Progressive Era


The Progressive Era was a time period when people started to become upset with certain things, and demanded change. The Muckrakers (people who exposed certain corruption by using various tactics) exposed the way of life in order to show the corruption that went on in American society. For example, people exposed the corrupted meat packing industry, the living conditions of people, etc. Before the Progressive Era, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act outlawed trusts and monopolies from forming as well. After this, President Theodore Roosevelt supported the Progressive Era by busting trusts and monopolies. Also, women protested their right to vote which they got in 1920.

This cartoon was done by a muckraker named Thomas Nast. Nast created different political cartoons in order to expose corruption in society. For example, he created a cartoon that exposed the New York City machine called Tammany Hall, and Boss Tweed(Tammany Hall's leader).

Important People

Theodore Roosevelt- President during the Progressive Era. Progressive, and a trust-buster, started the Square Deal.

William Howard Taft- President during the Progressive Era after Teddy Roosevelt. Approved the 16th Amendment, and passed few amendments. Passed the Clayton Anti-trust Act.

Woodrow Wilson- President at the end of the Progressive Era after Taft. Created the Federal Trade Commission, and he was president during WWI.

Susan B. Anthony- fought for women's suffrage, and attended the Seneca Falls Convention.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton- fought for women's suffrage, and attended the Seneca Falls Convention.

Ida B. Wells- Muckraker who provided stats on how many African- Americans were assassinated.

Jacob Riis- Muckraker. exposed the horrible living conditions that poor and urban people were living in.

Upton Sinclair- Muckraker exposed the dangers of the meat packing industry, and Author of The Jungle.

Thomas Nast- Muckraker, corrupted NYC's machine called Tammy Hall, and Boss Tweed.

The Muckrakers

Muckrakers were people who exposed the horrors of American society. They did this by using a variety of tactics in order to show people the wrong doings in the United States. This section covers what the muckrakers did in order to improve society.

Ida B. Wells who was an African American herself who provided stats on the number of African Americans who were being killed, because of their race. She wrote a book called A Red Record which described the fact that black people were being killed. As a result of her work, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) joined the fight for legislation that would abolish the killing of African Americans.

John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company treated employees and competition harshly. As a result, Ida Tarbell exposed the horrors of the company by writing a book called The History of Standard Oil Company. As a result of her work, the court case Standard Oil vs U.S. was upheld by the Supreme Court. The Court declared that the company should be broken up, and declared a monopoly. Also, the government would do a better job at regulating corrupted businesses in order to limit corruption for now on.

Jacob Riis exposed the horrible living conditions that the poor and urban people were living in. As a result of his work, N.Y.C passed codes that dealt with building's sanitation, and this was to make sure that all houses were safe for people's health. Jacob Riis also wrote How the Other Half Lives.

Jane Addams exposed the horrors of the hull houses (which were small apartments that people live in). People were crammed inside the hull houses which led to diseases spreading. The diseases would eventually spread from one house to the next which was unsanitary.

The newspaper publisher of "Harper's Weekly" named Upton Sinclair exposed the dangers of the meat packing industry, and wrote a book called The Jungle. As a result of his work, both the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act were passed which made the food industry in America better. Also, a new organization called the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was formed, and is still around today.

The Meat Packing Industry

Unlike the other muckrakers, Thomas Nast exposed business corruption by creating political cartoons. He exposed the New York City machine called Tammany Hall and its owner Boss Tweed. Tweed was a corrupted business leader, and abused his power as a business owner. As a result, Nast drew a cartoon (like the one at the top of the page)which showed American society what Tweed was doing.

Reforms in the State

Secret Ballot

Privacy at the ballot box ensures that citizens can cast votes without party bosses knowing how they voted.


Allows voters to petition state legislatures in order to consider a bill desired by citizens.


Allows voters to decide if a bill or proposed amendment should be passed.


Allows voters to petition to have an elected representative removed from office.



Ensures that voters select candidates to run for office, rather than party bosses.


Federal Reforms

Sherman Anti-trust Act


Banned trusts and monopolies from forming

Pure Food and Drug Act


Required that companies accurately label the ingredients contained in processed food items.

Meat Inspection Act


In direct response to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, this law required that meat processing plants be inspected to ensure the use of good meat and health-minded procedures.

Federal Reserve Act


Created 12 district Federal Reserve Banks, each able to issue new currency and loan member banks funds at the prime interest rate, as established by the Federal Reserve Board.

