About This Lesson
This lesson is based on the National Historic Landmark files, "Madam C.J. Walker Building" (with photographs) and "J.C. Penney Historic District" (with photographs), as well as other sources related to Madam Walker and J.C. Penney. It was written by Rita Koman, education consultant. The lesson was edited by the Teaching with Historic Places staff. TwHP is sponsored, in part, by the Cultural Resources Training Initiative and Parks as Classrooms programs of the National Park Service. This lesson is one in a series that brings the important stories of historic places into the classrooms across the country.
Where it fits into the curriculum
Topics: The lesson could be used in American History courses in units on early 20thcentury business development. It provides an interesting contrast to the typical textbook coverage, which tends to emphasize a few robber barons, while giving little information on the success stories of other exceptional people who moved from rags to riches. The lesson also could be used to enhance the study of African American history or women's history.
Time period: Early 20th century
Relevant United States History Standards for Grades 5-12
Relevant Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
Find your state's social studies and history standards for grades Pre-K-12
Objectives for students
1) To identify the attributes that helped Walker and Penney to succeed as entrepreneurs.
2) To compare and contrast Walker and Penney for similarities and differences in backgrounds and business methods.
3) To consider the role advertising played in the business success of Walker and Penney.
4) To analyze the factors necessary for founding a successful business today and compare them with those needed in Walker's and Penney's day.
5) To investigate whether businesses in their community were established by entrepreneurs with characteristics like those of Walker and Penney.
Materials for students
The materials listed below either can be used directly on the computer or can be printed out, photocopied, and distributed to students. The maps and images appear twice: in a low-resolution version with associated questions and alone in a larger, high-resolution version.
1) two maps of cities associated with Walker and Penney;
2) three readings about the lives of Madam Walker and J.C. Penney;
3) two advertisements for Madam Walker beauty preparations and Penney's Golden Rule Store;
4) five photographs and a drawing of Madam Walker, Walker Manufacturing buildings, and J.C. Penney's early stores.
Visiting the sites
The Walker Building is located at the intersection of West Street and Indiana Avenue in downtown Indianapolis. The address is 6l7 Indiana Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202. Today the building houses commercial businesses as well as the Madame Walker Theatre Center, which provides arts and cultural programs and education for children and adults. The Center also includes a small museum with Walker memorabilia and is host to the annual Madame Walker Spirit Awards for Entrepreneurs. For more information, visit the Center's Web page.
The former Golden Rule Store is located at 803 South Main Street on the eastern edge of the business district in Kemmerer, Wyoming. It is part of the J.C. Penney Historic District, which also includes Penney's first house. Today, the restored six-room house is a museum operated by the J.C. Penney Foundation. It is open seven days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The house is open for tours by appointment at other times. For more information, contact Kemmerer's J.C. Penney Store at 722 J.C. Penney Drive, Kemmerer, Wyoming 83101. The store has been in operation at this location since 1929.