Progressivism and the Republican Roosevelt
I. Progressive Roots
In the beginning of the 1900s, America had 76 million people,
mostly in good condition. Then before the first decade of the 20th
century, the U.S. would be influenced by a “Progressive
movement’ that fought against monopolies, corruption,
inefficiency, and social injustice.
The purpose of the Progressives was to use the government as an agency of human
The Progressives had their roots in the Greenback Labor Party of the 1870s and 1880s and the
Populist Party of the 1890s.
In 1894, Henry Demarest Lloyd exposed the corruption of the
monopoly of the Standard Oil Company with his book Wealth Against
Commonwealth, while Thorstein Veblen criticized the new rich (those who
made money from the trusts) in The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899).
Other exposers of the corruption of trusts, or
“muckrakers,” as Theodore Roosevelt called them, were Jacob
A. Riis, writer of How the Other Half Lives, a book about the New York
slums and its inhabitants, and novelist Theodore Dreiser, who wrote The
Financier and The Titan to attack profiteers.
Socialists and feminists gained strength, and with people like Jane
Addams and Lillian Wald, women entered the Progressive fight.
II. Raking Muck with the Muckrakers
Beginning about 1902, a group of aggressive ten and fifteen-cent popular magazines, such
, began flinging the dirt about the trusts.
Despite criticism, reformer-writers ranged far and wide to lay bare the muck on the back of
In 1902, Lincoln Steffens launched a series of articles in
entitled “The Shame of the Cities,” in which he unmasked
the corrupt alliance between big business and the government.
Ida M. Tarbell launched a devastating exposé against Standard Oil and its ruthlessness.
These writers exposed the “money trusts,” the railroad
barons, and the corrupt amassing of American fortunes, this last part
done by Thomas W. Lawson.
David G. Phillips charged that 75 of the 90 U.S. Senators did not represent the people,
but actually the railroads and trusts.
Ray Stannard Baker’s
Following the Color Line
was about the illiteracy of Blacks.
The Bitter Cry of the Children
exposed child labor.