A number of important forces were at work in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. American industries underwent tremendous growth during this era, leading to the rise of big business. In addition, millions of immigrants came to the United States during this era, seeking a better life for themselves and their families. One important result of industrialization and immigration was the growth of cities, a process known as urbanization. Commonly, factories were located near urban areas. These businesses attracted immigrants and people moving from rural areas who were looking for employment. Cities grew at a rapid rate as a result.
Unfortunately, urbanization was not always a positive thing. City services had a difficult time keeping up with the tremendous population growth. Cities in the late 1800s and early 1900s often lacked central planning. There were few sewer systems or clean water. Many roads were not yet paved. There were few building codes in place to protect the people living in them, and fire and police services were limited. Cities were rife with political corruption and disease.
As a result of the negative consequences of urbanization, many Progressives began to push for urban reforms. Progressives organized settlement houses in urban areas to provide help for immigrants and the urban poor. They supported passage of laws that would improve living conditions in the inner cities. Progressives also advocated legislation that would reduce the power of city bosses and get rid of corruption within city politics. These reform efforts significantly improved life in cities, although they did not get rid of all of the problems of urban life or end poverty.
In Ohio, a number of cities faced tremendous population growth during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Unsurprisingly, these same cities experienced rapid industrialization during this era as well. Cities such as Toledo, Akron, Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Cleveland experienced growth because of immigration from Europe as well as migration from more rural areas of Ohio and elsewhere. Like other American cities, Ohio cities faced similar problems from urbanization, and Ohio Progressives actively sought to improve conditions in their communities.