US History—Semester B
Reconstructing reconstruction...till the present.
US History isn't just about Columbus and the Pilgrims. That's right: history includes the 19th and 20th centuries, too. This semester covers the period of Reconstruction, the 1980s, and all the topics you might find in between. That's about 160 years and lots of foreign policy angst. Nice.
With Shmoop's US History course (Semester B), you'll engage in all sorts of interactive readings and lessons:
- Learn how a Gecko helped define the 80’s—and we're not talking insurance.
- Create a Superbowl-worthy advertisement for the inventions of Thomas Edison, a.k.a. the Steve Jobs of yesteryear.
- Scrapbook your way through a journey as a Dust Bowl migrant. (Grime-fighting wet towelettes highly recommended.)
Ready to review? Take a journey back in time with Shmoop and find out what makes our country unique, how it got that way, and what all of this has to do with you.
P.S. US History is a two-semester course. You're looking at Semester B, but you can check out Semester A here.
Unit 8. Reconstruction and the Wild, Wild West
While the Reconstruction of the nation post-Civil War was happening, the west was going wild. The Gold Rush, the Transatlantic Railroad, the arrival of immigrants from Asia. This unit covers these big changes.
Unit 9. The Gilded Age: A Shower of Invention and Industry
Progress! Industry! Invention! New technology! The Gilded Age was one of the most dynamic, contentious, and volatile periods in American history. You'll learn about the captains of industry, robber barons, and the Steve Jobs of yesteryear here.
Unit 10. Tainting the Melting Pot: The Era of Jim Crow and Immigration
Haven't you heard? America is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have never had it easy in the United States, though. In this unit, you'll get cozy with the experiences of those seeking the American dream.
Unit 11. Empires on the Rise, Progress on the March, Racism Still Around
In this unit, America fixes some internal problems and bursts out of its isolationist bubble onto the international scene. Spanish-American War, anyone? Anyone?
Unit 12. Soldiers and Flappers
A Gatsby—U.S. History crossover? Yes, please! This unit takes us from the trenches of World War I straight into the Roaring '20s, with a stop in Harlem in between.
Unit 13. The Great Depression: The Roaring Twenties' Decade-long Hangover
We're not gonna lie. The Great Depression was really depressing. This unit will take us through the causes of this economic crisis and through the attempted reforms of Hoover and FDR.
Unit 14. World Wars: Episode 2: The U.S. Strikes Back
And now for the war that inspired all good war movies: World War II. In this unit, you'll get the deets on the Pacific theater, the European theater, and everything in between.
Unit 15. Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Cold War
This unit is all about passive-aggressive action against Communism (i.e., "don't piss them off or they'll bomb us off the face of the earth."). McCarthyism, the Red Scare, conformity, Eisenhower, the Marshall Plan. Good stuff.
Unit 16. Peace, Love, and Atomic Missiles
We didn't start the fire; we're just telling you about it. In this unit, you'll learn all about the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights Movement, and the chaos that was the Vietnam War.
Unit 17. Reagan vs. the Wall
What do you get when you combine Reagan, Gorbachev, and Wall Street? Shmoop's unit on the '80s, of course.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 3: The Steve Jobs of Yesteryear
Extending the Industrial Revolution
The American Revolution was a drawn-out, bloody affair, resulting in the loss of many lives. Relatively speaking, the Industrial Revolution featured nowhere near as many fatalities. Might have had something to do with the fact that bayonets weren't allowed on assembly lines.
Technological revolutions tend to play out gradually. Which isn't a bad thing, since we're not losing hundreds of lives every time there's some new invention. (Score another point for the "IR.")
The Industrial Revolution gained steam (just ask a steam engine) through the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The development of the factory system, the textile industry, railroads, the telegraph, and steam power all spurred the growth of American manufacturers and helped to create new markets and technologies. Many of the great innovations of the late 19th century built on these earlier breakthroughs.
Railroads created a huge market for steel and, at the same time, provided the new steel industry with a ready-made organizational model. They also provided a great new place for wicked men with curly mustaches to tie down their female captives while cackling maniacally.
The telegraph demonstrated the explosive potential for personal communications technologies that the telephone would later see to full fruition. Well, for now anyway. Who knows? Maybe in a few years we'll have the technology to simply think thoughts, and someone on the other side of the world will be able to hear us. Yikes, that could be dangerous. We're not sure we want someone in Tokyo knowing where we keep our spare key.
