It goes with out saying that with her fathers success came a more privileged life in which she was exposed to the arts, to education, and to a love of reading. Over and over again she snagged any material possible and began to gain interest in the world outside her own. When the time came to graduate from high school, Tarbell was head of her class, and so she went on to study at Allegheny College, and would soon after land her first publication job –a teaching one none the less, at The Chautauquan. After a fallout with the editor she wound up in France during the French Revolution, during this time she would interview many influential people on the movement and put her intuitiveness to work. After her stint in France she came to back to America and began working her way up at McClure’s Magazine where she would become on authority on Abraham Lincoln after writing a 20-part series on the late president, and in turn establish herself as a true journalist in America. (Tarbell, 1939)
Her central moment as an American journalist arrived in the form of an exposé, The History of the Standard Oil Company a 19-part series grew to become Ida’s most historical work. In the series Ida exposed Rockefeller’s unethical tactics. A pioneer in what we now call investigative journalism, Ida set forth with hundreds of documents, interviews –an amount of work rare to the business those years. Tarbell would bring Rockefeller’s strong-arming in the industry to the forefront and help shape the progressive era in which this was yet another example of big business marginalizing smaller businesses and consumers, all the while being labeled a “muckraker” by businessmen and political leaders at the time –a term not viewed upon in a positive manor in her time. The portrayals of her work in a negative light never affected her effort, and she kept on using her investigative power to shed light on the abuses she witnesses. It also is important to note that she did not condemn capitalism itself, but “the open disregard of decent ethical business practices by capitalists.” (Brevard, 2010, p.33) Remaining as impartial as possible, even with stories that struck close to home. Rockefeller’s Stand Oil Company’s methods, once revealed by Ida, outraged the public and led the government to prosecute the company for violations of the Sherman anti-trust act of 1890. (Somervill, 202, p.48) Realization of fairness in the marketplace was one step closer.
Be sure to read parts I and III.
Brevard, K. M. (2010). The story of oil: how it changed the world. Mankato, MN: Compass Point Books.
Somervill, B. A. (2002). Ida Tarbell: pioneer investigative reporter. Greensboro, N.C.: M. Reynolds..
Tarbell, I. M. (1939). All in the day’s work;. New York: The Macmillan Co..