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HISTORY DETECTIVE: Death of President Zachary Taylor - Primary Source Analysis

HISTORY DETECTIVE:  Death of President Zachary Taylor - Primary Source Analysis
HISTORY DETECTIVE:  Death of President Zachary Taylor - Primary Source Analysis
HISTORY DETECTIVE:  Death of President Zachary Taylor - Primary Source Analysis
HISTORY DETECTIVE:  Death of President Zachary Taylor - Primary Source Analysis
HISTORY DETECTIVE:  Death of President Zachary Taylor - Primary Source Analysis
HISTORY DETECTIVE:  Death of President Zachary Taylor - Primary Source Analysis
HISTORY DETECTIVE:  Death of President Zachary Taylor - Primary Source Analysis
HISTORY DETECTIVE:  Death of President Zachary Taylor - Primary Source Analysis
Grade Levels
Common Core Standards
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For this installment of HISTORY DETECTIVE, students will examine primary and secondary source documents and use evidence from those documents to justify their claim concerning a 170-year-old mystery: Who Killed President Zachary Taylor?

Background:
On July 4, 1850- after only 16 months in office- President Zachary Taylor was in the middle of a heated battle over slavery in the new territories. The "Compromise of 1850" and its controversial Fugitive Slave Act was tearing the nation apart. He paused the deliberations to celebrate the 4th of July, attending the dedication of the D.C. grounds where the Washington Monument would be built. He shook hands, waved to supporters, enjoyed some refreshments, then retired to the White House. That evening he experienced severe cramping, diarrhea, and dehydration. Four days later, he would be dead. Doctors concluded it was cholera, others suspected gastroenteritis.

However, President Zachary Taylor was exhumed in 1992, almost 141 years after his death. Historians, Presidential experts, and concerned citizens everywhere thought perhaps his death wasn't accidental after all, and tested his body for arsenic. Maybe, just maybe, they thought, he was assassinated. If this was true, President Taylor would be the first President assassinated in U.S. History.

Your students will LOVE hearing the details of this bizarre mystery, then jumping right in as detective to analyze primary source documents, piece together clues, and arrive at a final conclusion in this episode of...... History DETECTIVE!

Lesson Includes:

1. Sources: Five different primary sources. These sources cover: motivations of Taylor's rivals, slavery debates in 1850, scientific findings from the coroner, and characteristics of arsenic and other poisons readily available in 1850.
2. Detectives Notebook for annotations
3. Writing Assignment to conclude

Students are encouraged to annotate the text, record their thoughts as they progress through the sources. Then, present their Detective "Briefing Room Presentation" where students present their analysis of the case, complete with their conclusion and text evidence.

Sources may be adjusted to be on the 7th/8th grade reading level. Sources were adjusted according to the rationale presented by educational researcher Sam Wineburg.

**Consider setting the stage for further engagement in your classroom
1. Purchasing yellow "CAUTION" tape from Home Depot and taping it across your room so it looks like a crime scene. (Tape ranges from $6-$12 at my local Home Depot).
2. Referring to students as "Detective (last name)" in class


If you download, please leave a review below. THANK YOU!

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Check out these other great Historical Thinking lessons:
Women in Civil War: Close Read of Mary Ann Shadd Cary
Women in Civil War: Station Rotation study of Mary Ann Shadd Cary
Student Letters to their Senator- Writing Project
History Judge: Was Trail of Tears an Abuse of Presidential Power?


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Thanks!




Total Pages
8 pages
Answer Key
N/A
Teaching Duration
2 days
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