However, the inventors of these technologies were small potatoes compared to the big steak, Thomas Edison. Edison held 1093 patents, including most of what makes mass media, movies, and the electrical grid possible. How could one man do so much? Well, strictly speaking, he didn't. His employees did.
Edison was like Steve Jobs in that he used the stereotype of the eccentric and brilliant inventor to get investors for his company, General Electric. However, he was also like Steve Jobs in that his company spent millions to hire hundreds of other inventors to do the heavy lifting. With a campus of hundreds of inventors, Edison directed research to patent everything necessary to give General Electric a vertical integration monopoly on electrical grids and lighting. Edison's goal wasn't so much science as it was market control.
Edison and General Electric set a precedent that continues today. Most science is conducted, funded, and promoted by massive companies that employ hundreds or thousands of scientists and engineers. From Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs, this model created a new type of techno-industry in the United States based on the mass conversion of money into knowledge. Commentators called this Big Science (possibly the greatest band frontman name of all time?).
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 9.3: Lightbulbs Going Off
What went off in inventors' heads before the invention of the lightbulb? Well, when Edison's team invented the lightbulb, maybe a bunch of oil lamps lit up in their heads.
Edison and other inventors in this period changed not only America, but the entire world. You wouldn't be reading this on the Internet if not for the inventions of the Gilded Age. Ready to look at just what they came up with? Check out Shmoop's take on the Age of Great Inventions. Read the whole enchilada, that is, the "Big Picture" through the "Culture" sections. Edison thanks you. No really, he left a tootsie roll here for you.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 9.3a: Invention Timeline
Get your Googlin' fingers ready. (They should be the ones on either side of your "Twitterin' fingers.")
Using information from the reading and some outside research of your own, add the following items to a timeline of American inventions.
Telephone—Patented by Alexander Graham Bell
Phonograph—Invented by Thomas Edison
Incandescent Light Bulb—Invented by Thomas Edison
Alternating Current Motor—Invented by Nikola Tesla
Cable-operated Street Cars—Patented by Andrew Smith Hallidie
Ferris Wheel—Invented by George Washington Gale Ferris
After you add each item to the timeline, write a few sentences underneath each entry and explain:
- What the invention was and what big changes it caused in American society.
- The way this invention affects us today. Do we still use it, and how? Or are there other, later versions of the same concept that we use today? If not, what caused this concept to become obscure?
- Be sure to add pictures to your timeline. We freakin' love pictures. They make us squee.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 9.3b: Edison's Other Inventions
You've probably heard of the phonograph and the light bulb…but what about the pneumatic stencil pen? Oh, you're using one right now? Our bad.
While many of Thomas Edison's inventions made it big, others have been swept into the dustbin of history, never to be seen again…until now. Yes, that's right—we're going to turn over that dustbin and empty its contents directly into your head. Hope you're not allergic to knowledge.
Use this link to find some information on one of Edison's lesser-known inventions.
Then, create an advertisement for your chosen invention. Make sure your advertisement includes:
- An image
- A catchy advertising slogan
- A brief description of what the product does
- A brief explanation of why someone would want to use it. Really, convince us that we need an electric rubber ducky.
Then, upload your persuasive ad below.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 9.3c: Talk Is Cheap
You know that guy who sits next to you in class and likes to filibuster 2nd period English? The teacher asks one simple yes-or-no question about Othello and, before you know it, this brownnoser is unleashing a monologue that would make Iago blush. So, does quantity (a lot of words) necessarily make for high quality?
Transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau argued that more communication did not equal better communication. People would be wise to pursue truth rather than engage in meaningless, superficial talk. Do you hear that, Access Hollywood?
In two-three paragraphs, assess the following quote as it applies to the time period. Do inventions like the telegraph improve our lives? Why might people be hesitant to adopt these new forms of communication? Then extend the discussion to modern day. Are we endlessly engaging in meaningless conversations…or is the open communication today a good thing for everybody?
"We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas, but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate."
—Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854
In your paragraphs, consider the greater implications of all the inventions we've examined in this lesson. Many of them contribute to how we communicate or interact with each other today. That's assuming you're not still giving the whole world the silent treatment. How many times do we have to say we're sorry?
- Course Length: 18 weeks
- Course Number: 310
- Grade Levels: 10, 11
- Course Type: Basic
- History and Social Science
US History—Semester A
Just what the heck is a Shmoop Online Course?
Common Core Standards
The following standards are covered in this course: