The rapid industrialization and growth of a world economy in the Gilded Age gave birth to a reform movement in the last decade of the nineteenth-century that hoped to solve the many problems encountered in this swiftly changing era, the Progressive movement.
Though not unified into a specific political party, Progressives believed that people united behind a common cause could erase the social ills that plagued society.
But instead of being particularly concerned with the problems, they "swam in an abundance of solutions" (Gilmore, 8).
Average men and women believed that they held the solution to reform social ills such as mass immigration, overcrowding, child labor and sanitation.
Often, however, their position in society defined their stance on how to attack these social ills.
The Progressive's ranks filled with native-born, white middle-class urbanites.
In some cases, the Progressive's attempts to enact social reform depended on them controlling another group's actions and behavior (Gilmore, 3-4).
Distressed about the many newcomers into their cities, Progressives concerned themselves with the proper way to incorporate the "great unwashed" into civic life.
They feared that the future of Democracy itself was at stake.
The hordes of people flowing into the cities, both from overseas and the
"Great Migration" of African-Americans from the South, threatened to subvert the "American experiment" and corrupt the civil order.
The Progressives thought newcomers must "forsake their language and obliterate their cultural differences" (Gilmore, 8).
With all traces of foreign culture removed, these immigrants would then reflect the "traditional American ideal."
Though a few Progressives believed in the possibility of a multicultural
melting pot by generally educating the population in proper social mores, most believed that a true American democracy, if it had to contain these immigrants, must assimilate them through a "purifying" Americanization (Gilmore, 8).
Many Progressives tried to enact legislation that curbed immigrants' rights or put quotas on certain nationalities' admission into the United States.
At one point, this attempt at exclusion came into direct conflict with the organizers of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
In California there was already significant resentment of Japanese ownership of farmland and many politicians campaigned for the prohibition of their rights to own property.
The President of the Exposition made a plea to the state legislature that such restrictions on Asians would result in the withdrawal of Chinese and Japanese participation which would destroy the opportunity to trade with these giants from the Far East.
He suggested the legislature wait until the Exposition was over.
The Progressive former mayor of San Francisco and its then current US Senator, James Phelan, countered by saying:
The future of California is of far greater importance than the success of this Exposition.
And in saying this I do not believe for a moment that in enacting this land legislation you will jeopardize the success of the Exposition (Dobkin, 76).
Despite the efforts of Moore and the directors of the Exposition, the
Alien Land Law
passed in 1913 and remained a law until the United States Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1952.
Regardless, the Chinese and Japanese contingents participated in the Exposition despite their opposition to the bill (ibid.).