheet to create your own. Primary Source Analysis Worksheets
Have students complete the Analyze a Written Document worksheet individually, in small groups, or as a class. Help students as needed to complete the worksheets. Review their answers and the observations as a class.
After students have analyzed the document, continue the discussion by asking students if know who is E. Benjamin Oliver? What did they learn about him from his Identity Card? The teacher can prompt students to look at the Identity Card again, as needed, and answer: Where does E. Benjamin Oliver live? Where is he from? What is his job? Where are his parents from? How old is he? What is his wife’s name?
Bonus Question: What year was he born? (Note to the teacher: The document does not say outright the year of his birth, but students can use the year the Identity Card was issued, which is 1920, and his age when the card was issued, which is 44 years old, to do the math and determine his birth year. The teacher should help students through this question, prompting students that they might have to use their math skills to find the answer, if necessary, leading them to identifying the two numbers that they do have and how they can use them to determine his birth year.)
The teacher can share the information in the About section to help students learn more about E. Benjamin Oliver.
How do the questions and details provided on E. Benjamin Oliver’s Identity Card for Insular Travel from 1920, compare to a Passport Application from today’s State Department? See today’s passport application. What details have change? What details have remained the same?