The Shame of the Citiesby Lincoln Steffens
The Shame of the Cities was a work published in 1904 by Lincoln Steffens that sought to expose public corruption in many major cities throughout the United States. The work consists of articles written for the magazine McClure's in one collection. His goal was to provoke public outcry and thus promote reform. It showed the suffering and hardships of those who… See more details below
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The Shame of the Cities was a work published in 1904 by Lincoln Steffens that sought to expose public corruption in many major cities throughout the United States. The work consists of articles written for the magazine McClure's in one collection. His goal was to provoke public outcry and thus promote reform. It showed the suffering and hardships of those who immigrated to America. It is considered one of the first primary examples of muckraking journalism, which sought to expose problems in society in the Progressive Era.
In the 1890s, changes in printing technology made possible inexpensive magazines that could appeal to a broader and increasingly more literate middle-class audience. Given the reform impulses popular in the early 20th century, many of these magazines featured reform-oriented investigative reporting that became known as “muckraking” (so named by President Theodore Roosevelt after the muckrake in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress who could “look no way but downward, with a muckrake in his hands”). In October 1902 McClure’s Magazine published what many consider the first muckraking article, Lincoln Steffens' “Tweed Days in St. Louis.” The “muckrakers” wrote on many subjects, such as child labor, prisons, religion, corporations, and insurance companies. But urban political corruption remained a particularly popular target, and in 1904 Steffens collected and published his writings on St. Louis, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York as The Shame of the Cities. Part of the books introduction follows:
When I set out on my travels, an honest New Yorker told me honestly that I would find that the Irish, the Catholic Irish, were at the bottom of it all everywhere. The first city I went to was St. Louis, a German city. The next was Minneapolis, a Scandinavian city, with a leadership of New Englanders. Then came Pittsburgh, Scotch Presbyterian, and that was what my New York friend was. “Ah, but they are all foreign populations,” I heard. The next city was Philadelphia, the purest American community of all, and the most hopeless. And after that came Chicago and New York, both mongrel-bred, but the one a triumph of reform, the other the best example of good government that I had seen. The “foreign element” excuse is one of the hypocritical lies that save us from the clear sight of ourselves.
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