History AS Level Revision


Background to America in 1890

  • In 1787 the Republican Democracy was established
  • By 1890 the political system was 100 years old
  • Some parts of the constitution may seem outdated today e.g. the right to bare arms
  • In the 1860s the balance of power shifted towards the North because they had won the civil war.
  • Abraham Lincoln was a Republican
  • In 1890 it was declared there was now no American frontier (boundary); there was no part that was not inhabited by white Europeans.
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Election of 1888

  • The Federal government of the 1880s was better at winning elections than actually governing; it was more concerned with maintaining political elites than dealing with the problems of the nation. This policy was known as 'Laissez-Faire'.
  • Grover Cleveland was the current Democratic president in 1888, he had challenged powerful interests by calling for cuts in tariffs and veteran's pensions.
  • By 1888, Big Business decided that Cleveland had to go, they raised $4 million to buy advertising and votes.
  • Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison who's nickname was the 'Human Iceberg'.
  • He raised tariffs to an all time high; driving small businesses and farmers out of business.
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Political parties and movements 1890-1920

  • The Republicans reformed as an anti-slavery movement in 1854. After 1865 they moved away from their liberal traditions and came to represent more conservatives and big business.
  • The Democrats became more associated with smaller interests like farmers, shopkeepers, workers and their unions.
  • Both parties were loose coalitions that contained many elements.
  • In 1890, both parties were in the middle of huge changes.

The Democratic Party:

  •  Claims to be the oldest party. going back to Thomas Jefferson. 
  • Voted for by the Solid South, border states like Ohio and big Northern cities.
  • They lost the presidency between 1860-1884, however the elections were closer than they appeared as 'swing-states' like Conneticut, New York and New Jersey could go either way.
  • Women would be more likely to support them but were not allowed to vote at this stage

The Republican Party:

  • Increasingly linked with wealth in the 1880s and 90s.
  • In 1900, McKinley won with Theodore Roosevelt. McKinley was assassinated in 1901 and Teddy became President.
  • Teddy was a reformer who introduced anti-trust laws but he was too progressive for some members of his party. 
  • He easily won in 1904 but lost the 1912 election for the Republicans because he split the party.

Other Political Movements:

  • Very few movements became real parties but they did influence the two main parties.


  • Developed trade unions and campaigned for labour rights but never became their own party.
  • Its leader Eugene Debbs ran for President 5 times between 1904-1920 but never recieved more than 6%.
  • Eventually the unions turned to the Democrats.


  • It was anti-urban, anti-big business, anti-federal power, and pro-state control
  • They opposed the East Coast Elites.
  • They also wanted more silver money
  • They were absorbed into the Democratic party and initially used racism to gain votes
  • By 1908, they had virtually disappeared.


  • Very influential between 1890-1920 i.e. Teddy Roosevelt
  • One leader was La Follette who campaigned against big business
  • They believed in strong government and social justice but not as far as socialism.
  • They also wanted women's suffrage, elections for senators and environmental conservation
  • Wilson used many progressive ideas whilst he was president.
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Eugene Debs Factfile

  • He was an American union leader
  • He was one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World but he split from the union in 1908
  • In the early part of his political career, Debs was a member of the Democratic Party.
  • He worked with several smaller unions
  • He was part of the finding of the American Railway Union (ARU); they struck the Pullman Palace Car company over cuts; President Grover Cleveland used the army to break the strike.
  • Debs was later imprisoned for failing to obey an injunction against the strike
  • Debs educated himself about Socialism in prison and emerged to launch his career as the nation's most prominent socialist in the first decades of the 20th Century.
  • He ran for president 5 times in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1920
  • He was strongly opposed to World War One; he did a speech denouncing American participation in the world and was sent to prison again.
  • He was very big on protecting workers rights.
  • He died in 1926.
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William Jennings Bryan Factfile

  • Democrat
  • Liberal wing 
  • Ran for president 3 times in 1896, 1900 and 1908
  • Leader of the Silverite Movement (1890s)
  • "The Great Commoner"
  • He was a prohibitionist and a peace advocat
  • He invented the National Stumping Tour in which candidates visit the swing-states
  • He promoted free silver (1896)
  • He promoted anti-imperialism in 1900 and was promoted trust busting in 1908
  • He was the Secretary of State in 1913 under President Woodrow Wilson
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William McKinley Factfile

  • 25th President
  • He was a Republican
  • Mark Hanna invested $100,000 of his own money into ensuring that McKinely won the 1896 election, beating William Jennings Bryan
  • He was re-elected in 1900 with Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate
  • He was assassinated in 1901
  • He served in the American Civil War in 1861
  • He was elected into Congress in 1876
  • He was the Republican's expert on the Protective Tariff
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Benjamin Harrison Factfile

