The USA 1896-1918

Sites/documents etc. exploring the Progressive Era. The era of reform and regulation in a rapdidly industrialising and urbanising nation.

Submit a website

William Jennings Bryan, "Cross of Gold Speech" (1896)
William Jennings Bryan, "Cross of Gold Speech" (1896)
One of the great political speeches of the modern era. Bryan articultaed the populist desire for a wider money supply (that would, among other things, aid farmers) by portraying big business as crucifying America. How does the speech, which electrified the Democrat/Populists but didn't help Bryan win, articulate ideas of American-ness and concerns over Wall Street?
1896: The Presidential Campaign, Cartoons & Commentary
1896: The Presidential Campaign, Cartoons & Commentary
Vassar college site exploring the campaign between McKinley & Bryan in 1896 that reflected the pressures of modernity on the United States on the cusp of the new century.
Theodore Roosevelt: His Life and Times on Film
Theodore Roosevelt: His Life and Times on Film
This Library of Congress site provides a chronology and numerous short films of the first president to be routinely filmed in the process of undertaking his job. How does the presence of film help us understand Roosevelt's character and presidency?
Theodore Roosevelt, "The Strenuous Life" (1899)
Theodore Roosevelt, "The Strenuous Life" (1899)
A great example of TR's muscular approach to life & politics.
The Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University
The Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University
Website offering an explanation and exploration of Roosevelt and the United States during the Progressive Era. Contains analysis of key terms, timelines and growing digitised archive of the president. Very useful and easy to use.
McClure's Magazine (1893-1913)
McClure's Magazine (1893-1913)
A key magazine of Muckraking Progressivism. And it is all here. Searchable by author and edition.
Frank Norris, The Octopus: A Story of California (1901)
Frank Norris, The Octopus: A Story of California (1901)
Like the novels of Upton Sinclair, this work used fiction to explore the injustices of railroad expansion in California - another example of fiction being used in a crusade for social justice.
Thorstein Veblen, "Conspicuous Consumption", (1902)
Thorstein Veblen, "Conspicuous Consumption", (1902)
What does it mean to live in a consumer society? What does it do the consumer? Veblen analysed the situation in 1902 - a key text in the study of the impact of consumption on culture.
Lincoln Steffens, "Pittsburgh: A City Ashamed" McClures (1903)
Lincoln Steffens, "Pittsburgh: A City Ashamed" McClures (1903)
While other 'muckrakers' took aim at the food industry and big corporations, Steffens specialised in exposing graft and corruption in the nation's cities where 'machine politics' - that focussed on maintaining power rather than serving democratic interests.
Ida Tarbell, "John D. Rockefeller: A Character Study" McClures (1905)
Ida Tarbell, "John D. Rockefeller: A Character Study" McClures (1905)
Ida Tarbell had by this point, published her book-length critique of the mega-corporation that was Standard Oil. In this piece for McClures, she takes aim at the man at the centre of that web of companies, John D. Rockefeller.
Theodore Roosevelt,  "The Man with the Muck-rake"  (14th April 1906)
Theodore Roosevelt, "The Man with the Muck-rake" (14th April 1906)
Theodore Roosevelt developed a reputation as a trust-buster and honest broker in industrial and international disputes. But this speech suggests the President was not entirely happy with the tide of journalism unearthing graft and corruption in the nation's corporate and political life. What does this tell us about the President's progressivism?
Walter Rauschenbusch The Social Gospel extract (1908)
Walter Rauschenbusch The Social Gospel extract (1908)
An example of how industrialisation provoked responses that blended the need for social reform with religious faith.
Muller v. Oregon (U.S. 412 (1908)
Muller v. Oregon (U.S. 412 (1908)
Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412 (1908), was a landmark decision in United States Supreme Court history, as it justifies both sex discrimination and usage of labor laws during the time period. The case upheld Oregon state restrictions on the working hours of women as justified by the special state interest in protecting women's health. An example of progressive labor laws that defined women as delicate and fragile as a way of sidestepping the pro-business 'freedom of contract' ideology that had restricted other attempts to regulate the jobs market.
The 1911 Triangle Factory Fire
The 1911 Triangle Factory Fire
On March 25th, 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirwaist Factory in New York City. Within 18 minutes, 146 people were dead as a result. This site from Cornell University explores the conditions in the garment factory, the official documents from the trial and the calls for reform - alongside photos and analysis. A great resource on this tragedy and the progressive-minded response it generated.
Frederick W. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (1911)
Frederick W. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (1911)
If Adam Smith had first proposed the division of labour into small simple tasks in the 18th century, Taylor provided a plan for implementing a rationalised, instrumentalist approach to industry that intensified production while,some would argue, turning workers into little more than machine parts. How did Taylor perceive of his ideas?
Theodore Roosevelt, "The Right of the People to Rule" (1912)
Theodore Roosevelt, "The Right of the People to Rule" (1912)
In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt chose to break with the Republican Party and run for the presidency in a three-way struggle with Woodrow Wilson & William Howard Taft. This surprisingly high quality wax cylinder recording sees TR set out his stall.
17th Amendment (1913)
17th Amendment (1913)
prior to this Amendment becoming part of the U.S. constitution in 1913, progressives argued that U.S. senators were effectively placement for state party machines. As such, the ratification of the Amendment marked another victory for the bi-partisan forces of reform.
Flickr: Child Labor & Lewis Hine
Flickr: Child Labor & Lewis Hine
Working as an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), Lewis Hine (1874-1940) portrayed working and living conditions of children in the United States between 1908 and 1924. This Library of Congress collection contains 50 of those images. The page explains both the context and provides links to other NCLC material.
Temperance & Prohibition
Temperance & Prohibition
Ohio State University's site deals with the rise of the Temperance movement and follows through to the campaign for prohibition of alcohol and beyond. There are some useful primary materials here, including cartoons and data on drinking.