Social History for Every Classroom


Social History for Every Classroom

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Vocabulary for The Journal of Sean Sullivan

This is a basic vocabulary list to use with this book. There are other words and terms that your students may want to add in the space provided at the end.

bonnet: women’s hat 

butte: a hill with steep sides and a flat top 

caboose: the last car on a train with eating and sleeping rooms 

coupling pin: a pin or bolt that connects one train car to another 

cowcatchers (also known as the pilot): a metal device or set of rails attached to the front of the train to clear the tracks 

depot: a railroad station or stop 

dignitaries: people of importance 

“Excursionists”: people who came west solely as tourists 

gorge: deep rocky valley 

handcar: small railroad car that consists of an arm like a seesaw which operators push down and pull up to move the car 

“heathens”: a negative term for someone who is not a believer in God. Used as a way to describe Chinese immigrants. 

maul: a hammer used to drive the spike onto a tie 

Oregon Trail: a route used by settlers going from western Missouri to Oregon before the railroad was built  

“Paddy”: negative term for Irish workers, probably short for Patrick, a common Irish name 

pick and shovel: two tools used to break up the ground, a pick is sharp on both edges, a shovel allows you to pick up dirt 

“Prairie Schooner”: a covered wagon used by settlers going west 

ruffians: people who behave in a rough or violent way 

sod hut: home made from dried squares of prairie grass 

spike: large nail used to construct railroad tracks 

stovepipe hat: tall tube-shaped man’s hat 

survey: to make a map of an area 

tie: large pieces of wood that support the rails 

transcontinental railroad: a railroad that crosses and connects a continent 

trestle: a system of support built to allow a train to go over a river or gap

Additional Vocabulary 
Write down any additional words that you do not know the meaning of, and then look up their definitions and add them here.

This worksheet aligns to Common Core Literacy Standards in History/Social Studies:

Source | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, 2011.
Creator | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning
Rights | Copyright American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning. Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Item Type | Worksheet
Cite This document | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, “Vocabulary for The Journal of Sean Sullivan,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 24, 2023,

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