Biographies and Glossary
Under Construction

AFL (American Federation of Labor) - Moderate trade union organization.  Formed 1881-1886 and dominated by Samuel Gompers until 1924, the AFL largely targeted skilled workers, avoided direct political involvement, and opposed radicalism.  It was challenged by the more militant IWW before World War I, and by the activist CIO a generation later.

Fred Crayton Ainsworth (1852-1934) - Powerful Adjutant General of the US Army.  An efficient administrator, he was effectively in control of the army from 1904, but in 1910-1912 he lost out in a power struggle with Chief of Staff Wood and was forced to resign.

Nelson Aldrich (1841-1915) - Conservative US Senator from Rhode Island (1881-1911); leading champion of big business and high tariffs; expert on monetary policy.  Opposed Theodore Roosevelt and the progressives.  Responsible for the highly protectionist Payne-Aldrich Tariff of 1909, which infuriated the public and stimulated reform efforts.  Aldrich retired in 1911, at the height of the progressive tide; his tariff was undone in 1913.

American Federation of Labor - see AFL

Edwin Armstrong (1890-1954) - Outstanding pioneer in the development of radio, responsible for many of the basic inventions in the field, including feedback in 1912 and FM radio in 1925-1933.  Committed suicide over a prolonged legal dispute with De Forest, but was posthumously vindicated.

Richard Ballinger (1858-1922) - Secretary of the Interior, 1909-1911.  His pro-business policies on public lands outraged conservationists, and were a contributing factor to the split between progressives and conservatives in the Republican Party.

Irving Berlin (1888-1989) - Songwriter.  Berlin was a dominant figure in American popular music from his first hit in 1911 until the rise of rock and roll over forty years later.

Theodore G. Bilbo (1877-1947) - Race-baiting Mississippi politico.  Bilbo rose to prominence in the early 1900's as part of Vardaman's populist revolt against the state's patrician power structure.  Governor 1916-1920 and 1928-1932, subsequently US Senator until his death.  Demagogic and fiercely racist, he was frequently accused of corruption, but never convicted.

William E. Borah (1865-1940) - Highly independent Republican political leader and grand orator of the old school.  Legal background; prominent in Idaho politics; unsuccessfully prosecuted the famous Haywood murder trial in 1907.  Entered the US Senate later that year, serving until his death. Generally supported the progressive Republicans before WWI, strongly backed prohibition in the 1920’s, fought against the New Deal in the 1930’s.  His main area of interest was in foreign policy - he opposed the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, objected to US intervention in Latin America, and was a staunch isolationist.

Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) - Outstanding legal activist and Supreme Court justice.  A prosperous Boston corporate lawyer, after 1900 Brandeis became a very active Progressive, using the legal system to secure useful reforms and gaining a national reputation as 'the people's attorney'.  He acted as adviser to Woodrow Wilson, recommending stronger anti-trust laws and the establishment of the Federal Reserve System.  Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1916 after a tough confirmation battle, he served with great distinction to 1939, defending personal liberties and encouraging judicial restraint on economic issues.

William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) - Leading Midwestern populist Democrat.  Idealistic, energetic, ambitious; background in law, journalism, and politics.  He dramatically rose to national prominence in 1896, when his great ‘Cross of Gold’ speech electrified the Democratic Convention, but he lost the presidential election in 1896, and in 1900, and in 1908… Bryan was seen as too demagogic and dangerous.  Nonetheless, many of the reforms he had long advocated were enacted, such as popular election of Senators, progressive income tax, female suffrage, and - less successfully - prohibition.  Bryan’s support of Woodrow Wilson in 1912 earned him the office of Secretary of State, but as a pacifist he was unsuited for the job during wartime, and resigned in 1915.  His political influence slowly declined.  The last great episode of his life, his involvement in the famous Scopes Trial in 1925 in opposition to the teaching of evolution, gives a misleading impression of Bryan’s generally progressive outlook.  Bryan died five days after the trial.

Smedley Butler (1881-1940) - Old-breed US Marine officer.  Saw action in China in 1900.  Led interventions in Nicaragua in 1910 and 1912, at Veracruz in 1914, and in Haiti from 1915-1918, but in later years he was bluntly critical of US interference in Latin America.  Butler was twice awarded the Medal of Honor.

