Author: Lincoln Steffens Title: The Shame of the Cities: Introduction Publisher: McClure, Phillips & Co., Vol. MCMIV 1904 Author: Lincoln Steffens Title: “Tweed Days in St. Louis” Publisher: McClure’s Magazine, Vol XIX, No. 6, 1902.
In Tuesday’s class, we discussed both two articles written by Lincoln Steffens (see Fig. 1) who was a New York reporter who wrote a collection of articles for McClure’s Magazine that were later published in the book The Shame of the Cities. In class we read both the introduction of The Shame of the Cities and an article from McClure’s Magazine, “Tweed Days in St. Louis”. Steffens is an example of a Muckraker and joins such authors as Ida Tarbell, whose work we read in an earlier class.
Steffens focused on critiquing and exposing political corruption in American cities and in doing so, analyzes different characters. Steffens used one city at a time to portray a different type of corruption. He focused on one kind of corruption that represents the entire category of the political trend. “Thus as St. Louis exemplified boodle; Minneapolis, police graft; Pittsburg, a political and industrial machine; and Philadelphia, general civic corruption; so Chicago was an illustration of reform, and New York of good government. All these things occur in most of these places” (16).
By singling out each cities problem, Steffens hopes to inspire political reform as he views the public as complacent and uncaring to the political problems that surround them. Steffens combines both an investigative style with that of literary journalism as he finds out new facts about the public and presents them with literary language and description. He says, “I am a journalist. I did not gather with indifference all the facts and arrange them patiently for permanent preservation and laboratory analysis. I did not want to preserve, I wanted to destroy the facts” (18).
Although investigative in nature, Steffens writes in a style that captures more than just the facts and also writes in an objective manner. Steffens is also a journalist with an agenda as he hopes to wake up public opinion and get the public involved. He says that, “My purpose was no more scientific than the spirit of my investigation and reports; it was, as I said above, to see if the shameful facts, spread out in all their shame, would not burn through our civic shamelessness and set fire to American pride” (18).
The article, “Tweed Days in St. Louis”, focuses on St. Louis elected attorney Joseph Folk (see Fig. 2) who launched a huge investigation into the corruption of political leaders and business owners in St. Louis. Steffens writes in a style very similar to Ida Tarbell with minimal dialogue.
What little dialogue he uses sets the scene and solidifies his commentary on the corruption he is writing about. “Bribery was a joke. A newspaper man overheard this conversation one evening in the corridor of the City Hall. ” Ah there, myboodler!” said Mr. Delegate. ” Stay there, my grafter!” replied Mr.Councilman. “Canyon lend me a hundred for a day or two?” “Not at present. But I can spare it if the Z— bill goes through to-night. Meet me at F—’slater.” “All right, my jailbird; I’ll be there.”’ (579).
He also writes his pieces in a similar length to Tarbell with long paragraphs and descriptions. He also includes highly factual information that can be difficult to write about because it is legal and can be hard for a reader to follow. By using description Steffens breaks up his factual information and provides readers with an idea of what political reform should look like.