  • 23rd President
  • Nicknamed the 'Human Iceberg'
  • Focused on the military
  • Republican
  • First president to have their voice recorded
  • Lost the 1893 election to Grover Cleveland
  • Won the 1889 election 
  • Supporter of big business
  • Supported the Sherman Anti-Trust Act 1889 which prevented price fixing and broke up monopolies to ensure genuine competition.
  • He supported protectionism and helped shape foreign policy
  • He signed bills for naval expansion and subsidies for steamship lines
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Grover Cleveland Factfile

  • Democrat
  • President for second term in 1893
  • Anti-Imperialist
  • President before Harrison
  • Pro-free trade
  • Hostile to big business
  • Reduced tariffs
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Harry S. Truman Factfile

  • Inexperienced when he came to be president following the death of Frankling D. Roosevelt
  • Was president during the atom bomb and during America's rise to being a superpower
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Theodore Roosevelt

  • Republican
  • 'Progressive President'
  • William McKinley's running mate
  • Fought in the Spanish-American War
  • Wanted the USA to get involved in foreign affairs
  • Conservationist - preserved National Parks
  • Created the Panama Canal
  • Imperialist
  • Believed that the USA had a special mission
  • Used trust-busting
  • Introduced the Food and Drug Act
  • President from 1901-1908
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William Howard Taft Factfile

  • Progressive President but was the least successful
  • Republican
  • Worked as a lawyer and a judge
  • Continued Roosevelt's anti-trust policies
  • There were scandals in office during his term as president
  • He was chosen by Teddy Roosevelt to become president
  • He regualted work hours and pay
  • He was better as busting trusts than Roosevelt
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Woodrow Wilson Factfile

  • Progressive President
  • Democrat
  • Introduced the Underwood Tariff
  • 'New Frontier'
  • Created the Federal Reserve Board
  • Tried to veto prohibition
  • Won the election because Teddy Roosevelt had split the Republican party
  • Introduced his 14 points 
  • Wanted to join the League of Nations
  • Introduced the Banking reform
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Warren Harding Factfile

  • Introduced his policy of 'Normalcy' after WWI
  • Took over from Wilson
  • Elected President in 1920
  • Republican
  • Kept drinking during prohibition
  • Supported big business
  • Introduced high tariffs and low taxes
  • Known as a 'backslapper'
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Calvin Coolidge Factfile

  • 'America's business is business'
  • President in 1923
  • Supported Big Business
  • Republican
  • Supporting trade
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Herbert Hoover Factfile

  • Republican
  • 31st President
  • First of two presidents to redistribute his salary to charity
  • Quaker
  • Believed in a balanced budget
  • President during the Wall Street Crash
  • Introduced the Hawley-Smoot Tariff
  • Introduced new public workers including the Hoover Dam
  • Increased corporate taxes
  • Believed in indiviualism
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Franklin Delano Roosevelt Factfile

  • Suffered from Polio
  • Ended Prohibition
  • Introduced the New Deal and the Second New Deal
  • President during the development of the atom bomb
  • Declared war on Japan
  • Democrat
  • Elected in 1932 and was president for 4 terms until 1945
  • First president to do fireside chats
  • President during the Manhattan Project
  • Had a balanced budget until WW2
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Why did people come to America?

Push Factors:

  • Crop failure/famine
  • Lack of religious freedom
  • Low wages
  • Political upheaval
  • Over-population
  • Lack of land
  • War or violence
  • High taxes
  • Military service

Pull factors:

  • Gold and silver discovered
  • Abundance of land
  • Political freedom

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Why did mass immigration benefit the US economy?

  • There were huge increases in man power and markets
  • The labour force was always growing and the construction industry was booming
  • Earlier generations of immigrants transformed the American society and helped build the trans-continental railways
  • Immigrants brought new ideas and inventions
  • The expansion of the American economy was marked by the rise of big business and the emergence of huge industrial companies
  • There were rapid expansions in banking and finance
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  • Many immigrants tended to huddle together in their own communities, for example every city had its own 'Little Italy'
  • The increase in immigration brought tension, usually religious, the earlier settlers had been Protestant but later ones were Catholics or Jews
  • Political power lay with the WASPs.
  • Tammany Hall is an example of communities promoting their own interests. They were Irish Catholics who welcomed new immigrants and influenced what went on in New York
  • There was a pressure put on the government by the progressives and others to restrict immigration. 
  • Prohibition was one issue which showed divisions between the immigrants
  • Divisions were also caused by race; 2 million African-Americans migrated North between 1900-1910, they were met with hostility
  • The Anti-Immigration movement had different agendas, unions didn't like it because it kept wages down, small town Americans were worried about religious values.
  • It was a big issue in the 1912 election but none of the three contenders would agree to immigration control
  • One of the reasons why the USA did not joing WWI until 1917 was fear of unrest from German citizens. During the war fear about immigrant loyalty grew and by the end of the war most people wanted stricter control.
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Why did the impact of immigration lead to social a

