president Theodore Roosevelt

Definition and Summary of the Muckrakers
Summary and Definition:
The "Muckrakers" were crusading journalists, photographers and authors who published their work in order to raise awareness of awareness of social issues and injustices. Other muckrakers highlighted the weaknesses in the political system. Their books, newspaper articles and photographs led to the formation of pressure groups sparking a series of reforms during the Progressive Era 1890 - 1920 in American history. The derogatory sense of the term was due to muckraking journalists who were closely associated with 'Yellow Journalism' that used lurid eye-catching headlines and sensationalism in order to drive up circulation.  

Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th American President who served in office from September 14, 1901 to March 4, 1909. One of the important events during his presidency was the influence exerted by the "Muckrakers".


Muckrakers for kids: The Main Goal of the Muckrakers
The main goal of the Muckrakers was to raise awareness of social injustices, inequality, corruption and the abuse of political power in order to bring about reform. For additional facts refer to the article detailing Progressive Reforms at city, state and federal levels.

Problems exposed by Muckrakers
The problems exposed by Muckrakers included:

Child Labor
● Poor education and Illiteracy
● The effects of alcohol abuse and the rise in crime and
● The rights of women and the fight for Women's suffrage

● The bribery and corruption of politicians and the political machines
● The rights of workers and their working conditions
● The negative effects of Urbanization and the squalid living conditions of the poor in the towns and cities
● The ruthless Robber Barons and the unethical practices of Big Business and Corporations

Famous Muckrakers
The names of the most famous Muckrakers and the problems they exposed are detailed in the following table.

Famous Muckrakers of the Progressive Era: 1890 - 1920

Famous Muckrakers 1: Jacob Riis - Jacob Riis (1849 –1914), the city editor of the New York Tribune, author and photographer publishes "How the Other Half Lives" in 1890 graphically describing the squalor of the New York slums.

Famous Muckrakers 2: Winston Churchil (American Novelist) - 'A Modern Chronicle' was a best-selling novel by American writer Winston Churchill in 1910 exploring "the problem of the modern woman" and the effects of divorce, in a world driven by industrialization and business competition.

Famous Muckrakers 3: David Graham Philips - David Graham Philips exposed political issues in his book 'The Plum Tree' and showed the corrupting power of money in 'The Second Generation' and wrote "The Treason of the State" articles in Cosmopolitan

Famous Muckrakers 4: John Dewey - 1896: Educator and social reformer John Dewey (1859 – 1952) establishes a “progressive” school in Chicago.

Famous Muckrakers 5: Ida Tarbell - Journalist Ida Tarbell wrote the "History of the Standard Oil Company" that was published in McClure's Magazine.

Famous Muckrakers 6: Florence Kelley - 1899: The National Consumers’ League was established by social and political reformer Florence Kelley (1859 – 1932) fighting against 'sweatshops'.

Famous Muckrakers 7: Lincoln Stephens - Lincoln Stephens wrote "The Shame of the Cities" in 1902 linking Big Business with crooked politicians

Famous Muckrakers 8: Frank Norris - 1901: Frank Norris (1870 – 1902) publishes 'The Octopus: A Story of California' in 1901 . Writing in the naturalist genre about the conflict between the California wheat farmers and the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Famous Muckrakers 9: Robert Herrick - Robert Herrick wrote a muckraking novel about about the ethics in the Meat packing industry in 'The Memoirs of an American Citizen.

Famous Muckrakers 10: Theodore Dreiser - Theodore Dreiser wrote a muckraking novel on the lifestyle of a Chicago magnate

Famous Muckrakers 11: William Allen White  - Muckraker William Allen White attacked wealth in 'A Certain Rich Man'

Famous Muckrakers 12: William Henry Irwin - William Henry "Will" Irwin (1873–1948) was an American author, journalist and managing editor of McClure's Magazine

Famous Muckrakers 13: William English Walling - William English Walling (1877–1936) was an American labor reformer who wrote the article, "The Race War in the North," for The Independent.

Famous Muckrakers 14: Samuel Hopkins Adams - Samuel Hopkins Adams wrote 'The Great American Fraud' exposing fraudulent claims and endorsements of patent medicines in America.

