The Progressive Era Summary

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The Progressive Era was a time in United States history when social and political ideologies formed as a response to rapid industrialization. This period lastly roughly from 1895-1920 and is the focus of David E. Alsobrook’s article in the April 2002 issue of The Alabama Review. Alsobrook’s commentary focuses on the port city of Mobile, AL and the progressive reorganizations that occurred in the city the decades after reconstruction. He argues that the reforms of the city were caused by the influx of entrepreneurs brought by newly completed railroads. These businessmen were successful in obtaining leadership roles previously reserved for those of the gentry class (i.e. cotton plantation owners) and had different concepts of what made a successful …show more content…

New transportation was key in allowing for a swift trade system as well as providing a means by which the city could expand its territory and population. According to Alsobrook, these railroads promoted the idea of a “New South” and attracted investors to cities like Mobile in hopes of being the first to profit off the city’s new expansion and comparing it to the other great port of the south, New Orleans. These “Boosters” focused on gaining financial backing from northern investors to improve real estate, local economies and transportation systems but, as Alsobrook points out, did little in the way of improving upon social systems. They wanted an efficient and logical government that’s main purpose was to stimulate economic growth so they created a system known as the commission plan which replaced current and usually corrupt town mayors with a city council. This plan was widely adopted during the Progressive Era and was highly publicized in the Mobile Register in hopes of once again modernizing the city’s image. Mobile’s leadership then shifted from middle-class citizens to the industrial elite whose fortunes had paid for the propaganda promoting the city. James Howard Wilson, an investor from Kansas, was the archetype of the powerful entrepreneurs that would take over the city as he was …show more content…

It became evident that men were being sentenced to unnecessary jail time so that the sheriffs could become wealthy. This not only alarmed the moralists but the city’s industrial elite as well due to the fact a large portion of the city’s budget was being spent superfluously. Judge Chamberlain of Mobile was questioned by the governor for his sentencing practices and was eventually brought into the state Supreme Court where he claimed it was the rough treatment of prisoners in work camps that caused him to send more convicts to jail than what the public deemed appropriate. The moralists and boosters came together and lobbied for the ending of all contracts with work camps and the reformation of the fee system; they were successful on both accounts. The two factions continued to work together until the civil court system and juvenile justice system both saw heavy reforms in hopes of rehabilitant convicts in lieu of

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