Review: The History Of The Oregon Trail and the Pony Express DVD

Marshall Publishing is a company that provides award winning fun media resources, their goal is to provide lots of media-fun for everyone using DVD’s, CD’s, Books, CD-Roms, and broadcast/internet programing. Their award winning series includes the Lots and Lots of Trains, and Lots and Lots of Fire Trucks. They aim to provide quality videos you watch today but remember a lifetime.

The Schoolhouse Review Crew was provided with 4 different videos from Marshall Publishing, we were provided with a copy of The History Of The Oregon Trail and The Pony Express DVD to use. The DVD contains over 50 minutes of beautiful videos real life video, it contains both The History Of The Oregon Trail and The Pony Express and provides a full account into the history of both events in American history.

The History Of The Oregon Trail
The video is split into 2 separate videos, the first is The History Of The Oregon Trail and it is aproximately 35 minutes long, it provides a detailed account of the History of America’s longest, and most famous trail. The Oregon trail was around for 50-60 years and during that time 300,000 emigrants traveled the trail, 90% of them made it to their destination!

Through The History of The Oregon Trail, they show detailed maps of the routes traveled stopping at many of the major stops along the way. While at each of the stops you get a real in depth look at what the travelers would find and feel at each stop with journal entries shared explaining how some of the members were felt, the people they encountered at each of the stops, and a detailed look at the landscape they would encounter! They also offer an in depth look at how leaders were chosen, the animals they used to travel the journey, the steamboats used to start their journey, the wagons and equipment used by the travelers and so much more.

They all generally traveled along the same 2,000 mile path starting their journey as soon as grass was tall enough for their animals to graze. Their daily routines would include waking at 4:00 AM, the women preparing breakfast while the men gathered the animals and tents, they would then travel for 20 miles each day. Through their daily travels even though they were faced by many problems, and some of the travelers did not make it, they show some of the graves that were made along the way and also showed how the wagon members came together through such tragedies.

This video is really a virtual field trip of the Oregon Trail, it gets in depth and follows the full journey from the beginning to the end, giving you details about all the triumphs of the journey along with all the trials. They show you real landscape of the major sites along the way so you can really see what the landscape looked like, they also explain what the people did while stopped at each of these major stops so you can get a detailed look at the life along the Oregon Trail. During some of their stops they encountered some interesting things, some of which include digging 18 inches into the ground to find ice then melting it and being able to fill kegs with it and having the joy of ice water for the hot day, another they were able to use spring water to stop and get their dirty laundry clean which didn’t happen much along the trail.

The Pony Express
The Pony Express portion of the DVD is aproximately 16 minutes long. Did you know that the Pony Express lasted only 19 short months? I didn’t… Shortly after the Gold Rush of 1849 many people had moved to California and started demanding a mail service to link them with the rest of the country. The previous mail service was slow, irregular, expensive, and the letters would take months to get  through the mail system. Boats would sink, wagons would tip into rivers, and indians would raid wagons along the way often making letters never get to their destinations.

3 business men who had lots of experience from shipping goods across America and had monopolized military trade west of the Missouri River, decided to purchase 500 horses and put together the Pony Express in hopes to help fix the problem thats these American’s were facing. The Pony Express started in St.Joseph Missouri, and ended in Sacramento, California, it contained 150 stations along the way, there were stations every 10-15 miles where riders could stop for 2 minutes to change horses, and their ride was 50-70 miles long before new rider would take over. When the first riders made it in only 10 days American’s were overjoyed compared to the 6 months it would take before! The Pony express faced many challenges through the 19 months it ran, help finally came from the major contract with the government but still was enough to keep the company from ending, with the telegraph being used all around America the need of fast mail delivery became obsolete.

This DVD takes you along the entire journey of from start to finish on of the Pony express. Students will get a look into the lives of the 3 men who started the Pony Express, they will follow the whole journey and get an in depth experience of the life of the Pony Express. You will see actual equipment used by Pony Express riders, beautiful landscape,  actual newspaper documents, a look as to what the Pony Express riders had against them and so much more. Your students will finish this video with a complete understanding of the Pony Express, and the events surrounding it as well.

Study Guide:
Subject Areas Covered: U.S. History, U.S. Geography
Grade Level: 4th through Adult

The website contains a study guide to go along with the videos it is a great way to really complete the study of The Oregon Trail and Pony Express. The study guide contains suggestions to do with your students before the video which had the kids mark a path from Missouri to Oregon and how they think they would get there, role playing an 1841 family (which was quite hilarious to watch) and a couple other activities to really get your kids prepared for the video. Following the video the kids were able to compare the path they chose before the video to the actual path that was taken,

One of the extensions we really enjoyed from the study guide was where each of the kids chose a landmark that was mentioned in the video that was found along the Oregon Trail path and they were to write a journal entry which was to include the weather, travel conditions, hardships, feelings, games, social activities, rumors and gossip I had each of the kids research more in depth into each of these landmarks and then tell everone about it at dinner.  Serena choose Laramey Peek, Dustin choose Devil’s Gate, Cody choose Split Rock, and Anthony choose Chimney Rock.

To finish off the lesson there are some research questions that you can use to help your child dig in even further, we used these with Serena and Dustin to make it a very through study of both the Oregon Trail and The Pony Express for older students as well.

I feel that The History of The Oregon Trail / The Pony Express DVD is a wonderful resource that I would recommend to anyone teaching the history of The Pony Express or The Oregon Trail. The detailed videos will give your students all full account of every aspect need to know about and show real landscape and accounts along the way, all while making history enticing for students we watched both videos a few times since we have started the unit! My children enjoyed both of the videos and were able to answer many of the questions asked using the study guide on the website, when most of them knew very little about either events in American history. I think that this video along with the Study Guide and a few discussions about the videos and events would give a very complete study of The Oregon Trail and The Pony Express. I do feel that if someone were to just watch the videos and not do any of the enrichment questions or activities on the website that you would not have the same success with the children getting a complete understanding of the events in history!
What is the cost of the DVD?

Where Can I connect with Marshall Publishing?
You Tube ChannelStop over and see what fellow Crew members had to say about Marshall Publishing, the crew reviewed a few different videos from Marshall Publishing as well!

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Disclosure: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I was provided with The Oregon Trail & The Pony Express DVD at no cost to me, in return for my honest review of the product. All opinions are the honest opinions of my children or myself.

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