"The Age Demands It": Progressivism in Zion City, Illinois, a Conservative Protestant Theocracy
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Jablonsky, Thomas J.
Avella, Steven M.
Historians have periodized the last decade of the nineteenth and first two decades of the twentieth centuries as the Progressive Era.The Era is characterized by booming industrialization, unregulated corporate capitalism, rapid urbanization, and immigration from countries other than northern Europe. These developments unleashed an explosion of reforms intended to solve the social problems that emanated from these unsettling developments. Reformers beseeched the courts and state and national legislatures to regulate banks and big businesses. Urban reformers and liberal religious leaders established settlement houses to uplift immigrants morally and socially. Other reformers espoused religious or secular communitarian philosophies to dignify labor, or to provide model communities that others could emulate.This is a case study of one such communitarian model, founded on conservative Protestant principles and intended to be an industrial city that would attract Christians to live, to work, and to prosper. Founder John Alexander Dowie developed a physical environment that encompassed many of the progressive priorities of the era, such as orderly neighborhoods, parks, and playgrounds. City ordinances forbad alcohol and other vices inherent in urban centers. Within a few years, Dowie was forced into bankruptcy, and died shortly thereafter. Progressive members of his congregation emerged to re-create the city as a modern, yet moral industrial city. In spite of their progressive vision, their success was thwarted by a powerful antagonist whose goal was to return the city to a conservative theocracy.Using multiple regional newspapers, trade journals, magazines, and institutional records, this project analyzes the strong progressive elements evident in the physical layout of the city and the labors of progressive businessmen who worked to advance the benefits of the city to industrialists, and to connect the city to the burgeoning Chicago market while maintaining the moral precepts vital to the era, and central to their own faith, assumptions, and values.