Sample Assignment: Charting the Virality of a 19th-Century Article

In this assignment you will create a visual representation of the way a newspaper article went “viral” in the 19th century. You will then compose a short reflection on why you think the article resonated with so many newspaper editors. Follow the steps below.

  1. Use the Viral Texts database to identify a “cluster” that has more than 50 reprints.
  2. On a blank map of the United States identify the various places and times the article was published. Create a method to visually represent the number of times an article was published in a city AND the years it was published. You might find it helpful to look at how others have approached these types of visualizations. For a start, look at “Journalism’s Voyage West.”
  3. Write a page-long discussion of the visualization you have created. What does your visualization tell you about the time and places your article was reprinted? Why did newspaper editors choose to reprint your chosen article? Use the material learned in class and the historical thinking skills you have developed over the year to make a logical and evidence-based argument.

Download the rubric (PDF).


For insights on using Viral Texts in the classroom, read John Rosinbum's AHA Today post: "Before BuzzFeed: Going Viral in 19th-Century America."