Problem Before the Reform(s)

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Reforms of the Progressive Movement


Problem Before the Reform

The Reform(s)

Spoils System/Patronage

Victorious candidates used the spoils system to give government positions to friends and supporters. But many of these people lacked the qualifications necessary for doing a good job.


Voters Don’t Select Candidates

Candidates running for office were usually chosen by a small group of party leaders. Voters had no say in who the candidates would be.


Election Fraud

Political leaders often lined up voters who were willing to be bought and gave them ballots on easily identifiable colored paper. Counterfeiting ballots, stuffing ballot boxes, and other illegal practices were widespread.


Political Machines & Party Bosses

In New York City and other large urban areas, party bosses controlled strong political machines. Favors were done for people in return for their votes. Bribes were regularly accepted. “Boss” Tweed of New York was the worst of the corrupt politicians, stealing an estimated $30 million or more of the taxpayer’s money.


High Railroad Rates

In spite of the Interstate Commerce Act, railroad rates remained excessively high. Railroad companies found ways to avoid charging lower rates set by Interstate Commerce Commission.


Poor Working Conditions

Workers, including women and children, were on the job 12 to 14 hours a day, six or seven days a week. Wages were terribly low. Bad working conditions often caused illness and accidents.



Problem Before the Reform

The Reform

Tainted Food and Medicine

Terrible conditions existed in the food processing industry. Upton Sinclair, a muckraker, told how packing houses often kept meat on dirty floors. He found that chopped meat sometimes contained rat hairs, wood splinters, bits of rope, or pieces of spoiled meat.



Many big businesses became monopolies or trusts. One company, or several companies working together, gained control of an industry, such as oil. They charged high prices because there was no competition to hold prices down.


Pollution & Environmental Destruction

Wilderness areas were being ruined. Great buffalo herds disappeared, the passenger pigeon became extinct, and other forms of wildlife were threatened. Government land and mineral resources were either sold cheaply or given away.


Unfair Taxation System

Taxes were usually based on the amount of property a person owned. But many wealthy people hid some of their property from the government. Consequently, they did not pay their fair share of the taxes being collected.


Indirect Election of Senators

The two Senators that each state sent to Congress were chosen by the members of the various state legislatures.


Suffrage Restricted to Males

Only male citizens 21 or older could vote. In 1869 Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association which campaigned for the right of women to vote.



-8 Hour Day

-Secret Ballot

-Federal Reserve Act

-Interstate Commerce Act

-Clayton Anti-Trust Act

-Newlands Reclamation Act


-Pendleton Civil Service Act

-16th Amendment

-Sherman Anti-Trust Act

-17th Amendment

-National Park System

-18th Amendment

-Direct Primary Elections

-19th Amendment


-20th Amendment

-Minimum Wage


-Pure Food and Drug Act

-Bureau of Forestry

-Workman's Compensation

-Unemployment Insurance

-Meat Inspection Act

-Increased Gov. Services (Fire, Police, Sanitation, Unemployment, etc.)

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