Education: Publications: Consider the Source:

Report of Shop, Factory, Mill or Industrial Establishment

The pollution survey used in this lesson plan was created in response to the Public Health Laws of 1903. This law authorized the Health Department to survey industrial discharges and sewerage in an attempt to regulate output into the state's waterways. Industries discharging any waste material - chemical or human - were required to file a report and identify what they were putting into the rivers or streams. The Health Department tried to clean up the state's waters to curb epidemics, such as typhoid fever. This particular record from Gloversville, New York was found in the New York State Archives. Many more can be found at the State Archives that originated in other localities throughout New York.

Key Terms and Words
Many chemical terms will be listed.

Suggested Lessons: Activity One

  • Disciplines - Science, Health, Social Studies
  • Grade Levels - 5 - 12
  • Time Frame - one class period
  • Materials Needed
    • "Report of Shop, Factory, Mill or Industrial Establishement" record
    • Worksheet
    • Page Magnifier

Learning Objectives - Students will:

  1. Discover the sources of water pollution during the early days of industrialization
  2. Generalize the effects this type of pollution has on public health.


  1. Divide the class into cooperative groups.
  2. Have each group analyze the "Report of Shop, Factory, Mill or Industrial Establishment" and fill in the worksheet entitled "Public Health". The worksheet is generic to any similar record and can be completed individually or as a group.
  3. Ask students to share their paragraphs with the other groups to provide closure.

Suggested Lessons: Activity Two

  • Disciplines - Interdisciplinary Project - primarily involving the social studies, mathematics, science, health and the arts
  • Grade Levels - 7 - 12
  • Time Frame - one to two weeks
  • Materials Needed
    • One or more of the "Reports of Shop, Factory or Mill" documents
    • Reference materials
    • Phone number of Health Departments - State and local

Learning Objectives - Students will:

  1. Compare polluting factory discharges in 1903 to those allowed today.
  2. Identify the effects of various chemicals on humans.
  3. Research how disease was spread through waste in water.
  4. Brainstorm ways to locate information about water pollution today.
  5. Prepare effective oral and visual presentation to class.


  1. Divide students into groups as follows. Assign students to groups based on their interest in the topic. All students must analyze the document(s) and list what was discharged into New York's waterways in 1903.
    1. Group 1 researches the effects the chemicals listed in the document have on the human body.
    2. Group 2 researches water-born communicable diseases and compares their frequency at the turn of the century with their frequency today.
    3. Group 3 locates information on modern laws concerning industrial discharge into rivers and stream.
    4. Group 4 investigates industries in its area to discover if they discharge waste into the water and how modern pollution laws affect them. Students may want to model their investigation on the historical record to maintain similar categories for comparison.
  2. All groups prepare visual and oral presentations of the data they gathered.