APUSH Period 6: The Gilded Age (1865-1898)

5 min readjanuary 2, 2021

AP US History 🇺🇸

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In AP® US History, period 6 spans from 1865 to 1898 CE. The following guide will be updated periodically with hyperlinks to excellent resources. As you are reviewing for the Gilded Age, focus on the key concepts and use the essential questions to guide you.


STUDY TIP: You will never be asked specifically to identify a date. However, knowing the order of events will help immensely with cause and effect. For this reason, we have identified the most important dates to know.
1876 - Little Bighorn
1886 -  Haymarket Square Riot
1887 - Dawes Act
1887 - Interstate Commerce
1890 - Wounded Knee
1890 - Sherman Antitrust Act
1894 - Pullman Strike
1896 - “Cross of Gold” speech
1896 - Plessy v. Ferguson


STUDY TIP: Use the following essential questions to guide your review of this entire unit. Keep in mind, these are not meant to be practice essay questions. Each question was written to help you summarize the key concept.
  1. How did industrial capitalism affect US business and politics?
  2. What were the motives and consequences of 19th century migrations?
  3. In what ways were social norms challenged during the Gilded Age?

Past Essay Questions from Period 6

STUDY TIP: Content from the Gilded Age has appeared on the essays twelve times since 2000. Take a look at these questions before you review the key concepts & vocabulary below to get a sense of how you will be assessed. Then, come back to these later and practice writing as many as you can!
*The APUSH exam was significantly revised in 2015, so any questions from before then are not representative of the current exam format. You can still use prior questions to practice, however DBQs will have more than 7 documents, the LEQ prompts are worded differently, and the rubrics are completely different. Use questions from 2002-2014 with caution. Essays from 1973-1999 available here.


*The following outline was adapted from the AP® United States History Course Description as published by College Board in 2017 found here. This outline reflects the most recent revisions to the course.

6.1. Rise of Industrial Capitalism

  1. Industrialization led to massive economic development.
    1. New transportation and communication systems opened new markets.
    2. Technological innovations dramatically increased the production of goods.
    3. Wages increased and prices decreased, which improved standards of living.
    4. Businesses increased profits by consolidating power, which concentrated wealth.
    5. The US expanded markets by gaining influence and control in Asia and Latin America.
    6. The South saw New South reforms lead to some industrialization in what was previously farmland
  2. Financial downturns sparked new perspectives on the economy.
    1. Some opposed government intervention in support of laissez-faire policies.
    2. The work force expanded because of migrations.
    3. Laborers formed unions and battled management on wages and conditions.
      1. ✊ Study Guide - Labor in the Gilded Age
    4. The South continued to rely on agricultural industries.
  3. Farmers responded to new systems of production and transportation.
    1. Industrialization increased production and substantially decreased food prices.
    2. Farmers created local and regional cooperatives.
    3. Populism gained momentum to fight economic instability.

6.2. Migrations

  1. Urban populations increased because of international and internal migrations.
    1. Cities attracted immigrants from Asia, south and eastern Europe, and African Americans from the south as they escaped oppression and sought opportunities.
      1. ⛴ Study Guide - Migration and Immigration and Responses to Immigration
    2. Ethnic neighborhoods formed in cities.
    3. Immigrants had to assimilate to American culture, while preserving traditions.
    4. Political machines powered cities by providing the poor with social services.
    5. The middle class continued to grow as access to education increased, which expanded consumer culture.
      1. 💰 Study Guide - The Growth of the Middle Class
  2. Many people moved west in search of land and opportunity, provoking conflict.
    1. Study Guides - Economic Impacts and Societal Impacts of Western Migration
    2. The transcontinental railroads created new communities and centers of activity.
    3. Motivated by ideals of self-sufficiency, migrants moved west building railroads, mining, farming, and ranching.
    4. Increased migrations decimated the bison population, which increased competition for land and resources between white settlers, Natives, and Mexican-Americans.
    5. In response to migrations, the US government violated treaties with Native Americans and then resorted to military force, confining Natives to reservations.
    6. American Indians attempted to preserve tradition, despite oppression.

6.3. The Gilded Age

  1. Social norms were challenged by new intellectual movements.
    1. Theories of social darwinism were used to justify racial hierarchies.
    2. Some business leaders advocated philanthropy through the Gospel of Wealth.
    3. Alternative economic theories spread including utopian, socialist, and communist.
  2. Social changes inspired debates over the relationship between business and government.
    1. Political parties sparred over tariffs and currency issues as reformers argued that greed had corrupted government.
      1. Study Guide - Gilded Age Politics
    2. Women fought for more equality with men through social and political reforms.
      1. Study Guide - Gilded Age Reform
    3. Racial segregation was upheld in the courts through Plessy v. Ferguson. Increased violence against black communities sparked debates about race and reform.


STUDY TIP: These are the concepts and vocabulary from period 6 that most commonly appear on the exam. Create a quizlet deck to make sure you are familiar with these terms!
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • American Federation of Labor
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • assimilationists
  • Bessemer Process
  • Booker T. Washington
  • boomtown
  • Chief Joseph
  • Chinese Exclusion Act
  • Civil Rights Cases of 1883
  • civil service reform
  • Commerce Act
  • conservationists
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt
  • Dawes Act
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • Ellis Island
  • ethnic enclaves
  • Eugene Debs
  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Frederick Jackson Turner
  • Ghost Dance
  • Gilded Age
  • Gospel of Wealth
  • Haymarket Strike
  • Horatio Alger
  • horizontal consolidation
  • Hull House
  • Ida B. Wells
  • impressionism
  • Interstate Commerce Act
  • Jane Addams
  • jazz
  • Jim Crow Law
  • John Muir
  • John Rockefeller
  • Joseph Pulitzer
  • JP Morgan
  • Knights of Labor
  • labor unions
  • laissez faire
  • Land-Grant Colleges
  • Las Gorras Blanca
  • lynching
  • Mark Twain
  • Mother Jones
  • Munn v. Illinois
  • New South
  • Ocala Platform
  • Pendleton Act
  • political machine
  • Populist Party
  • preservationists
  • Protestant work ethic
  • public high school
  • Pullman Strike
  • Queen Liliuokalani
  • railroad strike of 1877
  • realism
  • referendum
  • refrigeration
  • Salvation Army
  • Samuel Gompers
  • Second Industrial Revolution
  • Sherman Antitrust Act
  • social darwinism
  • socialism
  • Solid South
  • spectator sports
  • stalwart
  • survival of the fittest
  • Tammany Hall
  • temperance
  • tenant farming
  • tenements
  • The Grange
  • transcontinental railroads
  • trust
  • Tuskegee Institute
  • vertical integration
  • W.E.B. DuBois
  • Wabash v. Illinois
  • white supremacy
  • William Hearst
  • William Jennings Bryan
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