is the term applied to a variety of responses to the economic
and social problems rapid industrialization introduced
America. Progressivism began as a social movement and grew
into a political movement. The early progressives rejected
Social Darwinism. In other words, they were people who
that the problems society faced (poverty, violence, greed,
racism, class warfare) could best be addressed by providing
good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace.
Progressives lived mainly in the cities, were college educated,
and believed that government could be a tool for change.
Social reformers, like Jane Addams, and journalists, like
Jacob Riis and Ida Tarbel, were powerful voices for progressivism.
They concentrated on exposing the evils of corporate greed,
combating fear of immigrants, and urging Americans to think
hard about what democracy meant. Other local leaders encouraged
Americans to register to vote, fight political corruption,
and let the voting public decide how issues should best
be addressed (the initiative, the referendum, and the recall).
On a national level, progressivism gained a strong voice
in the White House when Theodore
Roosevelt became president in 1901. TR believed that
strong corporations were good for America, but he also believed
that corporate behavior must be watched to ensure that corporate
greed did not get out of hand (trust-busting and federal
regulation of business). Progressivism ended with World
War I when the horrors of war exposed people's cruelty
and many Americans associated President Woodrow
Wilson 's use of progressive language ("the war to make
the world safe for democracy") with the war.
The most urgent need was better transportation to get out of the mud. The railroad system was virtually complete; the need was for much better roads. The traditional method of putting the burden on maintaining roads on local landowners was increasingly inadequate. New York State took the lead in 1898, and by 1916 the old system had been discarded in every area. Demands grew for local and state government to take charge. With the coming of the automobile after 1910, urgent efforts were made to upgrade and modernize dirt roads designed for horse-drawn wagon traffic. The American Association for Highway Improvement was organized in 1910. Funding came from automobile registration, and taxes on motor fuels, as well as state aid. In 1916, federal-aid was first made available to improve post-roads, and promote general commerce. Congress appropriated $75 million over a five-year period, with the Secretary of Agriculture in charge through the Bureau of Public Roads , in cooperation with the state highway departments. There were million miles of rural dirt rural roads in 1914; 100,000 miles had been improved with grading and gravel, and 3000 miles were given high quality surfacing. The rapidly increasing speed of automobiles, and especially trucks, made maintenance and repair a high priority. Concrete was first used in 1933, and expanded until it became the dominant surfacing material in the 1930s.   The South had fewer cars and trucks and much less money, but it worked through highly visible demonstration projects like the " Dixie Highway ."