Page 2 - High School U.S. History Study Guide for the STAAR test

U.S. History Between 1898 and 1920

The U.S. emerged as a global power in the early 1900s largely due to the U.S. victory in the Spanish American War. The U.S. had acquired new territory from the war and built a formidable Navy in the process. Finally, as a result of industrialization, the U.S. became a major global trading power.

Events, People, and Policies

This era was characterized by several major events, people, and policies. A brief overview is provided below. Be sure to do more research more if these are unfamiliar.

Spanish-American War—fought between U.S. and Spain, largely over oppressive Spanish rule in Cuba

Expansionism—policy of the U.S. to grow and expand in both territory and influence

Henry Cabot Lodge—U.S. Senator most famous for his opposition to U.S. membership in the League of Nations following WWI

Alfred Thayer Mahan—U.S. Navy officer who was influential in helping make the U.S. a major naval power worldwide

Theodore Roosevelt—26th president, known for expanding U.S. influence and policy in Europe and Asia in the early 1900s

Sanford B. Dole—first president of the Republic of Hawaii and later first governor of the state when Hawaii was annexed by the U.S.

Missionaries—as the U.S. acquired new territories, religious groups sent representatives (missionaries) to convert the people living in these places to Christianity and help them become more civilized in the process

U.S. Acquisitions

As a result of the U.S. victory in the Spanish American War, the U.S. gained the territories of Guam, Hawaii, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and more.

World War I

WWI was also known as the Great War or the War to End All Wars. It was the most devastating and far-reaching war the world had seen to date. It was characterized by new technology like the machine gun and, consequently, new techniques like trench warfare.

Causes—M.A.I.N. is a good way to remember the causes of WWI. Militarism was growing in Europe at the time as countries were building up and modernizing their militaries with new technology. Alliances were forming as countries signed agreements to support each other in the event of conflict. Imperialism was growing as European powers were competing for colonies and resources in Africa and Asia. Nationalism is the last cause because European countries were growing in their national pride and sense of power. These MAIN causes acted as powder keg that simply needed a spark to ignite.

Reasons for U.S. ParticipationThe Lusitania, a passenger ship traveling from NYC to London (it was secretly carrying weapons to help the British), was attacked by Germany and sank. The U.S. warned to intervene but did not, claiming to remain neutral and isolated from the war. Later, the British intercepted the Zimmerman telegram, which was a note sent from Germany to Mexico to convince them to attack the U.S. If the Central Powers won the war, Germany promised to give Mexico back the territory the U.S. took from them in the Mexican-American War. The U.S. joined the war for the Allies with knowledge of this telegram.

American Expeditionary Forces

Led by John J. Pershing, the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) were the first Americans to fight alone in Europe during WWI. American troops had fought alongside French and British troops prior to this force launching their independent offensive in 1918.

World War I Technology

Machine guns—changed the way war was fought as one machine gun had the fighting power of over 70 riflemen

Trench Warfare—largely a response to machine guns, armies dug trenches for protection from machine gun fire

Poison Gas—was used largely to force men out of the trenches and into the open battlefield between the trenches, known as no-man’s land

Airplanes—were first used as reconnaissance to see enemy positions but quickly were outfitted with guns to shoot at enemy planes and drop bombs

Tanks—were developed as a safe way to drive over barbed wire and attack enemy trenches while escaping enemy machine gun fire

These technologies and strategies led to a stalemate in Western Europe in which trenches often changed hands multiple times through a series of attacks and counterattacks.

American involvement in WWI was complicated. Many Americans were immigrants and still held some degree of loyalty to their home country. Therefore, the U.S. public was widely split about which side to support. The government decided to take an isolationist and neutral approach to the war for as long as possible.

Isolationism and Neutrality—practiced by the U.S. for as long as possible because many citizens felt that WWI was Europe’s problem and the U.S. should not get involved. Neutrality was also an aim of the U.S. for some time before their involvement because there were immigrants from many European countries that advocated the U.S. support different sides. In an effort to keep all citizens happy, the U.S. officially tried to stay neutral and isolated from Europe.

Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points—outlined his plan for long-term peace and stability in Europe after WWI

The Treaty of Versailles—officially ended WWI, created the League of Nations, and mandated Germany take the blame for the war and pay reparations

Major Events

Some major events of WWI include these:

  • Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (June 28, 1914)—the spark that set off a chain of events leading to wide participation in war

  • Battle of Verdun (Feb–Dec 1916) and Battle of the Somme (Jul–Nov 1916)—two of the longest, costliest battles of the war as over 1 million casualties were inflicted at Verdun alone

  • Battle of Argonne Forest (Sep–Nov 1918)—last Allied offensive that led to the end of the war

Early Twentieth Century

The early twentieth century brought a time of sweeping reforms (changes) and wide public participation and interest in social and political issues. Activism was at a high as people sought to reform political, social, and economic injustices. The rise of third parties was a direct result of this increased civic participation, as many candidates ran on different platforms to represent the varying ideas held by the public.


The Progressive Era was characterized by widespread activism and reform. You should know that initiative is the right of people to propose a new law. You should also know that a referendum is when people vote on a particular issue and that a recall is the ability of the people to petition, vote, and have an elected official removed from office. The following amendments were influenced greatly by these terms and the desire of the people of the U.S. at the time.

16th Amendment—adopted in 1913, this amendment allowed the Federal government to collect an income tax.

17th Amendment—also adopted in 1913, this amendment provided that each state would elect two senators on the basis of popular vote for a term of 6 years. Prior to the 17th Amendment, state legislatures voted on who the state would send to the Federal Senate.

18th Amendment—adopted in 1919, this amendment banned the production, sale, and transportation of alcohol in the United States. This is the only amendment to later be repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933.

19th Amendment—passed in 1920, this amendment gave women the right to vote. Often seen as a major civil rights victory, this was a big step in the movement for women’s rights.

Reform Leaders

The following people were influential during the Progressive Era. Sometimes called muckrakers**, these people brought to light the injustices and poor practices of big business and fought to improve conditions across the country.

Upton Sinclair—author who wrote The Jungle, which exposed many of the problems, downfalls, and poor practices of the meat-packing industry in the U.S. His work led to strict reforms and new laws to keep the food industry accountable for producing healthy, safe food.

Susan B. Anthony—best known as an activist for the women’s suffrage movement (right to vote).

Ida B. Wells—African American investigative journalist who was an early activist for Civil Rights and one of the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons.

W. E. B. DuBois—early activist for Civil Rights, another founding member of the NAACP, strongly protested segregation.

Third Parties

Several third parties sprouted up in the early twentieth century, but the most successful were the Populist party and the Progressive party. The Populist party, sometimes known as the People’s party, was established to represent the common man and fought against the interests of the elite railroads, bankers, corporations, etc. The Progressive party was formed by Theodore Roosevelt and it sought prohibition of child labor as well as strict tariff reform, and it called for women’s suffrage and tighter industrial regulation.

The 1920s

Often referred to as the Roaring Twenties, the 1920s was a time of widespread economic prosperity, social well-being, and progressive change.

Events and Social Issues

Several events and social issues marked the 1920s. It was a time of great reform in thinking as well as change in social life. Review the following to gain an idea of what characterized the 1920s.

Immigration—U.S. Government limits on immigration due to the rising numbers of immigrants coming to the U.S. and the rising fear of communist foreigners. The government did this in 1924 with the National Origins Immigration Act of 1924.

Social darwinism—the idea of survival of the fittest applied to society; used to justify imperialism and resist reform

Eugenics—the highly controversial idea and practice of improving the human race by attempting to improve genetic quality through eliminating bad qualities

Race Relations—an effect of racial tension that increased during the 1920s as organizations like the KKK carried out hate crimes against black people

Nativism—political ideology of promoting the interest of those native to the country over the interests of immigrants

The Red Scare—refers to the fear that the U.S. would become communist after the Russian revolution in 1918. Widespread hysteria about communism characterized the 1920s.

Prohibition18th amendment prohibiting the production, transportation, and sale of alcohol in the U.S. as an attempt to improve society

Women’s New Roles—the right to vote (gained in 1920) and more women working outside the home, smoking in public, and dancing. It was a liberating time for women.

Important People

The following are important people from the 1920s. These people brought about change, or reform, that influenced the country as a whole and its future.

Clarence Darrow—defense lawyer in the Scopes Trial, a court case involving the teaching of evolution in public schools

William Jennings Bryan—prosecution lawyer in the Scopes Trial and open opponent of the teaching of evolution in public schools

Henry Ford—inventor of the assembly line style of production, leading to the mass production of automobiles, specifically the *Ford® brand name commonly known today

Glenn Curtiss—founder of the U.S. aircraft industry, the first company to produce airplanes

Marcus Garvey—leader of the black nationalist movement, he sought to improve the lives of African Americans and advocated for an end to imperial rule on the continent of Africa

Charles A. Lindbergh—first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to England

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