~ Sean Riley, Teaching Iowa History team
The trunk belonged to Karl Madsen who immigrated to the United States in 1891. His destination, Exira, Iowa, is seen on the trunk, though with a different spelling – “Exsaira” – and his first name is spelled with a “C”.
Madsen was born on April 20, 1861 in Haderslev, Denmark, in northern Jutland. He was the son of Mads and Karen Nielsen, and since his father's first name was Mads, Karl’s last name became "Madsen."
Family records show that Karl married Marie Jensen, also from Haderslev. For a time Karl lived and worked in Svendkløv planting trees. He, his wife, and children Lena, Peter, and Mary immigrated to America, settling first in Exira, Iowa and later in Gray, Iowa. In both places, Karl worked for the railroad. Later they rented farmland to the southwest of Audubon, known then as the "Roche" farm. It is unknown when Madsen died.
The students will be looking at immigration during the Gilded Age. Students will begin with a broad view of immigration by filling out a graphic organizer while looking at a prezi in groups. Afterwards, the lesson will get more specific and look at what life was like for an immigrant in Iowa. We will do this by looking at a trunk belonging to Karl Madsen. Students will learn about his life and then answer questions about the primary source. In addition, students will write a journal entry as if they are Karl Madsen describing his life as an immigrant.