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Ida Tarbell Portrait of A Muckraker


Ida Tarbell was one of the top journalists of the 20th Century. Whether researching ground-breaking biographies of Abraham Lincoln or classic exposes of malfeasance in the business world, she employed scientific method to uncover new and startling facts.
Tarbell did not expect the story behind John D. Rockefeller’s stranglehold on the oil industy to interest many readers, but she gave in to her editor’s demands and agreed to write a three-piece series. The series caught fire. Even as Teddy Roosevelt warned her she would incite a mob, her investigations continued. McClure’s Magazine ran her History of the Standard Oil Company over the course of two years. By its conclusion in November 1904, it ignited a public fury and civic outrage that led the U.S. government to proceed against the Standard Oil Company. The Supreme Court disbanded the trust in 1911.

This excerpt is from page 122 of Ida Tarbell Portrait of A Muckraker published by The University of Pittsburgh Press:

"Tarbell professed that she began her work with an open mind. In fact, she said that she was not sure that John D. Rockefeller had done anything illegal. However, she did know the effects he had had on her own family. Franklin Tarbell had been forced to mortgage his home, something he thought tantamount to defiling it. There were people in the town, old friends and business associates, to whom the Tarbells no longer spoke because they had sold out to the Standard, and there was in the Tarbell house the taint of things having gone wrong, promises not kept and hard work not rewarded.
The psychic toll of the Standard was easy to perceive, but about the company itself she knew very little. Informing herself was harder than she expected it to be. Key documents had disappeared…”


"Brady has been remarkably successful in her attempt to reconstruct the interior life of a subject who does not yield easily to such examination. The biographer has explored and studied the documentary record, scattered in dozens of libraries around the country, with Tarbellian thoroughness and tenacity; equally important she read what she found with discernment and without the psychosexual speculation that has marred a few recent biographies of women."
-- James Boylan, Columbia Journalism Review

"Brady...looks for the woman behind the famous byline. She has uncovered many details about the young woman from Titusville, Pa., who sacrified a conventional life and directed her talents to crusading journalism...This eminently balanced biography is more than a valentine."
-- Herbert Mitgang, The New York Times

"This biography shows, at long last, that Ida Minerva Tarbell possessed a courage and talent that 40 years after her death still seems startling."
-- Gloria Emerson, Washington Journalism Review