Advanced Placement United States History
Progressive Era Notes
Evolution of the Progressive Movement
Greenback Labor Party of 1870s – 2 major goals
Remove the of power of "robber barons" and wanted
Inflation via coinage of silver and increase of greenbacks in circulation
Populism failed as a 3rd Party in the 1896 election but had major social, economic and political influence for 25
years after it's failure
Populist goals that will be realized
railroad legislation (1903 & 1906)
income tax (16th Amendment -- 1912)
expanded currency and credit structure (1913, 1916))
direct election of Senators (17th Amendment -- 1913)
initiative, referendum and recall (early 1900s)
postal savings banks (1910)
subtreasury plan (1916)
Keep in Mind : Though Populist ideas were geared to rural life, many of its ideas appealed to urban progressives who sought to
regulate trusts, reduce the power of political machines, and remedy social injustice.
The Progressive Movement had many players
writers who exposed the issues and problems in America
politicians who wanted to move away from corrupt, machine politics
social and political groups who wanted the reform movement to grow
Believed efficient gov’t could protect public interest and restore order to society.
-- Government is an agency of human welfare
welcomes innovation and political reform
economic and social order
alleviate the ills of society
people have a broader control of government
more economic, political and social justice
decrease the role of special interest groups in government
make government more honest and responsible to the citizen’s needs
increase popular participation in the American system
create a more active, stronger role for the federal government to protect the public interests
to get government responsible for social welfare of its citizens
o conservative when it came to
basic property rights
fundamental capitalistic structure
Specific issues for reform
The break-up or regulation of trusts
Killing political machines
Reduce the threat of socialism (by improving workers’ lives)
Improve squalid conditions in the cities
Improve working conditions for female labor and end child labor
labor reform (working conditions and unionization)
Prohibition of alcohol
Movement grew out of
rapid growth of big business
o people had $ and believed we should take care of each other
corruption and inefficiency in government
o development of political machines
Facts to keep in mind about past reform efforts
The 1830s - 50s witnessed a crusade to abolish slavery, which was legally abolished by the 13th
o women’s rights
Women at the forefront of abolitionism soon realized the parallel between the struggle for black
civil rights and a similar struggle for the same rights for women.
Women organized at Seneca Falls and after the Civil War worked for women's suffrage (American
Women's Suffrage Association ) as well as other issues (National Women's Suffrage Association ).
The fight against alcohol, especially in the West, was led by women, the most promient being
Women's Christian Temperance Union (1874) was the first truly national women's organization,
led by Frances Willard
The plight of the various Indian nations still in the US received some sympathy after Helen Hunt's
Century of Dishonor
Although ill-conceived, the US sought to reform the Indian's condition with the Dawes Severalty
o Farm movement
Grange and Populist Movement
Population 1900 1920
Whole Population 76 million 105 million (+40%)
Whites 66.1 million 93.3 mill
Blacks 8.8 mill 10.5 million
85% of the black population lived in the South
Native Americans .25 million .50 million
Asians .12 million .14 million
Foreign Born 1 in 7 1 in 4
80% lived in the North
Total Income $36.5 billion $66.4 billion
42.5 million people employed
women workers 1.3 million 8.5 million
40% worked in agriculture <25% worked in agriculture
37 cities with +100,000 people 67 with + 100,000
Urban growth rate = 650%
Kids in secondary schools ½ million 2 million
Kids in college ¼ million + ½ million
1910 the wealthiest 2% accounted for almost 20% of total income
Characteristics of the Movement
Refine the American System
o Not concerned with foreign policy
Domestic Political Movement – not a political Party
o Included members of both Republicans and Democrats
Strength in the North and Northeast
o Centered in urban areas
As the middle-class expanded – so did the movement
Switch in focus – from making people into workers to educating people
o Basic Facts
Between 1870 and 1920, college enrollment increased 400%
Many colleges created separate social science departments: economics, political science, and sociology.
Attempted to analyze human society with same objectivity that scientists used to study nature.
Reflected growing faith in ability of people to analyze society and solve human problems.
Rejected "survival of the fittest" ideology
Many social science professors and their students became progressives.
John Dewey: "learning by doing" rather than just reading.
Believed education for living and working played crucial role in democracy.
"Education for life" should be primary goal of the teacher.
