Reformers take it on Industry: The gradual EraThroughout the rapid U.S. Industrialization, or advance of industry, throughout the nineteenth century, the government had preserved a laissez-faire, or hands-off, attitude toward the economy, permitting the large corporations come do an ext or much less as castle pleased. The height leaders of the nation"s industries came to be so powerful most people felt they regulated the nation"s economy and also even the state and federal governments. Come those who perceived them as crooked manipulators, the top commercial leaders were well-known as robber barons. To others, who credited them because that the nation"s prosperity and technical advances, they were the captains that industry. In the critical three decades of the nineteenth century, these industrialists had succeeded in creating vast monopolies (the exclusive right to develop a specific product), frequently by ruining their competition. Financial power to be solidly in the hands of trusts—a couple of large corporations and business that company joined with each other to mitigate competition and control prices. These trusts had developed through the merger of competing companies. In between 1898 and 1904, 5,300 individual companies had linked into just 318 trusts. (For an ext information ~ above trusts, view Chapter 7.) many of these big corporations to be in the habit of giving gifts, generally of company stock, to crucial politicians in Washington, D.C., and in state governments. In exchange they supposed favorable regulation for business and for the federal government to look the other way when their company dealings were questionable.

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Words to Know

capital:Accumulated riches or goods dedicated to the manufacturing of various other goods.conservation:Planned administration of natural resources to avoid their misuse or loss.depression:A period of drastic decline in the economy.directorates:Boards of directors of different companies that have at the very least one director in common.holding company:A agency that is created to very own stocks and bonds in other companies, typically for the objective of controlling them.laissez-faire:An economic doctrine the opposes government regulation the commerce and also industry past the minimum necessary.mediation:Intervention to assist two opposing sides of a problem reach one agreement.monopoly:The exclusive possession of, or appropriate to produce, a particular great or service.muckrakers:Journalists that search for and also expose corruption in public affairs.public domain:Land held by the federal government.strike:A occupational stoppage by employee to protest conditions or make requirements of your employer.trusts:A group of companies, joined because that the objective of reduce competition and also controlling prices.Wall Street:Financial district and home of the nation"s significant stock exchanges in new York, brand-new York.workers" compensation:Payments made to an employee who is hurt at work.

At the finish of the nineteenth century the nation was recovering native a severe financial depression, or a duration of drastic decline in the economy, the had complied with the financial panic of 1893 (see thing 12). In that recovery, the nation"s efficiency increased, mass-produced goods were an ext widely available, prices went down, and profits went up. Along with brand-new industries over there were plenty of fresh job opportunities, boosts in education and leisure activities, and a farming middle course to gain it all. But the wealth and also income indigenous this financial growth continued to be unevenly distributed.

For the very first time since the start of U.S. Industrialization human being from every walks that life joined with each other to demand government regulation of business and also industry and other moderate political reforms. This was the beginning of the gradual Era, the period of the Industrial transformation that spanned roughly from the 1890s to around 1920. These reformers ended up being known together the Progressives. Castle differed from previously political reform teams such as the Populists mostly in your inclusive membership. While the Populists had included laborers, small business owners, and also the farmers of the West, the Progressives were made up of middle and even the upper course reformers and also laborers and farmers. (For an ext information around the Populists, see Chapter 12.) All functioned together in the interest of distributing political power and wealth more equally in the unified States.

The drive to regulate huge business

When the progressive Era began two steps had already been initiated to control the trusts. In 1887 congress passed the Interstate commerce Act, i beg your pardon empowered the federal federal government to oversee the railroads and any institutions that traded in an ext than one state and also established the Interstate commerce Commission (ICC). In 1890 congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act. The barred any "contract, combination in the kind of to trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint the trade" and also made that a commonwealth crime "to monopolize or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire … come monopolize any component of the profession or commerce amongst the several states." no of these acts made an impact on the railroad carriers or the trusts in the decades following their passage. In fact, more combinations and trusts to be formed in between 1897 and 1901 보다 at any kind of other time in American history.

