President McKinley was re-elected in 1900, but was assassinated in 1901 shortly after his inauguration. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., only forty-two, became the Nation’s youngest president. He became a driving force for the Progressive Era in the United States. The main objectives of the Progressive movement were eliminating problems caused by industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and political corruption. Progressives sought solutions in reform legislation and in the establishment of bureaucracies, especially government agencies. Theodore Roosevelt’s lasting legacy was the regulatory state, the establishment of professional federal government and scientific agencies, as well as creation of a series of wildlife refuges and national parks. New federal agencies founded in this era included the National Bureau of Standards (1901) and the Forest Service (1905). The expression “mass migration” dates to 1901, when nearly a million immigrants were entering the United States every year, and “mass consumption” was coined in 1905. The 16th  Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allowed Congress to levy a modern income tax was passed by Congress in 1909 and ratified by the states in 1913.

In 1905, Albert Einstein explained Brownian motion, postulated that light travels in packets, presented his theory of special relativity, and deduced mass-energy equivalence via the equation E=mc2. In the first decade of the 20th century, Henry Ford launched his assembly line method for mass producing automobiles (Model A and Model T), phonographs were widely available, Eastman Kodak’s Brownie camera was popular, BCG immunization for tuberculosis had been developed, electric typewriters became available, radio broadcasting was practical, movie theaters opened up around the world, and airplane flights were taking off. By 1914, the Panama Canal was completed. Alfred Wegener presented his theory of continental drift. The first modern zipper was patented and stainless steel was invented. Also, during the 1910s, revolutions broke out in Mexico and in Russia.

Teddy Roosevelt served as President from 1901 to 1909. He declined to run in 1908 and was succeeded by fellow Republican William Howard Taft. In 1912, Roosevelt unsuccessfully challenged Taft for the Republication nomination, then formed the Progressive ("Bull Moose") Party to run for President. Roosevelt’s 1912 campaign used film clips and mass advertising in a way that no candidate had done before, gathering a national following through the tools of modern publicity and bypassing the party system by reaching voters directly. He failed to win the presidency but did influence subsequent political campaign tactics. Roosevelt’s third party candidacy led to the election of Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson. Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, too, resulting in legislation for lowering tariffs, reforming banking and currency laws, abolishing child labor, passing a new antitrust act, the first eight-hour work-day legislation, and the first federal aid to farmers. In 1914, women in Montana attained the right to vote.

World War I began in Europe in 1914. For the first time, war was waged by airplanes and bombs. Wilson tried to maintain U.S. neutrality during the European war, but began to prepare for war during the presidential campaign year of 1916. Wilson won another term as President, barely beating Republican Charles Evans Hughes. After a series of German submarine attacks on American ships, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war. The declaration passed with large bipartisan majorities April 6, 1917. Jeannette Rankin, who was elected by Montana to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916 and was the first woman to hold federal office in the United States, voted against the declaration of war. By the end of WWI in 1918, nearly 3 million men had been drafted into the US army. During the war combatants and civilians suffered extensive casualties; nearly 40 million people were killed and another 20 million wounded.

Montana and MSC were affected by the 1918 influenza pandemic, then known as Spanish flu. The virus was unusually infectious and deadly, having an estimated case-fatality rate of 20%. It attacked 500 million people around the world. In the U.S., at least 1/4 of the population became infected and more than half a million died. The state and college were faced with the challenges of locating and treating flu patients and of preventing transmission of the virus. The devastating epidemic subsided by the end of 1919.

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(Last revised: 2020-06-14)