Boomtowns in the West The Importance of Sports in the Immigrant

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					                                                   Teaching American History in the Northwest

Boomtowns in the West: The Importance of Sports in
the Immigrant Experience
Anthony Warren
Unit Plan for High School Classroom
My research question in Helena and Butte:

Did Irish immigrants play a great deal of games associated with the Gaelic
Athletic Association or did they immediately assimilate into American sports?

In my research I found a tremendous amount of information of the history of
sports in Butte. The sport of Gaelic Football was essentially the only Irish sport
played in Butte. Players competed on a regular basis up until 1926. However, it
appears that immigrants of all backgrounds in Butte tended to assimilate rather
quickly into American sports. There were a great deal of negative stereotypes
surrounding the Irish immigrants; sports were an avenue for them to assimilate
into American culture.

My lesson plan would fit in when discussing either the 2nd wave of immigrants
(arriving primarily from southern and eastern Europe 1880s-1910s) or during a
unit that focused on western expansion. I would introduce the importance of
boomtowns in the west; then I would narrow my focus to the city of Butte and its
great importance in mining during the late 1800s-1900s.

After discussing the boomtowns I would discuss the importance of sports in the
immigration experience.

I will split my class up into different groups to examine the different sports in
Butte’s history. At the same time, I will hopefully by that time have access to
primary resources for other cities. My goal is to have students present sports
from Butte and other western cities.

After presenting all the different sports, I hope to compare and contrast the
emergence of sports in differing western boomtowns. What are the similarities
and differences? How did these games serve to unite communities? Did
immigrant groups play sports from their own countries or did most attempts to
assimilate into this new society by playing exclusively American games? What
impacts do these sports still have on their respective community today?

As a final assessment, I might have students write an essay on what they
learned about the emergence of sport, the assimilation of immigrants, and its
present day implications on the communities.

After discussing these issues with Dr. Wiltse, I believe my students will discover
that sports was an avenue of Americanization for many immigrants and taught

       Regional Learning Project, the University of Montana •
                                                   Teaching American History in the Northwest

them the value of team work (as well as not to question authority – umpires,
referees, bosses, company big wigs, etc). Many of the lessons learned from
playing sports transferred over to jobs in mining or factory work. The men
worked together to accomplish a goal. In probably every area of employment
during that time period, it was best to do your job, not question authority, and
avoid “rocking the boat”.

As always I am very open to suggestions and constructive criticism on how to
fine-tune my lesson. Thanks again for all your help.


       Regional Learning Project, the University of Montana •

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