Ida Minerva Tarbell (November 5, 1857 – January 6, 1944) was an American teacher, author and journalist. She was one of the leading "muckrakers" of the progressive era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is thought to have pioneered investigative journalism. She is best known for her 1904 book, The History of the Standard Oil Company, which was listed as No. 5 in a 1999 list by New York University of the top 100 works of 20th-century American journalism. It was first serialized in McClure's Magazine from 1902 to 1904. She depicted John D. Rockefeller as crabbed, miserly, money-grabbing, and viciously effective at monopolizing the oil trade. She wrote many other notable magazine series and biographies, including several works on President Abraham Lincoln, revealing his early life.
Ida Tarbell was born in Erie County, Pennsylvania, on November 5, 1857. to Esther Ann (née McCullough) and Franklin Summer Tarbell, a teacher and a joiner by trade. She was born in the log cabin home of her maternal grandfather, Walter Raleigh McCullough, a Scots-Irish pioneer, and his wife. Her father's distant immigrant ancestors had settled in New England in the 17th century.
In 1860, Ida's father moved the family to Titusville, Pennsylvania, a new center of oil production. There he built a house, which was her mother's first home of her own. The Tarbell family lived in the western region of the state in the period as new oil fields were being developed in the 1860s, utterly changing the regional economy. Her father first used his trade to build wooden oil storage tanks. He later became an oil producer and refiner in Venango County. Her father's business, along with those of many other small businessmen, was adversely affected by the South Improvement Company scheme (circa 1872) between the railroads and larger oil interests. Later, Tarbell would vividly recall this event in her writing, in which she accused the leaders of the Standard Oil Company of using unfair tactics to put her father and many small oil companies out of business...
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