From the End of the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era, 1893-1918

Progressive Reform in a Transatlantic Age

This essay describes the main political, socioeconomic, and cultural dimensions of progressivism and, on this basis, explores the imprint of the Progressive Era on the modern United States. It pays particular attention to the transatlantic dimension of progressivism, suggesting that the reformers’ perceptions and translations of European social reform provided both inspiration and resources for the formulation of a new politics, economics, and culture in turn-of-the-century America, and arguing that the contributions of some German immigrant entrepreneurs need to be seen in this context. At the same time, the essay contends that the international dimension of progressivism highlighted the fissures, fault lines, and blind spots within the movement and within American culture and society as a whole.

Rath, John Washington

John Washington Rath, a founder of the Rath Packing Company in Waterloo, Iowa, played a major role in the American meatpacking business for more than fifty years. Rath served as president of the family business from 1898 to 1943, and then as chairman of the board until 1950. John Washington Rath and the Rath Packing Company also played a critical role in Waterloo’s development as a center of industry during the first half of the twentieth century. The Rath brand was a force in the American meat industry for years until faltering sales and labor struggles led to the company’s decline.

Ridder, Herman

Herman Ridder, the eldest son of German immigrants to New York. Largely self-educated, he entered the field of journalism as a young man, founding first a German-language Catholic newspaper and then the English-language Catholic News. In 1890 he bought into the New Yorker Staatszeitung, a distinguished daily of national – as well as local – renown. Influenced by the paper’s owner and editor, Oswald Ottendorfer, he became an entrepreneur in business, politics, and print technology.

Schoenhut, Albert Frederick

In 1872, six years after emigrating from Württemberg, Albert Schoenhut began manufacturing toy pianos in a workshop in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. By the turn of the twentieth century, the A. Schoenhut Company had become one of America’s leading toy producers – and one of the few to export to Europe. Today, the toy pianos, dolls, and novelty items produced during the company’s pre-World War I heyday are prized by connoisseurs, auctioneers, and aficionados.

Stickley, Gustav

Second-generation German immigrant Gustav Stickley is remembered today as one of America’s leading furniture designers and arbiters of taste. A key figure in the Arts and Crafts movement, Stickley created an authentically American furniture designed to suit the needs of modern families. He also founded a groundbreaking magazine, <em>The Craftsman</em>, whereby he publicized his work and the philosophies that motivated it. Stickley’s furniture enjoyed widespread popularity among consumers. As importantly, however, his work influenced others in the craft and building professions, specially designers and architects who were receptive to Arts and Crafts ideals.

Thieme, Theodore Frederick

Theodore Frederick Thieme was the second of ten children born to immigrants Frederick John and Clara Thieme of Saxony. During a visit to the Saxon city of Chemnitz, which was known for its thriving textile industry, Thieme decided to begin manufacturing full-fashioned hosiery in the United States. Upon his return, he founded the Wayne Knitting Mills in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In time, Wayne Knitting Mills became one of America’s largest producers of men’s, women’s, and children’s full-fashioned hosiery.