Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums Lesson Plan

Grades 9-12


Purpose:  The lesson plan that follows is designed to bring together the tour experience, the classroom materials, and primary research materials students may encounter in the classroom setting to facilitate the understanding of the political issues of the 19th Century as they pertain to the Rutherford B. Hayes administration.

Objective:  By touring the Hayes Presidential Library & Museums, students will be able to:

  • Trace R. B. Hayes’s political career and the impact his administration had on state and national politics
  • Identify three political issues that faced the Hayes administration in 1877
  • Discuss the problems a very close or contested election presents to a president-elect
  • Identify the personal qualities that both President and Mrs. Hayes had which drew Americans to them
  • Interpret President Hayes’s belief that he “who serves his country best, serves his party best”
  • List several notable firsts during the Hayes administration
  • Compare/contrast 19th-century life with modern life


  • Visit  Once at the website, click on Diaries & Letters of Rutherford B. Hayes.  Diary entries are listed by time periods. Other links are given and will be useful.
  • Geer, Emily A. First Lady: the Life of Lucy Webb Hayes (Excerpts from the book also are on the website.)
  • Hoogenboom, Ari. Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior & President (Excerpt from the book can be found on website)


  • Electoral College, mandate, contested election, artifact, Reconstruction, Industrial Revolution, Gilded Age

Anticipatory Set:

  • Discuss with students the Reconstruction period.  Students should be aware of the conciliatory tone of Abraham Lincoln in his second Inaugural Address and his words upon receiving news of Lee’s surrender.  They should also be aware of the punitive tone expressed by the radicals at the time, including most of Lincoln’s cabinet.  Help students understand the mood of the country from 1865 to 1876.  What political issues had come to the national debate by this time?  What other issues faced the new president-elect?  What popular support would either elected president have?  How did the failure to receive a mandate affect President Hayes’ decisions in regard to the South, the economy, and the Indian question in the West?
  • What role does a First Lady play on the political arena?  How was Mrs. Hayes similar to other First Ladies?  How did she differ from more modern First Ladies such as Mrs. Clinton, Mrs. Barbara Bush, and Mrs. Laura Bush?
  • Tell students (or hand out the activity sheet) that they will have a paper to write, a round-table discussion, or a project to do based on the items on the activity sheet. (Feel free to add projects of you own). They may use the opportunity of the tour to decide on a topic.

Tour Procedure:

  • Students will be divided into groups, not to exceed four groups, after a brief welcome and introduction.  They will spend 45-60 minutes touring the museum/home with a docent.  Docents will explain events in the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Hayes as they point out correlating artifacts.  The emphasis of the tour will be Hayes’s military career, his political career and the achievements of his administration.


  • Ask students what they learned about the Hayes family from the tour.  What impressions do they have of the Hayes administration?  Do they think he was an effective president?  Why do they think he did not seek a second term?  Do they think his serving one term affected his place in history?
  • Ask students how the country changed from Hayes’ early years in Ohio to the end of the Hayes presidency in 1881.  What firsts occurred during the Hayes’ presidency?  How did the Hayeses respond to new ideas/inventions?  For example, electric lights were installed in the White House during the presidency of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President, but the Harrisons would not turn them on because they were afraid of them.  How do see this attitude in contrast with the Hayes family?
  • You may at this point refer to list of topics in the students’ handouts and make appropriate assignments.  You may also want to look at activities listed under the lesson plans for grades 7-8.