The events listed below are but a small fraction of the actions that were taken nationwide as the Progressive era unfolded. Progressives operated at all levels—national, state, county, city, and so on. Child labor laws were passed in many states, ordinances to help the poorer classes were passed in towns and cities, and jurisdictions at all levels took measures to make government more efficient and responsive to people's needs.

Not all groups benefited from Progressivism. Indians and African Americans were all but excluded, and except for the very important 19th Amendment, the Progressive movement did little to help women.


1894: National Municipal League created to reform cities

1895: Anti-Saloon League founded.

1898: Erdman Act outlaws yellow dog contracts for ICC companies.

1900: Currency Act puts U.S. on gold standard; ILGWU founded; Socialist Party founded.

1901: McKinley Assassinated; Theodore Roosevelt becomes president of the U.S.

1902: Roosevelt forms Trust Policy, sues Northern Securities Company, mediates coal strike.

1902 Newlands Act (National Reclamation Act) gets strong support from TR—sets aside land sales money for irrigation projects.
State Political Reform Movements: initiative, referendum, direct primary, recall, etc.

1903: Expedition Act—priority in federal courts expedites antitrust cases.
Dick Act passes—Emory Upton reorganizes the Armed Forces to correct problems uncovered by Spanish-America War. Creates Joint Staff, etc.
Elkins Act reinforces Interstate Commerce Act; rebates specifically illegal.

1903: Department of Commerce and Labor includes Bureau of Corporations to help businesses clean up their acts and avoid antitrust suits.

1903: Muckrakers begin to arouse public opinion on social ills.

1904: National Child Labor Committee formed;
Northern Securities case hits court;
TR elected by wide margin.

1905: Industrial Workers of the World (IWW—the “Wobblies”) founded—urged social revolution, overthrow of capitalism. Leader is "Big Bill" Haywood.
Lochner v. New York Supreme Court Case strikes down New York law limiting bakers’ work hours

1906: Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act passed. Manufacture, sale, transportation of adulterated, misbranded or harmful foods is illegal. (Impetus provided by Sinclair's The Jungle.)
Immunity of Witnesses Act protects corporate whistle-blowers.
Hepburn Act beefs up ICC control of Railroads, gives ICC broader jurisdiction, effective control over rates. Goes beyond railroads. Takes all TR's influence to force through Congress.

1907: Panic reveals basic flaws in system. Money crunch.

1908: White House Conservation Conference.
Aldrich-Vreeland Act authorizes special paper currency to ease shortage of money
Muller v. Oregon case—Supreme Court upholds law limiting work hours for women.

1909: Payne-Aldrich tariff lowers rates to about 38%.N.A.A.C.P. founded.

1910: Mann-Elkins Act: Places telephone, telegraph and wireless (radio) under I.C.C.
Publicity Act: Election contributions must be disclosed.
Postal Savings Bank system established. (Had been Populist goal)
Mann Act prohibits white slavery. (Transporting females across state lines for immoral purposes illegal.)

1911: Supreme Court orders dissolution of Standard Oil Company.
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire kills 146 workers in New York City, leads to more job safety legislation. Link to More Information about the tragic event.

1912: Republican Party divides; TR runs as Progressive; election demonstrates great popular endorsement of Progressivism: 75% vote for TR, Wilson or Eugene Debs.
Woodrow Wilson elected president.
Socialists make respectable showing.

1913: 16th Amendment adopted: graduated income tax redistributes wealth;
17th Amendment provides for direct election of Senators.
Underwood Tariff reduces rates in accord with Progressives' desires; first significant tariff reduction since Civil War.
Federal Reserve Act creates 12 members banks, controls interest rates; First U.S. banking system since Jackson's days.
30,000 march for women's suffrage in New York City.
Henry Ford creates the moving assembly line.

1914: Federal Trade Commission Act guards against "unfair trade practices."
Clayton Antitrust Act strengthens Sherman Act. Many specific prohibitions against tie-ins, price discrimination, etc. Corporate officers personally liable. Includes labor, agriculture organizations.

1916: Adamson Act mandates 8-hour day, time and a half for overtime for RR workers under I.C.C.
Federal Farm Loan Act and Warehouse Act assist farmers.
Wilson reelected over Charles Evans Hughes.

1919: 18th Amendment outlaws sale of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. Volstead Act carries out intent through legislation. Prohibition begins.

1920: 19th Amendment declared ratified; women have the right to vote.
Federal bureau of the Budget established to oversee government spending

1921: Sheppard-Towner Act assist pregnant women, infants with health care.

1924: Robert La Follette gains 4.8 million votes as Progressive Party candidate for president.

Additional Progressive measures were passed in 1920s and during the New Deal.

Progressive Home | Progressive Era | Updated January 28, 2018