Goal was to create socially useful adults.
Number of 17-yr.-olds who finished high school almost doubled in the 1920s, to more than 25%.
o Levels of Education
Reform led by John Dewey
Classroom should be like life
Teachers should guide activities with knowledge and sympathy
2 new goals
teach intellectual and social skills to meet the needs of the nation
added to college prep
o commercial studies
o industrial technology
o home economics
Went from a fixed curriculum to elective studies
1. Religious Changes
o It becomes a “fight” between Liberals/Modernists vs. Conservatives/Traditionalists
Modernists go with the idea of the Social Gospel Movement
led by George Washington Gladden and Walter Rauschenbusch
1908 – Church of Christ in America organized 30 Protestant denominations
they got politically involved – pushed for
abolition of Child Labor
implementation of safer, more sanitary conditions
shorter work day
pensions for retired workers
2. Changes brought on by Technology after 1900 – 3 major Tech advances
1890 – Stanley Steamer
1900 – In America – experimentation with internal combustion
1901 – Ransom E Olds
built the first automobile assembly line
1903 – Henry Leland began using interchangeable parts with autos
1908 – Henry Ford perfected the combination of assembly lines and interchangeable parts
Model T – 500 cars made a day for 5 years
1914 – Ford introduced the moving assembly line
1916 – car cost reduced to <$400
1920 – 3rd largest industry in America
2 million cars sold
1901 – Marconi sent the first wireless signal from England to New Foundland
1906 – in America – Lee Deforest broadcast the first human voice
1910 – 1st music – NYC Metropolitan Opera
1910 – Woodrow Wilson will be the first president to address the American people over the radio
1920s – first commercial broadcasts
Better care = healthier America
Reform in medical schools
1900-1920 – Death Rate declined from 17.7 per 100 to 13.1 per 100
almost a complete elimination of
o small pox
large reduction in
Role of writers in the movement
- the writers took their cues from the critics of Laissez Faire economics
Henry Demarest Lloyd -- Wealth against Commonwealth (1894)
Criticized Standard Oil
Beginning of investigative journalism.
Thorstein Veblen -- The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)
Criticized the nouveau riche for it’s flaunting of wealth
Jacob A. Riis -- How the Other Half Lives (1890)
Photojournalist who exposed the dirt, disease, vice, and misery of the rat-infested New York slums
Heavily influenced progressives such as Theodore Roosevelt
Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Woman and Economics (1898)
Considered a classic masterwork of feminist literature.
Called on women to abandon their dependent status and work outside the home.
Advocated centralized nurseries and cooperative kitchens to facilitate women’s participation in the
Anticipated future day-care centers and convenience-food services.
Socialists criticized existing injustices
Many were European immigrants who hated excesses of capitalism
Many progressives, such as Woodrow Wilson, saw socialism as biggest threat to US.
A major group of writers/journalists developed - Muckrakers
they were a group of writers that stirred public opinion to the point of action by exposing abuses and corruption in politics
much of their work was first published in magazines
Best known writers
o The Octopus (1901) – Southern Pacific Railroad
Showed how railroads and corrupt politicians controlled California wheat ranchers.
o The Pit (1903) – Chicago Grain Market
o The History of Standard Oil (1904)
o Shame in the Cities (1904) – corrupt city governments – political machines
Upton Sinclair -- The Jungle (1906)
Graphic depictions of unsanitary conditions in packing plants sparked a reaction to the meat industry and
led to eventual regulation under Theodore Roosevelt.
Inspired Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act (1906)
Ray Stannard Baker: Following the Color Line (1908)
Attacked the subjugation of America’s 9 million blacks, & their illiteracy
David G. Phillips: "The Treason of the State", articles in
Charged that 75 of 90 senators were, in effect, agents of the trusts and the railroads. (Eventually shot)
Provoked President Roosevelt to label this genre of journalism "muckraking"
John Spargo: The Bitter Cry of the Children (1906)
Exposed the abuses of child labor
Samuel Hopkins Adams
o Series of articles in Colliers’
Great American Fraud – patent medicine industry
Thomas Nast – Political Cartoonist
o Exposed “Boss” Tweed
o Created the Republican Elephant and the Democratic Donkey to represent the parties
With all this information available to politicians and to the public – actions began
Took place on all levels of government by honest guys who wanted to see change
o Teddy Roosevelt ] all 3 supported the ideas
o William Howard Taft ] of reform while
o Woodrow Wilson ] in the White House
o Robert La Follette – Wisc.
