Progressivism and the Gilded Age

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Take Home Midterm Exam Essay – Topic 1Joe Johnson
History 152—Autumn 2008
Dr. Nowak
27 October 2008
The Gilded Age may have provided the United States with a period of growth and change after the tumultuous times of reconstruction and the Civil War, but the Progressive Era refined the country with political, social and economic reform. Four major sectors of such reform included theory and practice, regulating big business, organizing the working class, and civilizing the city. In the Progressive Era, reform Darwinism directly challenged the previous theory of social Darwinism and the inevitability of natural selection; progressives instead ushered in a period of efficiency and rationale. One method used to achieve this efficiency was coined ‘scientific management’ and developed by Frederick Wilson Taylor. Taylor broke down factory work into its simplest movements developing the beginnings of the assembly line. Even though Taylor was no fan of unions and the workers hated the monotony of repetitive movements, many progressives and corporate managers applauded the productivity. Reform Darwinism also condemned laissez-faire business, which may not have played well with the executives of big business, but it did help in efforts to regulate it. Major efforts to control big business, monopolies and the trust really began when congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. The act outlawed trusts and ruled that businesses could no longer restrict competition, but in the next decade it managed to strike down only six trusts. New President Theodore Roosevelt finally stepped in and decided to use the power of the federal government to control private industry. He began by filing an antitrust suit against the Northern Securities Company, and the Supreme court followed in suit by calling for the dissolution of the company in 1904 as well as upholding the Sherman Act, which Roosevelt went on to use against forty-three trusts. Despite his actions, congress...
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