Key Topics–Period 7: 1890 to 1945
Remember that the AP US History exam tests you on the depth of your knowledge, not just your ability to recall facts. While we have provided brief definitions here, you will need to know these terms in even more depth for the AP US History exam, including how terms connect to broader historical themes and understandings.
The “Forgettable” Administrations
- Rutherford B. Hayes: Nineteenth President. Served 1877–1881. While a Civil War veteran and a Republican, he ended Reconstruction as part of the Compromise of 1877 to resolve the disputed 1876 election. Enacted modest civil service reform. Ordered federal troops in to break up the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. Pledged not to run for reelection and returned to Ohio.
- James Garfield: Twentieth President. Served from March 4, 1991 until his death on September 19, 1881. He was shot on July 2, 1881, but unsanitary medical treatment caused a fatal infection to take root. Otherwise unnotable. See: Chester A. Arthur.
- Chester A. Arthur: Twenty-first President. Served 1881–1885, but only assumed office after President Garfield’s assassination. Mainly remembered for the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, which encouraged a merit-based system for the civil service. Declined to run for reelection in 1884 due to poor health. He died in November 1886 from a cerebral hemorrhage.
- Spoils system: A form of political corruption where a political parties rewards its supporters with favors, often posts to public office. See: political machine, Pendleton Civil Service Act.
- Gilded Age: A period from the 1870s to 1900. While marked by massive economic growth due to industrialization, it also led to equally massive economic inequality. Backlash to this period manifested in the reforms of the Progressive Era. See: robber barons.
- Political machines: An authoritarian or oligarchical political organization that commands political influence, voting blocs, and corporate influence in such a way that they can decide (or strongly influence) the outcome of elections. Often corrupt and prone to political patronage. Usually active at the city level, but sometimes extends statewide. A target of reform during the Gilded Age. See: direct primaries, Pendleton Civil Service Act, spoils system, Tammany Hall.
- Stalwarts: A term for a faction of the Republican Party that supported the party patronage (spoils) system during the Gilded Age.
- Halfbreeds: A term for a faction of the Republican Party opposed to the party patronage (spoils) system during the Gilded Age.
- Mugwumps: A term for a faction of the Republican Party neutral in regards to party patronage (spoils) system during the Gilded Age, but who still advocated modest reform of it.
- Grover Cleveland: Twenty-second and twenty-fourth President. Only president to serve non-consecutive terms, in 1885–1889 and 1893–1897. The first Democratic Party president since before the Civil War. Supported the gold standard. His second term was defined by the Panic of 1983, which caused a severe depression. Sent federal troops in to break up the Pullman Strike. His resolution of the Venezuelan crisis of 1895 began the reconciliation between the United States and British Empire.
- Pendleton Civil Service Act of 1881: A reform which encouraged a merit-based system for the civil service over the then-predominant party patronage (spoils) system. See: Chester A. Arthur.