Americans began to look for ways to solve the following problems:
Large corporations were making a lot of money; however, the working class was not making much money.
Many people worked in unhealthy places.
Local government officials were taking money from businessmen and passing laws to help the businessmen but not the workers.
Farmers were losing money on crops because they were paying large prices to have them shipped by railroads. Farmers were also paying for farm machinery to make farming easier and faster. This barely left enough money for them to make a living.
The Populist Party hoped to elect a President that would make better laws for the working class. In 1896 when their candidate William Jennings Bryan lost the election, the Populist movement died out.
Authors Who Changed America
Upton Sinclair wrote a book in 1906 called The Jungle. In this book he told about the dirty conditions in the meat packing plants. This book pressured President Roosevelt to pass the Meat Inspection Act.
Other writers forced changes as well. Ida Tarbell wrote how the Standard Oil Company controlled the oil business. Frank Norte wrote The Octopus. His book told how a few men on Wall Street in New York controlled the money for the whole nation. Lincoln Steffew wrote The Shame of the Cities which told about the way people lived in the overcrowded slums of America's large cities.
President Roosevelt called these writers muckrakers meaning a person who goes through dirt and muck with a rake trying to find valuables which have been lost. He was unhappy with these reformers.
Approximately 18% of children between the ages of 10 to 15 were employed. They worked for long hours in terrible conditions.
Children often worked in factories, mills, and in the mines. One example of this was the breaker boys. These young boys broke up the coal taking out the impurities. These boys worked on the top of the chutes or conveyor belts. They would push the coal off the stream with their boots then pick out the impurities. Breaker boys often worked 10-hour days for 60 cents. The practice of hiring breaker boys began in the 1860s and continued until the 1920s.
Roosevelt's Square Deal
President Roosevelt wanted to give farmers and working people a "square deal." To do this Roosevelt enforced the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 which controlled business. Roosevelt also asked Congress to pass laws to break up Rockefeller's oil trust and James B. Duke's tobacco trust. In addition Congress passed laws that controlled the railroads.
Jane Addams made a huge difference to the people of Chicago. Here is a list of some of her accomplishments:
In 1889, Addams founded the Hull House, a place where poor people in the city of Chicago could go for help.
Addams helped form the first court of law for young people in the United States
Addams helped open the first public parks in Chicago.
Addams fought for children's labor laws.
Addams was a member of the Chicago Board of Education and a vice-president of the Women's Suffrage Organization. She also fought to gain rights for African Americans and working people.
DuBois began the Niagara Movement to help African Americans. This movement led to the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The Civil Service Act was passed in 1883. This act allowed government jobs to go to qualified people who passed tests showing they were capable of doing the job.
In 1897 the first secret ballot law was passed.
In 1913 the Sixteenth Amendment was passed. This amendment gave Congress the right to set up an income tax that was fair to everyone. This tax required that rich people pay more than poor people.
In 1862 President Lincoln signed a law to build land grant colleges. This meant states were given land on which to build free public colleges. Many of today's universities began from these land grants.
Because of the writers and reformers many changes occurred including:
Twice the number of children attended public school in 1900 as compared to 1870.
Colleges in the United States doubled between 1865 and 1900.
Women were allowed to attend all state universities by 1900.