Roosevelt & the Progressives from 1900 to 1912

Roosevelt & the Progressives from 1900 to 1912
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  • 0:01 Election of 1900
  • 1:10 Roosevelt
  • 1:56 Taft
  • 2:44 Election of 1912
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson explores the elections of 1900, 1904, and 1908. It highlights Roosevelt's political career, his relationship with Taft, the Bull Moose Party, and the Republican loss of 1912. When you're done reading about these things, you'll be able to test your knowledge with a quiz!

Election of 1900

At the dawn of the 20th century, America found itself in a time of prosperity. It had won the Spanish-American War and the economy looked great. At the helm sat Republican William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States. With the war over and the economy thriving, McKinley handily won re-election in 1900. However, rather than being known as a victory for McKinley, the election of 1900 is famous for bringing Theodore Roosevelt onto the national scene. Let's take a look at Roosevelt's rise to power.

Like already mentioned, the turn of the century saw America in a time of prosperity. The proverbial sun seemed to be shining and in 1900, William McKinley easily beat the Democratic nominee for president, William J. Bryan. At McKinley's side stood his new vice president, Theodore Roosevelt. As the former Governor of New York and a hero of the Spanish-American War, Republicans thought of him as the perfect guy to take over for McKinley's Vice President who had died. Little did they know that within a year Roosevelt would become the 26th President of the United States!


To explain, in 1901, McKinley was assassinated. With this, Roosevelt became one of the most-talked about presidents of American history.

Not seeming to care what the old establishment thought, Roosevelt sought to curb the influence of big business in politics. This gained him the name of a Progressive Republican. As a progressive, he sought to create a government of the people rather than a government of the wealthy. Throughout his political career, his social agenda included things like:

  • A minimum wage
  • An 8-hour workday
  • And even...the vote for women!

Under Roosevelt, the American economy continued to thrive. When time came for the 1904 election, he won by a landslide and continued to shape the country with his progressive ideas.


Despite his popularity, Roosevelt did not seek re-election in 1908. Instead, he used his fame to back fellow Progressive Republican William Taft. With Roosevelt standing behind him, Taft became the 27th President of the United States. Although no longer president, Roosevelt stayed on the political scene and within a short time, his power and popularity became a real problem for Taft.

To explain, when Taft started making decisions that seemed to favor big business, Roosevelt, his former ally, became one of his loudest critics. Disgusted by what he considered Taft's betrayal of progressive ideologies, Roosevelt wasn't messing around. Rather than fading into the background like former presidents tend to do, Roosevelt accused Taft of selling out for profit.

Election of 1912

Soon, the tension between Roosevelt and Taft reached a boiling point. Although Taft tried to build bridges back to the progressives of his party, the damage was done. Rather than accepting Taft's attempts at reconciliation, Roosevelt and his progressive cronies actually split from the Republicans and formed the Progressive Party.

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