  • The trade unions, which were mostly made up of immigrants or sons of immigrants, were opposed to mass immigration because it kept pay levels low
  • When the war broke out, America resisted joining due to mass immigration because they were worried about upsetting the German immigrants and sparking an uprising. This led to the government putting strict limits on inward immigration
  • Even though there was widespread support for restrictions for inward immigration, it didn't have much effect because of all three main candidates; Wilson, Taft and Roosevelt didn't want to set quotas to control immigration
  • There were many instances of anti-Catholic prejudices that held back the political aspirations of immigrant communities
  • There were tensions between the earlier White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) and later immigrants who tended to be more Catholic and Jewish
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What were the key features of America's industrial

  • The Blast Furnace was developed by Andrew Carnegie which made steel production cheaper and quicker; this allowed it to be mass produced to make rail lines, bridges, rail engines and carriages, vehicles, ships, oil refineries and building structures.
  • Agriculture, construction, mining, and manufacturing grew
  • Population growth
  • The discovery of oil fields
  • New technology
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Why did big business flourish in the USA?

  • High population (immigration)
  • Natural resources
  • Improved transport (railways)
  • Beginnings of a banking culture
  • High tariffs (supports big business)
  • New technology
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Positive and negative effects of big business

Positive effects:

  • Mass production
  • They were able to stabilise the markets for the products of staple industries

Negative effects:

  • Laissez-Faire view of the government
  • Small farms and businessmen were charged more to use railways
  • Vertical integration - one set high price (no competitive pricing)
  • Monopolies fixed prices
  • Small-scale businessmen felt threatened by their richer competition and the deals they could make with their suppliers
  • 'Robber barons' (how the owners of big business were percieved) only care about the money
  • Big business moved to less restrictive states when the state started passing law
  • High tariffs
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Who were the influential figures behind big busine

Henry Ford:

  • Ford came up with the idea for the assembly line
  • Made a car every 97 minutes
  • "You can have any colour you want as long as it's black"
  • Created the Model T
  • Low wages for his workers kept his prices down

Andrew Carnegie:

  • "A man who dies rich dies disgraced"
  • Built libraries, concert halls etc.
  • Developed the blast furnace
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What happened in the Depression of 1893?

  • The railroad business had taken off in the 1880s and thousands had been invested. However people began to sell their shares quickly when they heard that they were failing.
  • 600 banks, 74 railroads and 15,000 businesses failed. 
  • By 1897, a third of the railroads were bankrupt.
  • Unemployment rose, a fifth of factory workers had no money for food or heat.
  • Harsh winters in 1893 and 1894 meant people began to starve
  • Cleveland stuck to his Laissez-Faire attitude and claims that boom and bust are inevitable. He did fight for lower tariffs but the big business lobby managed to get the bill cancelled.
  • An income tax suggested was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court
  • The Laissez-Faire attitude became less popular as the people began to demand a government that would deal with social problems
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What was the Progressive movement?

It was concerned with 4 main things:

  • Corruption in government - they wanted people to be more accountable
  • Interested in social problems e.g. overcrowding, pensions, education, child labour etc.
  • Interested in social ills like drunkenness and immorality, some groups thought this was more of a priority than others
  • The power of big business

It was influenced by various groups:

  • It began in the 1890s with the middle classes and they believed in scientific and technological solutions to problems
  • The mass media; writers and journalists exposed slum life and big business wrong doing; 'the muckrakers'
  • The Protestant church; they began to accept that poor social conditions might lead people to commit sins
  • Unions. These are still relatively small but some violent strikes had made people think that perhaps change was needed.

What was achieved so far?

  • In politics, politicians were prosecuted for corruption, secret ballet was introduced and senators were now elected by the public
  • In urban areas, 30 states had abolished child labour, other reforms on welfare and industrial safety. Cities began to collect garbage and factory inspections started
  • Social ills; they tried to get rid of prostitution and they censored films, pro-prohibition groups. 
  • They also regulated drugs as medicines frequently contained opium, heroin or cocaine
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