Ida M. Tarbell life and biography

Ida M. Tarbell picture, image, poster

Ida M. Tarbell biography

Date of birth : 1857-11-05
Date of death : 1944-01-06
Birthplace : Erie County, Pennsylvania
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-06-04
Credited as : Writer and journalist, Historian and biographer,

2 votes so far

Ida M. Tarbell also known as: Ida M. Tarbell, Ida Minerva Tarbell, Ida Tarbell.

Born November 5, 1857, in Erie County, PA; died of pneumonia, January 6, 1944, in Bridgeport (one source says Bethel), CT; buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Titusville, PA; daughter of Franklin Sumner and Esther Ann (McCullough) Tarbell. Education: Studied French revolutionary history and related subjects at the Sorbonne and College de France, Paris, 1891-94; Allegheny College, A.B., 1880, A.M., 1883, L.H.D., 1909, LL.D., 1915; Knox College, L.H.D., 1909. Memberships: American Historical Association, American Economic Association, English Society of Women Journalists, American Woman's Association; Barnard Club, Colony Club, National Arts Club, Cosmopolitan Club, Pen and Brush Club.


In All in the Day's Work: An Autobiography (1939), Ida M. Tarbell records her youth and journalistic career. Following its republication in 1985, Karen Sue Smith assessed the book for Commonweal, beginning her review with the exclamation "Jackpot!" According to Smith the biography presents a wealth of information, including details of wars, railroads, Wall Street, the League of Nations, and popular periodicals of the times. After reading All in the Day's Work, Smith believed that, rather than Tarbell's praised accomplishments, "it is her personal integrity as a rather private woman in public life and as a journalist that [is impressive]." "Both the palpable concern for the common good and the civility evident in the book make a reader mourn for what our society has lost so quickly," Smith declared in 1990. In 1910, during the midst of Tarbell's career, a writer for the National Cyclopaedia of American Biography complimented both Tarbell's accomplishments and characteristics, declaring her "one of the foremost historical and biographical writers of the day."

Before becoming involved in journalism, Tarbell taught for two years at Poland Union Seminary. In 1883 she began writing for the Chautauquan, eventually becoming its managing editor, and ten years later she began her association with McClure's. While an editor for McClure's magazine, the foremost muckraking journal at the turn of the twentieth century, Tarbell established her reputation as a trustbuster with her revealing series on the Standard Oil Company, later published as the two-volume The History of the Standard Oil Company (1904). In it she exposed the monopoly Standard Oil had on its market, as well as some of the means the company used to achieve its monopoly. The book warned of the threat that big business posed to equal opportunity and democracy, and led to the Supreme Court's decision in 1911 to break up Standard Oil. Of interest was the fact that Tarbell's father had made a fair living manufacturing wooden barrels for oil in the great Pennsylvanian oil strike of 1859 before he was forced out of business by Standard Oil.

One of Tarbell's first assignments for McClure's was to write a serialized biography of Napoleon, which ran from November 1894 to April 1895. The articles proved so popular that the magazine's circulation doubled. In 1895, her biographical text on Napoleon was joined and published with another volume of biographies; collectively both volumes were called McClure's Biographies: Napoleon, Gladstone, Bismarck, Grant, Dana, Stevenson, and Others. The section on Napoleon was later enlarged and published independently as Life of Napoleon Bonaparte; With a Sketch of Josephine, Empress of the French (1901).

Another assignment for McClure's directly lead to the publication of her biographies on Abraham Lincoln, perhaps her most highly esteemed books. Among them was the two-volume The Life of Abraham Lincoln: Drawn from Original Sources and Containing Many Speeches, Letters, and Telegrams Hitherto Unpublished (1900). For nearly a quarter of a century following its first publication, the work was reprinted in a number of different editions, including Doubleday & McClure's May, 1900 special illustrators' edition, which totaled only 75 copies. In 1974 Barnes reprinted one of Tarbell's earliest biographical works on Lincoln, The Early Life of Abraham Lincoln: Containing Many Unpublished Documents and Unpublished Reminiscences of Lincoln's Early Friends. Almost seven decades after its original publication in 1896, a New Yorker critic praised the The Early Life of Abraham Lincoln: "It remains an excellent introduction to Lincoln as well as an authentic picture of rural and small-town life in the heartlands in the first half of the nineteenth century."

Tarbell was criticized late in her career for her biographies The Life of Elbert H. Gary; The Story of Steel (1925) and Owen D. Young, a New Type of Industrial (1932), in which she seemingly reverses her earlier antibusiness stance. Responding to the criticism, she claimed it was not her sentiments that had changed, but the nature of big business. With The History of the Standard Oil Company, Tarbell's attention shifted to depicting the practices of American big business. Critics observe, however, that in contrast to the muckrakers, with whom she is usually grouped, her politics were basically conservative. She often defended the businesses she described, championing the American capitalist system. Tarbell's conservatism [surfaced in] her criticism, toward the end of her life, of the women's suffrage movement and of women's involvement in politics and business. In such works as The Business of Being a Woman, she urged women to remain at home and raise children, arguing, to the disappointment of many of her admirers, that women could be more influential as mothers than as career professionals.

