Session status The Progressive Movement

"Industrialization and Urbanization in the United States led to the Progressive Movement (1895-1917). The Movement was a response to political and corporate abuses at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

Religious groups, members of the press, and radical political groups all cried out for reform, with solutions ranging from subtle reforms of the American capitalist economy, to a call for the creation of a socialist government.

Reforms were initiated by individuals at the city, state, and national levels of government. A number of social reformers also worked to reform what they viewed as the ills negatively impacting United States society." Source

The following factors contributed to the progressive movement: Source

  • Urbanization. The period between the Civil War and the Great Depression was the most rapid period of urbanization in the nation's history. In 1860, four times as many people lived in rural as in urban areas (25,227,000 v. 6,217,000). By 1930, the rural population had basically doubled, but urban population had increased more than tenfold (53,820,000 v. 68,955,000).
    In 1860 only nine cities in the U.S. had a population of 100,000 or more, by 1930 the number had grown to 93.

  • Industrialization. Beginning in the 1850s, the United States began to rapidly industrialize. After the Civil War this process accelerated. In 1860 about half of all the nation's work force was engaged in agriculture, by 1930 this number had decreased to around 22 percent. The gross national product had increased, in constant 1929 dollars, from $9.11 billion to $104.4 billion. And, industrial union membership grew from an estimated 300,000 workers to 3,393,000 (down from a 1920 high of 5,048,000).

  • Immigration. Prior to 1890 most immigrants to the United States came from England, Germany, Ireland, and Scandinavia. During the forty years between 1850 and 1890, about 13,550,000 immigrants came to the United States. During the thirty years between 1890 and 1920 the number of immigrants coming to the United States increased to 18,218,761. ... by 1900 a third of the nation was either foreign born of the children of foreign born—in many cities immigrants and their children were a clear majority.

  • Progressive Era Timeline
  • The Progressive Movement in the 20th Century
  • The Progressive Movement: Its Principles & Programs by S.J. Duncan-Clark (PDF of book.)
    Intro by Theodore Roosevelt (pp. 22-30), Bost: Small Maynard & Co. c1914.

A political cartoon by C.J. Taylor entitled "King of the World" depicts John D. Rockefeller and the monopoly held by Standard Oil. From:

Big Ideas ~ Enduring Understandings
  • Social and Economic crises lead to new roles for government.
  • Governmental power impacts society.
  • Leaders emerge and exercise power in different ways.
  • History is recorded from different perspectives.
  • Institutions play an integral role in people's lives.
  • Citizens have a responsibility to be well informed about government.
Essential Questions

What motivates people to fight for societal change?

How can individuals effect change in their society? (Consider social, political and economic issues.)

How can government address societal disparities and inequity?

Topic Specific

What were the goals of the Progressive Movement?

How did the Progressive Movement push for a just and equal society?

How successful were the reformers in achieving their goals?

Issues & Reform

Muckrakers: Who were the muckrakers and what role did they play in identifying issues associated with the Progressive Movement. Give at least three examples.

Social Issues: Identify and discuss reforms initiated by social activists in the Progressive Movement.

Corporate Issues: Identify and discuss reforms initiated by corporate activists in the Progressive Movement. What goods and services should a democratic government provide?

Political Issues:
Identify and discuss reforms initiated by political activists in the Progressive Movement. How much control should a democratic government have over economic, political and social activities? How did Teddy Roosevelt address these issues?

City Reforms: What caused urbanization during the Progressive Movement? What problems existed in urban centers? How were these problems addressed by individuals and government?

How the Other Half Lives (1890) by Jacob Riis
1. Explain some of the conditions described in this excerpt from How the Other Half Lives.
2. What point do you think Riis was trying to make when he chose the title for his book?
3. How effective is Riis's message?
4. Why did the poor agree to live in such conditions?
5. Why did city government officials allow these conditions to continue?
6. Do similar conditions exist today? Why or why not?

