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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 SteffensSteffens, Lincoln
(Joseph Lincoln Steffens), 1866–1936, American editor and author, b. San Francisco, grad. Univ. of California, Berkeley, 1889, and studied three years in Europe.
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, Ida TarbellTarbell, Ida Minerva,
1857–1944, American author, b. Erie co., Pa., grad. Allegheny College (B.A., 1880; M.A., 1883). One of the leading muckrakers, she is remembered for her investigations of industry published in McClure's magazine.
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, David Graham PhillipsPhillips, David Graham,
1867–1911, American writer, b. Madison, Ind., grad. College of New Jersey (now Princeton), 1887. He worked as a newspaper reporter in Cincinnati and New York City, rising to editorial rank on the New York World, for which he wrote until 1902.
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, Ray Stannard BakerBaker, Ray Stannard,
pseud. David Grayson,
1870–1946, American author, b. Lansing, Mich., grad. Michigan State College (now Michigan State Univ.), 1889. At first a Chicago newspaper reporter, he joined the staff of McClure's Magazine
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, Samuel Hopkins AdamsAdams, Samuel Hopkins,
1871–1958, American author, b. Dunkirk, N.Y., grad. Hamilton College, 1891. He was a reporter for the New York Sun (1891–1900) and then joined McClure's Magazine,
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, and Upton SinclairSinclair, Upton
(Upton Beall Sinclair), 1878–1968, American novelist and socialist activist, b. Baltimore, grad. College of the City of New York, 1897. He was one of the muckrakers, and a dedication to social and industrial reform underlies most of his writing.
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. 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).



a group of American writers and publicists who in the early 20th century exposed the abuses of monopolies and the corruption of the state and of political parties in the United States. The muckrakers included the publicists L. Steffens, T. W. Lawson, I. Tarbell, D. G. Phillips, J. Riis, R. Baker, and G. Mayers and the writers J. London, T. Dreiser, and U. Sinclair. They demanded the implementation of democratic reforms but failed to deal with the bases of the capitalist system as a whole. Their activities reflected widespread indignation in the United States with the dominance of monopolies in the economic and political life of the country.



a group of American writers, journalists, publicists, and sociologists who were sharply critical of American society. The muckrakers were especially active between 1902 and 1917.

Coined in 1906 by US President T. Roosevelt, the term “muckrakers” was inspired by J. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, which describes a character who digs about in the mud but fails to notice the bright skies overhead. J. L. Steffens’ article denouncing bribe-takers and embezzlers (1902) is considered the literary beginning of the muckraking movement. Educated in the ideals of the Enlightenment, the muckrakers sensed the sharp contrast between the principles of democracy and the unattractive reality of America, which was then entering its imperialist phase. However, they were mistaken in assuming that minor reforms could eradicate the evil conditions engendered by antagonistic social contradictions. The muckrakers’ proclivity for social exposés survived in the literature of American critical realism—for example, in novels by S. Lewis and U. Sinclair.


Zasurskii, la. N. Amerikanskaia literatura XX veka. Moscow, 1966.
Weinberg, A., and L. Weinberg. The Muckrakers. New York, 1961.
References in periodicals archive ?
In addition to the Internet, with its global reach for databases and cloud storage, modern muckrakers are using mobile and satellite phones as well as high-definition video and graphics, and they are exploring global positioning systems, radio frequency identification and even private drones to track investigative targets.
Sinclair and the other muckrakers wanted to expose what they saw as unfair or immoral practices by Large corporations or trusts.
THE RISE OF THE MUCKRAKER DOCUmentary is a function of the failure of our government and media to tell the truth about tough issues.
Brimelow considers himself a muckraker, the term coined by Theodore Roosevelt to describe writers who highlighted corruption in government.
Neither muckraker nor crusader, Naipaul doesn't set forth to denounce the wicked (though he remains deeply hostile to "philosophical hysteria") or change the world.
Internet muckraker Matt Drudge, on why he reported that author David Brock had been "committed to [a] psychiatric ward" last year, as quoted by Rush & Malloy in the New York Daily News, May 23
Being a goss god or a bitch used to be the preserve of the camp or homosexual but now straight man has come out of the closet as an A1 muckraker.
The outcome of that effort was Titicut Follies, a legendary muckraker of a picture (though we can only speculate about the reforms it might have inspired, since its release was held up by legal hassles for two and a half decades).
I imbibed the attitude of the gadfly and muckraker with my daily three o'clock glass of milk, seeping into my bones and remaining with me for life.
The muckraker David Graham Phillips had a different version of integrity, described by a contemporary at The Saturday Evening Post: "He was always himself, with a program of his own.
the best law investigative agency in the world and kept it that way for nearly five decades, now has been given the muckraker treatment by Anthony Summers.
The term muckraker quickly became established in popular use as a name for reform writers such as Lincoln Steffens, Ida M.