The ICC and also the courts seemed to donate the understanding of the railroads. Native 1887 come 1911, the ICC carried railroads to court on just sixteen occasions. The railroads won fifteen the end of those sixteen court cases. The Sherman Act placed the nation"s attorneys general (chief legislation officers of the nation) in charge of that execution, and at the end of the century the attorneys general tended to it is in pro-trust, when the court were no disposed come rule versus private industry. From 1890 to 1901 just eighteen antitrust suits were filed; 4 of them to be actually versus labor unions, which were accused of conspiring come thwart totally free competition.

The muckrakers

As the twentieth century began, the younger generation was much more educated and also had more access to news and also current political assumed than your parents. The cultivation professional course had much more time to devote to learning about the economy and social change. Thus, the news media broadened greatly. The variety of daily newspapers being published in the nation increased native 1,650 to 2,250 in the twelve-year period from 1892 come 1914. Monthly magazines were especially popular. Atlantic Monthly, Harper"s Weekly, and also Collier"s released high-quality literature and also articles, yet these magazines were thought about expensive in ~ thirty-five cent an issue. In 1900 a new kind of newspaper arose, costing just ten come fifteen cents an issue and full of timely reporting.

The most renowned of the cheaper monthlies was McClure"s Magazine, founded in 1893 through Samuel S. McClure (1857–1949). McClure recruited some of the most talented young journalists the the time, including Ida M. Tarbell (1857–1944) and Lincoln Steffens (1866–1936). McClure"s created itself at the head of "muckraking" journalism. Muckrakers were journalists that searched for and exposed corruption in public affairs. The hatchet "muckrakers" was coined by president Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919; offered 1901–9) in a decided in 1906, when he referred to a literature character whose task was come rake up dirt and filth and also who might look no means but downwards. Roosevelt felt that the muckrakers" investigations emphasized the an unfavorable side that things, particularly with to the to large business, while ignoring the positive.

Early in her career, Ida Tarbell"s biographies of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821; rule 1804–15) and American chairman Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865; served 1861–65) captivated McClure"s readers. She walk on to write one of the classic muckraking works, history of the typical Oil Company, released in book form in 1904. The book went into an excellent detail about the questionable methods of the leading oil-refining company in the country and its owner, man D. Rockefeller (1839–1937). Some critics felt the Tarbell"s views were biased (prejudiced), especially because she thought her father"s oil business had been damaged by traditional Oil"s practices. But most agreed that her work was exceptionally well researched and accurate. (For more information on the typical Oil Company, watch Chapter 7.)

In 1900 McClure hired Lincoln Steffens to offer as a reporter and also later regulating editor the the magazine. Because that his first project, Steffens carried out a prolonged study of the corruption in the city the St. Louis, Missouri"s, political and corporate circles. This reports were published in 1902. He went top top to expose the corruption in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, police department. His stories, choose those that Tarbell, enhanced sales the the magazine. Americans to be fascinated by the corruption the muckrakers uncovered. As various other magazines rushed to imitate McClure"s, a tide of muckraking journalism energized progressive reformers throughout the country.

Novelist Upton Sinclair (1878–1968) join the steady writers when he began a now-famous examination of the meatpacking company in Chicago, Illinois. In the city he witnessed miserable working conditions, bad wages, overfilled immigrant housing, and also unsanitary food processing, every one of which became the communication of his 1906 novel The Jungle. In the novel one immigrant make the efforts to seek the American dream of gaining a home and living a comfortable life. He eagerly take away a task in the meatpacking industry, yet his optimism soon dissolves under the hard slaughterhouse work. That witnesses the greed and corruption in the industry and also the degradation of the stays of many workers. That is additionally shocked by the unhealthy dealing with of the meat. The novel presents graphic explanation of diseased animals and also rotting meat being offered to the American public. The Jungledisgusted numerous readers. Under public pressure, president Theodore Roosevelt appointed a commission to investigate the industry. The publication thus play a large role in bringing about the passage of the Pure Food and Drug act of 1906, i m sorry prohibited shipment of impure foods and drugs in federal government commerce and required honest labeling. The Meat investigate Act was passed in the exact same year. Federal government was start to take a function in regulating big business.

