Lesson Plan: The Penny Press

The Penny Press

Professor Tracy Lucht describes the purpose of these papers and how this business model emerged.


The 1830s saw a change in the newspaper business model. People began to experiment with publishing inexpensive newspapers that were filled with content that catered to the middle class. Their goal was to appeal to the masses, so they adopted a conversational style of writing and produced daily news stories that were entertaining and update-to-date. The Penny Press greatly impacted the world of newspapers and their effects can be seen today.


  • Step 1:

    Students can take notes on the accompanying handout to view the following videos. Then you can use the questions below to guide class discussion.

    Handout: The Penny Press (Google Doc)

    Video Clip 1: The Penny Press (3:26)

    Iowa State University Professor Tracy Lucht describes the purpose of these papers and how this business model emerged.

    1. How did the idea for creating the Penny Press emerge?

    2. Describe the characteristics that made these papers different as Tracy Lucht discusses.

    3. What was the goal of these types of papers?
  • Video Clip 2: The New York Sun and The New York Herald (5:20)

    Professor Tracy Lucht describes two of the first penny press papers that were established.

    1. Explain The New York Sun's motto It shines for all.

    2. Describe the circumstances in the country that allowed this form of media to emerge.

    3. What was the Great Moon Hoax?

    4. What issues did the papers report on?

    5. Explain the contributions that James Gordon Bennett made to the press and still exist today.
  • Step 3:

    Culminating Activity

    Create a classroom Penny Press. As a class, brainstorm ideas for stories that would appeal to students throughout the school. Students can select a topic that interests them and develop a story to publish in the classroom paper. Students can publish a print paper or submit their stories and/or videos to a classroom site online.

Additional Resources


  • Enfranchisement
  • Horace Greeley
  • Press Corps
  • Sensationalize
  • Urban Population
  • Venfor


English & LiteratureMediaU.S. History


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