Famous Muckrakers 15: Upton Sinclair - Upton Sinclair (1878 – 1968), published his muckraking novel The Jungle in 1906 about labor exploitation and appalling conditions in meatpacking plants. Another book by Upton Sinclair, the 'Money Changers', dealt with  Wall Street and the 'Metropolis' exposed the antics of the "gilded rich" in New York.

Famous Muckrakers 16: Frances Kellor - Frances Kellor (1873–1952) wrote the book 'Out of Work' in 1904 about the devastation of unemployment

Famous Muckrakers 17: Gustavus Myers - Gustavus Myers (1872–1942) wrote about corruption in his book "The History of Tammany Hall"

Famous Muckrakers 18: John Spargo - John Spargo  (1876–1966) published 'The Bitter Cry of the Children' in 1907 about child labor conditions in the coal mines and the plight of the "breaker boys".

Famous Muckrakers 19: Walter Rauschenbusch - Theologian Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918) the primary theologian of the “Social Gospel” movement published his book 'Christianity and the Social Crisis' in 1907.

Famous Muckrakers 20: Ida B.Wells - 1909: Ida B.Wells (1862 – 1931) an African-American journalist, suffragist and Progressive is instrumental in founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to challenge racial discrimination.

Famous Muckrakers 21: Edwin Markham - In 1914 Edwin Markham (1852–1940) published a book about of child labor in Children in Bondage

Famous Muckrakers of the Progressive Era: 1890 - 1920

The Origin of the Term Muckrakers: President Theodore Roosevelt
The origin of the term 'Muckrakers' derives by a speech made in Washington D.C. by President Theodore Roosevelt on April 14, 1906.

"Now, it is very necessary that we should not flinch from seeing what is vile and debasing. There is filth on the floor
and it must be scraped up with the muck-rake; and there are times and places where this service
is the most needed, of all the services that can be performed..."

In his speech President Theodore Roosevelt was referring to a character, with a Muckrake in his hand, who was as described as a "man who seeks worldly gain by raking filth" in the 'Pilgrim's Progress' written by John Bunyan. The term 'Muckraker' was then used as a highly derogatory term to describe sensational and irresponsible journalists, novelists, and critics who attempted to expose corruption in politics, the abuses of business and social injustices. President Theodore Roosevelt both needed and applauded the journalists, but at the same time feared the excess of their over zealous, truth-telling passion. His view was expressed in the in "Cincinnati Enquirer" April 15, 1906 when Roosevelt was quoted as saying,

"The men with the muck-rakes are often indispensable to the well-being of society, but only if they know when to stop raking the muck".

Muckrakers for kids: Yellow Journalism
The Muckrakers were then closely associated with 'Yellow Journalism' the term that encapsulated the lurid articles that appeared in the circulation battles of the newspaper magnates between Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal. Both papers used 'Yellow Journalism' and produced shocking, eye-catching headlines and sensationalism in order to drive up circulation. The scandalous elements and the crude exaggeration of 'Yellow Journalism' were also a feature of the popular 10 and 15 cent magazines such as Collier's Weekly, Everybody’s Magazine, Munsey's Magazine and McClure's Magazine which entered mass production in 1900. The term 'Yellow Journalism' was coined by Erwin Wardman, the editor of the New York Press following the publication of a yellow cartoon as an experiment in color printing designed to attract customers.

Muckrakers for kids
The serious, crusading 'Muckrakers' articulated Progressive ideas investigating and reporting on social conditions and political corruption in America but were tainted by the emergence and practice of 'Yellow Journalism' .

Muckrakers for kids - President Theodore Roosevelt Video
The article on the Muckrakers provides detailed facts and a summary of one of the important events during his presidential term in office. The following video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 26th American President whose presidency spanned from September 14, 1901 to March 4, 1909.


● Facts about the Muckrakers for kids and schools
● Summary of the Muckrakers in US history
● The Muckrakers, a major event in US history
● Theodore Roosevelt, Muckrakers and Yellow Journalism
● Fast, fun facts about the Muckrakers
● Foreign & Domestic policies of President Theodore Roosevelt
● Theodore Roosevelt Presidency and Muckrakers for schools, homework, kids and children

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