During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many Americans, especially middle-class Americans, became involved in the Progressive Movement. Progressives generally were affiliated with Protestant churches, and they believed that American society was becoming immoral. They contended that Americans were becoming too concerned with attaining wealth and political power, turning their backs on religion and on their fellow men.
Progressives implemented numerous reforms during the late 1800s and the early 1900s. One of these reforms was the creation of settlement houses. Settlement houses were institutions where immigrants especially could go to seek assistance. Settlement house organizers sought to teach immigrants how to survive and prosper in the United States. They taught the immigrants English, business skills, and about American customs. The settlement houses often provided housing, free meals, and medical care. They also helped organize activities for children and young adults to keep these people out of bars. At the core of the settlement houses' mission was a desire to instill morality in the immigrants. The settlement house organizers emphasized religion in all of their classes, whether the courses were on English, on proper health care habits, or on how to obtain a job.
Settlement houses were located in most major cities. Ohio had numerous settlement houses, including the Hiram House in Cleveland. In 1896, students from Hiram College, including George Bellamy, established this settlement house. The Hiram House was the first settlement house established in Ohio. The students secured financial backing from some of Cleveland's wealthy residents. The students utilized the funds to build a large building that provided housing for Cleveland's needy residents. The Hiram House's operators also taught classes in English and American customs and history. These classes were not only designed to prepare immigrants for life in the United States but were also to assist foreigners in passing citizenship exams. Since 1897, the Hiram House has continuously operated a summer camp for children.