Theodore Roosevelt"s reforms

In September 1901 Republican president william McKinley (1843–1901; offered 1897–1901) was assassinated and also Vice president Theodore Roosevelt ended up being the nation"s brand-new leader. Though Roosevelt supported huge business, that quickly figured out himself v the revolutionary movement. He was concerned that the government"s favoritism toward corporations can push unions and labor parties to extreme actions, hurting business. He thus believed that the federal government should have the power to control corporations through regulatory boards. Countless businessmen agreed through him, believing the such regulation can stabilize the market and also stimulate profits.

The Trust-buster

In 1901 James J. Hill (1838–1916), the head the the great Northern Railroad, and also Edward H. Harriman (1848–1909), the head that the Union Pacific Railroad, engaged in a competition to purchase controlling stock in the northern Pacific Railroad. That railroad firm in turn organized a controlling interest in the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad, the tracks of which provided a highly preferable line right into Chicago and ran transparent the northern Midwest region. As Hill and also Harriman combated for control of north Pacific, the price of its share soared come $1,000 per share. In their efforts to obtain capital (accumulated wide range or goods dedicated to the manufacturing of various other goods) to purchase northern Pacific shares, Hill and Harriman dumped various other holdings at an extremely low prices. This actions resulted in stock price to fluctuate wildly, generally disrupting the share market, yet neither Hill nor Harriman to be able to acquire a regulating interest in northern Pacific. They decided to cooperate v each other. They contacted the an effective financier J. P. Morgan (1837–1913), that arranged for the incorporation of the northern Securities Company, a $400 million holding agency (a firm that is created to very own stocks and also bonds in various other companies, typically for the function of regulating them) that would, castle hoped, lug order and efficiency to the northwestern railroad industry by bringing their an unified interests—the an excellent Northern Railroad, the north Pacific Railroad, and the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad—under the regulate of one plank of directors. The consolidation resulted in one of the largest holding companies developed up to that point.

Morgan was already famous for "Morganization," or purchase up small rival railroads and also merging them into one huge company that then had little or no competition. In the last decades of the century, Morgan had actually made thousands of miles of railroads throughout the East an ext efficient by stability prices. Come the public and also much the the rest of the business world, however, Hill, Harriman, and also Morgan to be robber barons transferring out disruptive, careless, and also crude abuses of power. In march 1902 chairman Roosevelt instructed the U.S. Attorney general to record a lawsuit against the northern Securities Company. The federal court ruled against the agency in 1903, and also in 1904 the can be fried Court upheld the decision, ruling that the firm should be dissolved in accord through the Sherman Antitrust Act. The decision prove to the company world that the Sherman Antitrust Act can be an efficient tool come combat monopolies and trusts the attempted come restrict trade. Roosevelt, who stunned the business world by obtrude the act, ended up being known as the "Trust-buster."

During the Roosevelt administration twenty-four trusts to be indicted (formally accused the a crime) under the Sherman Antitrust Act. In a 1905 court decision, the member firms of the large beef to trust were prohibited from engaging in techniques designed to restrain competition. This important judicial decision would result in the dissolved in 1911 the the conventional Oil agency of new Jersey (which in ~ one suggest controlled an ext than 90 percent the the oil refinery business) and also the American Tobacco Company. In deciding these instances the supreme Court recipe what came to be known together the "rule that reason," which stated that only "unreasonable" combinations the unfairly restricted competition must be prohibited. Favor Roosevelt, the courts seemed to think that trusts to be a permanent fixture in the financial world and also that one can differentiate between an excellent and poor trusts.

Roosevelt and labor unions

On might 12, 1902, 150,000 mine workers in Pennsylvania went on win for much better wages and also working conditions. A strike is a work stoppage by employees to protest problems or make requirements of your employer. Unlike previously strikes, this time the general public sympathized through the strikers. Many Americans had read articles around the terrible conditions in the mines and many believed the workers have to be offered power to negotiate with the mine owner for much better treatment. The media mocked the arrogant mine operators, who appeared intent, one newspaper asserted, upon gift "managing directors" that the entire earth, permitting no one come interfere v their business.