Published more than a half of a century past the death of Tarbell in January 1944, Robert C. Kochersberger Jr.'s More Than a Muckraker: Ida Minerva Tarbell's Lifetime in Journalism presents Tarbell as "a probusiness woman who as also concerned with the welfare of the worker," stated Beverly G. Merrick in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. More Than a Muckraker is collection of both unpublished and published works by Tarbell, including essays, speeches, and articles. "It is an enjoyable read because the editor is a good writer as well.... [His introduction] goes a long way in explaining the life of a writer with a social conscience," noted Merrick, continuing: "He takes great care in explaining the genre of muckraking in the historical context of the turn of the [twentieth] century. In his introduction, he is painstakingly thorough in providing information upon which any student of history thrives."

American educator, journalist, historian, biographer, and lecturer. Poland Union Seminary, teacher, 1881-82; The Chautauquan (monthly magazine published by the Methodist Church), Chautauqua, NY, writer, associate editor, then managing editor, 1883-1901; McClure's Magazine, editor on staff, then associated editor, 1894-1906; American magazine (purchased with Finley Peter Dunne and William Allan White, and McClure's colleagues Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannerd Baker, and John S. Phillips), associate editor, 1906-15. Member of women's committee, Council of National Defense; President Harding's Unemployment Conference, 1919; National Women's Committee. Mobilization for Human Needs, 1933-38.


* (With assistance from J. McCan Davis) The Early Life of Abraham Lincoln, Containing Many Unpublished Documents and Unpublished Reminiscences of Lincoln's Early Friends, S. S. McClure (New York City), 1896.

* The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Drawn from Original Sources and Containing Many Speeches, Letters and Telegrams Hitherto Unpublished, two volumes, Doubleday & McClure (New York City), 1900, special illustrators' edition, May, 1900, new edition published as The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Drawn from Original Sources and Containing Many Speeches, Letters, and Telegrams Hitherto Unpublished, and Illustrated with Many Reproductions from Original Paintings, Photographs, et cetera, four volumes, Lincoln Historical Society (New York City), 1906, new two volume edition, Macmillan (New York City), 1917, new edition, 1923, four volume Sagamon edition, Lincoln Historical Society (New York City), 1924.

* He Knew Lincoln, McClure, Phillips (New York City), 1907.
* Boy Scouts' Life of Lincoln, Macmillan, 1921.
* He Knew Lincoln, and Other Billy Brown Stories, Macmillan, 1922.
* In the Footsteps of the Lincolns, Harper (New York City), 1924.
* A Reporter for Lincoln: Story of Henry E. Wing, Soldier and Newspaperman, Macmillan, 1927.
* Abraham Lincoln and His Ancestors, University of Nebraska (Lincoln), 1997.


* Madame Roland: A Biographical Study, Scribner (New York City), 1896.
* McClure's Biographies: Napoleon, Gladstone, Bismarck, Grant, Dana, Stevenson and Others, Volume I: A Short Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, illustrations from the Hon. Gardiner G. Hubbard's collection of Napoleon Engravings, Supplemented by Pictures from the Collections of Prince Victor Napoleon, Prince Roland Bonaparte, Baron Larrey and Others, Volume II: Human Documents: Portraits and Biographies of Eminent Men: Articles by Robert Louis Stevenson, Herbert Spencer, Professor Drummond, Edward Everett Hale, H. H. Boyesen, Gen. Horace Porter, Hamlin Garland, Robert Barr and Others, S. S. McClure (New York City), 1896, Volume I enlarged for new edition published as A Life of Napoleon Bonaparte; With a Sketch of Josephine, Empress of the French (originally appeared in McClure's magazine, November 1894-April 1895), McClure, Phillips (New York City), 1901.
* The History of the Standard Oil Company, two volumes, McClure, Phillips, 1904.
* The Tariff in Our Times, Macmillan, 1911.
* The Business of Being a Woman, Macmillan, 1912.
* The Ways of Woman, Macmillan, 1915.
* New Ideals in Business, An Account of Their Practice and Their Effects Upon Men and Profits, Macmillan, 1916.
* Peacemakers--Blessed and Others; Observations, Reflections and Irritations at an International Conference, Macmillan, 1922.
* The Life of Elbert H. Gary; The Story of Steel, D. Appleton (New York City), 1925.
* Owen D. Young, a New Type of Industrial Leader, Macmillan, 1932.
* The Nationalizing of Business, 1878-1898, Macmillan, 1936, reprinted as Volume IX in "History of American Life" series, Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. and Dixon Ryan Fox, editors, Quadrangle, 1971.
* All in the Day's Work: An Autobiography, Macmillan, 1939.
* Robert C. Kochersberger Jr., editor, More Than a Muckraker: Ida Minerva Tarbell's Lifetime in Journalism (published and unpublished works), University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville), 1995.

Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Boston Transcript, Scribner's, and McClure's, and to McClure Syndicate.


* Father Abraham, illustrated by Blendon Campbell, Moffat, Yard (New York City), 1909.
* The Rising of the Tide; The Story of Sabinsport, Macmillan, 1919.
* In Lincoln's Chair, Macmillan, 1920.

Also author of short stories.

Read more

Please read our privacy policy. Page generated in 0.015s