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
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
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
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
Approximately 18% of children between the ages of
10 to 15 were employed. They worked for long hours in terrible
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
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
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
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
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
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.