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During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a larger number of Americans sought to cure the United States of the social, economic, and political ills that accompanied industrialization and urbanization especially. These people did not necessarily oppose industrialization or urbanization. They opposed the results of industrialization and urbanization, including such things as the poor treatment of workers, the inability of cities to provide basic services to their residents, the domination of political offices by a small number of wealthy Americans, and the declining ability for children to enjoy their childhood rather than working in factories.

For the most part, Progressives were white, middle-class Americans who practiced a Protestant faith. They also tended to be members of the Republican Party. They commonly did not agree on every reform that was designated as being Progressive, but they generally supported movements that attempted to make the United States a more moral, democratic, and in theory, compassionate nation. Progressives believed that Americans should work together to accomplish their goals. Industrialists needed to realize that the business owners' actions could both help and hurt their fellow Americans. Progressives hoped to convince the American people that they needed to work for each other's mutual benefit, not just the benefit of a single individual.

Progressive reformers implemented a series of measures to attain their goals. Settlement houses provided aid to immigrants. The Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act aided America's citizens by improving the quality of products that they consumed. Progressives also helped make the United States more democratic with implementing reforms like initiative, referendum, direct primaries, and city managers. Progressive reformers also implemented building safety codes to improve working and living conditions. They also pushed for Prohibition, hoping to instill morality in their fellow Americans by banning alcohol.

Numerous Progressive reformers lived in Ohio and dramatically altered the state's political, economic, and social systems. One of Ohio's more prominent reformers was Tom Loftin Johnson. During the 1880s, Johnson became involved in politics. Politically, he supported the Progressive Movement, but in 1888, the Democratic Party selected Johnson as a candidate for the United States House of Representatives. Johnson lost this election, but he triumphed in 1890 and won reelection in 1892, before he was ousted in 1894. While serving in the House, Johnson was elected mayor of Cleveland. He served as mayor from 1901 to 1909. As mayor, Johnson reduced the fares on street railways to three cents. He also argued that public utilities—such as railroads, electric plants, and trash removal services—could be taxed by local governments and should be regulated. Johnson actively assisted working-class residents and hoped to improve services for all Cleveland residents. Johnson's popularity among the working class made him a powerful figure in the Ohio Democratic Party. Johnson's efforts as mayor of Cleveland also earned him national claim. Lincoln Steffens, one of the leading journalists of the era, called Johnson the best mayor in the United States.

Another prominent Ohio Progressive was Samuel Jones. In 1897, Jones received the Republican Party's nomination for Toledo's mayoral office. Workers united behind Jones's candidacy, and he won the election. Jones proceeded to implement Progressive reforms. During his time in office, Jones worked to improve conditions for the working class people of his community. The mayor opened free kindergartens, built parks, instituted an eight-hour day for city workers, and did much to reform the city government. Jones encouraged voters and politicians to renounce political parties. He believed that non-partisan politics would unite the American people together, rather than divide them as political parties seemed to do.

Following World War I, the Progressive Movement began to decline in popularity. The era of the Roaring Twenties began, and many Americans sought a more carefree and less moralistic lifestyle. Aspects of Progressivism remained until the Great Depression and beyond, but it failed to exist as a concerted movement by the early 1930s.

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