La Follette -Governor of Wisconsin, 1901:
he helped destroy the political machine, take control away from lumber & railroad trusts & establish a
First of Republican "insurgents" to reach the Senate
Worked closely with experts on the faculty of the state university at Madison including Richard Ely.
Regulated public utilities by instituting public utilities commissions that created legislation for workers’ safety,
railroads & regulation of public utilities.
Direct primary: In 1903, La Follette pressured the legislature to institute an election open to all voters within a
Introduced the initiative, referendum, and recall
initiative -- allowed citizens to introduce a bill
referendum: voters cast ballots for or against proposed laws.
recall: gave citizens right to remove elected officials from office.
Direct election of Senators
In 1913, approved as the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.
Adopted a state income tax; first state to do so
Replaced the existing spoils system with state civil service
Other states followed Wisconsin’s lead
Republican governor in California Hiram Johnson broke the grip of the Southern Pacific Railroads on
Charles Evans Hughes, Republican governor of NY, earlier gained fame as investigator of malpractice
by gas & insurance companies & by coal trust.
Gov. Woodrow Wilson turned New Jersey into 1 of nation's most liberal states.
o Tom Johnson – Cleveland
o Samuel Jones – Toledo
o Galveston, Texas and the Commission System
In Sept., 1900, a tidal wave devastated the city.
The city placed power into the hands of 5 commissioners, 2 elected & 3 appointed; a full-time city
manager was hired.
Commission system peaked in 1915 (later replaced by city manager system.)
Within 20 years, 400 cities adopted Commission System
Success in the movement for Political Reform
Increase in direct government – increase in democracy – more people involved – more people with power
Initiative – 1898 – Oregon
A % of voters petition to have a proposal put to a vote
By the state legislature
By the population of the state
Referendum – 1898 – Oregon
A % of voters petition to accept or reject a law passed by the legislature
a law is referred to the people by the legislature to be voted on
Recall – 1903 – Los Angeles
% of voters petition to have an officeholder be removed before their term is up
Direct Primary and use of Secret Ballot – 1903 – Wisc.
Voters directly nominate candidates in their party to run in the general election
Direct election of senators
Passed in 1911
Ratified in 1913
before 1900, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission, but these did little to halt
the growth of railroad mergers until 1904, when six major railroads controlled all but 37,000 track miles.
Elkins Act 1903
Strengthened the ICC by not allowing railroads to deviate from published rates.
Outlawed all rebates on published freight rates
Allowed both those giving rebates and those receiving them to be prosecuted.
But it did not extend to the regulation of the rates.
Hepburn Act 1906
Increased the ICC from five to seven members.
Allowed the ICC to regulate rates charged by railroads, terminals and pipelines, subject to court review.
Expanded ICC jurisdiction over most interstate transportation, including regulation of terminals and pipelines,
sleeping car companies, owners of oil pipelines, and any firm engaged in interstate transportation
Shifted the burden of proof from the ICC to transportation owners.
Railroad Commissions - many state legislatures, especially in the South, created regulatory agencies, with
sufficient authority to set rates and regulate rail operations.
Food and Drug Legislation
Meat Inspection Act 1906 provided for inspection of meat packing plants
Pure Food and Drug Act 1906
Unproven claims about a product could not he made.
A list of ingredients had to be made available.
Prohibited adulterated or mislabeled foods and drugs from interstate commerce but did not regulate
intrastate food and drugs
Regulating Industry – all three branches of the US government begin to move toward more regulation of big business in America.
1904 - 318 Corporations controlled $7 billion (40%) of US manufacturing investment capital.
Sherman Anti-Trust Act 1890 ineffectively curbed the growth of industry and business mergers into trusts (184
of the 318 were formed after 1898).
Supreme Court – their role in the good and the bad
E.C.Knight Case 1894 limited the definition of manufacturing by placing food production beyond the
jurisdiction of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act
Northern Securities Company 1901
Roosevelt's first major Anti-Trust suit, brought in 1902 by Attorney General Philander Knox, the Justice
Department sued to break-up the railroad monopoly as an illegal restraint of trade in violation of the
Sherman Anti-Trust Act
1904 - the Supreme Court in Northern Securities vs US by a 5-4 vote upheld the suit and the Northern
Securities Company was dissolved
Employers Liability Act (1906) was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1908
Lochner vs NY (1905) the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a New York law which limited the
hours for bakers to ten on the basis that it deprived bakers of the liberty to work as long as they wished.
