Post Civil War the nation was a disaster in many ways, but the nation was resilient and opportunity abounded. This is the age of robber barons in the cities, cowboys and Indians on the frontier and the time period when the US awoke to realize they had all the ingredients to be an industrial superpower. Raw materials (i.e. iron, coal, oil, gold, silver), abundant land (corn, wheat) and large supplies of unskilled workers (i.e. immigrants) fueled an industrial expansion that left the US as the #1 nation in steel production, oil production, and railroad track miles. What helped to fuel this expansion of course was the settlement of the US West, as many of the resources needed were supplied from this area. Of course all of this change had massive social and economic consequences for American workers and also impacted the American political system. Period 6 makes up approximately 10-17% of the AP Exam, so pay close attention . . .
The end of Civil War in 1865 and to the start of the Spanish-American War in 1898 serve as a convenient time frame for Period 6, which is focused on the fast-paced economic and urban development of the United States. During this period United States emerged as the largest economy in the world and a potential international power.
Overview: Historians have labeled the period in many ways. For some, it is the "Second Industrial Revolution," which introduced the wonders of electric powered technologies, petroleum energy, and the first industrial laboratories. Others called it, the "Railroad Era," which produced a continental network ofrailroads that could move the products of the new large-scale industries. For some it is the "Last Frontier," which witnessed the settlement of lands between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean, and the end of the "Indian Wars." However, the characterization that has most endured is the "Gilded Age," a time during which the "captains of industry" controlled large corporations, created great fortunes, and dominated politics, while the problems of farmlands and burgeoning cities festered under the surface. During the late 1800's, waves of "new" immigrants also added to the growth of the nation, while reformers, labor unions, farmer organizations, and a growing middle class began to challenge economic, political, and cultural institutions.
Alternate View: One limitation to ending the period in 1898 is that it fragments the early reform movements that started in the late 1800's, but produce few results until the Progressive era from 1900 to 1917.