The Early Years – Life in Frewsburg & Jamestown, NY

Aims & Purpose

Two 40-minute, interactive class lessons for a grade 11 United States History and Government classroom complete with photographs, handouts, and suggested video clips from the DVD, Liberty Under Law:  The Robert H. Jackson Story.  This lesson addresses the content understanding:

11.5. Industrialization and Urbanization (1870-1920) in the New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework for grade 11.

Students will examine:

-The locations of Frewsburg and Jamestown, New York relative to Albany, New York and Washington, DC

-What life was like living in western New York during the period from 1892 to 1934?

-How living in Frewsburg and Jamestown, New York helped to shape Robert H. Jackson’s future goals and accomplishments,



Civic Values
Civic Virtue


Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence- Identify, describe, and evaluate evidence about events from diverse sources (including written documents, works of art, photographs, and other primary and secondary sources)

Chronological Reasoning and Causation- Recognize, analyze, and evaluate dynamics of historical continuity and change over periods of time and investigate factors that caused those changes over time.

Civic Participation- Identify, describe, and contrast the role of the individual in opportunities for social and political participation in different societies.

*Taken from:  New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework (New York State Education Department, 2014), pp. 14-21.


STEP 1: Setting the Stage

10 minutes - Introduction & Background

On a map of New York State, ask students to locate Frewburg, Jamestown, Buffalo, Albany, and New York City.  Have them calculate the distances between Jamestown and the other cities.  Ask students to research the approximate times needed to travel between these cities during the time period, 1892 to 1934 using an automobile or traveling by train.

On a map of the United States, have students locate Washington, DC and have them calculate the distance and time from Jamestown to Washington during this time period.

STEP 2: Life in Frewsburg and Jamestown, New York, 1892-1934

30 minutes

Provide small groups of students with the following photographs depicting life in Frewsburg and Jamestown during Robert H. Jackson’s early years.  Have students use the accompanying handout, Photographic Analysis Worksheet, to gather information about what life was like living in these communities during this time period.

STEP 3: Robert H. Jackson’s Early Years

20 minutes

Have students view the first 12 minutes (3:44 to 11:18) of the DVD, Liberty Under Law: The Robert H. Jackson Story.  As they view the video, ask students to identify those important events in Jackson’s early life that helped to influence his views and goals for his later life.  Students might organize their evidence in terms of social, political, and economic events.  Have students present their evidence to the class and explain why these events or incidents were significant in the life of Robert H. Jackson.

As an additional resource, provide students with copies of Robert H. Jackson’s essay on his reflections on his early life in Jamestown, “Days When Girls Wore More Clothes and Less Make-Up,” taken from The Jamestown Post-Journal, February 9, 2003.  The essay was reprinted in:  Words from His Mighty Pen, Robert H. Jackson Center, pp. 26-27.

"When Girls Wore More Clothes and Less Makeup" by RHJ

STEP 4: Writing Assignment

20 minutes

Students can write an informative essay which addresses the theme:  Robert H. Jackson’s early life in Frewsburg and Jamestown shaped his goals and contributed to his lifetime accomplishments.  Students should consider those individuals who served as his teachers, mentors, and friends and tell how they influenced Jackson’s views on life.  Students can also tell how Jackson’s early years differed from their own experiences and education.


  • Photo Analysis Worksheet
  • Lesson Plan Bibliography

    Robert Jackson, Words from His Mighty Pen, “When Girls Wore More Clothes and Less Make-Up,” taken from The Jamestown Post-Journal and Robert H. Jackson Center, February 9, 2003, pp. 26-27.

    Gail Jarrow, Robert H. Jackson:  New Deal Lawyer, Supreme Court Justice, Nuremberg Prosecutor  (Honesdale, Pennsylvania: Calkins Creek, 2008).

    Kermit L. Hall, Editor-in-Chief, James w. Ely, Jr., Joel B. Grossman, Editors, The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, second edition, (Oxford University Press, 2005),pp. 512-514.