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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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Although authorities have launched a criminal investigation of Navalny, the digital muckraker remains defiant, publicly taunting his enemies.
The muckrakers (even Sinclair, who died in 1968) became just a series of famous names from the past.
Muckraking became a widespread journalistic practice beginning in 1902 with Lincoln Steffens' series in McClure's, "The Shame of the Cities." [24] Little social criticism had reached mainstream audiences since Reconstruction, but muckraking fed off of a "vogue of exposure." [25] Working with new inexpensive magazines with large national circulations, the muckrakers had a wide audience and a large impact in promoting a progressive agenda.
One of the so-called muckrakers of the period, Adams contributed to Collier's, the National Weekly in 1905 a series of articles exposing quack patent medicines, followed by The Great American Fraud (1906), which furthered the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.
However, as with all muckrakers, readers must be wary of innuendos and not let interpretations pass as facts.
The magazine was especially noted for the articles it published in the early twentieth century by such leading muckrakers as Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens.
She was one of the best and most useful muckrakers of her generation.
(See muckrakers. ) In 1906, at its peak, McClure's partner, John S.
A free and open press is a cornerstone of democracy, but when a few conglomerates dominate all the media channels, the invaluable work of muckrakers and investigative journalists is potentially compromised.
Late last year, he made a comeback of sorts when he began writing for the Reporter's blog, Chicago Muckrakers.
One of the original "muckrakers" at McClure's magazine, along with Ida Tarbell and Ray Stannard Baker, Steffens spent his life advocating for economic and political reform by publishing unvarnished exposes of public corruption and abuse.