AP US History Exam: Period 7 Notes (1890-1945)

Six Things to Know about AP US History Period 7

  1. The United States continued its transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy. In the 1920s, urban areas grew and employment opportunities were on the rise. However, the United States would soon plunge into the Great Depression.
  2. Progressives across the country responded to political and economic uncertainty; they called for greater government action regarding social issues such as women’s suffrage, the prohibition of alcohol, political corruption, and economic inequality.
  3. With new forms of mass media, modern culture was born in an era known as the “Roaring Twenties,” also dubbed the “Jazz Age.” Americans debated larger social issues such science, religion, gender roles, race, and immigration.
  4. Major changes in migration occurred, as Americans and migrants from Asia and Europe increasingly moved into urban areas. Nativist campaigns succeeded in convincing the government to pass quotas and restrictions on immigration. The “Great Migration” saw African Americans leave the racial violence and segregation of the South and move to the North, where they sought better economic opportunities.
  5. In an attempt to end the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt promoted his “New Deal” plan to assist the poor, provide employment, and revitalize a stalling, weak economy. Through the New Deal, Roosevelt helped define modern American liberalism and left a long-lasting legacy of political, social, and economic reform.
  6. America fought in three major wars during this period. The United States’ victory in the Spanish-American War resulted in increased overseas territory. After a period of relative peace, America entered World War I in 1917. The U.S. then entered a short-lived period of isolationism before World War II.


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.


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