Federal Trade Act


Established the Federal Trade Commission which investigates businesses to ensure they are being fair to everyone. The Federal Trade Commission investigates unfair practices like monopolies, and inaccurate labeling.

Federal Child Labor Law


Declared that products that children produced are not to be sold (declared unconstitutional in 1918).

Clayton Antitrust Act


Strengthened the Sherman Antitrust Act by outlawing the creation of a monopoly through any means, and stated that unions were not subject to antitrust legislation. This was passed under President Wilson's administration.

Federal Trade Act


Established the Federal Trade Commission, charged with investigating unfair business practices including monopolistic activity and inaccurate product labeling.

Source: (This chart has been modified in order to highlight the important information.)

In 1906 Congress passed the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug ActPresident Theodore Roosevelt pushed for both after reading The Jungle. Roosevelt believed that “government had the right to regulate big business to protect the welfare of society…and to help achieve economic and social justice.”


The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

In 1911, 145 women workers died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The fire could have been preventable, and it was the most horrible accident that occurred during the Progressive Era. Most of the workers died due to the lack of safety, and the doors being locked. Since the doors were locked, the teenage girls couldn't escape. As a result, several girls jumped out of the building, or got burned to death. As a result of the fire, laws got passed that would improve safety conditions in order to ensure that this wouldn't happen again. These laws also improved the safety conditions in sweatshops such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

The Women's Suffrage Movement


At the end of the Reconstruction Era, the 15th Amendment gave African American men the right to vote. However, women didn't get the right to vote until 1920, but before this year women weren't allowed to vote. Many women activists then fought for their suffrage by using several different tactics. Leaders like Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were just two of the important suffragettes that fought for the right to vote. Although it took several years of protesting for women to gain their right to vote, the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920 which gave them their right to vote!

Susan B. Anthony (right) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (left)

The Seneca Falls Convention

In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Coffin Mott organized the very first Women's Right's Convention at Seneca Falls, NY. Men and women met in Seneca Falls in order to talk about how women should be able to vote like men do. The convention wrote a document that was based on the Declaration of Independence which was called the Declaration of Sentiments. The Declaration of Sentiments talked about how women's rights should be equal to men's rights.

Women's Organizations

Formally called the National Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), Carrie Chapman Catt formed a new organization in the 1900's called The National American Woman Suffrage Association. This association protested suffrage by convincing the federal government to pass legislation that allows women to have their right to vote. Another organization also rose up which was called The National Women's Party (NWP) who was bitter enemies with NAWSA. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were the leaders of the NWP, and they used more radicalized efforts to try to achieve their suffrage. They picketed the White House in order protest to President Woodrow Wilson that women should be able to vote.

N.W.P protesting in front of the White House

Presidential Interference

After President William McKinley was shot, Theodore Roosevelt (TR) was sworn in as the next president. Roosevelt was a progressive and a trust buster. A trust buster was someone who broke up many trusts and monopolies. In his 1901 speech, TR said "speak softly and carry a big stick". Roosevelt then started a policy called the Square Deal which was a policy of treating businesses and labor equally. He also set up land to conserve natural resources (which was the beginning of the National Park Service), and enforced the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Then, in 1909, Theodore Roosevelt left office and President William Howard Taft became the next president. Taft liked Roosevelt's policies, and continued them. Taft then passed the 16th Amendment which guaranteed Congress to collect income tax. He also started a policy called dollar diplomacy as well.

The Election of 1912

Since Theodore Roosevelt was upset with Taft's presidency, TR decided to form the Progressive or Bull-Moose Party in order to make the attempt to beat Taft. Taft became the Republican candidate, and split the Republican Party by splitting the parties votes. Woodrow Wilson ran as the Democratic candidate, and won the election.

President Woodrow Wilson's administration

After Taft left office, President Woodrow Wilson told Congress to pass the Federal Trade Commission which investigated unfair trade practices. He also passed the Federal Farm Loan Act which allowed farmers to get cheaper loans, as well as passing the Child Labor Act which outlawed goods made by children to be sold.

Effects of the Progressive Era

. The 16th Amendment was passed which stated that Congress could collect income tax.

. The 17th Amendment was passed which declared a direct election of senators.

. The 18th Amendment was passed which prohibited the sale of alcohol.

. The 19th Amendment was passed which guaranteed women the right to vote in 1920.

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