Progressivism was a political movement in the United States during the ninetieth century to change the social and economic problems within society. The people believed the United States government should be more active about solving society’s problems. Industrialization and urbanization created many of these problems. These included, but were not limited to, poverty of working class and the filth and crime of urban society. Progressive leaders worked as journalists, social workers, educators, politicians, and members of the clergy. Unregulated market and economy were favored by the leaders of progressivism. Before government could fix social problems, government itself needed to be fixed. Muckrakers were a group of crusading journalists who investigated social conditions and political corruption. Muckrakers were given that name after a speech by President Theodore Roosevelt on April 4, 1906 in Washington, D.C. “Now, it is very necessary that we should not flinch from seeing what is vile and debasing. There is filth on the floor and it must be scraped up with the muck-rake; and there are times and places where this service is the most needed of all the services that can be performed…”
As railroads and industry expanded, so did popular magazines. In the early 1900’s American publishers competed against each other to see who could expose the most corruption and scandal. The improvement in printing technologies contributed to the increase of competition. As competition rose, the prices of these magazines fell. This allowed for information to be spread out over a wider audience. McClure’s, Collier’s, and Munsey’s were the most popular magazines at the time. These magazines were only ten or fifteen cents. During the muckraking era (1903 – 1912), publishers counted on a monthly circulation of more than three million. Bold print, startling titles, eye-catching covers, factual detail and emotion were made use of and contributed much to the success of the muckrakers. The information used in various articles came from court records and congressional investigations. Muckrakers did not expose corruption as much as they brought forth the details of graft which crowded public records. Between 1903 and 1912, nearly 2,000 articles of muckraking were seen by the public. Of this vast outpouring, around one third of these were written by a small group of twelve men and one woman including Charles Edward Russell, Upton Sinclair, David Graham Phillips, Lincoln Steffens, and Ida Tarbell. These people wrote for the purpose of social betterment but differed in the nature of the changes they were looking for. Charles Edward Russell aimed to expose the unfair practices of large corporations. During his career, he wrote more investigative and expose articles than his famous muckraking colleagues Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, and Upton Sinclair. He wrote thirty one books and hundreds of magazine articles. Russell exposed procedures of the meatpackers and caused a congressional investigation. As an investigative reporter, he forced the richest church in America (Trinity Church) to clean up its slum housing, helped bring about federal oversight of food and drugs, and forced Georgia to end abominable prison conditions. Russell’s work was so well known and accepted, he was almost the Socialist Party’s candidate for the 1916 presidential election. In 1906 Upton Sinclair published The Jungle. In the book, he revealed nauseating details about the meatpacking industry. He told how dead rats were shoveled into sausage-grinding machines; bribed inspectors looked the other way when diseased cows were slaughtered for beef, and filth and guts were swept off the floor and packaged as “potted ham.” Within months, the public demanded reforms in the meat industry. President Theodore Roosevelt was so sickened after reading a copy of The Jungle, he called upon Congress to pass a law establishing the Food and Drug Administration and set up federal inspection...
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