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.
Muckrakers for kids: The Main Goal of the Muckrakers
Problems exposed by
The Origin of the Term
Muckrakers: President Theodore Roosevelt
"Now, it is
very necessary that we should not flinch from seeing
what is vile and debasing. There is filth on the
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
Muckrakers for kids
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.
'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.
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
1896: Educator and social reformer John Dewey (1859 – 1952) establishes a “progressive” school in Chicago.
Journalist Ida Tarbell wrote the "History of the Standard Oil Company" that was published in McClure's Magazine.
1899: The National Consumers’ League was established by social and political reformer Florence Kelley (1859 – 1932) fighting against 'sweatshops'.
Lincoln Stephens wrote "The Shame of the Cities" in 1902 linking Big Business with crooked politicians
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.
Robert Herrick wrote a muckraking novel about about the ethics in the Meat packing industry in 'The Memoirs of an American Citizen.
Theodore Dreiser wrote a muckraking novel on the lifestyle of a Chicago magnate
Muckraker William Allen White attacked wealth in 'A Certain Rich Man'
William Henry "Will" Irwin (1873–1948) was an American author, journalist and managing editor of McClure's Magazine
William English Walling (1877–1936) was an American labor reformer who wrote the article, "The Race War in the North," for The Independent.
Samuel Hopkins Adams wrote 'The Great American Fraud' exposing fraudulent claims and endorsements of patent medicines in America.
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.
Frances Kellor (1873–1952) wrote the book 'Out of Work' in 1904 about the devastation of unemployment
Gustavus Myers (1872–1942) wrote about corruption in his book "The History of Tammany Hall"
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".
Theologian Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918) the primary theologian of the “Social Gospel” movement published his book 'Christianity and the Social Crisis' in 1907.
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.
In 1914 Edwin Markham (1852–1940) published a book about of child labor in Children in Bondage
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