America Before the 1950s Quiz


By: Gavin Thagard

6 Min Quiz

Image: kali9/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

From the roots of the American colonies that would eventually become a country to the growth of the United States into a global power, American history can be both rich and unique for those willing to take the time to study it. Are you an American history expert? Do you know all of the key events in America before 1950?

It's hard to imagine America as a small group of colonies struggling to find their way in a world dominated by European colonization, but that's what the United States once was. With the American Revolution, that all changed as a nation was born with a mission to provide freedom and equal opportunity for those protected by the law. 

Of course, the new law of the land did not protect everyone equally as both slavery and Indian removal dominated early American life. Still, the concepts of freedom and equality never left the American mindset, even for the marginalized groups, and much of American history is about how those concepts continued to be sought and gained by new groups of people. 

If you have an interest in America before 1950, take this quiz and see if you know how America went from a small group of colonies to become a global leader. 

Which of the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, declaring the colonies free from Britain?

The Declaration of Independence declared that the 13 colonies would regard themselves as sovereign states separate from Britain. The document was ratified on July 4, 1776, known today as Independence Day.


Which party did John Adams run under that supported a strong national government?

John Adams was known for his fairness and belief in a legal process. Despite being a Founding Father, Adams famously defended British soldiers who had been accused of murder after the Boston Massacre.


Founded in 1636, what is the oldest university in the United States?

Harvard housed the first printing press in North America. The printing press was established at Harvard in 1638, two years after the school opened.


Which of the following was the first act imposed by the British to collect money from the colonists?

One of the main oppositions by the colonists against the British was taxation without representation in Parliament. However, the British saw it as their right to collect taxes, especially after the expenses the British paid during the French and Indian War.


Who was the first woman to complete a transatlantic flight by herself?

In 1937, Amelia Earhart set out to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. However, her plane went down somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, and she was never found.


How many amendments were originally included in the Bill of Rights?

The Second Amendment is one of the most hotly contested because it gives citizens of the United States the right to bear arms. As mass shootings grow more common in the 21st century, the issue continues to splinter along party lines.


Which country did the United States purchase the Louisiana Territory from?

Due to a growing conflict in Europe and problems with French colonies in the New World, France agreed to sell the Louisiana territory in 1803. The agreement was made for $15 million, a deal that heavily favored the United States.


During which war was Washington D.C. captured and burned?

Disease was the deadliest factor in the War of 1812. More soldiers died from diseases like malaria, typhoid fever, and smallpox than were killed in battle.


Which slave famously led a rebellion in Virginia?

Nat Turner's Rebellion horrified whites throughout the South. Once the rebellion was suppressed, stricter laws were put in place to avoid future slave insurrections, and the division grew between free and slave states.


What did Andrew Jackson oppose as president?

Andrew Jackson's war against the national bank was really a conflict between manufacturing and agriculture. Jackson believed the bank favored Northern manufacturers over the agrarian South where he gained most of his support.


Which party rose in opposition to Andrew Jackson, who was viewed as a tyrant?

Led by Henry Clay, the Whig Party was born out of the National Republicans who supported John Quincy Adams in the 1824 election. The creation of the Whig Party helped bring about the Second Party System that lasted until the heels of the Civil War.


Which Indian nation was most affected during the Trail of Tears?

The Trail of Tears was a result of the Indian Removal Act which was passed in 1830. The act was supported by President Andrew Jackson who believed Indians couldn't live peacefully among​ whites.


Which court case allowed the Supreme Court to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional​?

Marbury v. Madison was born out of the 1800 election where Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams. The court decision ultimately established the power of judicial review.


Which Native American helped Lewis and Clark reach the Pacific Ocean?

Before the expedition, Meriwether Lewis served in the Virginia state militia. He helped put an end to the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.


What's the name of the compromise that divided the American West into free and slave states as they were admitted to the Union?

The Missouri Compromise was the result of Congress' attempt to keep a balance of power between free and slave states. The compromise admitted Missouri as a slave state but also added Maine as a free state.


Which doctrine told European countries they could no longer colonize the Americas?