Roosevelt was concerned about the win for another reason. The strike led to the price of coal to increase and as the rose, businesses and schools might no much longer afford come buy coal and were compelled to close. Windy sympathy for the strikers and also the looming danger of a winter there is no coal triggered Roosevelt to shot to hasten a compromise. In at an early stage October he invited representatives native both political parties of the strike come Washington. Roosevelt"s setup was to offer both the strikers and also mine operator an equal voice in the settlement.

Roosevelt and the conservation Movement

In 1890 the U.S. Census reported the what had actually once been the American frontier had become settled. The nation had formerly seemed so substantial that its herbal deposits can never it is in depleted, yet tremendous economic breakthrough after 1865 had resulted in the reckless misuse that the nation"s resources. By the revolve of the century, logging to be the second largest industry in the country, and huge forest areas had been cleared. The many cattle grazing ~ above the great Plains had actually stripped the surface expansion on the plains and also prairies, severely damaging the ecology (the community of life things and also their environment). The buffalo top top the good Plains were virtually extinct. Water shortages affected many west areas.

Roosevelt believed that, through clinical planning, herbal resources might be provided wisely and would remain available to aid the greatest number of people, not only in his time however in future times. (Other conservationists thought that the resources need to be left alone, or preserved, rather than being exploited for human use). In 1902 Roosevelt provided his support to the Newlands nationwide Reclamation Act, which detailed that proceeds from the sale of public floor in the West be provided for large water-use projects, which dispersed the nation"s water come its users. The construction of the an excellent dams of the West came around as a result of the act.

Roosevelt was responsible because that the conservation of substantial areas of land. He produced five nationwide parks and also supported the nationwide Monuments action of 1906, which enables the chairman to defend scientifically or in history important areas such as the cool Canyon. He also created fifty-one wildlife refuges. No everyone agreed through his eco-friendly plans, specifically the agricultural and timber industrialists, and Roosevelt dealt with Congress over this issue. Nevertheless, by some approximates Roosevelt placed around 230 million acre of U.S. Floor under public protection as nationwide parks, national forests, and also game and also bird preserves.

In June 1908 Roosevelt developed the federal Commission on the conservation of herbal Resources, which was headed by the chief pressure in his conservation crusade, American conservationist and also politician Gifford Pinchot (1865–1946). The commonwealth commission had four departments that supervised water, forest, land, and also mineral resources. Within a year, it to be joined through forty-one state conservation commissions.

Roosevelt persuaded the public to become mindful of environmental conservation by informing them. He and Pinchot wrote plenty of articles around conservation that were released in well-known magazines so the general public would have access to the information. Pinchot also designed to teach materials around the setting for schoolchildren.

By the finish of Roosevelt"s term in office federal agencies supervised 200 million acres of federal land, and many individual states copied the federal model, developing state forests, woodland services, and also conservation boards. Roosevelt"s preservation crusade had a tremendous impact on the nation.

John Mitchell (1870–1919), president of the joined Mine employees (UMW), asked the president to appoint a board of directors to settle the matter. The agreed to accept everything decision the commission made, as long as the owners also agreed to expropriate it. But the mine owners refused to negotiate. Their absence of sympathy for the mine employees infuriated Roosevelt. A week after the meeting, the chairman announced the he intended to send the army in to run the mines, in impact dislodging the owners from their own businesses. The risk worked; the owners agreed come mediation (intervention to aid the opposing sides of a problem reach one agreement), and also the win was referred to as off. Mediation it is long for five months. Though the strikers had initially requested a 20 percent salary raise and an eight-hour day, in the finish they embraced a 10 percent salary increase and also a nine-hour day.

