Throughout history civilizations have been faced with tumultuous times and revolutionary transitions that call for the revamping of long standing tradition and policy. Change is not always attained with a smooth transition; often it takes the work and sacrifice of many to achieve progress. Within America's brief but complex history, reform has been a recurring theme that surfaces during times of economic adversity and political dissatisfaction. The latter part of the 19th century carrying into the first quarter of the 20th century saw the emergence of the Populist movement and Progressive Era; these movements were a response to the changing climate in American society due to rapid industrialization, an ethnically diverse personality of a young nation, and birth of American imperialism. Disgruntled American farmers that wished to advance their economic position thwarted the Populist movement. Progressives pushed to improve urban labor conditions, dismantle trusts and monopolies, conserve of environment, and to install an active government. This era signaled the birth of the modern age, and the outcomes of these movements still linger within U.S policy today. .
To fully grasp the cause of the Populist and Progressive movements one must first gain an understanding of the changing social, economic, and political arenas in America. In the years following the Civil War, the U.S. began to rapidly industrialize, in turn creating wealth, growth of big businesses, technological advances, population shifts from rural to urban centers, and large scale immigration of different ethnic groups. Within this business-oriented society money began to replace morality in national politics. The transformation of landscape and cityscape projected people into new material surroundings causing a metamorphosis of personal values, political ideas, and group identities (Fink xv). Massive production and the new factory system altered the character of the originally agriculturally oriented society into a consumer culture.