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Progressive Era: 1891–1920


American Federation of Labor (AFL)

collection of craft unions (unions based on skills) organized by Samuel Gompers in 1886 and dedicated to ensuring acceptable working conditions for skilled workers

collective bargaining

negotiations between a group of workers and their employers in order to create working conditions acceptable to both

Farmers' Alliance

movement in the 1870s–80s that focused on agrarian interests and created farmers' cooperatives to advocate for improved economic conditions for farmers

Free Silver

movement championed by the Democratic party to compel the government to release an unlimited supply of silver dollars to increase the currency supply

Granger movement

post–Civil War movement uniting American farmers to share agricultural knowledge and fight against the grain transport monopoly and its exorbitant prices

Homestead Strike

violent conflict that erupted on July 6, 1892, between strikebreakers hired by the Carnegie Steel Company in Homestead, Pennsylvania, and company workers on strike

Ida Tarbell

American journalist and lecturer specializing in reports on industry, most famous for her series of articles "The History of the Standard Oil Company" (1904)

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

labor organization founded in 1905 in Chicago that brought together 43 groups of workers. The IWW opposed the AFL's capitalist focus.

Knights of Labor (KOL)

first national labor organization formed in the United States. It was founded in 1869 by Uriah Stephens, the organization's first leader.


term coined by President Theodore Roosevelt referring to an American writer or journalist who exposed the corruption of big business and the hardships this corruption caused the general public

Pinkerton Detective Agency

American independent police force founded by Allan Pinkerton in 1850 to take on the problem of railway theft


support for the rights and concerns of ordinary citizens

Populist Party

political party formed by farmers to place candidates who supported their interests in Congress and state leadership positions


political movement that arose in the first two decades of the 20th century and focused on social and economic reforms

Pullman Strike

railroad employee strike and boycott that lasted over two months in 1894 and interfered with rail transport in the Midwest

Samuel Gompers

founder and first president of the American Federation of Labor and a labor leader who used strikes and walkouts to force employers to improve working conditions


form of debt servitude in which a person would rent a plot of land from a large landowner and provide a percentage of the crop to the landowner as payment

Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890

legislation passed by the U.S. government to curb powerful companies seeking to reduce economic competition. It was used by the government in 1911 to break the monopoly of the Standard Oil Company

Standard Oil

American company and corporate trust run by John D. Rockefeller that controlled nearly all oil production and all other aspects of the oil industry from 1870 to 1911

The Jungle

novel written and privately published in 1906 by Upton Sinclair, a supporter of workers' rights. The novel exposed the terrible working conditions of Chicago's stockyards and slaughterhouses.


associations formed by workers in a particular industry or trade to fight for improved working conditions collectively

Upton Sinclair

American novelist and supporter of socialism who fought for temperance, free speech, and workers' rights, covered in his muckraking novel The Jungle