During the Progressive Era, writers and investigative reporters known as Muckrakers wrote about political corruption and injustices among known leaders in the government. They also raised awareness in social and economic issues. They received this name from president Theodore Roosevelt in reference to “The Man With the Muck Rake” in John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” which states that a rake was used to dig up fifth and muck. The writers and journalist were not to fond of the term “muckraker” but they would let Theodore Roosevelt prerogative term “muckraker” be seen as a badge of honor.
Muckrakers exposed these corrupt leaders through popular magazines and their own books. Some of the most famous muckrakers like, Upton Sinclair, Ida Tarbell, Jacob Riis, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, and John Spargo all are involved in helping exposing the political, social, and economic issues, political corruption, and injustices among leaders in the government. The muckrakers changed government public policy by issuing out their own articles and books which caused laws to be created and even be changed.
Upton Sinclair wrote novel,“ The Jungle” to expose the horrifying working conditions in the meatpacking industry. His book described the disease, spoiled, and contaminated meat which stunned the public which led to new federal food laws. The book is his fictionalized story of Chicago’s Packingtown. The title was the reflection of the how he saw the cruelty in meat-packing industry. The main character, “Jurgis” took the job at the Durham thinking this would help better his life, but this job was based on Armour & Co. , the leading Chicago meat packer.
He witnessed how the company would make the assembly line much faster and still pay workers the same amount of money. Also, how the company cheated workers out of their money by not paying them for working part of their hours. Men who worked there had skin diseases, tuberculosis and some had bad backs for carrying 100 pounds of meats. Also, men were spitting and coughing up blood near the meat station and plus the company had no restroom so they would urinate on the floor. For lunch, workers did not have an area to eat so they ate at their work area.
The next chapter of his book stated how disease, spoiled, and contaminated meat were processed resulted from chemicals, and how they mislabeled their food. Workers would process animals who were dead, injured, even those who had diseases. His character suffered so much from working this job that he lost everything close to him. This turn of events led to act of socialism. Jurgis would listen to socialist who expressed their views on socialism. Sinclair would use these speeches to write his own views about workers who should come together and take down the government and the “wage slavery.
After this book received a huge reactions from the public, laws began to develop. Theodore Roosevelt got involved and wrote a letter to Congress, declaring, ” A law is needed which will enable the inspectors of the Federal Government to inspect and supervise from the hoof to the can the preparation of the meat food product. ” The Jungle ended up changing the government public policy. It resulted in Theodore Roosevelt regulating two new laws, the Meat Inspection Act, and the Pure Food and Drug Act. The Pure Food and Drug Act led to the development of the federal Food and Drug Administration.
These laws increased the public’s willingness to purchase food and drugs which helped these businesses. Also, the laws led to the expansion of federal regulation of other industries. Sinclair is not the only muckraker to change government public policy. Ida Tarbell is known for her novel “The History of the Standard Oil Company” after written it in serial form for Mcclure’s Magazine. The expose was composed after she spent several years investigating the business practices of John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. Her investigative reporting led to the breakup of Standard Oil in 1911.
What it did for society of the Progressive era was not so much to reveal previously unknown facts about the rise of the Standard trust as to characterize Standard and judge it against the background of real and imagined social and economic patterns of the 19th century. Standard Oil became an unforgettable archetype of new and unsettling developments in corporate aggregation (561). The first installment she exposed the Standard’s business practices, including the ones who were surrounding the events that had done great damage to her own family and people in the area.
The last installment she did a character study of Rockefeller. She criticized Rockefeller for stooping to unethical business practices in pursuit of his many conquests. The public ultimately angry with the background history of the company is the reason for the breakup of the Standard Oll, which happened after the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in 1911 that the company were violating the Sherman Antitrust Act . Ultimately, Standard Oil was broken into “baby Standards,” which include ExxonMobil and Chevron today.
With the rise of new investigative journalism also known as muckraker because of Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens was able to be recognized as another famous muckraker. Lincoln Steffens wrote “The Shame of the Cities” showing the corruption in local governments throughout America. This was also another magazine article published in McClure’s Magazine. He basically discussed the corruption in St. Louis, Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York. In his first article he wrote “Tweed Days in St. Louis,” detailing the corruption and cruelty of urban politics. The Shame of Minneapolis exposes the corrupt administration of Mayor Albert Alonzo.