Broad Street, New York City, about 1905

Introduction, Contents, and Sources.

In 1905, a French publisher printed a map that showed most of the American states as ‘utterly corrupt’… and no one disputed its accuracy.  In many ways, the United States was corrupt at the turn of the Twentieth Century.  The country was rapidly becoming industrialized and urbanized, and hadn’t yet adjusted to the change.  Gigantic corporations were combining into even more powerful trusts which seemed to be beyond the reach of any effective law.  Government was not much help - many towns and states were ill-governed by entrenched political machines and many politicos were flagrantly in the pocket of business interests.  Consumers had no recourse against substandard or rotten goods and services, while workers had no protection against blatant exploitation.  It was a potentially explosive situation; in Big Trouble, J. Anthony Lukas commented that this was the moment in American history that we came closest to class warfare.

It seemed as if nothing could be done - and yet things were done.  Crusading journalists focused the public’s attention and anger on the evils.  New political leaders appeared who tackled problems and infused public life with optimism… Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are the big names of the age, but there were many others like them at all levels of government, and in movements outside of government.  The effective blend of idealism and realism that was the hallmark of the Progressive Era created some of the most important and useful reforms in American history.  By Jan.24.1914, the popular magazine Collier’s was able to claim that the previous ten years was “the period of the greatest ethical advance made by this nation in any decade.”

But the United States had not achieved perfection.  The Progressives were mostly middle class reformers who dealt with middle class problems; it’s hard to see much improvement in racial or labor injustice in these years.  Less than three months after Collier’s exulted about ethical advances, Colorado National Guardsmen were machine-gunning striking miners at Ludlow.

In short, the Progressive Era was a contradictory time.  Public life was full of energy and hope, and a great deal was accomplished.  But a great deal was also ignored.


(1)  The Height of the Roosevelt Era, 1904-1906

(2)  Economic Turmoil, 1907-1908

(3)  The Fall of the Old Guard, 1909-1910

(4)  The High Tide of the Progressive Era, 1911-1912

(5)  The Beginning of Wilson's Presidency, 1913-1914

Biographies & Glossary

Sources include (websites in parentheses):
Frederick Lewis Allen.  The Lords of Creation. 1935.  [Business magnates]
George W. Baer.  One Hundred Years of Sea Power: The U. S. Navy, 1890-1990.  1994
Walton Bean.  Boss Ruef’s San Francisco.  1967
Samuel Flagg Bemis.  A Diplomatic History of the United States, 4th edition.  1955
Gorton Carruth.  The Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates, 10th ed.  1997
Ron Chernow.  The House of Morgan.  1990
Alfred Connable and Edward Silberfarb.  Tigers of Tammany: Nine Men Who Ran New York.  1967
Robert Conot.  American Odyssey.  1974   [Detroit]
(Counter Culture Chronology)
Alexander DeConde.  A History of American Foreign Policy.  1963
Robert W. Desmond.  Windows on the World:  World News Reporting, 1900-1920.  1980
Melvyn Dubofsky.  We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World.  1969
Trevor N. Dupuy, et al. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography.  1992
Jean-Baptiste Duroselle.  From Wilson to Roosevelt.  1960/1963   [Foreign Policy]
(Eclectic List of Events in US Labor History)
David M. Ellis, et al.  A Short History of New York State. 1957
Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition.  1975
(Famous American Trials)
Robert H. Ferrell, ed.  The Twentieth Century: An Alamanac.  1984
Ray Ginger.  Eugene V. Debs: A Biography.  1949
Ray Ginger.  The Age of Excess: The United States from 1877 to 1914.  1965
Lewis L. Gould.  The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.  1991
James R. Green.  Grass-Roots Socialism: Radical Movements in the Southwest  1895-1943.  1978
Kermit Hall, ed.  The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States.  1992
Stephen Howarth.  To Shining Sea: A History of the United States Navy  1775 - 1991.  1991
Alvin M. Josephy, Jr.  On the Hill: A History of the American Congress.  1975/1979
Jack Temple Kirby.  Darkness at the Dawning: Race and Reform in the Progressive South.  1972
Louis W. Koenig.  Bryan: A Political Biography of William Jennings Bryan.  1971
Irving S. and Nell M. Kull.  A Chronological Encyclopedia of American History.  1952/1969
George. J. Lankevich and Howard B. Furer.  A Brief History of New York City.  1984
Sidney Lens.  The Labor Wars: From the Molly Maguires to the Sitdowns.  1974
Arthur S. Link.  Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era  1910-1917.  1954
Priscilla Long.  Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America’s Bloody Coal Industry.  1989
Walter Lord.  The Good Years: From 1900 to the First World War.   1960
J. Anthony Lukas.  Big Trouble.  1997.  [the Moyer-Haywood trial]
Marian C. McKenna.  Borah.  1961
Allan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski.  For the Common Defense, rev.  1994   [US Military]
Elting E. Morison.  Turmoil and Tradition: A Study of the Life and Times of Henry L. Stimson.  1960
Richard B. Morris, ed.  Encyclopedia of American History.  1953
George E. Mowry.  The Era of Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of Modern America  1900-1912.  1958
(Museum of the City of San Francisco)
Robert L. O’Connell.  Sacred Vessels: The Cult of the Battleship and the Rise of the U. S. Navy.  1991
William L. O’Neill.  Everyone Was Brave: A History of Feminism in America.  1969
Earl Pomeroy.  The Pacific Slope.  1965
Henry F. Pringle.  Theodore Roosevelt.  1931.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr, ed.  The Almanac of American History.  1983
Charles Reginald Shrader, ed.  Reference Guide to United States Military History, 1865-1919.  1993
W. A. Swanberg.  Citizen Hearst: A Biography of William Randolph Hearst.  1961.
James Trager.  The People's Chronology.  1992
James Trager.  The Women’s Chronology.  1994
Walter I. Trattner.  From Poor law to Welfare State, 6th ed.  1994, 1999   [US Social Policy]
(United States State Department)
Melvin I. Urofsky.  Louis D. Brandeis and the Progressive Tradition.  Little, Brown & Co; Boston.  1981
David Wallechinsky.  The People’s Almanac Presents: The Twentieth Century.  1995
Philip Waller and John Rowett.  Chronology of the Twentieth Century.  1995
Arthur Walworth.  Woodrow Wilson, 3rd ed.  1978
Russell F. Weigley.  History of the United States Army, enlarged ed.  1984
Bruce Wetterau.  The New York Public Library Book of Chronologies.  1990

Photo of Broad Street from
American Memory (Library of Congress)