Joseph ‘Uncle Joe’ Cannon (1836-1926) - Powerful Speaker of the House.  Conservative Republican Representative from Illinois from 1873-1923, except for brief gaps.  As Speaker from 1903-1911, he gained a nearly dictatorial hold on House procedures until a progressive revolt in 1910 stripped the office of most of its powers.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) - Steel magnate and philanthropist.  From a Scottish working-class immigrant family; after rising in railroad management he moved into steel production in the 1870’s and consolidated his hold on the industry during the 1890’s, although Carnegie Steel’s reputation was damaged by the bitter Homestead Strike.  In 1901, he was bought out with the creation of the US Steel Corporation, and retired.  He then proceeded to spend his immense fortune in a great series of benefactions, including Carnegie Hall (1892), the Carnegie Institute of Technology (1900), a fund to benefit heroes (1904), a foundation that successfully improved American teaching standards (1905), the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1910), a $125 million grant to the Carnegie Corporation (1911), donations to over 2,800 libraries, and many other gifts.

Champ Clark (1850-1921) - Democratic politician.  Representative from Missouri from 1893; Minority Leader 1907-1911; Speaker 1911-1919.  Ran for president in 1912; he lost to Woodrow Wilson at the convention only after a long struggle.

George M. Cohan (1878-1942) - Prodigious showman, songwriter, and performer, who enjoyed a long career in vaudeville and on Broadway.

Anthony Comstock (1844-1915) - Highly zealous defender of public morality.  Active for over forty years, he founded anti-vice pressure groups, pushed through many stringent anti-pornography laws, acted as chief censor for the postal service, and proudly claimed to have destroyed 160 tons of supposedly obscene material and to have hounded several opponents to suicide.  But in the early 1900’s the times were changing - by then, Comstock was widely seen as ridiculous, and was frequently mocked by progressives and radicals.

James Curley (1874-1958) - Boston Irish politico.  Shrewd, flamboyant, unscrupulous.  A master of ethnic politics, he retained his popularity and held office for decades without actually accomplishing much.  His career ended in scandal in the late 1940’s.

Glenn Curtiss (1878-1930) - Aviation pioneer and rival of the Wright brothers.  He achieved many firsts, including the earliest fully public flight in America (1908), the first commercial sale of an aircraft, and the first flight training school in the US (both 1909).  He was a major aircraft manufacturer in WWI.

Josephus Daniels (1862-1948) - Wilson’s Secretary of the Navy, 1913-1921.  A folksy North Carolina journalist and an ally of Bryan’s.  The Navy was skeptical at his appointment - and the pious Daniels did not ease their doubts when he replaced the grog ration with grape juice - but he proved surprisingly effective during WWI.  He was also successful as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Ambassador to Mexico, 1933-1941.

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) - Legendary lawyer and freethinker who specialized in defending underdogs.  He was involved in the defense of the Haymarket anarchists in 1887; unsuccessfully defended Eugene Debs after the Pullman strike in 1894; won the Haywood murder trial in 1907, defeating prosecutor William Borah; was defense lawyer in the Los Angeles Times bombing case in 1911; defended war protesters in sedition cases after WWI; saved ‘thrill’ murderers Leopold and Loeb from execution (though not from imprisonment) in 1924; defended the teaching of evolution, denounced fundamentalism, and took on William Jennings Bryan in the Scopes Trial in 1925; and successfully defended a black family that had fought off a mob in the Sweet case in 1925-1926.

Eugene Debs (1855-1926) - Charismatic labor leader and socialist.  Sincere and principled, but not an especially skillful politician.  A railroad worker, he formed a national railroad union in 1893, but was imprisoned and radicalized after the failure of the Pullman Strike in 1894.  He was a founder of the Socialist Party in 1898, helped make it a significant force before WWI, and repeatedly ran as its candidate for president.  Debs opposed America’s entry into WWI; in 1918 he was sentenced to ten years for criticizing the government’s sedition trials, yet in 1920 he received nearly a million votes for president while still in prison.  He was pardoned in 1921, but his health was broken and his career finished.

Lee De Forest (1873-1961) - Radio pioneer.  He invented the audion vacuum tube in 1906 and was a key figure in early radio development and promotion.

