Explore the Muckrackers Discussion

Explore the Muckrackers Discussion

Explore the Muckrackers Discussion

Read Chapter 18 The Progressive Era.

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Explore the Muckrackers – reform minded journalists who exposed the economic, social and political problems of the era.

The term was coined by Theodore Roosevelt after those who raked the muck off the bottom of rivers exposing the smelly scum at the bottom (see cartoon above).

These included writers such as Upton Sinclair, Jacob Riis, Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker and Lincoln Steffens.

Read an except of The Jungle (Links to an external site.) by Upton Sinclair. This book caused Theodore Roosevelt to pass the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. Winston Churchill called the novel, “the great beef stink in the nostrils of the world.”


Who were the muckrakers? (Links to an external site.)

Muckrakers (Links to an external site.)


Excerpt from the Jungle (Links to an external site.)


The Jungle and the Progressive Era (Links to an external site.)


Directions for Assignment

Students need to write an article as if they were a muckraker.

Choose ONE social, economic or political issue of the progressive era (1880-1910). Examples of topics include: child labor, unsanitary working or housing conditions, women’s suffrage, anti-lynching programs, conservation issues, political reform, civic reform.

Research the issue and describe in graphic detail the problem. This is the bulk of your essay. Use quotes from your research. Like Upton Sinclair, make the reader cringe over the problem. Don’t simply say, the conditions in the meat packing industry were disgusting, write,

They were regular alchemists at Durham’s; they advertised a mushroom-catsup, and the men who made it did not know what a mushroom looked like. They advertised ‘potted chicken’ . . . the things that went into the mixture were tripe, and the fat of pork, and beef suet, and hearts of beef, and finally the waste ends of veal, when they had any. They put these up in several grades, and sold them at several prices; but the contents of the cans all came out of the same hopper. And then there was ‘potted game’ and ‘potted grouse,’ ‘potted ham,’ and ‘deviled ham’—de-vyled, as the men called it. ‘De-vyled’ ham was made out of the waste ends of smoked beef that were too small to be sliced by the machines; and also tripe, dyed with chemicals so that it would not show white; and trimmings of hams and corned beef; and potatoes, skins and all; and finally the hard cartilaginous gullets of beef, after the tongues had been cut out. All this ingenious mixture was ground up and flavored with spices to make it taste like something.

Offer a solution, a law that you propose that would alleviate the problem (much like the Pure Food and Drug Act helped eliminate the problems of the meat packing industry.) Think through the law, and consider unintended consequences. For example: if a law limits working hours then would take home pay for the workers the law is trying to protect be reduced? And if workers are barely making their expenses would the law reducing hours compound the financial problems of the worker?

Be sure to site your sources in MLA format (author, title, date). An A paper requires incorporating information into your essay from scholarly sources.

Use the History Rubric as a grading scale. Essay should be between 2-3 pages.

Explore the Muckrackers Discussion


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