U.S. History 1877-Present 5: Taft During the Progressive Era
Taft may be most famous for bathtubs these days, but he did tons of other important things as well like breaking up Standard Oil, levying income taxes, and establishing that state senators would be elected by popular vote. And okay...yes, he did have a custom bathtub built that could fit four normal sized men inside it. So what?
|U.S. History||U.S. History 1877-Present|
big. And yes, at 5 foot 11 inches,
Taft was a tall guy in the day. [Taft with long legs appears on screen]
But, uh, that's not the kind of "big" we're
talking about. We mean Taft was
a heavy guy who at times weighed about [Taft struggles to enter the door]
340 pounds while he was
in office. But other than that,
Taft doesn't loom large in the annals
of the U.S. presidency. When Taft
won the presidency in 1908, the Republican [Image of William Taft & James Sherman]
party and other leaders were relieved.
After years of getting bullied by Roosevelt [Roosevelt laughs]
from his aptly named "bully pulpit,"
politicians were glad to see someone
come to office who didn't push the executive [Taft walks with a big stick in his hand]
office's powers. But Taft
did manage to do enough stuff to tick
off the progressive members of his party. [Taft sits in front of a board and reads it]
For example, he signed legislation
that didn't lower tariffs
and had the nerve to fire Gifford [Taft fires Gifford Pinchot]
Pinchot, a Roosevelt appointment
to the Bureau of Forestry.
The Progressives were like, uh, [The Progressive pops in]
"Nobody does that to Gifford Pinchot,
man! Nobody!" To which
Taft said, uh, "would somebody get me out [Taft takes a bath in tub]
of this darn bathtub?" Heh, just kidding.
He probably said "whatever" and moved on with
life. Pass me the butter. [Taft stands near a dinning table]
In general, Taft became more conservative
during his term, which continued to make
Progressives hate him more and more.
We're pretty sure that Taft dartboards became [dartboard with Taft's face on it]
popular in progressive hangouts.
Well despite all that, Taft did some awfully [Taft cuddles baby in his arms]
progressive-sounding stuff when he was in office.
For example, he expanded the powers of
the central government when he gave the Interstate
Commerce Commission the power to impose
railroad rates. His administration
also instigated 80 [ A list of lawsuits against Taft]
antitrust lawsuits, including the one
that led successfully to the breakup of
Standard Oil in 1911. And
it was an ugly breakup, to say the least.
Taft also signed the 16th
Amendment, which allowed the U.S. government to let [Article XVI of legislation empowering government to collect taxes appears on screen]
the income taxes, and the 17th Amendment,
which established the election of
senators by popular vote and not by
Finally, Taft also established the Federal [The lady holds a poster which depicts child welfare program]
Children's Bureau to protect
the welfare of American kids.
A lot of people don't make a big deal out of these [A groups of boys]
accomplishments today, but they did create lasting
protections for consumers and for [Statue bearing label of Children' s Bureau moves in front of the mob of boys]
children. Despite the fact that
Taft ticked off members of the Republican party, they [An elephants moves near Taft]
still nominated him for reelection.
Teddy Roosevelt, though, wasn't [Roosevelt points finger]
feeling the love for Taft. T.R.
was so disappointed with Taft and the Republican [Taft attacks Roosevelt with knife]
Party that he left the Republicans.
In a kind of political hissy fit,
he stomped off to form his own party,
which he called the Bull Moose Party. [The symbol of Bull Moose Party]
Because, uh, why not?
Anyway, his plan to show up Taft
and the Republicans by winning the presidency
backfired, though, since his candidacy [The vote distribution among Republicans and Democrats]
split the Republican vote between he
and Taft. Well, this meant that the
Democratic party candidate, Woodrow
Wilson, who only garnered 42 [The newspaper headings displays the triumph of Wilson in the election]
percent of the vote, won the election.
Taft was actually glad [Taft in the bathtub]
to leave the presidential office, and later was
much happier serving as a Supreme Court
Justice under President Harding. [Image of bench of Supreme Court judges]
Taft later wrote,
"I don't remember that I was ever
President." To which Teddy Roosevelt
probably said, uh, "well, that explains [Taft talks to Roosevelt in his office]