An Interactive Lesson Guide

Use this guide in tandem with an Alamo history trunk to teach your students about 1830s life. History trunk contents are split into four stations with open-ended questions for students to answer about each category.

  1. Clothing
  2. Nourishment
  3. Tool
  4. Luxury Goods


A small selection of the contents of an Alamo history trunk.

In our modern world, we have easy access to pre-made clothing. Texas in the 1800s, however, was a very different place. Even if settlers had money to pay for clothes, they rarely had access to stores. In fact, clothing became so precious that it was often willed (given at death) to others. These circumstances led to a creative blend of homemade clothing that combined cultures, frontier style, and fashion.

Station Contents

  • Slouch hat
  • Fur hat
  • Brogans (shoes)
  • Bonnet
  • Belt
  • Sewing kit
  • Hunting frock
  • Fabric swatches
  • Apron


  • How is this clothing different from your clothing? How is it similar?
  • In the wild and rugged Texas terrain where clothing is not easily replaced, what features would you look for in clothing?
  • Every piece of clothing had a specific purpose – choose one of the pieces and decide what purpose it served.
  • What is the most important piece of clothing in the history trunk? Why?


Replica food-related objects from an Alamo history trunk.

In a time before grocery stores, Texas settlers had to be practical with food, and any food they had needed to be able to last a very long time (common meal items such as pork and corn were dried so they would last). Furthermore, any eating utensils had to be sturdy and/or made with readily available materials such as the bone handles of the fork and knife. Once again, Texians rose to the challenge and adapted to their environment.

Station contents

  • Chocolate
  • Green coffee
  • Dried bean
  • Roasted coffee
  • Meat
  • Parched corn
  • Piloncill
  • Skillet
  • Haversack
  • Brick tea
  • Wooden bowl
  • Tin plate
  • Gourd canteen
  • Horn cup
  • Tin cup
  • Utensils
  • Horn spoon


  • What do all of the food items have in common? Why do you think early Texans would have chosen these foods?
  • What are some of the materials used to create the eating utensils? Why do you believe those materials were used
  • What kind of meal could you create using the items in the trunk? Are any of the food items still in use today? If so, which food items?
  • What is the most important nourishment item in the history trunk? Why?


An assortment of replica 1830s tools.

Prosperity was not guaranteed in 1800s Texas, in fact, most Texians fought to survive. However, having the correct tools greatly increased your chances in the beautiful but harsh land. Merely having the tools was not enough – hunting, fire building, and shelter creating were necessary skills. Those who came to Texas unprepared soon learned why the land had long remained unsettled.

Station contents

  • Candle mold
  • Compass
  • Hand axe
  • Powder horn
  • Bullet block
  • Flint and steel
  • Candle
  • Hunting bag
  • Pot scrubber


  • List the items that could be used in hunting. Why was hunting so important in 1800s Texas?
  • Though the light of a candle may seem less important, imagine not having light without the sun. Why would you want to have a candle?
  • Most of the tools were multi-purpose. Choose one of the tools and list ways in which it could have been used.
  • What is the most important tool in the history trunk? Why?

Luxury Goods

A collection of replica luxury goods from the 1830s.

Perhaps the greatest difference between items owned in 1800s Texas and modern Texas are the luxury items. A simple toothbrush that is easily and cheaply obtained in our time would have been an indulgence for the Texas pioneers. The lack of supplies and stores led to the creation of entertainment items from available materials – such as metal dice shaped from bullets.

Station contents

  • Mirror
  • Bone toothbrush
  • Dice
  • Marbles
  • Coins
  • Playing cards
  • Corn husk doll
  • Lice comb


  • Why do you think these items are considered luxuries (not necessary to survival)? What are some luxury items in your life?
  • Why do you think money was a luxury item? How did the Texians get what they needed without money?
  • If you couldn’t buy toys at the store, what would you do to have fun?
  • What luxury item in the history trunk would you choose? Why?