In a time where the struggles of the common class were ignored how did change occur? In order to answer this question one must understand the issues themselves. During the Industrial Era America was in a so called “golden era”. The nation was on the rise with urbanization and industrialization increasing each day but with this progress came a price. The working conditions were horrendous, employees were paid very little for their long hours and their home lives were even worse. There seemed to be no stopping big business until the Progressive Era began.
The backbone of this social movement were people called Muckrakers who were basically the whistleblowers of their time period because they worked to bring to light all of the issues that had been hidden or ignored. Some of the most famous Muckrakers of the time included Jacob Riis, Ida Tarbell and Jane Addams. Each of these people had a hand in the Progressive Era and worked to make a change in American society. Jacob Riis’s mission was to improve living conditions for immigrants was a major issue during the time as floods of people came to the states.
The use of monopoly practices was brought into the spotlight and scrutinized by people like Ida Tarbell who witnessed the destruction caused by companies like Standard Oil. Jane Addams worked to help educate and better the immigrant communities which were neglected by the general population. Each of this Muckrakers made their mark in history by illustrating the struggles of the time and using their work to help with social reform. Muckrakers were the life of the Progressive Era as they used their investigative skills and actions to bring about change whether it was to stand up for the oppressed, to fight against big business r simply to help those who could not help themselves through social reform.
Before the Progressive Era, when the Industrial Era was still ongoing, there was a flood of immigrants to the United States that were looking to start their lives over. There was such a large increase in immigrants that many tenement houses began to pop up. Tenement houses were like apartments but much more crowded with multiple large immigrant families residing in a single tenement house at one time. Immigrants lived in a constant struggle as they lived in dark, dirty and crime redeem neighborhoods because they couldn’t afford to go anywhere on their small wages.
Jacob Riis had went through the same situation as a Danish immigrant which is why after he was able to work his way up to being a police journalist Riis dedicated his life to helping to improve the lives of immigrants. He studied photography and used his skills to document the slums of New York in order to show the upper classes of New York how the lower classes lived. He placed all of his photos into a single book called ” How the Other Half Lives”. When the the middle/upper classes of New York were able to visually see what people of less privileged they were shocked realize how deplorable tenement and lodging houses were.
Riis made a big impact on New York with the help of his friend then Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was able to shut down the worst of the lodging houses and pushed city officials to fix and enforce housing policies. He even said this about his friend Riis “The countless evils which lurk in the dark corners of our civic institutions, which stalk abroad in the slums, and have their permanent abode in the crowded tenement houses, have met in Mr. Riis the most formidable opponent every encountered by them in New York City.
Riis spent much of his career representing the underappreciated and forgotten immigrants through he photographs and was unrelenting in his quest, never backing down. The phrase a picture is worth a thousand words rang true as his work spurred on the immigrant housing reforms. Another crusader for the under represented was Ida Tarbell who’s work also helped to protect the common man’s business. As a growing child Tarbell’s father owned a small oil refinery in Western Pennsylvania. During the same time frame Standard Oil was taking off using it’s less than savory methods.
J. D Rockefeller and a major railroad company had made a secret pact for the company to only buy oil from Standard Oil. The consolidation of the railroad industry by Rockefeller was just another monopolic move but it hurt many of the smaller oil businesses like Tarbell’s father’s refinery which they almost lost because of this deal. The bitter memory of how her family struggled after the greedy practices of big business is what lead her to investigate and expose the Standard Oil company’s history to show how monopolization negatively affects people.
She recorded all of her scathing discoveries in her book “The History of the Standard Oil Company “ which was filled with evidence of how the oil company used unethical methods like horizontal integration that ultimately hurt the middle working class. Around the time that the Sherman Antitrust act went into effect was the same time that her book was used as evidence in court against the Standard Oil Company. The interview accounts, company records, and other facts supporting that Rockefeller was in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act helped force Standard Oil to break apart.
Her work was essential to the Progressive Era because by taking take such a huge company she was also able to take down the practice of monopoly which had been present throughout all of the Industrial Era. The revelations from “The History of the Standard Oil Company served to rock the greedy system of business at the time and protect the lower class from monopolization, Ida Tarbell’s work made her one of the most well known Muckrakers. Another famous Muckraker was Jane Addams who seemed to fight for as many causes as she could.
She spoke about for the rights of the blacks and suffragettes but, she is best known for her work with immigrants. Her desire to make the lives other others better came from her childhood. When she was young her mother had died and her fathered was constantly shipped out due to the war at the time living her to grow up relatively alone. Jane strived to find peace for others because she experienced how war could tear people apart. One her greatest accomplishments was the creation of her Hull House for immigrants, she had been inspired by the Toynbee Hall settlement house in London.
The Hull House house was a place where the immigrant community could come together to discuss their issues and help to deal with any problems occuring the neighborhood. The establishment eventually grew to be a place where immigrants could socialize, get an education (both children and adults) and other extracurriculars like drama and acting. Her reach spanned beyond just helping the immigrant community she made an effort to help all of Chicago. Jane later became the president and of a school and a number of charities.
She investigated drug consumption, sanitation and transportation of milk. Thought Jane was not a part of the immigrant community herself and was originally from a well off family she became impassioned to help those new to this country after seeing the conditions they lived under. This included and was not limited to their long hours at the factories, the dangerous considerations they worked under, how the tenements were unsafe, and were isolated because of the lack of time they had to socialize due to work.
Jane Addams transformed her suffering into the hope of thousands of immigrants through her creation of the Hull House and work to improve the lives of the common folk. The Muckrakers were the people who saw the issues within their society that were not acknowledged by the public or not seen and brought them too light in order to make social change. They were journalist, activist and philanthropist like Jacob Riis, Ida Tarbell and Jane Addams all of whom were moved to helped the people that could not help themselves or that the normal eople would not listen to.
Jacob Riis was the catalyst to the improvement of living conditions for the immigrations due to his work “How the Other Hand Lives”. While Ida Tarbell aided in the deconstruction one of the largest monopolies of the time Standard Oil, that bleed dry the average businessman. The immigrants of Chicago were given the chance to deal with the issues plaguing their community and jump start real lives through education and socialization thanks to the Hull House and it’s founder Jane Addams.
The people that these Muckrakers defended and fought for were the people that no one wanted to listen to at the time and were the victims of the unfair treatment of the lower classes. If it had not been for the work of these Muckrakers than many of the standards and regulations that protect the regular people would not exist. The only way to make a difference, to bring about change was to strike society at its core by gathering the attention of the nation, publicity from bringing down a huge company to publishing a photo album of the lives of immigrants, the belief of using e