(Reference Credit permission granted to use by author.)

State Reforms: What state reforms were initiated during the Progressive Movement? What caused the problems, who were the reformers in fixing the problems?

Federal Reforms: What federal reforms were initiated during the Progressive Movement? What caused the problems, who were the reformers in fixing the problems?

Culminating Project Ideas
  • Create graphic respresentations for the factors contributing to the Progressive Movement --Urbanization, Industrialization, and Immigration. Use the statistics presented in the Overview section.
  • More options to come...
The Presidents

Theodore Roosevelt ~ President 1901-1909

"Teddy Roosevelt was a weak and asthmatic child who grew up to be one of the most robust and ambitious U.S. presidents ever." Learn more ...

Bio Quote:

William Howard Taft ~ President 1909 - 1913

"Twenty-seventh president of the United States and chief justice, U.S. Supreme Court. A native of Cincinnati and a graduate of Yale, Taft was an able administrator and an intelligent, if unimaginative, lawyer and jurist. He was, however, a poor politician." Lean more...

Bio Quote:
Woodrow Wilson ~ President 1913 - 1921

"Woodrow Wilson was the president who led the United States through World War I. ... He entered politics in 1910 when he was persuaded to run for governor of New Jersey. After only two years as governor, he beat out Teddy Roosevelt and William H. Taft in the presidential election of 1912".
Learn more...
  • Wilson’s New Freedom This policy stood in opposition to New Nationalism, particularly on the issue of antitrust modification. According to President Woodrow Wilson,"If America is not to have free enterprise, she can have freedom of no sort whatever."
Bio Quote:

Muckrakers were members of the press who investigated corruption in order to expose problems to the American people. They had a great amount of influence, often resulting in the passage of laws designed to reform the abuse that they reported.

Thomas Nast ~ Political Cartoons

"Illustrator Thomas Nast was the first American celebrity cartoonist, famous for helping to turn out New York's corrupt politicians and for creating persistent iconographic images of Santa Claus. Nast, from a family of German immigrants, began working in New York City as a cartoonist at the age of 15." Learn more...

Bio Quote:

Jacob Riis
How the Other Half Lives
1890 PDF

"Jacob August Riis (1849-1914), Danish-born American journalist and slum reformer, created new standards in civic responsibility regarding the poor and homeless in his reporting of New York City slum conditions." Learn more...

Photo Slide Show
Analysis of Photos

Bio Quote:

Lewis Hine ~ How the Other Half Lives 1890

"American photographer. Following several years as a factory worker in Oshkosh, and a short period at the University of Chicago, where he studied sociology and pedagogy (1900-01), he went to New York to teach at the Ethical Culture School (1901-8). There he acquired a camera as a teaching tool and soon set up a club and ran classes at the school, while improving his own skills as a self-taught photographer."
Learn more...

Photo Slide Show
Analysis of Photos

Bio Quote:

Ida B. Wells ~ A Red Record 1895

"Journalist, editor, diarist, autobiographer, lecturer, suffragist, anti lynching crusader, and civil rights activist. The essays, pamphlets, and newspaper articles of Ida B. Wells-Barnett shaped the post-Reconstruction discourse on race, while her personal narratives, including two diaries, a travel journal, and an autobiography, recorded the personal struggle of a professional woman to define African American womanhood in a pivotal era of American history." Learn more...

Bio Quote:
Frank Norris ~ The Octopus 1901

"U.S. novelist and short-story writer. Norris initially worked as an overseas correspondent and in publishing. He became the first important American author to embrace naturalism. McTeague (1899) is a portrait of an acquisitive society. He adopted a more humanitarian ideal beginning with his masterpiece, The Octopus (1901), the first novel of a projected trilogy dealing with the economic and social forces involved in the wheat industry." Learn more..

