Progressivism was a response to the economic and social problems rapid industrialization introduced to America. Progressivism began as a social movement and grew into a political movement. The early progressives were people who believed that the problems society could best be addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace. Progressives lived mainly in the cities, were college educated, and believed that government could be a tool for change. Social reformers, such as Jane Addams, concentrated on exposing the bad in corporate greed. Progressivism gained a strong voice in the White House when Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901. Roosevelt believed that strong corporations were good for America, but he also believed that corporate conduct must be watched to guarantee that business greed did not get out of hand, this was knows as trust-busting and federal regulation of business. Progressives wanted the government to interfere with big business to give the little guys a chance. They also wanted laws controlling work conditions and hours, and they desired labor unions to be recognized. The efforts put forward by the progressives appealed to many Americans for multiple reasons.
Progressivism appealed to middle and lower class Americans who felt helpless against industrial giants like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, whose increasing power influenced politicians and the laws and regulations they sanctioned. Carnegie cut prices to drive out competitors and then would eventually raise the price because people had no options. Rockefeller bought out competitors like Carnegie and convinced people inside the railroad business to give him discounts when shipping. Rockefeller controlled stock of other companies and a complete vertical integration; he is remembered for buying up all of the components needed for the manufacture of oil barrels in order to prohibit his competitors from getting their product on the market.