Presidents of the Progressive Era

By: Simone Hanna

Theodore Roosevelt


Theodore Roosevelt was the first of the presidents during the Progressive Era. He was born October 27, 1858 in Manhattan, New York. He was born into a highly acclaimed family, and stayed up-to-date with politics. He experienced heartache in 1884, when both his mother and wife died. In his mourning, he fled to the Dakotas to become a cattle driver; that is, until he returned to New York and was appointed President McKinley's secretary of state, and later, vice-president. After President McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Roosevelt was promoted to President. While in office, he was extremely active and open with the media; in fact, he loved public speaking and debate. He pursued many progressive goals and was adored by most of the American public until his death in 1919.

Leadership: A+

Theodore Roosevelt receives an A- for his ability to lead the people. His reputation made him a highly adored hero in American society; he was the leader of the Rough Riders, and a war hero in the Spanish-American war. The fact that he was also a cowboy for some time in his life also made him extremely relatable to all peoples; his family made him appeal to the rich, and his cattle-driving experience made him appeal to the middle class and poor. He also won the support of the people when he sought to destroy trusts and impact the working class in a positive way. Society trusted Roosevelt so much that they even elected Roosevelt's successor based on his suggestion. Because of these aspects, and his public speaking abilities, Roosevelt was able to properly lead the American people.

Organization: A

Roosevelt's many policies to help the people give him and A- for organization. One of these policies is the Square Deal, which enacted his famous 3 Cs (conservation of natural resources, control of corporations, consumer protection). This famous Deal improved the middle class' standard of living, and set a strict checks system on big businesses. Another one of his policies that displayed great leadership was his Roosevelt Corollary. This bill was added to the Monroe Doctrine, and supported the idea that the United States should police the world (which encouraged imperialism). Through these two policies setting a precedent for both national and international politics, Theodore Roosevelt displays incredible leadership abilities.

Professionalism: A+

Roosevelt's professionalism is what made him so beloved by the American people. He was extremely active during his time in the White House; he even installed a boxing ring in his house in order for him to stay active while still at home. Roosevelt was also outspoken with the media; in fact, he is remembered as being on of the most inviting presidents to the media. This is because he was open with debate and loved public speaking. He was also an active individual (most likely stemming from his days as a cattle driver). People admired him for his persistence against congress and his ability to pass laws that would help the middle class in a big business-run government. Furthermore, the people loved Roosevelt because he was a Rough Rider and a war hero after the Spanish-American War. Because of these characteristics, Roosevelt receives an A+ for professionalism and his ability to earn the people's love.

Contributions: A+

Theodore Roosevelt's contributions to American government still shape the American system today. His environmental concerns led to the opening of The Roosevelt Museum of Natural History in 1867. Along with him studying natural history at Harvard, this museum brought awareness to the exploitation of endangered animals; this awareness towards conservation is an active ideal today. Roosevelt's trust-busting system also set a domestic business precedent that is still used today to avoid the major takeover of industry by big business. This system helped the working class and set them on the path towards labor reform. Another major contribution of Roosevelt's still around today is the Panama Canal. This canal assisted both European and American trade immensely and is still used today to help the Colombian economy. For these contributions still around today, Roosevelt receives an A+.
The Square Deal for Dummies - Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Era Reforms


William Howard Taft


William Howard Taft was the second president in the Progressive Era. He was born on September 15, 1857, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Taft was born into a prominent political family, and followed in his relative's footsteps. He was an intelligent man who attended Yale university, and went on to receive his BAR certification from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. Taft rose to the presidency after Theodore Roosevelt, whom he was Secretary of War for, recommended him right before his tragic death. He was nothing like his predecessors though, in that he was not open to speaking with the media outside of his necessary duties. He was characterized as being a man who kept his rigid emotions under control and maintained his composure, despite being caught between progressive and conservative viewpoints. William Howard Taft was a disappointing president who did not please the American people up until his death on March 8th, 1930.

Leadership: C

William Howard Taft was generally disliked among the American people. Because he was a recommendation from the adored Theodore Roosevelt, many believed he would follow in Roosevelt's efforts of progressiveness. However, even Roosevelt reprimanded him once he began his time in office. This occurred after the Ballinger-Pinchot controversy, in which Taft’s secretary sells millions of acres of coal-rich land to a private investor. Doing so was completely against Roosevelt's anti-big business administration, and thus angered many of the American people. The people also did not respond positively to Taft's administration because Taft was not a large supported of the progressives, but instead favored the conservatives' approach. He was also not a good public speaker, and thus did not have the basic leadership qualities a president needs. Many Americans saw his conservative policies as a halt to a progressing era, and thus he receives a C for leadership.

Organization: A

Though William Howard Taft was not a well-received leader, he was appreciated for his "Trust Busting" efforts. Such efforts included the Sherman Act, which was an act that forbade trusts and ultimately helped the immigrant workers in large industry. Taft was able to continue Roosevelt's trust busting plans, and ultimately did more for the effort than Roosevelt was able to do while in office. Also, Taft's ability to enact Dollar Diplomacy, which was the foreign policy that guaranteed loans to foreign countries to attract Latin America and China, was a great feat in United States foreign relations. Government reforms were also achieved by Taft, such as his demand that Congress reform taxation laws and the Mann-Elkins Act of 1910, which empowered the Interstate Commerce Commission to check railroad rates. Taft also made a great advancement in social reform. He advocated for the 17th amendment, which allowed for the direct election of Senators by the people. For these reasons reforms and organizations, William Howard Taft receives an A for organization.