W. E. B. Dubois (1868-1963) - Leading black civil rights activist and intellectual.  Scholarly background.  He broke with Booker T. Washington’s gradualist approach and in 1905 launched the Niagara Movement, demanding full racial equality.  Helped found the NAACP in 1909; edited its magazine Crisis 1910-1932; opposed Marcus Garvey’s call for black separatism in 1919; returned to teaching in the 1930’s.  In his last years, he joined the Communist Party, renounced his American citizenship, and moved to Africa.

Max Eastman (1883-1969) - Radical journalist who gravitated to conservatism.  He did a brilliant job as editor of the lively left-wing magazine The Masses, 1913-1917.  Repeatedly arrested during WWI for his antiwar stance; edited the pro-Soviet The Liberator 1918-1923; grew disillusioned after a visit to the USSR and began moving to the right from the mid-1920’s; wound up as an editor for Reader’s Digest from 1941.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890-1964) - Radical activist.  From a socialist working-class family; very active IWW organizer from her teens; co-founder of the ACLU in 1920.  After a long hiatus, resumed her political activity and joined the Communist Party, 1936; imprisoned in the 1950’s for advocating the violent overthrow of the US government.

Henry Ford (1863-1947) - Automobile manufacturer.  A rural mechanic in his youth; worked for Edison; built his first car, 1892; founded Ford Motor Company, 1903; gained full control, 1907; marketed the Model T, 1908-1928, beginning the mass popularity of automobiles and rapidly expanding Ford Motor; developed the moving assembly line, 1913;  increased workers’ wages and introduced profit sharing, 1914; led an unsuccessful peace expedition to Europe, 1915; began building overseas plants, 1920’s; conducted prolonged, bitter struggles with labor unions; retired 1945.  An odd and contradictory character, at once populist and ultra-reactionary, innovative and hidebound.

Joseph Benson Foraker (1846-1917) - Republican politico.  Legal background; Governor of Ohio, 1886-1890; US Senator, 1897-1909; conservative Republican Party boss in Ohio after 1904.  Opposed Roosevelt’s attempts to regulate business; also persistently spoke out against Roosevelt’s unjust punishment of black soldiers after the Brownsville Affray.  Foraker’s taking of payoffs from Standard Oil was exposed by Hearst in 1908, and Roosevelt saw to it that he was ruined politically.

Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965) - Prominent liberal jurist.  Held various federal legal posts from 1906; taught at Harvard Law School, 1914-1939; helped found the ACLU, 1920; active on behalf of Sacco and Vanzetti, 1920’s; assisted FDR’s New Deal, 1930’s; Supreme Court Justice, 1939-1962.

Elbert Henry ‘Judge’ Gary (1846-1927) - Powerful steel magnate.  Successful corporate lawyer and two-term county judge; installed as President of Federal Steel by J. P. Morgan, 1898; CEO of the gigantic US Steel from its founding in 1901 until his death; founded Gary, Indiana, 1906.  Strongly anti-union; smooth and ‘plausible’ personality

Amadeo Peter Giannini (1870-1949) - Highly successful banker.  Background in the produce business; founded Bank of Italy in San Francisco, 1904, one of the first banks to cater to small businessmen, farmers, and modest depositors; acted quickly after the 1906 earthquake to finance the city’s rebuilding; anticipated the Panic of 1907; began forming a regional branch banking empire, 1909; anticipated Stock Market Crash, 1929; renamed his organization Bank of America, 1930, which became the largest bank in the US by 1948.

Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) - Cartoonist, specializing in portraying insanely complicated devices designed to accomplish simple tasks.

Emma Goldman (1869-1940) - Anarchist/feminist activist.  Russian Jewish immigrant factory worker; converted to anarchism, 1889; became widely known when her lover Alexander Berkman attempted to assassinate industrialist Henry Frick, 1892; edited the famous anarchist monthly Mother Earth, 1906-1917.  The US government withdrew her citizenship, 1908; imprisoned her for antiwar activity, 1917-1919; and deported her, 1919.  Lived in Soviet Union, 1919-1921, but grew disillusioned and subsequently opposed communism; vigorously supported the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War, from 1936.  Restless, indefatigable, a superb speaker and lecturer.

