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Essay Sample

After 1907 the American Magazine occupied itself with many aspects of the labor movement and of labor problems. In 1905 Frank Leslie's Popular Magazine had been taken over by a new company, re-christened, and put into the hands of Ellery Sedgwick, now the distinguished editor of the Atlantic Monthly Monthly. The American Monthly Magazine, as it was called by the new publishers, sought to shun "the 'exposure' business, the ripping the cover off everything that smells rotten." Sedgwick himself attacked the muckrakers in May, 1906, declaring that they heaped together "exaggeration, perversion, distortion, truths, half-truths, lies." It was Sedgwick, indeed, who first referred to Bunyan's man with the muckrake, thus furnishing Roosevelt with the phrase he popularized.

After two years under Sedgwick's management, the American was again for sale, and at just this time several members of the staff of McClure's happened to disagree with Mr. McClure over a matter of business policy. Having worked together for many years, and having similar views on the need for unsparing criticism of American life, they determined to band together and to purchase a magazine for themselves. Led by John S. Phillips, who had played a most important part in the editing of McClure's, Baker, Steffens, Miss Tarbell , William Allen White, and Finley Peter Dunne purchased the American.

The members of this group invested their own funds in the enterprise, and their aim was to edit a magazine as they thought it should be edited. They continued the policy of painstaking investigation initiated by McClure's, and they prided themselves on the accuracy of their articles. No episode in the whole movement is more indicative of the spirit behind muckraking at its best. Here were talented men and women, capable of commanding the highest prices for their articles, but content with salaries that barely met their needs so long as they were free to carry on the kind of work in which they believed. Most of them had come into muckraking by way of journalism and had become trained investigators as well as skilled reporters. They had seen at first hand the suffering of the poor and knew from personal ex perience the devious ways of big business. In the end, they were forced to surrender their control of the magazine, partly because the public was losing its interest in the literature of exposure, partly because influential business men saw fit to withdraw their advertising.

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