Monday, November 5, 2012
Author and journalist Ida Tarbell was born on November 5, 1857. One of the progressive era’s leading "muckrakers" (a term she disliked), she began researching John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil trust in 1900 by documenting its tactics and interviewing a powerful executive, Henry H. Rogers. Her 19-part investigative series in McClure's Magazine, starting in 1902, became a landmark book, The History of the Standard Oil Company (1904), which hastened the company’s breakup in 1911 under the Sherman Antitrust Act. The exposé of monopolistic practices included specific cases of strong-arming competitors and arranging illegal transportation deals with railroads to undercut competitors' prices. By detailing corruption and mobilizing the public, Tarbell still stands as a towering example of the greatest purpose of journalism.