Muckrakers were early twentieth-century reformers whose
mission was to look for and uncover political and business corruption.
The term muckraker, which referred to the "man with a muckrake"
in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, was first used in a pejorative
sense by Theodore Roosevelt, whose opinion of the muckrakers was
that they were biased and overreacting. The movement began about
1902 and died down by 1917. Despite its brief duration, however, it
had a significant impact on the political, commercial, and even literary
climate of the period.
Many popular magazines featured articles whose purpose was
to expose corruption. Some of these muckraking periodicals included
The Arena, Everybody's, The Independent, and McClure's. Lincoln
Steffens, managing editor of McClure's (and later associate editor of
American Magazine and Everybody's), was an important leader of
the muckraking movement. Some of his exposés were collected in his
1904 book The Shame of the Cities and in two other volumes, and
his 1931 autobiography also discusses the corruption he uncovered
and the development of the muckraking movement. Ida Tarbell,
another noted muckraker, wrote a number of articles for McClure's,
some of which were gathered in her 1904 book The History of the
Standard Oil Company.
Muckraking appeared in fiction as well. David Graham Phillips,
who began his career as a newspaperman, went on to write
muckraking magazine articles and eventually novels about
contemporary economic, political, and social problems such as
insurance scandals, state and municipal corruption, shady Wall Street
dealings, slum life, and women's emancipation.
Perhaps the best-known muckraking novel was Upton Sinclair's
The Jungle, the 1906 exposé of the Chicago meatpacking industry.
The novel focuses on an immigrant family and sympathetically and...
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