Getting Around Connecticut

Christine M. Jewell


Historical Background

Students will explore how technology and innovation affected life in Connecticut in the late 19th and early 20th century. Farming communities transformed with the introduction of the trolley system and then the railroads. Communities like Bridgeport went from building horse-drawn wagons to creating the “horseless carriage.” Trolleys connected communities in the late 1800s, similar to today’s bus system.

D1: Potential Compelling Question

How have changes in technology affected local communities over the past 140 years?


  • How would your life have been different if you lived 100+ years ago?
  • How has transportation changed over time?
  • How did new modes of transportation affect the daily lives of the people in Connecticut?
  • How have technology and innovation affected towns and cities in Connecticut?



1) Open the inquiry by discussing:
What types of transportation do the students and their families use every day?
Which ones do they use only rarely or never?
What do they think life was like for people living in their town before some of these types of transportation were available?
How would it be different? How the same?

2) Provide each student with a printed or digital copy of the Library of Congress Primary Source Analysis worksheet. Use one of the images from the toolkit to model the analysis technique with the whole class. You may also wish to find a transportation-related image from your students’ own town/city on the Connecticut Digital Archive to use as the model.

Observe: Ask the students what is happening in the photograph. What do they notice? Are there any clues to when this photo was taken? What is the main subject of the photo?

Reflect: What kind of transportation does this image show? Does it look familiar? Do we still use this type of transportation today? If so, in what ways is it similar to or different from what we use today? Why do you think this image was made?

Question: What do the students wonder about this photo? What questions do they have? How or where could they find out more?

3) Once you have modelled the technique, have students work as a class, in small groups, or individually to analyze another image from the toolkit and share their finding with the rest of the class.

4) Wrap up the inquiry by discussing the compelling and supporting questions and listing any new questions that students would like to investigate further.


  • Students will research a form of transportation that was once—or still is—used in Connecticut, such as horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, trolleys, trains, and automobiles. When was this technology first developed or used? How did this transportation technology affect people in Connecticut? Were there any Connecticut innovators or inventors involved in the development of this mode of transportation? Students will create a poster or timeline of their chosen type of transportation and create a classroom exhibit by organizing their projects chronologically on a table, wall, or white board.
  • Students will research how to use public transportation today. Students will select two different places in Connecticut and determine whether they can get between them using public transportation by using Google maps or regional bus/train timetables. What are some other ways to get around in Connecticut? Students will research transportation options today and how long it takes to travel using these types of transportation.