Jacob Riis: The Progressive Era Essay

In America there arose many important and long lasting issues and problems and by the late 1800s to the early 1900s many people rose to the occasion to try and solve and fix the issues and problems. These people in this time span solved many political, economical, and social problems and in the time where they did became popularly known as the Progressive Era.

The Progressive Era had its fair share of problems, but some of them would drastically change the course of America’s history. (Dictionary of American History.. Encyclopedia. com. 3 Dec. 016) Jacob Riis was an 1800s-1900s age photographer with a still-frame camera. He was infamously known to stage photos of what he has seen as he explored slums, tenements, factories, and other horrible places. One of the photos he shared with the public was a staged picture of men in a hot, crowded, and extremely unsanitary place, probably a tenement or factory worker quarters.

His countless realistic pictures eventually caught the watchful eye of the public and conditions steadily improved over time, finally bringing attention to a nationwide issue (Doc. Jacob Riis’ Photograph) Jacob Riis wasn’t the only one to go above and beyond to bring attention to horrible living/ working conditions in factories. An author known as Upton Sinclair who was also a person known as a muckraker a person, usually a journalist, would get actively involved in a situation they are focusing on and then report their experience, usually with the intent to expose the corruption in the business or company to the public. Upton Sinclair got himself hired into a meat-packing factory and worked there for a decent amount of time then left.

He then wrote a famous book named “The Jungle”, in The Jungle Sinclair vividly describes the horrifying working conditions in the factory such as long work hours and horrible packing conditions, for the workers and the meat. Unfortunately a famous quote came out of this word by word as “He aimed for the heart of the public, he missed, hitting the stomach”. The American Public was outraged with the terrible conditions their food was being made in and not caring about the workers. (Doc. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle)

On a much better area in child labor, the percentages of child labor were decreasing rapidly and therefore letting young children apply for school, learning much more than their parents ever will, and with the newly acquired information many of them became public figures with vast knowledge and helping the public understand what was going on behind the scenes of the factories and slums. (Doc. 2 Children Who Worked Table) Social problems were not the only thing plaguing America at that time. There were more than enough economical and political problems above the American people.

One of the most well known political issues of the time was women’s suffrage (The right to vote) and a woman named Susan B. Anthony rose to fight for women’s rights and one of her most famous quotes in one of her many influential speeches stated, “In the US Constitution it states, We the people, not we the white American males”. (Doc. 6 Susan B. Anthony Quote) This raised a lot of much needed attention in the matter and eventually Congress approved and Susan B Anthony’s along with many other women’s’ suffrage fighters long battle paid off and women obtained the right to vote.

Patronage: Giving a person a job in exchange for personal favors. (Doc. 4 Patronage) This was how the government was working back in the Progressive Era and before as well. In the US Constitution it stated that senators shall be chosen by the state legislature and with this there were many ways people who wished to be a senator could sometimes bribe the legislature or offering to do favors for them so they could be chosen to be senator.

People who did this were mainly rich men who owned industries through monopolies who could offer large sums of money to bribe the legislature, using patronage to its definition. Patronage in the Gilded Age. Burton’s Legal Thesaurus, 4E. 2007. William C. Burton 4 Dec. 2016) In a political cartoon it is drawn to show a large number of obese and wealthy looking men in top hats and fancy suits. This cartoon shows the leaders of huge industries by having name tags on their torso that tell the viewer what trust they are responsible for.

This proves that many if not all the time the senators are buying their way in with huge amounts of money. (Doc. Political Cartoons) To sum all of the Progressive Era up, there were many problems that were plaguing America for a majority of its previous existence. In the Progressive Era, by its name, many people arose to fight and get rid of these problems. Some of them succeeded, some of them failed, interestingly, many of them tried to solve one problem and solved another instead. The Progressive age brought the best out of some people and the worst in others. The Progressive Era was an advancement in US History nonetheless.