In the early years of the 20th century, a wave of progressive reform swept the United States. Widespread disenchantment with the entrenched corporate and political elites led to an era marked by Theodore Roosevelt’s “trust-busting,” the struggle for women’s suffrage, prohibition, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and labor activism. In this milieu a new form of organization emerged, the “city club,” with the first of many founded in Cleveland in 1912.
Oregon was at the forefront of many progressive issues-- the initiative & referendum process, direct election of senators, the commission form of city government, protective labor laws, and the minimum wage. And in the autumn of 1916, a small group of men began meeting in the Hazelwood Confectionary & Restaurant in downtown Portland. Well-educated, eager to foster positive change, and dissatisfied with the operation of the city’s public institutions, they felt that existing service organizations gave them no voice.