muckrakers, name applied to American journalists, novelists, and critics who in the first decade of the 20th cent. attempted to expose the abuses of business and the corruption in politics. The term derives from the word muckrake used by President Theodore Roosevelt in a speech in 1906, in which he agreed with many of the charges of the muckrakers but asserted that some of their methods were sensational and irresponsible. He compared them to a character from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress who could look no way but downward with a muckrake in his hands and was interested only in raking the filth. Since the 1870s there had been recurrent efforts at reform in government, politics, and business, but it was not until the advent of the national mass-circulation magazines such as McClure's, Everybody's, and Collier's that the muckrakers were provided with sufficient funds for their investigations and with a large enough audience to arouse nationwide concern. All aspects of American life interested the muckrakers, the most famous of whom are Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, David Graham Phillips, Ray Stannard Baker, Samuel Hopkins Adams, and Upton Sinclair. In the early 1900s magazine articles that attacked trusts—including those of Charles E. Russell on the beef trust, Thomas Lawson on Amalgamated Copper, and Burton J. Hendrick on life insurance companies—did much to create public demand for regulation of the great combines. The muckraking movement lost support in about 1912. Historians agree that if it had not been for the revelations of the muckrakers the Progressive movement would not have received the popular support needed for effective reform.

See L. Filler, Crusaders for American Liberalism (1939); J. M. Harrison and H. H. Stein, ed., Muckraking (1974); W. M. Brasch, Forerunners of Revolution (1990).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Muckrakers: Selected full-text books and articles

The Muckrakers: Evangelical Crusaders
Robert Miraldi.
Praeger Publishers, 2000
The Era of the Muckrakers
C. C. Regier.
University of North Carolina Press, 1932
Muckraking and Objectivity: Journalism's Colliding Traditions
Robert Miraldi.
Greenwood Press, 1990
Mightier Than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History
Rodger Streitmatter.
Westview Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Muckraking: The Golden Age of Reform Journalism"
The Journalist's Moral Compass: Basic Principles
Steven R. Knowlton; Patrick R. Parsons.
Praeger, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 20 "Upton Sinclair, 1878-1968"
Critics & Crusaders: A Century of American Protest
Charles A. Madison.
H. Holt and Company, 1947
Librarian’s tip: "Lincoln Steffens: Muckraker's Progress" begins on p. 395
Ambrose Bierce Takes on the Railroad: The Journalist as Muckraker and Cynic
Daniel Lindley.
Praeger, 1999
The Journalist as Reformer: Henry Demarest Lloyd and Wealth against Commonwealth
Richard Digby-Junger; Jon L. Wakelyn.
Greenwood Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Muckraking and Other Reforms"
Great Women of the Press
Madelon Golden Schilpp; Sharon M. Murphy.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1983
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Ida Minerva Tarbell, Muckraker (1857-1944)"
Ray Stannard Baker; a Quest for Democracy in Modern America, 1870-1918
John E. Semonche.
University of North Carolina Press, 1969
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "With the Muckrakers 1905-1906"
Ministers of Reform: The Progressives' Achievement in American Civilization, 1889-1920
Robert M. Crunden.
Basic Books, 1982
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "It Is Sin to Be Sick: The Muckrakers and the Pure Food and Drug Act"
Turning the Century: Essays in Media and Cultural Studies
Carol A. Stabile.
Westview Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Muckraking" begins on p. 66
The Great Tradition: An Interpretation of American Literature since the Civil War
Granville Hicks.
Biblo and Tannen, 1967 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of muckrakers begins on p. 176
Modern Muckrakers
Klee, Kenneth.
Book, September 2001
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