Urbanization and Industrialization in the Progressive Era

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The progressives were basically individuals or groups that considered urbanization and industrialization are the main cause for many of the social and political issues rises during the period of 1890 to 1920 and helped reform the social problems such as inequalities, social justice, political corruption, trusts, monopolies, workforce safety, women’s right and city services. The progressives believed that the reformation would end government corruption, and end the industrial capitalism in the society.

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During the Gilded Age, America’s industry was rapidly growing along with the high number immigrant enter the United States. Even though the American industry was booming, it also brought along with lots of issues involved the people and the politic.

First major issue was about the workforce and the laborers. Many of the companies and factories did not have any standards, regulations or instruction for the workers to follow; thus created a very dangerous workplace for the workers. In fact, many workers got hurt working at the factories and other member of the worker’s family have to fill in so that the production would not discontinue that results in the company losing profits. The companies used their power to force the workers to work longer hour with lower wages so that they could make more profits in the competitive markets. Thus, the workers were struggle supporting their lives with such low wage.

With the massive number of immigrants, there were not enough jobs to provide for all the people, so the people had to turn to each other instead of the establishment for the sake of not starve and die, and the government did not lay an eye on the people.

Second issue that was also important was the quality of foods in the country. During this period, the government had very little involve/control over the food quality that has been produce and consume in the country. Food and drug companies did not label the ingredients on their packages and also the consumers little did they know about what was in the products they were using and consuming.

The book The Jungle by Upton Sinclair showed us the underneath surface of the food industry where the manufacture condition was terribly maintained and the government had no regulations or laws in protect the consumers from the bad quality food that flowing around the country in the Gilded Age period.

Those are just the few highlights of the social problems that involved the industrialism. In addition to the industrial capitalized, there were also some political issues that made the people suffered such as the unfair election, unfair voting and neglect the people’s needs by the government.

The Progressive Era was the movement that promised to unravel all the problems since the Gilded Age from industrial to political inequality and corruption. Therefore, there were may individuals and group involved and many of the events happened that change the United States forever.

On August 12th, 1889, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Star founded the Hull House to provided education for the working class people as well as social life for people of the district of Chicago. This is the first thing that happened during the Progressive Era that meant to help the people of the United States, especially the immigrants. The Hull House helped immigrants with place to live and education opportunities for those who needed and in return, they will contribute their services for other people in the neighbors.

In 1905, the Wobblies also known as the Industrial Workers of the World founded in Chicago, Illinois to indemnify every wage-worker, no matter what his religion, fatherland or trade. They considered radical socialists and they wanted to end the capitalism and the government exploitation. The Wobblies protected the working class by ensure they know their rights by ensured to have better working conditions, shorter working hours and better pay so that they could support their regular lives and families.

As I mentioned above that the working condition was so bad that it effected the quality of the foods that produce during the era. In February 26th, 1906, Upton Sinclair published the book named The Jungle and its content was so disturbing in which describe the work conditions of such all the joints in [the man’s] fingers might be eaten by the acid, the butchers and floorsmen[s thumbs] was mere a lump of flesh against which man pressed the knife to hold it, in the cooking room the germ of tuberculosis might live for two years, and the worst of them all was who worked in tank-rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,- sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Dunham’s Pure Leaf Lard! (The Jungle). These are just some of the dangerous conditions that the worker had to work and people never know what they consume into their body as someone could die in the tank of food or someone’s finger might be grind together with the beef, then packed and sell it to the consumers. This book unfolded the truth about the work conditions inside the factory as well as the unsafe food quality that led to the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act began in 1906.

With the growth of the population, newspaper and magazines had the chance to reach more readers and the muckrakers, the writers, journalists, etc. exposed the truth about the industrial capitalization and the government exploitation. They investigated the wealthy and the escalation of their businesses that brought them extreme fortunes, they also researched the factories, work conditions of the worker and the affection of the goods’ quality to the consumers. For instance, Jacob Riis, the author of the book How the Other Half Lives, photographed the poor people’s living conditions in America’s cities and the resulted in New York City passed the Tenement Act of 1901 to ensure the health and safety of the resident buildings. Another example of business monopoly was the case of Standard Oil V. US in 1911 against John D. Rockefeller’s business by Ida Tarbel, the author of several articles that exposed the truth about the unethical business practices such as History of the Standard Oil Company written in 1902, the court declared the business as monopolized and forced to break up the company. Besides the muckrakers that exposed the industrial capitalism, there were also people that uncovered the government corruption such as Lincoln Steffens, who wrote the book The Shame of the Cities in 1904 that resulted in the use of commissions and city managers, and Frank Norris’ exposure of railroad monopolies in California in the book The Octopus that led to the broken up of the railroad monopolies in the northwest (1904).

Despites the difficulties of the reform progress, some of the accomplishments were made that change America until this day. First accomplishment was John Muir’s, well-known naturalist, conservationist and The Father of our National Parks, inspiration for environmental purposes that inspire President Theodore Roosevelt’s innovative conservative programs including preserved and protected approximately 230 million acres of land that includes 5 national parks, 18 national monuments and 150 national forests. In addition, the political reforms of vote and election process changed dramatically through Secret Ballot, Initiative, Referendum, Recall, Direct Party Primaries, and Direct Election of Senators. Some of the States also passed their regulations to ensure the health and safety of working conditions in factories by limit the number of working hours, eliminated child labor and pay wages fairly, they also ensured the living conditions in urban housing. In 1883, the Congress passed the Pendleton Act, which also called Civil Service Commission to provide the merit of selecting the appointees and in 1889, Theodore Roosevelt became U.S. Civil Service Commissioner and reformed the civil service system. The Nineteenth Amendment that give women the right to vote in 1920 was also a big part of the Progressive Era. Besides that, Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Amendments also added to the Constitution during this period. The Antitrust Legislation in 1914 also helped protect the consumers from unfair business with government’s power and the Federal Trade Commission Act created to further protect the consumers.

The Progressive Era was the time that America truly trying to solve the social and political issues yet different times had its own problems that required reforms. Nowadays, the racism, political and and government system problems are still existing. America were never perfect, today and in the future, it would never be perfect for such a diverse and complex country.

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Urbanization and Industrialization in the Progressive Era. (2019, Jul 11). Retrieved February 1, 2023 , from

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