1893 - 1920
Congress passes the Interstate Commerce Act, creating the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to regulate the railroads. The Supreme Court interprets the ICC's powers so narrowly that it is rendered essentially powerless by the early twentieth century.
Congress passes the Sherman Antitrust Act to prohibit trusts (monopolies), which have grown rapidly over recent decades. This federal legislation supplements and further strengthens many preexisting state laws that lack the power to govern interstate commerce. Any contract, combination (monopoly or otherwise), or conspiracy in restraint of interstate and foreign trade is declared illegal. Violators will be charged with maximum penalties of a $5,000 fine and imprisonment for one year. Problematically, the nation's courts use this Act to deem labor unions and agricultural cooperatives among the forbidden combinations in the restraint of trade.
President McKinley dies from complications relating to his shooting and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt becomes the 26th president of the United States.
Led by Wayne Wheeler, the Anti-Saloon League mobilizes
church congregations to support political candidates sympathetic
to their cause. Founded in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1893, it becomes a
nationwide organization two years later. When Prohibition is
passed in 1919, Wheeler is one of the drafters of the Eighteenth
Amendment and the Volstead Act, which enforces the anti-liquor
Educator John Dewey founds a school in Chicago based on his
philosophy of “progressive education.” Breaking with traditional
methods of education, which rely on repetition and rote learning,
Dewey’s “laboratory school” encourages personal development
Florence Kelley, a founder of Chicago’s Hull House, organizes
the National Consumers’ League to advocate better working
conditions for women and children, health care, enforcement of
child-labor laws, and a minimum wage. The League
demonstrates the increased political clout of women in the
Ida Turbell's articles cause furor leading to breakup of Standard Oil (page 399)
The prohibition movement gains a powerful symbolic leader
when temperance crusader Carry Nation destroys a hotel
barroom in Wichita, Kansas, with a hatchet. Nation’s tactics are
at odds with the more moderate Woman’s Christian Temperance
A fact based novel by Upton Sinclair about the horribly unsanitary conditions in the slaughterhouses led to the government forming the Food and Drug administration and the Meat inspection act in 1906. Page 407
On the same day as it passes the Pure Food and Drug Act, Congress also approves its second Meat Inspection law to date. The U.S. Drug Administration must inspect all animals destined for human consumption—cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and swine—before they are slaughtered. Carcasses are subject to post-mortem inspections and slaughterhouses and processing plants must uphold cleanliness standards.
Congress passes the Pure Food and Drug Act in response to exposés of the patent-drug, meatpacking, and food industries.
President Roosevelt chooses Secretary of War William Howard Taft as his successor. Taft secures the Republican nomination and wins the presidency against Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan in November.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
The word "Progressive" enters common parlance as a description of the burgeoning political movement that seeks to reform various aspects of American society and politics.
The Taft administration uses the Sherman Antitrust Act to act against the Standard Oil trust and the American Tobacco Company.
A fire breaks out in the supposedly "fireproof" Asch building where Triangle Waist Company occupied the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. The shirtwaists that hang on lines above the workers' heads and the shirtwaist cuttings that litter the floors quickly ignite, allowing the blaze to spread rapidly. The workers are locked inside the factory; some jump to their deaths to avoid burning alive. In all, 146 people die in the blaze, all within half an hour. This incident ignites public opinion against unsafe urban working conditions and the plight of young female immigrant workers.
Debs earns 1 million votes for President in 1912 elections. Highest number ever for a socialist candidate.
The Republican Party holds its convention in Chicago and nominates William Howard Taft after a fierce struggle. Teddy Roosevelt, Taft's former friend and predecessor in the White House, has been running against Taft since February for the nomination. When he doesn't win the nomination, Roosevelt bolts the party and runs for president on a separate ticket with the Progressive Party.
With the Republican vote split between Taft and Progressive candidate Roosevelt, the Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson is elected president. Wilson only polls a plurality of the popular vote (41.9%), but a commanding electoral majority of 435. Roosevelt embarrasses the incumbent Taft by winning 27.4% of the votes to his 23.2%. Socialist Eugene V. Debs wins 6% of all votes cast, or just over 900,000 people.
Prohibition (liquor prohibited)