About Ida Tarbell

Ida Tarbell
Ida Tarbell | Creative Commons

Tarbell is named after the pioneering investigative journalist and lecturer Ida Minerva Tarbell. Born in Pennsylvania in 1857, Tarbell was known as one of the leading muckrakers of the Progressive Era in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Tarbell is best known for taking on Standard Oil. A writer, her most famous work was her expose of of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. Her work was a sensation, finally published in a two-volume book titled The History of the Standard Oil Company, published in 1904. Tarbell exposed the company’s business tactics, shining light on it’s ethics and lack of consideration for anything or anyone who got in the business’ way. 

The largest result of Tarbell’s work was a Supreme Court decision in 1911 that found Standard Oil in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, finding that Standard Oil was an illegal monopoly ordering the business to split into 34 separate companies. 

Following publication of her book, Tarbell continued to write and lecture. Her legacy lives on following the idea that journalists should “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” Here at Tarbell.org, we hope to encompass her beliefs in fighting for the common citizen and standing up what is good and right.