The room of Commerce and Labor is established

The mine workers" strike encouraged Roosevelt the the require for a federal firm to stop or help resolve any future national economic crises. In January 1903 he referred to as for the development of a room of Commerce and also Labor, to encompass a bureau of Labor and also a office of Corporations. The duty of this agencies would be to inspection the operations and conduct the corporations and also to provide information around business structure, operations, and working conditions. Roosevelt was able to achieve overwhelming congressional backing because that this measure. The department of Commerce and Labor divided into two different departments—the room of Labor and the room of Commerce—in 1913. These departments filed a few antitrust suits and functioned mainly to assist business and also commerce in the United states by collecting nationwide data that would aid them in their trade.

The choice of 1912

Theodore Roosevelt go not look for reelection in 1908. His chosen successor in the Republican Party was william Howard Taft (1857–1930), that won the election. When in office, however, Taft did not aggressively go after Roosevelt"s policies. Roosevelt chose to operation in the choice of 1912 but quickly uncovered that he had angered numerous conservative Republicans. As soon as they gave the Republican nomination to Taft, Roosevelt developed a new political party, the gradual Party, called after the renowned reform motion with which that was currently associated. (After win the steady nomination in the primaries, Roosevelt claimed he felt prefer a "bull moose," and so the party to be nicknamed the Bull Moose Party).

The democracy nominated Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924), then branch of brand-new Jersey. Additionally running in this unusual project was the Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs (1855–1926). In his efforts to reach the gradual reformers, Roosevelt regularly sounded much more like a Socialist than choose a Republican. Wilson won with much less than 42 percent that the well-known vote. Roosevelt ran 2nd with 27 percent, and also Taft was third with 23 percent. It to be the only time in the twentieth century that a third-party candidate got more votes 보다 a autonomous or Republican nominee.

President Wilson"s reforms

Once elected, Wilson, who stayed in office until 1921, adopted many progressive reforms, such together the initiation that the nation"s an initial income tax and also the establishment of the commonwealth Reserve, the federal government organization the still regulated banking at the start of the twenty-first century. He additionally continued the trust-breaking occupational started by Roosevelt, though progress in this area was slow. In 1914 Progressives in conference were will on establishing an commercial trade commission come oversee business activities and suppress unfair job practices. Wilson, ~ above the other hand, wanted limited government intervention. Ultimately they arrived at a compromise through the Clayton Antitrust Act. This action outlawed monopolistic methods such together price differentiate and allowing executives come sit top top the boards of 2 or more competing companies. A Federal profession Commission (FTC) was developed to investigate corporations and issue cease-and-desist orders versus unfair trade practices.

The Clayton Antitrust Act consisted of clauses allowing workers come unionize and strike. With its declaration the "the job of a human being being is not a commodity or write-up of commerce," the Clayton Act for the an initial time legitimized the visibility of unions. Its critics, however, pointed to the cautious wording of the act, which can lead to a selection of interpretations. Their pertains to soon were proved correct. The courts had long to be opposed to federal government interference in private industry, and their interpretations the the act dilute its job provisions.

Reforms in ~ the state level

Even through high well-known support because that laborers in the steady Era, do the efforts by the states to regulate working hours and conditions were stood up to as fiercely by the courts as they to be by employers. Under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, states might not deprive any type of person of life, liberty, or building without due process of law. In instance after case the courts construed this to average that states might not border an individual"s liberty to make a contract, and that as soon as a state do the efforts to set limits to the variety of hours a person operated in a job or a week, the state to be infringing ~ above his or her liberty.

Working hours

Workers had actually been seek a shorter workday due to the fact that the at an early stage nineteenth century. By 1900 countless industries and also occupations had accomplished a ten-hour day and also a sixty-hour week. Cigar makers, in fact, had gotten their workweek below fifty hrs in part states. Employees in various other occupations were much less fortunate. Castle were compelled by their employers to work-related eleven- to thirteen-hour days and sixty-five or much more hours per week. Those who refused to work long hours were frequently fired. Bakers to be one group that worked long hours in unhealthy and uncomfortable conditions. In 1895 the reform-minded new York State legislature passed the Bakeshop Act, limiting the bakers" workweek come sixty hours. When a bakeshop owner to be charged with violating the act, he take it his instance to the supreme Court. In the situation of Lochner v. Brand-new York (1905) the can be fried Court hosted the maximum hrs provisions in the Bakeshop plot to be in dispute with the Fourteenth Amendment. The Lochner decision continued to halt law to boost the problems of American labor till it was ultimately overruled in 1937. There were part exceptions, however, such together the 1908 court ruling that found that Oregon might limit the working hrs of women to ten every day. This judgment was based on the id that women lived in a special place in society and necessary the law to defend them.

Child labor

The employment of children as a ready and cheap source of labor continued well into the twentieth century. Exhausting and dangerous conditions in the canning industry, the glass market (where boys were hired to mold glass for hrs on finish in prior of blistering-hot furnaces), the charcoal mining industry, and the textile industry began to attract considerable attention from reformers after 1900. (For more information on boy labor, see Chapter 9.) most legislation against child labor took place at the state level, however in 1904 the nationwide Child labor Committee was formed by conference to promote the welfare of America"s functioning children and investigate problems in a number of states. The committee was not authorized come act versus the abusive cases it found, and its initiatives to improve problems on a state-by-state basis were not effective. In 1910 it was estimated that there to be still more than 2 million U.S. Children employed in commercial settings.

Congress passed the law establishing the Children"s Bureau together an company in the room of Commerce and Labor in 1912, yet the bureau had actually no strength to enact or enforce legislation. Then, in 1916, conference passed the Keating-Owen son Labor Act. The action barred the interstate delivery of products made in totality or in part by children and prohibited kids under 16 from working in dangerous areas such as mines and also quarries (open excavations), indigenous working much longer than eight hours a day, and from working at night. The also set the minimum age for other species of job-related at fourteen. In 1918 the can be fried Court, citing states" rights, claimed the regulation unconstitutional. It was not till 1938 that Congress happen the same Labor criter Act (FLSA), which collection a minimum wage for every workers, collection a preferably workweek that forty-four hours, and also prohibited interstate shipment of goods developed by kids under the period of sixteen. After years of ruling versus attempts to manage child labor, the supreme Court permitted this act come stand.

Minimum wage

In 1912 Massachusetts became the first U.S. State to pass a minimum wage law, and in 1918 conference authorized minimum wage levels for female workers in the district of Columbia. Five years later, however, the U.S. Can be fried Court ruled the minimum wage regulations infringed top top the flexibility of businesses and workers to type contracts as they experienced fit. In 1938 the supreme Court adjusted its views and the FLSA quickly followed, setup the first minimum fairy at twenty-five cents an hour.

Workers" compensation

By 1900 industrial mishaps killed thirty-five thousand workers each year and maimed five hundred thousand others. In the nineteenth century, workers injured ~ above the job had actually little choice but to sue their employers in court. Courts regularly ruled against workers, heralding that they had actually assumed the risk of injury by taking the job. Workers" compensation laws, by awarding collection amounts of financial compensation for miscellaneous injuries, carried relief come workers and also employers. Workers obtained money because that injuries, and also employers no much longer needed come worry around being sue for work-related accidents. By 1916 thirty-five states had passed workers" compensation laws, however there was no law for commonwealth workers. The 1916 Kern-McGillicuddy act filled this void by creating a device of compensation for commonwealth workers.

For much more Information


Brody, David. Employees in industrial America: Essays on the 20th-Century Struggle. Second ed. Brand-new York: Oxford college Press, 1993.

Diner, Steven J. A really Different Age: american of the progressive Era. New York: Hill and Wang, 1998.

Summers, note Wahlgren. The Gilded period or, the risk of brand-new Functions. Top Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1997.

Wagenknecht, Edward. American Profile: 1900–1909. Amherst: college of Massachusetts Press, 1982.

Web Sites

"America 1900." American Experience: PBS. Http:// (accessed ~ above June 30, 2005).

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Progressive Era history Resources. Http:// (accessed top top June 30, 2005).