America at the turn of the century was a best a rough place. Technology and industry grew at such a great rate that the government and most citizens were unprepared to deal with its effects. Philosophies like Laissez Fair and social Darwinism combined to create an America that cared little for theevery day man. Eventually citizens, average people like you and me, arose to complain about these conditions and demand change. The demand for change, or progress, was known as the Progressive Era.
I. The Progressives
A. Muckrakers (Term coined by TR was a negative one. Based on a literary character who was so busy cleaning and raking up the muck and dirt that he didn't see the good things that were above his head.)
1. Lincoln Stephens, "The Shame of the Cities" Link between big business and crooked politicians
2. Ida Tarbell, "History of the Standard Oil Company" published in McClure's Magazine. Described the firms cutthroat methods of eliminating competition.
3. Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle" Detailed the lives stockyard workers and the meat packing industry.
4. Jacob Riis, "How The Other Half Lives" A book of photographs about the wretched conditions in the cities and slums.
B. Religious Groups
1. Preaching of the "social gospel."
2. Create acts of god, churches should work to improve conditions for workers and the poor.
3. Religious organizations like the YMCA, YWCA, concentrated efforts on helping newcomers adjust to life in the big cities. Investigates slum conditions, provided food and clothing and set up settlement houses.
C. Radical Groups
1. Socialist Party
a. Organized in 1901 by labor leaders including Eugene V. Debs.
b. Wanted govt. takeover of big business, laws regulating business as well as a minimum wage and laws setting the length of the work week to 40 hours.
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Muckrakers were early twentieth-century reformers whose 1
mission was to look for and uncover political and business corruption.
The term muckraker, which referred to the "man with a muckrake"
in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, was first used in a pejorative
sense by Theodore Roosevelt, whose opinion of the muckrakers was
that they were biased and overreacting. The movement began about
1902 and died down by 1917. Despite its brief duration, however, it
had a significant impact on the political, commercial, and even literary
climate of the period. 2
Many popular magazines featured articles whose purpose was 3
to expose corruption. Some of these muckraking periodicals included
The Arena, Everybody's, The Independent, and McClure's. Lincoln
Steffens, managing editor of McClure's (and later associate editor of
American Magazine and Everybody's), was an important leader of
the muckraking movement. Some of his exposés were collected in his
1904 book The Shame of the Cities and in two other volumes, and
his 1931 autobiography also discusses the corruption he uncovered
and the development of the muckraking movement. Ida Tarbell,
another noted muckraker, wrote a number of articles for McClure's,
some of which were gathered in her 1904 book The History of the
Standard Oil Company.
Muckraking appeared in fiction as well. David Graham Phillips, 4
who began his career as a newspaperman, went on to write
muckraking magazine articles and eventually novels about
contemporary economic, political, and social problems such as
insurance scandals, state and municipal corruption, shady Wall Street
dealings, slum life, and women's emancipation.
Perhaps the best-known muckraking novel was Upton Sinclair's 5
The Jungle, the 1906 exposé of the Chicago meatpacking industry.
The novel focuses on an immigrant family and sympathetically and
realistically describes their struggles with loan sharks and others who
take advantage of their innocence. More importantly, Sinclair
graphically describes the brutal working conditions of those who find
work in the stockyards. Sinclair's description of the main character's
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Standard Oil Significant Impact John Bunyan Magazine Articles Everybody Social Problems Wall Street Dealings Discusses Reformers
work in the fertilizer plant is particularly gruesome; at the novel's end,
this man turns to socialism.
With the muckrakers featured prominently in fiction, magazines, 6
and newspapers--especially the New York World and the Kansas City
Star--some results were forthcoming. Perhaps the most far-reaching
was the pure-food legislation of 1906, supposedly a direct result of
Roosevelt's reading of The Jungle. In any case, the muckrakers helped
to nourish the growing tradition of social reform in America.