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From ABC-CLIO's History Hub website
Time Period Overview for Guide your students through one of America's most innovative and tumultuous eras with this collection of activities, discussion questions, and teaching tips.

Time Period Key Understandings

  • Opportunities have been extended to certain groups of Americans while denied to other groups.
  • Social and economic changes due to technological advancement can have positive and negative effects.
  • Wealth can be used to influence people and politics in positive and negative ways.
  • Immigrants' decisions to leave their homeland are based on push and pull factors.
  • Organizations and people can advocate for and obtain social change.

Key Questions

Homestead Act

  • What was the Homestead Act? How did it impact Native Americans?
  • Who were the Exodusters? How were their experiences different than those of white settlers?
  • What challenges and opportunities did the various groups of people face during westward expansion?

The Era of the Cowboy

  • Summarize the development of the cattle industry in the West. How did the rise of the cattle industry give way to cowboy life?
  • Describe the life of a typical cowboy. What challenges and opportunities did cowboys encounter? To what extent are romanticized versions of the cowboy's life accurate?
  • Identify the four major factors that led to an end to the golden age of the cowboy. Evaluate the factors; which one do you think had the biggest impact on the end of the cowboy profession?

Federal Policies and Native Americans

  • What were some of the factors that encouraged white settlers to move west? How did Native Americans respond to the increase in white settlers in the West?
  • Who were the buffalo soldiers and what was their role in western settlement?
  • Explain what happened at the Wounded Knee Massacre. How did this event affect Native American resistance to white settlers?
  • What was the Dawes Act? How did the act lead to a further breakdown of Native American life?


  • What was the Bessemer process? How did the increased production of steal affect transportation and travel in the United States?
  • What types of technology changed how people worked in factories and farms? How did new technology during this era affect the way people communicate?
  • How did advancements in technology and industry lead to urban life? Evaluate the effects of industrialization on cities; were the effects mostly positive or negative?

Business of America

  • What two terms were used to describe businessmen in the late 1800s? Explain the difference between their meaning and how the terms should be used.
  • What are monopolies and trusts? Evaluate the pros and cons of these practices. How were they beneficial to business owners? How were they harmful to consumers?
  • How did the business ideology of laissez-faire and Social Darwinism influence the way in which business was conducted in the 19th century?

Age of Railroads

  • Explain the controversial practices of both the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific when building the railroad. What justifications did railroad owners have for these practices? How and why did bankers step in to resolve the situation?
  • What ethnic groups participated in the construction of the railroad? Describe what life was like for those who worked on the railroad.
  • How were Chinese railroad workers discriminated against? Why were railroad officials unable to find African Americans to replace the Chinese laborers? Why do you think railroad officials were successful in ending Chinese resistance?

The Promised Land

  • Define push and pull factors. What are some example of push and pull factors?
  • What is nativism? How did nativism affect the way immigrants were treated?
  • Compare and contrast Ellis Island and Angel Island. How were they similar and how were they different?

Shame of the Cities

  • How did immigrants shape major urban centers during this time period?
  • What was tenement housing? Describe the conditions of tenement housing.
  • Evaluate urban life during this time. How did cities present both challenges and opportunities to immigrants?

Machine Politics and Bossism

  • What is a political machine and how does it function?
  • What was Tammany Hall? What types of services did Tammany Hall provide to its club members?
  • The chief of Tammany Hall claimed his machine was supported by honest, not dishonest, graft. What is graft? In your opinion, was Tammany Hall mostly honest or dishonest in its efforts to support Irish immigrants?



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Entry ID: 2143617