Bio Quote:

Lincoln Steffens ~ The Shame of the Cities 1904

"American editor and author, b. San Francisco, grad. Univ. of California, 1889, and studied three years in Europe. Steffens became one of the leading muckrakers, and while he held (1902–11) successive editorial positions on McClure's, the American, and Everybody's magazines he wrote sensational articles exposing municipal corruption; they were later collected in The Shame of the Cities (1904), The Struggle for Self-Government (1906), Upbuilders (1909), and other volumes." Learn more...

Bio Quote:

Upton Sinclair
The Jungle 1906 Chapter 3 Excerpt Full Text

Upton Beall Sinclair was a prolific American writer known for his affiliation with socialism and famous for his 1906 novel, The Jungle. Sinclair was born in Baltimore, but his family moved to New York when he was a child. When he was a teenager he began writing brief bits for newspapers and magazines. The Jungle was his sixth novel, and its success made him nationally famous. Learn more...

Bio Quote:
Ida Tarbell ~ "History of Standard Oil Company"
McClure's Magazine -1904

"One of the leading muckrakers, she is remembered for her investigations of industry published in McClure's magazine. Some of them were collected in her History of the Standard Oil Company (1904). She also wrote Life of Abraham Lincoln (1900), other books on Lincoln, and biographies of Elbert H. Gary (1925) and Owen D. Young (1932). Her economic studies culminated in The Nationalizing of Business, 1878–1898 (1936)." Learn more...

Bio Quote:
Social Issues - Women ~ Women in the Progressive Era

Suffragist Movement

When the U.S. was founded, only white men were allowed to vote and elect representatives to government. In the new 20th Century, many women were demanding suffrage, or the right to vote.

Alice Paul

"Social reformer, activist, and lawyer. Born on January 11, 1885, in Moorestown, New Jersey. Alice Paul spent much of her life fighting for women’s rights."
Learn more...

Susan B. Anthony

"Women's rights activist, social reformer, editor, and writer. Born on February 15, 1820, in Adams, Massachusetts. For most of her life, Susan B. Anthony fought for women’s rights, especially the right to vote."
Learn more...

2 minutes 27 secs

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

"Women's rights activist, feminist, editor, and writer. Born on November 12, 1815, in Johnstown, New York. The daughter of a lawyer who made no secret of his preference for another son, she early showed her desire to excel in intellectual and other "male" spheres."
Learn more...

Carrie Chapman Catt

Women’s rights activist. Born Carrie Lane on January 9, 1859, near Ripon, Wisconsin. Carrie Chapman Catt was a key figure in the passing of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. She also founded the League of Women Voters.
Learn more...

Health & Welfare Reform

Jane Addams

"Born in Cedarville, Illinois, on September 6, 1860 -- founded, with Ellen Gates Starr, the world famous social settlement Hull-House on Chicago's Near West Side in 1889." Learn more...

Bio - 3 minutes

Bio - 29 minutes

Hull House and Its Neighborhoods

Hull House Timeline

Margaret Sanger

"Birth control, public health advocate. Born on September 14, 1879, in Corning, New York. Margaret Sanger was a pioneering force in the field of contraception and helped create the International Planned Parenthood Federation."
Learn more...

Mike Wallace Interview
20+ minutes
(Note Phillip Morris Commercial precedes the Interview.)

Dorothea Dix

"(born April 4, 1802, Hampden, District of Maine, Mass. [now in Maine], U.S.—died July 17, 1887, Trenton, N.J.) American educator, social reformer, and humanitarian whose devotion to the welfare of the mentally ill led to widespread reforms in the United States and abroad."
Learn more...

Social Issues - Child Labor ~ Child Labor - American Memory Project

During the 1800s, children were often forced to work long hours in back breaking jobs. The 20th Century saw a movement to outlaw child labor.

