Corruption and Reform

In small cities, national movements like Progressivism encountered support and resistance from a close-knit elite. This project explores corruption and its punishment during an early twentieth-century political scandal in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Reform developed unevenly as leaders prioritized their own interests instead of the reform. And when Grand Rapids did pursue reform, the city lacked the necessary legal infrastructure and experience. Conflicts of interests and other suspect actions colored reform efforts. Nonetheless, the Grand Rapids water scandal stands as a turning point for the city’s reform as the first genuine effort to end municipal corruption. Hoping to catch a glimpse of the city’s urban relationships, Corruption and Reform examines the interconnected nature of the Grand Rapids elite and what that closeness meant for political reform.

See the archived project here.