Ohio History Journal

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Chapters in Ohio Progressivism:

The Cincinnati and Dayton Bureaus

of Municipal Research and

Accounting Reform




During the Progressive era in American history, reformers attacked

corruption, bossism, unbridled plutocracy, and what they perceived to

be the decay of traditional American morality. Following the depres-

sion of 1893, one of the most severe in the nation's history, many

reformers focused on a new common cause-the appalling condition of

the country's municipalities. Though the muckraking efforts of Jacob

Riis and Lincoln Steffens did not focus on the need for municipal

reform until after the turn of the century, the cat was definitely out of

the bag. The English observer James Bryce declared city administra-

tion America's "most conspicuous failure," while the American

educator Andrew White wrote that municipal governance in this

country was the "most corrupt in Christendom."1

A lengthy list of urban ills can be found in any of the many standard

histories of the Progressive movement. Political bosses maintained

themselves in power with the immigrant vote and the ward system of

representation. Most distressing to the Progressive was the apparent-

ly Diogenian futility of trying to find an honest city official. The

inevitable result was not only corruption, but rampant administrative





Richard K. Fleischman is Associate Professor and Chairman of Accounting at John

Carroll University and R. Penny Marquette is Professor of Accounting at The University

of Akron. They would like to thank Arthur Andersen & Company for financial support

of this research.


1. Richard K. Fleischman and R. Penny Marquette, "The Origins of Public

Budgeting: Municipal Reformers During the Progressive Era," Public Budgeting &

Finance, 6 (Spring, 1986), 71.