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Defining Moments

The Muckrakers and the Progressive Era

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Though America entered the 20th century with unbridled confidence and optimism, many of its citizens were not as enthusiastic. Working long hours in frightful conditions for little pay, they were exploited by the massive industrial trusts that powered the economy. They had no voice—until a group of fearless journalists, the muckrakers, took up their cause. The impact of the muckrakers’ scathing invective earned them an indelible nickname and helped kick-start the Progressive Era in the United States.

Defining Moments: The Muckrakers and the Progressive Era presents an authoritative account of the origins and progression of the Progressive era and the journalists known as muckrakers. It also explores the era’s lasting impact on America’s political and cultural landscape. The volume is organized into three distinct sections—Narrative Overview, Biographies, and Primary Sources—which offer a one-stop resource for student research.

  • The Narrative Overview section provides a detailed, factual account of what led up to the Progressive era and the growth of muckraking, the events and issues during the era, and their legacy in American society
  • The Biographies section presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the era
  • The Primary Sources section collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era, including official documents, song lyrics, memoirs, editorials, and other important works

Other notable features include a glossary of important people, places, and terms; a detailed chronology featuring page references to relevant sections of the narrative; an annotated listing of selected sources for further study; an extensive general bibliography; and a subject index.

Standard Features

  • Library binding, 7 1/4 x 9 1/4
  • 240 pages
  • 30-40 photographs and other illustrations
  • Narrative Overview section: Provides a detailed, factual account of the “defining moment”
  • Biographies section: Presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the event
  • Primary Sources section: Collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era
  • Research Topics: Proposes a list of topics suitable for conducting historical research and writing reports, a valuable starting point for student research
  • Source Attribution: Contains references for primary sources and other quoted material that guide users to other historical research resources
  • Glossary of Important People, Places, and Terms: Gives brief definitions for the many terms used in the book
  • Chronology: Highlights the related events in chronological order, along with “see” references that direct the reader to pages in the narrative with additional information
  • Sources for Further Study: Provides annotated citations for selected sources that are most useful to students
  • Bibliography: Lists books, periodicals, web sites, and videos consulted in preparing the volume
  • Subject Index: Includes people, places, organizations, events, and other topics

Research Topics

Each volume in the Defining Moments series covers a wide range of topics that students can use as starting points for further research. Potential research topics for Defining Moments: The Muckrakers and the Progressive Era are below:

  • Explore the history of American journalism from colonial era to modern times
  • Review the economic, social, and political developments that informed the rise of the Progressive Era
  • Explicate the chief areas of interest of the muckrakers, including political corruption, mistreatment of workers, plight of immigrants, and urban misery and decay
  • Summarize the various ways in which the Muckraking Era and the Progressive Era intersected—and proved mutually beneficial to one another
  • Compare and contrast the landmarks of muckraking journalism, including Ida Tarbell’s expose of Standard Oil, Upton Sinclair’s investigation of the meatpacking industry, and Lincoln Steffens’s “Shame of the Cities” series
  • Explore the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and his complicated relationship with the muckrakers
  • Study the factors leading to the close of the Muckraking Era
  • Survey the challenges facing the current generation of “muckraking” journalists
  • Analyze the legacy of the muckrakers on contemporary journalists
  • Evaluate the legacy of the Progressive Era in American politics


“[The Muckrakers and the Progressive Era] provides users with a fine overview of the journalistic movement that exposed social and political problems in this country. From a factual account of the muckraking movement in American journalism to the changes that occurred as a result of industrialization and their efforts, this is a fine choice for both high school and college collections.”

—California Bookwatch, Mar ’10

“The Defining Moments series is designed to serve as a ‘one stop’ resource for the defining moments in American history. Designed by librarians and educators, these books are well researched, usefully organized, and highly readable for audiences in middle school and up. The Muckrakers and the Progressive Era is no exception. … The Muckrakers and the Progressive Era is an outstanding resource for teaching and learning about this fundamental aspect of American history. It is designed and organized right from the start to be useful and informative. The research and documentation are outstanding, and it manages to provide good, detailed information at a level accessible to a wide level of readers. The illustrations are useful, and the index is well constructed. This reference resource is highly recommended for middle and high school media centers as well as public libraries. Academic libraries supporting remedial students will also find it very useful.”

—American Reference Books Annual, 2010

“The Muckrakers and the Progressive Era is packed with essential information about the journalistic movement during the first decade of the 20th century. Research topics, photos, political cartoons, and quotes enrich the research experience.”

—Pennsylvania School Library Association, Apr ’10; YA Top Forty for 2010 (Reference)

“Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates, high school students, and general readers.”

—Choice, June ’10