While a number of the most important reform movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries grew out of efforts to combat the negative effects of industrialization, the main focus of their efforts was not the impact of the Industrial Revolution on the natural environment. Although some reformers, such as Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, were deeply worried about the consequences of economic development on the natural environment, the most influential, most effective reformers were primarily concerned with the impact of the rise of big business on small businesses, industrial workers, and consumers, and with corruption in government that reformers believed resulted from the economic power of large corporations.
Farmers were upset at what they regarded as arbitrary and excessive railroad rates and abuses such as rebates to big business like Standard Oil. These farmers were among the first and most outspoken advocates of reform in the late 19th century. Pressure from the Farmers’ Alliances convinced Congress to pass and President Cleveland to sign the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, a piece of legislation designed to regulate railroad rates and prohibit corrupt practices such as rebates. By 1890, these Farmers’ Alliances had entered politics in a number of Southern and Midwestern states and succeeded in pressuring Congress to pass the Sherman Antitrust Act, outlawing all “combinations in restraint of trade.” By 1892, a national People’s Party had been organized, nominating a third-party presidential candidate and electing several members of Congress. The Populist movement, a reform movement attempting to combat the negative effects of industrialization and the rise of big business, was now in full swing.
Beginning at the state level and with strong support in many urban areas, a new progressive movement reached the national level during the first years of the 20th century. Supported by President Theodore Roosevelt, progressive reformers, like the Populists, sought to strengthen railroad regulation and both enforce and further strengthen the antitrust laws. In 1902, President Roosevelt not only forced mine owners to submit to arbitration to settle a nationwide coal strike, he also asked his attorney general to file an antitrust suit against the Northern Securities Company, a large railroad holding company. After the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision to break up the Northern Securities Company in 1904, Roosevelt went on to strengthen the Interstate Commerce Commission’s ability to regulate railroad rates by pushing the Hepburn Act through Congress in 1906. A few years later, another progressive reformer, Woodrow Wilson, succeeded to the presidency, and he managed to further strengthen the antitrust laws by pushing the Clayton Antitrust Act through Congress in 1914.
While railroad regulation and antitrust actions attracted the most attention of reformers during the period 1880–1920, some efforts were made by reformers to mitigate the effects of industrialization and commercial expansion on the natural environment. President Roosevelt used his executive authority to put thousands of acres of public lands aside for national parks, saving them from commercial exploitation. In 1908, he convened a conservation conference at the White House in an effort to further mitigate the damage that mining and manufacturing were doing to the natural environment, especially in the West. President Roosevelt also pushed for the establishment of the forest service and appointed a conservation-minded ally, Gifford Pinchot, to head that agency. Finally, even after retiring from office, Roosevelt supported Pinchot in his efforts to prevent President Taft’s secretary of the interior, Richard Ballinger, from opening additional public lands to commercial exploitation.
Thus, both the populist and progressive movements sought to combat the negative effects of industrialization and economic expansion by focusing primarily on railroad regulation and the strengthening and enforcement of antitrust legislation. Nevertheless, some progressive reformers like Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot did pay significant attention to preventing further damage to the natural environment and helped to found the modern conservation movement.
Every subject is easier to study using concrete examples; APUSH essays are no exception. The data-based question, or DBQ, differs from typical essays in only one way – the inclusion of five to seven historical documents. Your goal is to read through each historical document, then write an essay that clearly answers the given prompt while demonstrating your overall understanding of APUSH content. The following sources for APUSH DBQ examples are helpful to review before beginning your own writing.
What should I look in each APUSH DBQ sample?
In each sample, study how each author:
- analyzes historical documents
- provides additional examples
- uses evidence to support argument
APUSH DBQ Example #1: AP College Board
College Board is always the best source for up-to-date information and resources. This APUSH DBQ sample is from 2016, but provides three different variations of student responses. You can see how and why which writing sample scored best, as well as determine how to incorporate those elements into your own writing. (Examples from 2015 are also available.)
APUSH DBQ Example #2: AP US History Notes
Although this site doesn’t explain why each sample is successful, it does offer a large selection of examples to choose from. You can get a good sense of what type of writing goes into a high-quality essay. Read through both the DBQ and long essay examples.
APUSH DBQ Example #3: Kaplan Test Prep
Kaplan only provides one APUSH DBQ sample, but does go through the essay point by point, explaining how the author develops a well-supported argument. Another good view into the inner workings of a quality writing example.
APUSH DBQ Example #4: Khan Academy
If you haven’t already, visit Khan Academy. Khan’s Historian’s Toolkit is a four-part video series that not only explains how to approach the DBQ, but also deconstructs the thinking behind a question example. Definitely worth a look.
APUSH DBQ Example #5: Apprend
Although rather lengthy, the DBQ and rubric breakdown from Apprend is a comprehensive look into how a DBQ response can earn top points and why. Options are given for each step of the writing process, enabling you to see the best possible answer for all sections of the essay.
APUSH DBQ Example #6: Your Classroom
Looking for more examples? One of the easiest places to find APUSH DBQ samples is in your own classroom. Ask your current APUSH teacher to view previous students’ writing samples. As you know by now, reviewing other students’ work can be a very powerful and effective way to study for DBQ.
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