Roots of Reform

Dominance of the Railroads

  • Central Pacific RR surrounded and dominated the Bay Area, and dominated the Oakland waterfront
  • Southern Pacific Railroad acquired by the Big Four in the late 1860s
  • The Southern Pacific Railroad was then granted the second transcontinental rail route
  • Founded the town of Colton
  • Virgil Earp and the Battle of the Crossing (1883)
  • The railroad gouged producers on freight costs, and thus made an impact on many industries.

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Progressivism: What’s in a Name?

  • Progressivism not a specific organization, but rather was a societal movement of reform.
  • It was prevalent in American society c. 1900-1920.
  • People with various and diverse goals would have considered themselves progressive.

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Progressivism (continued)

  • Under the influence of the Enlightenment and Darwinism, progressives believed that humanity could be advanced and society improved.
  • Progressivism held a high view of human potential, and that meant putting away old ways, and also freeing individuals from the shackles of the modern industrial age.
  • Progressivism wanted to move ahead into the possibilities of the future.

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Progressivism (continued)

  • In the early 1900s California and several other states began to reform themselves, coinciding with the transformation of the USA from an agricultural to an industrial society; reform from
  • Political corruption
  • Corporate corruption, especially the railroad in California
  • Better conditions, hours and wages for workers (Starr 143)
  • Women’s voting rights
  • Historians call this “reformation” the Progressive Movement
  • Championing values of the Enlightenment, Progressive platforms were often pushed by the political left
  • The Bay Area left was influenced by the harder edge of Marxism; businesses were often “closed shop”; a major center of unionization.
  • The southern California left was of the softer, Fabian socialist perspective, known as the “good government,” or “goo-goos,” group. Businesses were often “open shop.”

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Burnette Haskell

  • Early reformer
  • Formed Coast Seamen’s Union (1885); later became Sailors’ Union of the Pacific (1891), which won reforms in 1915.
  • Formed Kaweah Colony in the area of today’s Sequoia Nat’l Park (1885); radical, Utopian in outlook

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California’s Peculiar Institution

  • Migratory Farm Labor
  • Cf. Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men
  • Involvement of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) (Wobblies)
  • Ralph Durst ranch in the vicinity of Wheatland

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San Francisco Trial

  • Abraham Ruef
  • Political boss
  • Public Utilities hired Ruef as their attorney
  • Pacific Gas and Electric
  • Home Telephone Company
  • United Railroad Company
  • Eugene “Handsome Gene” Schmitz, Ruef’s hand-picked candidate for mayor under the Union Labor party
  • Perpetuated the bribe-based corporation-government relationship
  • Opposed by public-spirited citizens
  • After the Earthquake, President T. Roosevelt sent the Feds in to help investigate S.F. political corruption

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San Francisco (cont.)

  • Earthquake—April 18, 1906

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Los Angeles

  • Good Government Movement
  • Led by Dr. John Randolph Haynes; “Open Shop”
  • Opposed by Harrison Gray Otis, editor of the Los Angeles Times
  • New Charter for L.A. in 1903
  • Includes the political instruments of “the initiative, the referendum, and the recall” (R&B 259).

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Lincoln-Roosevelt League

  • Republican Convention 1906: corruption apparent
  • Journalists Edward Dickson and Chester Rowell become active in promoting reform within the Republican party
  • Organized 50 other activists
  • Direct primary in 1909
  • Republicans nominated Hiram Johnson, who then won the governorship in 1910.
  • Railroad reform ensued, as well as women’s suffrage (1911) and labor reforms

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Progressive Reforms

  • Initiative-A procedure for citizens to propose a law to be taken up by the state legislature or by the citizens directly (via ballot).
  • Referendum-A procedure for citizens to vote directly on approval of a proposed law.
  • Recall-A procedure for removing a public official from office via the direct vote of the people.

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Progressive Reforms (cont.)

  • Secret Ballot- Citizens’ votes are kept secret.
  • Direct primary-Political party nominations are via direct vote of rank-and-file members of the party rather than by party leadership.
  • Direct election of U.S. Senators-Guaranteed by the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1913), establishes the direct vote by the citizens of a state for their U.S. Senators.
  • Women’s Suffrage-Guaranteed by the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1920), recognizes the right of women to vote.

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Governor Hiram Johnson

  • Part of team that prosecuted Boss Ruef
  • Republican nominee for governor and supported by progressives
  • Served two terms as Governor
  • V.P. nominee on Progressive ticket with T. Roosevelt in 1912

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