Child Labor in the United States 1908-1912 ~ Pictures & Commentary

Confidential Memo Regarding Photos

click to view large image

Sweeper boy
click to view large image

Glass factory workers
click to view large image

The Slebzak Family
click to view large image

click to view large image

Breaker boys
Social Issues - Temperance & Prohibition ~ Background Regents Prep

For many social reformers, alcohol was a social evil that caused the breakdown of marriages, violence and abuse. There were many in the country who wanted to prohibit liquor.
Learn more...

Social Issues - Race

During the 1800s, African American slaves were freed and became citizens, at least in name. But as blacks began to move around the country, tensions between the races boiled over.

Civil Rights - American Memory Project

Plessy vs. Ferguson ~ “Separate but Equal” ~ Anti-defamation League

Mary Church Terrell

Mary Eliza Church Terrell was an influential African American writer, lecturer, and social activist, whose work began when the separate-but-equal doctrine of racial segregation was adopted by the U.S. legal system and ended as the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954), rejected the doctrine of state-sponsored segregation. Terrell was also an advocate of women's rights, including the right to vote.
Learn more...

Bio Quote:

Booker T. Washington

"Writer, black leader, educator. Born Booker Taliaferro Washington on April 5, 1856 in Franklin County, Virginia. The son of a white slave owner and a black slave, Washington was freed after emancipation (1865) "
Learn more...

Library of Congress Virtual Resources


Bio Quote:

W.E.B. DuBois

"Born February 23, 1868, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, U.S.—died August 27, 1963, Accra, Ghana) American sociologist, the most important black protest leader in the United States during the first half of the 20th century."
Learn more...

Library of Congress Virtual Resources

Bio Quote:

Corporate Issues

"Young and old were simply out on the street if they were injured on the job. Workers' compensation systems were devised during the early 1900s. Children were often forced to work long hours in back breaking jobs. The 20th Century saw a movement to outlaw child labor."

This video segment from the documentary The Jewish Americans outlines the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in New York City.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was owned by Max Blank and Isaac Harris, ambitious Russian Jewish immigrants. Their company employed Jewish immigrants who worked in sweatshop conditions. 

On March 25, 1911, a fire started on the eighth floor.  The exits were locked, and fire truck ladders only reached to the sixth floor, so there was no escape for the workers trapped inside the burning building. One hundred forty-six workers were killed.  Although Blank and Harris were tried for manslaughter, they were acquitted.
Click to View Video

Teachers' Domain, The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Disaster, published August 26, 2008, retrieved on var now = new Date();document.write(now.defaultString()); April 22, 2009,

Anti-Monopoly Reforms "In the new 20th Century, many businesses were becoming big business. The U.S. was a huge marketplace with lots of potential consumers, and businesses began to try and monopolize that market. They wanted to limit or eliminate competition so they could control prices and profits. Reformers said their business practices were unfair and sought to break up the monopolies or 'trusts.'" Learn More...

Business Organizations attempted to limit competition. Because of the belief in Social Darwinism (survival of the fittest) government did very little to control big business. The ways in which big business tried to limit competition and control the market in their industries included:

  • Conglomerate "A corporation that is made up of a number of different, seemingly unrelated businesses. In a conglomerate, one company owns a controlling stake in a number of smaller companies, which conduct business separately. Each of a conglomerate's subsidiary businesses runs independently of the other business divisions, but the subsidiaries' management reports to senior management at the parent company."
    Learn more..
  • Pool - An agreement between competing business concerns to establish controls over production, market, and prices for common profit. Poolings are generally outlawed in the United States by various antitrust laws.
  • Trust "A special trust or business trust is a business entity formed with intent to monopolize business, to restrain trade, or to fix prices." Learn more...
  • Holding Company "Corporation that owns enough voting stock in another corporation to influence its board of directors and therefore to control its policies and management. A holding company need not own a majority of the shares of its subsidiaries or be engaged in similar activities. However, to gain the benefits of tax consolidation, which include tax-free dividends to the parent and the ability to share operating losses, the holding company must own 80% or more of the subsidiary's voting stock." Learn more...
Political Issues

"In many states, progressive reformers wanted to give more power to the people by allowing citizen groups to initiate new laws themselves — the initiative — or to review the actions of legislatures — the referendum. These reformers pushed through "Initiative and Referendum" systems that allowed citizens to circulate petitions to put issues and proposals on the ballot. The reformers in many states also pushed through systems to allow for the recall of elected officials."

