Unit 6 in the APUSH Exam

This time period extends from 1865 to 1898 and counts for 13% of recommended instructional content for an AP class.


Technological advances, large-scale production methods, and the opening of new markets encouraged the rise of industrial capitalism in the United States.


The migrations that accompanied industrialization transformed both urban and rural areas of the United States and caused dramatic social and cultural change.


The Gilded Age produced new cultural and intellectual movements, public reform efforts, and political debates over economic and social policies.


AP U.S. History Period 6 covers from the end of the Civil War to the Spanish American War of 1898. It focuses on issues in the post-war United States that were not addressed in the discussion of the Civil War and Reconstruction in Unit 5.

During this period, the United States experienced an economic boom known as the Second Industrial Revolution. Just like in the First Industrial Revolution, technological innovation and the availability of cheap labor meant that consumer goods could be produced very quickly. Railroads, electricity, and skyscrapers all came into fruition in the post-war years.

While the rich became richer through their ownership of factories, the poor became poorer. The business leaders, often called “Robber Barons”, concentrated their wealth at the expense of their workers. Workers soon began to organize into unions to demand higher wages and better working conditions.

“The one moral, the one remedy for every evil, social, political, financial, and industrial, the one immediate vital need of the entire Republic, is the Pacific Railroad.”

—Rocky Mountain News, 1866 

Society in the United States was also getting more diverse. New immigrant groups from southern and eastern Europe started to immigrate to the states in large numbers. This represented a change from the primarily western European immigrants of the previous generation. Some of these immigrant groups developed distinct ethnic enclaves, such as Chinatown in San Francisco.

Americans also continued to push westward, this time using the Transcontinental Railroad to more quickly travel to the frontier. The railroad, and western expansion more generally, led to increased conflict with American Indians. The federal government frequently violated its treaties with American Indian populations. During this time period, the government also began forcibly relocating American Indians onto reservations.

Map of the United States of America illustrating the trail of tears.

This was a time of great social conflict. Mark Twain called this period of time “The Gilded Age” because it looked good, but was less beautiful when examined closely. People began to apply Charles Darwin’s ideas of “survival of the fittest” to humans in order to argue that the rich and the poor deserved their lots in life. This approach hid, or “gilded,” the reality that many social groups, such as women and African-Americans, led very difficult lives. Reformers like Jane Addams argued that women and immigrants should be supported in their lives. Andrew Carnegie supported a similar view by advocating for the “Gospel of Wealth.”


1867 Secretary of State William Seward arranges for the United States to purchase Alaska from the Russians.

1869 Transcontinental railroad completed.

1872 Yellowstone National Park was established.

1876 The Battle of Little Bighorn. General Custer and more than 200 of his soldiers die.

1882 The federal government enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act.

1886 The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was formed to organize skilled workers.

1892 Ellis Island opened.

1896 The Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson implemented the idea of segregation and “separate, but equal” accommodations.


Second Industrial Revolution  A movement toward manufacturing, especially in the North, that transformed the United States from an agricultural economy to an urban economy.

Robber Barons A term applied to business leaders who were considered corrupt in some way.

Union  A collective bargaining unit that helped urban dwellers and factory workers improve their working conditions, pay, and retirement.

Reservations  An area of land, often quite agriculturally poor, where Native Americans were required to live.

The Gilded Age  A term that describes how many aspects of this time appeared beautiful, but were flawed after closer inspection.

The best way to get better at something is by practicing.

That’s why it’s so important that you take practice tests to help you get better at the AP U.S. History Exam. Only then can you expect to get a good score—and even improve your score.

Download your free AP® U.S. History practice test HERE.

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