History Detective

We make history fun!

This program uses the popular PBS television show History Detectives as a model. 

Upon arriving at the Museum participants are given an introduction to the history of the Campbell family, their house and how it relates to the growth of St. Louis and the West in the 19th Century. This is followed by an in-depth tour of the Museum.

The program ends with participants splitting into small groups. Each group is given a themed project (Robert Campbell’s businesses, the relationship between Robert and Virginia Campbell, etc.) with a list of questions to answer. The questions are answered by studying a stack of theme-related Campbell family papers. Reading primary Campbell family documents is an exciting way to make the experiences of the past relate to the present.

Common Core standards for this lesson: RI.6.1, RI.6.2, RI.6.6, RI.6.7, SL6.1a‑d, SL.6.2, SL.6.4

This program has been created with a grant from the Whitaker Foundation.

Campbell Family letters and documents
Front of the letter to Virginia Campbell from her husband Robert Campbell — August 5, 1842 © Campbell House Foundation 2004

Example of a Campbell Family document:

Letter to Virginia Campbell from her husband Robert Campbell

August 5, 1842

My Dearest Virginia

I received your very welcome letter of 25th ulto written from the farm and was much gratified to learn that you and our little son were both in very good health and both of you enjoying yourselves — you in the society of Mrs. Cook and your kind friends who visited you and our little son in the enjoyment of the fresh country air which I doubt not will greatly benefit him. I think of you both very often and wish we were together again.

My beaver fur has not yet arrived and therefore I have defered my visit to N. York but I think I will be able to go there on Monday and sometime next week have my business completed so as to start home. Margaret is n a visit to Mrs.. McCauley at Brooklyn and expects to return with me from N. York — W.S. Kyle and family left two days since to go to N. York and Rockaway. Ponsonby arrived the day before they left and will go on to N. York tomorrow to remain with his Brother a few days.

As usual nothing new is to be had in the city suitable for you and your winter drapes etc. must as last season be sent by Mary. I would have liked to have found something suited to the season different from what you can get at home but there is nothing –

Last night I was looking over a list of furniture which had been purchased by Hugh at different times in furnishing his home so that you and I might determine what we might require when we concluded on commencing pot boiling — I do not intend purchasing any furniture at present although I may look around and ascertain what it would cost.

Hugh was forming plans about you for next season — he says you ought to come to Phila in May with our little boy and spend the summer and that I could come on as well and join you in July and return in August or September. I of course could say nothing on the subject the time being so distant — besides you know I leave all your plans to yourself, satisfied that you will make a correct decision –

If I remain in town on Saturday I shall have to spend Sunday at Germantown — so says Mr. Tagert and I suppose I will be obliged to submit — Mary went out last evening accompanied by James R. Campbell and came back about 7 o’clock.

I called at Mrs. Jennings on Wednesday evening but she had gone to Baltimore to see her daughter May and expected to return tomorrow. I saw Mr. Phillips and Mrs. Jennings junior — besides Ruben and W. Phillips — W. Peters was with me and we had quite a St. Louis talk.

I presume you are at the present moment with our kind friends Mr. _ Mrs. Kerr and I therefore conclude you are made quite happy — I hope you won’t become spoiled however I have one consolation in the reflection that you can’t be much worn.

Present my kid compliments to Mr. + Mrs. I. Kerr and Mr. + Mrs. A. Kerr and to our good friend Mrs. Cook. I feel greatly obligated for their kindness to you.

I know that you will take the greatest possible care of our little son, and whatever may occur t affect his health I am sure it will not be occasioned by any neglect on your part — I think the country will be better for his health than the city and you would both I think lay in a stock of health in the country by remaining there as much time as possible — still you must accept the kindness of your friends in the city to a certain extent.

Mary is quite well and says she would like to see how you manage the little Boy — kiss our little son for me and be assured you are not more anxious for my return than I am to join you both.

Ever Yours

R. Campbell

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