"Direct Elections. Before the turn of the century, members of the U.S. Senate were elected by the politicians in each state legislature. The direct election of senators by the voters was a major electoral reform." Learn more...

City Reforms

Progressive reform began at the local or city level because it was easier to implement than at the vast state or national level. Urban corruption from political machines was a major focus, resulting in the reorganization of local government using the commissioner-and city-manager-styles of management. Learn more...

City Commissioner Plan - Cities hired experts in different fields to run a single aspect of city government. For example, the sanitation commissioner would be in charge of garbage and sewage removal.

City Manager Plan - A professional city manager is hired to run each department of the city and report directly to the city council.

Regents Prep

State Reforms

Reform governors such as Theodore Roosevelt of New York, Robert M. LaFollete of Wisconsin, and Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey, all helped get reforms passed in their respective states. In addition, reforms first proposed by the Populist Party were enacted in order to make state governments more responsive to the needs of the people.

Secret Ballot - Privacy at the ballot box ensures that citizens can cast votes without party bosses knowing how they voted.

Initiative - Allows voters to petition state legislatures in order to consider a bill desired by citizens.

Referendum - Allows voters to decide if a bill or proposed amendment should be passed.

Recall - Allows voters to petition to have an elected representative removed from office.

Direct Primary - Ensures that voters select candidates to run for office, rather than party bosses.

Regents Prep
Federal Reforms

Sherman Anti-trust Act (1890) - "Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal".
Watch Reenactment of Theodore Roosevelt and AntiTrust effort.

Newlands Reclamation Act (1902)  - Encouraged conservation by allowing the building of dams and irrigations systems using money from the sale of public lands.

Elkins Act (1903)  - Outlawed the use of rebates by railroad officials or shippers.

Pure Food and Drug Act (1906/1911)  -  Required that companies accurately label the ingredients contained in processed food items.

Meat Inspection Act (1906)  - In direct response to Upton Sinclair The Jungle 1906 -- Chapter 3 Excerpt -- this law required that meat processing plants be inspected to ensure the use of good meat and health-minded procedures.

Hepburn Act (1906)  -  Strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission, allowing it to set maximum railroad rates.

Federal Reserve Act (1913)  - Created 12 district  Federal Reserve Banks, each able to issue new currency and loan member banks funds at the prime interest rate, as established by the Federal Reserve Board.

Clayton Antitrust Act (1914)  - Strengthened the Sherman Antitrust Act by outlawing the creation of a monopoly through any means, and stated that unions were not subject to antitrust legislation.

Federal Trade Commission Act (1914)  -  Established the Federal Trade Commission, charged with investigating unfair business practices including monopolistic activity and inaccurate product labeling.


16th (1913) - Granted Congress the power to tax income.

17th (1913) - Provided for the direct election of U.S. Senators.

18th (1919) - Prohibited making, selling, or transporting alcohol.

19th (1920) - Provided women suffrage (voting).

Regents Prep
Crossword Puzzle


Many thanks to Sunny Shore, Library Media Specialist, Ramapo High School for suggesting the topic and supporting me.

Ms. Donna Avino, Ramapo High School teacher of United States History and Government, reviewed this work thoroughly. Her willingness to share her time and expertise is greatly appreciated. Ms. Avino, your suggestions regarding wording of questions and content to be included were invaluable.

Finally, thank you in advance to the students who will pilot this Project Organizer in their classes. Your feedback will be greatly appreciated. We will learn from each other.