Progressivism and Imperialism (Unit 6)

Discontent and Reform

By 1900, the United States had seen growth, civil war, economic prosperity, and economic hard times. Americans still believed in religious freedom. Free public education was mostly accessible. The free press continued.

On the negative side, it often seemed that political power belonged to a few corrupt officials and their friends in business. In response, the idea of Progressivism was born. Progressives wanted greater democracy and justice. They wanted an honest government to reduce the power of business.

Books by Upton Sinclair, Ida M. Tarbell, and Theodore Dreiser described unfair, unhealthy, and dangerous situations. These writers hoped their books would force the government to make the United States safer and better for its citizens.

President Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909) believed in Progressivism. He worked with Congress toregulate businesses that had established monopolies. He also worked hard to protect the country’snatural resources.

Changes continued under the next presidents, especially Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921). The Federal Reserve banking system set interest rates and controlled the money supply. The Federal Trade Commission dealt with unfair business practices. New laws improved working conditions for sailors and railway workers. Farmers got better information and easier credit. Taxes on imported goods were lowered or eliminated.

During the Progressive Era, more immigrants settled in the United States. Almost 19 million people arrived between 1890 and 1921 from Russia, Poland, Greece, Canada, Italy, Mexico, and Japan.

By the 1920s, citizens worried that the immigrants might take their jobs and change the culture of the United States. Although the government created quotas to restrict immigration, it relaxed those restrictions in the 1960s, assuring that the United States would remain a nation in which many different people and cultures could forgean identity as Americans.


1. How many immigrants arrived between 1890 and 1921?

A. 3 million
B. 14 million
C. 19 million

2. What is the U.S. government office that regulates money and banking?

A. The Commerce Department
B. The Federal Reserve
C. The Federal Trade Commission

3. What did Progressive Era President Theodore Roosevelt not do?

A. He wrote a book about the unhealthy situations for children in the workplace.
B. He worked with Congress to end the practice of monopolies.
C. He advocated laws to protect the country’s natural resources.

U.S.A. History in Brief, U.S. Department of State, 2010