Muckrakers were a group of writers, including the likes of Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, and Ida Tarbell, during the Progressive era who tried to expose the problems that existed in American society as a result of the rise of big business, urbanization, and immigration. Most of the muckrakers were journalists. Theodore Roosevelt gave the muckrakers their creative name. He compared them to someone stirring up the mud at the bottom of a pond.
Progressives in Ohio and elsewhere used muckrakers' writings to inspire and promote reform in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They fought political corruption in urban areas resulting from the power of city bosses like George Cox of Cincinnati through the use of city managers. Progressives determined that Standard Oil was a monopoly and used the courts to force its dissolution. Urban reformers established settlement houses to provide services for immigrants and other poverty-stricken city dwellers. Muckraker reports also led to the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Both of these pieces of legislation increased the federal government's ability to protect consumers from unsanitary products.
- McGerr, Michael. A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920. New York, NY: Free Press, 2003.
- Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.
- Steffens, Lincoln. The Shame of the Cities. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1963
- Tarbell, Ida. History of Standard Oil. New York, NY: Arno Press, 1976.