AP US History : Work, Exchange, and Technology 1849–1900

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP US History

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Work, Exchange, And Technology 1849–1900

"The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master. The West and South are bound and prostrate before the manufacturing East..The [political] parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us. We were told two years ago to go to work and raise a big crop, that was all we needed...and what came of it? Eight-cent corn, ten-cent oats, two-cent beef and no price at all for butter and eggs...We want money, land and transportation. We want the abolition of the National Banks, and we want the power to make loans direct from the government. We want the foreclosure system wiped out..."

- Mary E. Lease, lawyer, in an 1890 speech

Which of the following best explains the cause of some of the farmers' problems listed here?

Possible Answers:

Industrialization and mechanization

Racism and the sharecropping system

The Dust Bowl

Conservationism and protection of environmental resources

Union organization

Correct answer:

Industrialization and mechanization


Overproduction due to large numbers of new farmers in the West and the mechanization of agriculture lay at the heart of the farmers' problems and the rise of industrial powers blunted their political voice.

Example Question #4 : 1849–1900

The years following the Civil War were times of change in American society and economy. Factories that were built to help supply the Union Army, were converted to peacetime use. Industrialization soon surpassed agriculture as America’s economic core. New technology developed during this time and contributed to the doubling of America’s economy. Industry was controlled by a few individuals holding top level positions and earning vast fortunes. This time in America’s history is called the Gilded Age. The name comes from the title of a novel written by Mark Twain. It refers to the massive fortunes amassed by businessmen and the wealthy lifestyle it supported. The leaders of this new economy were labelled “Captains of Industry,” “Moguls,” and “Robber Barons” because there were few laws at the time to regulate industry and the manner in which these industrialists earned and used their capital. These nicknames accurately represented the harsh, unethical, and exploitative practices of these industrialists. The sky was the limit for these individuals who were ruthless in their business dealings.

What was the reason for the ruthless business tactics of the “Robber Barons”?

Possible Answers:

To meet the demand of international trade, businessmen had to be strong.

Competition was fierce to produce the best product inexpensively priced.

The belief that a healthy business community was the best path to an egalitarian society.

 The retail businesses were demanding a share of the profits of the industrial goods they sold.

Labor unions were forming and there was a need to be a strong businessman to survive union demands.

Correct answer:

Competition was fierce to produce the best product inexpensively priced.


Competition among industries was fierce. Industry and the county were growing rapidly. New inventions were developing that made it easier and faster to produce new goods for the public. The demand for these new goods and the growth of the railroad and oil industries meant that many of these individuals were competing within the same fields. In their minds, it was necessary to take risks and act ruthlessly to maintain their position in industry and society as well as to maintain their wealthy lifestyles. Aside from pure unadulterated greed, this competition inspired the unethical tactics of American Robber Barons, a tradition that continues to this day in the American business community.

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