President Theodore Roosevelt extended the Monroe Doctrine with the Roosevelt Corollary. His new proposition established the United States as the police of the Americas.


Who published The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper?

With the release of the first issue of The Liberator in 1831, William Lloyd Garrison demanded to be heard. He published the newspaper, demanding an end to slavery, until 1865 when the Civil War came to an end.


What did Eli Whitney invent that changed the importance of slavery?

The cotton gin revolutionized the cotton industry which the South heavily relied on. Some scholars say cotton was fading out in the South prior to the release of the cotton gin, but the new invention created a boom for the agrarian South.


Which future state declared its independence from Mexico leading to the Battle of the Alamo?

Davy Crockett was one of the most famous participants from the Battle of the Alamo. After the battle, Crockett was popularized in American culture as a folk hero.


Which treaty ended the Mexican-American War?

Part of the force used in the invasion of Mexico was commanded by General Winfield Scott. Scott famously held the position of general in the U.S. Army longer than anyone in U.S. history.


Who famously escaped from slavery only to return to help others escape?

Harriet Tubman helped slaves escape along a path known as the Underground Railroad. According to Tubman herself, she never lost a passenger​ along the way.


Which state is known for the gold rush that sent thousands of people West?

The California Gold Rush resulted in the largest migration in U.S. history. Due to the discovery of gold, over 300,000 people ended up in California by the mid-1850s.


Elected in 1860, who was the first Republican president?

Abraham Lincoln's election was viewed as a blow to the South who no longer believed they had the power to oppose the free-North. As the debate over the spread of slavery to the West seemed lost, Southern states began to pull from the Union.


On the heels of the Civil War, which state seceded from the Union first?

A total of 11 states seceded from the Union to join the Confederacy. After the Civil War, Georgia became the last state readmitted to the Union on July 15, 1870.


What was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War?

The Battle of Gettysburg severely diminished the Southern army which had fewer resources and couldn't afford such a loss. Ultimately, the battle ended General Robert E. Lee's second invasion of the North.


Which former Civil War general became the 18th President of the United States?

Ulysses S. Grant was only 46 years old when he became President of the United States. His presidency was marred by political scandal and the continued Reconstruction of the South.


A blow for African Americans, which court case declared segregation​ legal?

Plessy v. Ferguson provided the South with the ability to continue to legally discriminate against African Americans. Jim Crow laws, which enforced racial segregation, became the norm throughout the South until 1965 after both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were passed.


Who was named the first president of the National American Women Suffrage Association?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was part of the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls in 1850. She famously proposed the Declaration of Sentiments, declaring that women should be equal to men under the law.


Which Native American tribe was massacred at Wounded Knee?

The massacre at Wounded Knee was the result of white encroachment on land that had been promised to Native American tribes by the United States government. The massacre left hundreds of unarmed women, children, and elderly dead.


Who became president when William McKinley was assassinated in 1901?

Theodore Roosevelt was a leader during the Progressive Era. He helped initiate changes in the food industry and established conservations for the preservation of land across the United States.


No longer able to stay neutral, what year did the United States enter WWI?

General John J. Pershing commanded the United States Army, known as the American Expeditionary Forces, during World War I. Despite calls to place U.S. troops in foreign armies, Pershing decided to keep U.S. forces together which proved effective on the battlefield.


Which amendment gave women the right to vote?

Women were voting in Wyoming as early as 1870. There was pressure from the U.S. government for Wyoming to rescind this right if they wanted statehood, but the request was met with refusal from citizens of Wyoming, which received statehood in 1890.


Which of these events led to the Great Depression?

The Great Depression sent the U.S. economy into a downward spiral in the 1930s. It wouldn't fully recover until World War II.


Where did Japan attack the United States, launching the country into WWII?

The end of WWII was only the beginning of the global conflict. The war launched the world into a nuclear era and ushered in the Cold War, a struggle between communism and democracy.


What percentage of slaves were counted towards seats in the House of Representatives?

Jamestown was the first British colony in the New World to obtain slaves in the early 17th century. Many of the early slaves were indentured servants who could earn their freedom after a period of time.


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