H CS 14

Industrialization and Progressivism (1877-1920)

Ignited by post-Civil War demand and fueled by technological advancements, large-scale industrialization began in the United States during the late 1800s. Growing industries enticed foreign immigration, fostered urbanization, gave rise to the American labor movement and developed the infrastructure that facilitated the settling of the West. A period of progressive reform emerged in response to political corruption and practices of big business.

Content Statement

14. The Progressive era was an effort to address the ills of American society stemming from industrial capitalism, urbanization and political corruption.

Content Elaborations

Industrial capitalism, urbanization and political corruption contributed to many of the problems in American society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Organized movements, such as the Farmers’ Alliances and the Populist Party, were reactions to the effects of industrialization and created a reform agenda which contributed to the rise of Progressivism. Journalists, called muckrakers, exposed political corruption, corporate and industrial practices, social injustice and life in urban America.

Progressives introduced reforms to address the ills associated with industrial capitalism. Their efforts led to anti- trust suits (e.g., Northern Securities Company), antitrust legislation (Clayton Antitrust Act), railroad regulation (Hepburn Act), and consumer protection legislation (e.g., Pure Food and Drug Act, Meat Inspection Act). The Federal Reserve Act was passed to control the nation’s money supply and regulate the banking system. Conservation reforms included the creation of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and the passage of the Newlands Act.

Progressives fought political corruption and introduced reforms to make the political process more democratic (e.g., initiative, referendum, recall, secret ballot, new types of municipal government, civil service reform, primary elections).

Other progressive reforms included:

  • 16th Amendment (power of Congress to levy an
  • income tax);
  • 17th Amendment (direct election of U.S. Senators);
  • 18th Amendment (prohibition of alcoholic beverages);
  • 19th Amendment (women’s suffrage).

Expectations for Learning

Analyze and evaluate the success of progressive reforms during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in addressing problems associated with industrial capitalism, urbanization and political corruption.