Samuel Gompers (1850-1924) - Moderate labor leader.  English immigrant; cigar maker and union activist; helped found a trade union organization, 1881, which was reorganized into the AFL in 1886 and which Gompers dominated until his death.  Widely seen as the leading figure in the mainstream labor movement; concentrated on bread-and-butter economic issues, avoided politics, and opposed radicalism.

D. W. Griffith (1880-1948) - Pioneering film director.  Obscure stage actor and playwright; became highly successful director for Biograph, 1908-1913, perfecting many new film techniques; made Birth of a Nation, 1915; Intolerance, 1916; co-founded United Artists, 1919; faded away in the 1920’s and spent his last years in oblivion.

William ‘Bull’ Halsey (1882-1959) - Vigorous WWII naval commander.  Graduated Annapolis, 1904; destroyer commander in WWI; active in naval aviation from 1930’s; led carrier-based task forces and fleets against the Japanese throughout WWII.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) - Highly respected federal judge, 1909-1961.  Generally supported a broad interpretation of free speech.

Edward Henry Harriman (1848-1909) - Rail magnate.  Originally a stockbroker; director of Illinois Central RR, from 1883; director of Union Pacific RR, 1897; controlled Southern Pacific and Central Pacific RR’s, 1901, and dominated rail traffic in the West.  His attempt to form a rail trust with J. P. Morgan and James J. Hill was overturned by the US Supreme Court, 1904.  Dabbled in schemes to set up an East Asian rail empire, 1900’s.  Father of diplomat W. Averell Harriman.

John Hay (1838-1905) - Secretary of State during America’s emergence as a world power.  Abraham Lincoln’s private secretary, 1861-1865; gifted author; extensive diplomatic experience; ambassador to Britain, 1897-1898; Secretary of State under McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, 1898-1905.  Played a major role in the decision to retain the Philippines, 1898; promoted the Open Door Policy in opposition to the partition of China, from 1899; negotiated treaties giving the US the right to build a Panama Canal.  After 1901, Hays played a lesser role, as Roosevelt largely made his own foreign policy.

William 'Big Bill' Haywood (1869-1928) - Tough radical labor leader.  A miner from age fifteen; national secretary- treasurer of the Western Federation of Miners from 1900; led unsuccessful, violent strikes in Colorado in 1903-1904; helped establish the radical syndicalist IWW in 1905.  Charged with the murder of former Idaho Governor Steunenberg in 1906, Haywood (along with Moyer and Pettibone) was illegally abducted in Denver and shipped to Idaho; the famous and controversial trial ended in his acquittal in 1907.  His continued advocacy of violence alienated him from the WFM and the Socialist Party, but he threw his energies into the revolutionary IWW.  Convicted of sedition in 1917, during WWI.  While awaiting a new trial in 1921, he jumped bail and fled to the Soviet Union, where he vegetated until his death.

William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) - Powerful newspaper publisher and failed politician.

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935) - Towering US Supreme Court justice.  Son of the famous Boston author of the same name, Holmes grew up around Emerson and other leading New England intellectuals.  Served with distinction in the Civil War; admitted to the bar in 1867; published the influential Common Law in 1881; served twenty years on the Massachusetts Supreme Court.  Appointed by Theodore Roosevelt to the US Supreme Court in 1902.  Holmes' brilliant court opinions, often in dissent, were based on his deep knowledge of the basis of law and on his exacting personal code.  His Social Darwinist tendencies were tempered by a powerful sense of fairness; he wrote some of the most famous defenses of freedom of speech, though his belief in civil rights in general was narrow.  Holmes retired in 1932.

Colonel Edward Mandell House (1858-1938) - Woodrow Wilson's experienced political adviser, 1911-1919.

Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948) - High-minded moderate-conservative statesman and Supreme Court Justice.  Modest background; successful legal career.  Ably headed major anti-corruption inquiries on gas utilities and insurance, 1905-1906, gaining a reputation as a scrupulously honest progressive.  Republican Governor of New York, 1906-1910, enacting important regulatory reforms.  Served on US Supreme Court, 1910-1916.  Republican presidential candidate, 1916, narrowly loosing to Woodrow Wilson.  As US Secretary of State, 1921-1925, he advocated international efforts to avoid war.  Served as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, 1930-1941; his diplomatic skills kept the badly divided court functioning efficiently.  He often opposed the early New Deal reforms and very strongly resisted FDR's proposal to pack the Supreme Court in 1937, but in his last few years on the court he helped form a liberal, pro-reform majority.

ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission) - Federal agency responsible for railroad and transportation regulation.

IWW - International Workers of the World, or the 'Wobblies'; ultra-radical American syndicalist labor union.

William James (1842-1910) - Psychologist and philosopher.

Hiram Johnson (1866-1945) - Maverick California progressive politician.

Jack Johnson (1878-1946) - The first black heavyweight world boxing champion, 1908-1915.

Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones (1830-1930) - Radical labor organizer, quite active into advanced old age.

Philander Chase Knox (1853-1921) - Taft's unsuccessful Secretary of State, 1909-1913.

Robert LaFollette (1855-1925) - Leading progressive Republican politician.

Fiorello La Guardia (1882-1947) - Dynamic New York City reformist politician.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1866-1944) - Stern Federal judge and baseball commissioner.

Hunter Liggett (1857-1935) - Capable military officer, commander of the US 1st Army in France in 1918.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) - Highly influential political commentator for over half a century.

Henry Cabot Lodge (1850-1924) - Conservative Republican Senator from Massachusetts, 1893-1924.

Huey P. Long (1893-1935) - Gifted demagogue who gained near dictatorial control of Louisiana from the late 1920's.

Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) - US general who commanded allied forces in the southwest Pacific in WWII and in the early stages of the Korean War.

Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914) - American naval officer and influential historian.

George Catlett Marshall (1880-1959) - American Chief of Staff in WWII, and postwar Secretary of State and Defense.

John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) - Powerful American financier.

Charles Moyer;

Charles Francis Murphy (1858-1924) - Tammany political boss who dominated New York politics from 1902-1924.

Chester Nimitz (1885-1966) - Commander of the US Pacific Fleet in WWII.

George William Norris (1861-1944) - Progressive Republican Midwestern politician.

Alton Brooks Parker (1852-1926) - Uninspiring Democratic Presidential candidate in 1904.

George Patton (1885-1945) - American military commander in WWII.

Thomas Joseph Pendergast (1872-1945) - Kansas City political boss and patron of Harry Truman.

John Joseph Pershing (1860-1948) - No-nonsense commander of the American forces in Europe in WWI.

Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946) - Pioneering conservationist.

Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911) - Strong-willed newspaper publisher.

Sam Rayburn (1882-1961) - Durable and highly capable Democratic Congressman from Texas.

John Reed (1887-1920) - Adventurous radical journalist.

John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) - Ruthless, immensely wealthy oil magnate.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) - Vigorous and popular progressive American President, 1901-1909.

Elihu Root (1845-1937) - Able Secretary of War and State under Theodore Roosevelt, and expert on international law.

Abe Ruef (1864-1936) - San Francisco political boss.

Margaret Sanger (1883-1966) - Determined birth control activist.

William Sowden Sims (1858-1936) - Outstanding American naval officer.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) - Radical author and activist

Alfred E. Smith (1873-1944) - Leading New York politico.

Socialist Party

Raymond Spruance (1886-1969) - Brilliant WWII naval commander.

Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936) - Leading progressive journalist and muckraker.

Henry Lewis Stimson (1867-1950) - Distinguished civil servant in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) - Inept US President (1909-1913) and fairly effective conservative Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court (1921-1930).

Ida Tarbell (1857-1944) - Leading progressive journalist and muckraker.


James Kimble Vardaman (1861-1930) - Racist/populist Mississippi politician.

Robert Wagner (1877-1953) - Liberal New York political leader.

Thomas Edward Watson (1856-1922) - Progressive Southern populist leader who degenerated into racist demagoguery.

WFM (Western Federation of Miners)

Henry Lane Wilson - Conservative US diplomat who interfered in the Mexican Revolution.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) - Intelligent, high-minded, but inflexible progressive American President (1913-1921).

Wobblies - see IWW

Leonard Wood (1860-1927) - Ambitious American military leader; US Army Chief of Staff, 1910-1914.

Wilbur  and Orville Wright (1867-1912 and 1871-1948) - The methodical inventors of the first powered aircraft.

Dr. Hamilton Wright (1868-1917) - Early advocate of punitive anti-drug laws.


 United States, 1904-1914: Introduction   ///   (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