The Supreme Court consistently struck down legislative attempts to restrict child labor.
Hammer vs Dagenhart 1918 by a vote of 5-4 struck down the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act which
sought to bar goods made by children from interstate commerce.
The court again made a distinction between manufacture and commerce. Congress can control the means
by which commerce is carried on, but did not have authority over manufacturing which was within the
jurisdiction of states.
Presidential Anti-Trust Actions
1903 - Illustrating the federal government's commitment, Department of Commerce and Labor was added, the
ninth Cabinet position with George B. Corteloyou as the first Secretary
Theodore Roosevelt's Justice Department brought 44 cases against several trusts.
o The American Tobacco Company was broken up into 17 companies
o Informal agreements with US Steel (1905) and International Harvester (1907) resulted in a promise to
correct malpractices if no suit were filed
William Howard Taft was actually a greater trustbuster with 90 suits against companies accused of illegal
restraints of trade.
Women's and Children’s Rights
The two branches of the women's suffrage movement united as NAWSA to push for the woman's right to vote.
The first woman elected to Congress Jeannette Rankin introduced the bill which became the l9th Amendment -- Susan B.
An attempted equal rights amendment to the constitution was deemed too radical
Muller v. Oregon, 1906: Supreme Court upheld Oregon law restricting women’s labor to 10-hour workday; case won by
Louis Brandeis who argued that women were weaker than men
Many states passed safety and sanitation codes for industry and closed certain harmful trades to juveniles.
Triangle Shirtwaist Co. fire in 1911 killed 146 women workers, mostly girls
o NYC and other legislatures passed laws regulating the hours and conditions in sweatshops.
By 1916, 32 states regulated the hours and ages at which children could work
Some states adopted compulsory education up to the high school level.
Progressive Failures -- Race Relations and Civil Rights
No significant steps were taken at this time to challenge the South's Jim Crow system, solidly in place by 1900,
which kept Blacks in a 2d class citizen status until the 1960s.
No books like Helen Hunt's Century of Dishonor challenged the American conscience toward the plight of
Southern Black citizens.
90% of American Blacks lived in the rural South during the Progressive Era.
One out of seven farmers in the US in 1900 was Black.
o Although Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to the White House for dinner,
Southern anger, reacting with violent acts against Southern Blacks, caused Roosevelt to
back away from further commitments after he lost Southern support.
o The Southern-born Wilson had no enthusiastic support for Black rights.
Niagara Movement - the first collective attempt by African-Americans to demand full citizen rights in the
20th century (without even indirect white support)
Led by W.E.B. Du Bois, their Call to action had been signed by 59 men of distinction in DC and
sixteen states from Rhode Island to South Carolina to Kansas.
Purpose: "organized determination and aggressive action on the part of men who believe in Negro
freedom and growth" and opposition to "present methods of strangling honest criticism."
30 blacks met in Buffalo NY, before shifting to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls at Ft Erie.
In a Declaration of Principles , they espoused black rights
o unrestricted right to vote, the
o end of all segregation in public places,
o equal economic opportunity,
o equal justice in the courts,
o the right to a higher education for all citizens
o an end to discrimination in trade unions.
A press blackout, partially imposed by the influence of Booker T. Washington, caused the meeting
to go almost unnoticed.
Meeting in the North, the movement did not attract many Blacks, most of whom lived in the
South, and could not afford the trip, although a second meeting was held at Stoner College in the
Blue Ridge Mountains.
NAACP – 1909
Following a race riot which devastated Springfield IL 14 August 1908, in response to the Atlanta
riot 1906, a biracial organization was founded in New York
Its primary purpose became to challenge racial discrimination and segregation in public places
through the legal system.
Its publication Crisis was edited for 24 years by W.E.B Du Bois, whose participation in the
organization was indispensable.
Its first successes
o Challenged laws which permitted the use of the mails to send publications fostering racial
o Organized boycotts to gain rights sometimes used violence in the face of violence.