Notable Muckrackers from the Progressive Era: Part 1

Journalism is a vital aspect of a democracy and during the progressive era, journalism was arguably at its most influential and most powerful. Some journalists during this era were dedicated to exposing the corruption, “evils,” and greed of their society. These journalists were called muckrackers. Muckrackers was a term used by President Roosevelt and as a result, fewer muckracking pieces started appearing because editors feared backlash. However in this piece I want to discuss notable muckrackers of the progressive era rather than the history of the term and genre of journalism.
Lincoln Steffens

Born on April 6. 1866 in San Francisco, California, Steffens was a journalist, lecturer, and political philosopher. Steffens was also one of the leading muckrackers. During his nine years of working for newspapers in New York City, he learned about the abundance of corruption of politicians by businessmen. Later in 1901, Steffens would become the managing editor of McClure’s Magazine. While at McClure’s Magazine, Steffens would begin to publish more and more influential articles that would later become a collection of articles known as The Shame of the Cities.
Ida M. Tarbell

Born on November 5, 1857 in Erie County, Pennsylvania, Ida Tarbell was a graduate of Allegheny College in 1880. She was also the only woman in her graduating class that year. She was an investigative reporter for McClure’s magazine and her claim to fame included exposing unfair practices that were being done by the Standard Oil Company, ultimately leading to the breaking up of the monopoly by a Supreme Court decision in 1911.
Upton Sinclair

Arguably the most famous muckracker, Upton Sinclair was born in 1878 in Maryland. Sinclair considered himself a socialist which led to a project on the conditions of workers in the meat industry and would write his most well-known and arguably influential book, The Jungle. Many of his later works and runs for political office were somewhat unsuccessful, however Sinclair earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1943 for his piece Dragon’s Teeth, which was a piece regarding Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and the rise of Nazism in Germany.

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