Professionalism: D+

William Howard Taft ultimately failed at being appealing to the people through his professionalism. He was known to dislike speaking to the media unless it was an absolute necessity, which was the opposite of prior president Roosevelt. Taft had a tendency to gorge himself with food, and was an extremely inactive person while in the White House. Possibly due to Taft's highly educated background, he was often unable to make a decisive decision because he contemplated both sides. While Taft was a kind man, his stoic demeanor made him difficult to debate with, and he often sat by quietly while his bills would be reformed by Congress. Because he was a chief justice, he did not display qualities of a great leader, but rather a person who wants to enforce the law as much as possible. Because he is known to be a president incapable of encapturing or leading the people, Taft receives a D+ for professionalism.

Contributions: B+

William Howard Taft's contributions, while helpful, seem minor in comparison to the reforms taking place in the Progressive Era. During his time in office, he was able to establish the 16th and 17th amendments, both extremely important today. Taft also gave more power to the Executive Branch by passing the Budging and Accounting Act of 1921, which allowed the president to submit a budget to Congress. Also, his Trust Busting efforts, for which he is most known, were able to change the way big businesses operated, even today. Even with these contributions though, his presidency was a disaster of administration against administration, and the legislative and executive branch fighting for power. Because he had a relatively mundane presidency between two extremely influential presidents, William Howard Taft receives a B+ for contributions.
William Howard Taft | 60-Second Presidents | PBS


Woodrow Wilson


Woodrow Wilson was the third president during the Progressive Era. He was born December 28, 1856 in Staunton, Virginia. Wilson grew up in a loving, studious household, in which his father was a Presbyterian minister. Because his father started teaching theological seminary, the family moved constantly, mainly within the South. During his time in the South, Wilson witnessed the effects of the civil war, even witnessing the defeated face of General Robert E. Lee. Though he was suspected of having dyslexia, Wilson excelled in oratory debate and ultimately attended Princeton for college in 1875. He later became the 13th president of Princeton. It was during this time that he experienced his first of many life threatening strokes that he would struggle with throughout his life. His reputation helped him attain the United States presidency in 1912 and become a great asset to the progressive effort.

Leadership: A+

Woodrow Wilson was a highly respected leader among the American people. Because he was the president of Princeton prior to his time in office, he had already developed the great leadership qualities needed for his position. Under his leadership, Congress created the a cohesive federal oversight program that contributed to reforms. These reforms are branded with the name "Wilson's Freedoms", which include banking and tariff reforms. Also, Susan B. Anthony and many other women's suffrage supporters followed his lead and trusted Wilson with the deciding factor on the matter--a responsibility he ultimately lived up to. Also, Wilson led america through problematic foreign affairs and WW1. He skillfully dealt with Mexico, who were not only under authoritarian rule, but were also receiving the Zimmerman Telegram, which planned on invading the U.S. with the alliance of Germany. Once ensuring Mexico was not an immediate threat, Wilson led the U.S. to a victory in WWI, after observing that nuetrality would not be an option. Because of his leadership through the war, with Mexico, and domestic policies, Wilson receives an A+.

Organization: A+

Woodrow Wilson made extremely influential reforms on our nation through his organization. He enacted "Wilson's Freedoms", which include tariff, banking, and antitrust reforms. First, he created the Underwood-Simmons Act, which was enacted in 1913 to lower tariff rates from 40% to 25%. In the same year, Wilson also created the Federal Reserve Act, which established 12 regional banks run by the Federal Reserve Board. With this new federal system, banks could adjust interest rates and the nation's money supply. Also, Wilson paired with Henry D. Clayton of Alabama to create the Clayton Antitrust Act, which forbade price fixing, ownership of the competitor's stock, and other business misdemeanors. Because Woodrow Wilson was able to enact "Wilson's Freedoms" upon the people and the government, he receives an A+ for organization.

Professionalism: A

Woodrow Wilson was well-liked among the American people and Congress. He was an extremely driven individual, so much so that he was determined to balance the powers between Congress and the Executive Branch---to which he succeeded. Wilson was also abundantly hands-on with his administration. He consulted extensively with congressional leaders, and even appeared personally before a joint session of the House and Senate to explain his tariff reform program (which no president had done since John Adams). Wilson was also an incredibly skilled, well-renowned public speaker, with this being one of they key reasons he won the presidential election in the first place. Because he built upon Roosevelt's example of being an active, hands-on president, Woodrow Wilson receives an A+ for professionalism.

Contributions: A+

Woodrow Wilson's contributions made some of the biggest impacts in American history. He signed off on the 19th amendment personally, and not only solidified women's right to vote, but women's respect within society for future generations. Also, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 is still used today for regulating the nation's banks, credit, and money supply. His extremely progressive nature permanently changed the Democratic Party into a "party of reform", and Franklin Roosevelt was able to use his WWI strategies to establish his "New Deal" later on. He also opposed European and modern imperialism, which discouraged both efforts and encourage minorities to become self-sufficient. Woodrow set the president to many foreign and domestic policies, and thus he receives an A+ for his contributions.
Woodrow Wilson | 60-Second Presidents | PBS