Photojournalism In The Gilded Age

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America’s Gilded Age was a period of extreme social and economic reform. The shift from an agrarian-based economy to a mechanized, industrial one led to the creation of a new social hierarchy. By the late 19th Century, the industrial workforce began to replace farmers at the bottom of the social pecking order in America, as skilled labor gave way to factory assembly lines. The social elite who managed these factories used their power to suppress the workers, imparting long hours, low pay, and random wage cuts. The poorly managed tenements where these workers lived were breeding grounds for disease, and the majority of the working class lived below the poverty line. The deplorable conditions that the working class were subjected to in Industrial America inspired a great…show more content…
A pioneer in the emerging field of photojournalism, Riis documented the squalor of life in the slums. His photos, specifically showing the working conditions in the factories, were purposefully chosen to encourage reform; as such he was considered a Muckraker. Muckrakers were journalists who sought to investigate the corruption and danger of factory work, normally shielded from the public eye. These journalists became largely popular in the late 19th Century, and their efforts against the deeply rooted monopolies and political machines of the Gilded Age raised awareness about the corruption of the wealthy overlords of the Industrial System, or the Robber Barons. Journalist Ida Tarbell personally investigated Standard Oil, the largest oil company in America, in a series of articles published from 1902 to 1904 in McClure’s Magazine. She documented the corrupt dealings of the company’s CEO, John D. Rockefeller, who was, at the time, one of the richest men in the world. The articles resonated heavily with the middle class reformers, and other reporters like her soon took up the cause against

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