Feeling hungry? Wouldn't a good, juicy, scrumptious hot-dog covered with mustard, ketchup, and onions taste good right about now? Yes, I just bet your mouth is watering for that great taste and your stomach aches with longing for that meat!! Oh, by the way, here is a description of the meat packing industry you might want to read while you are eating:
"There was never the least bit attention paid to what was cut up for sausage; there would come all the way back from Europe old sausage that had been rejected, and that was moldy and white - it would be dosed with borax and glycerin, and dumped into the hoppers, and made over again for home consumption. There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, in the dirt and sawdust, where the workers had trampled and spit uncounted billions of consumption germs. There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it. It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats. These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread and meat would go into the hoppers together."

Still feeling hungry?! The above paragraph is just one sample excerpt from the book, The Jungle, written by Upton Sinclair in 1906. He so vividly described conditions in the meat packing industry that people were incited to demand effective laws for protecting them against dirty and disease-ridden meat products.

Upton Sinclair is just one example of a muckraker". Muck can be described as dirt, mud, garbage, etc.; however, in this case the muck represents a societal problem. In the late 1800's - early 1900's (the Progressive Era) the idea of reform was "in the air". Therefore muckrakers wrote articles with the aim of getting people interested and excited about reform.

You, too, will become a MUCKRAKER!! Imagine that you are back in the Progressive Era. You want reforms!! You are members of one of 5 groups of "middle class" citizens who will be pushing for reforms centered around the following 5 social issues:
1. City Life: New York/ Tenements
2. City Life: Chicago
3. Child Labor
4. Coal Mines
5. Textile Workers
You are to research the issue to which you have been assigned. Next write your own ONE PAGE article sensationalizing (playing up) the need to solve those problems. Remember: a good muckraker gets the people interested and excited about the need for reform by exposing the problem. Even the title of the article should capture the readers' interest. It is true that a muckraker does use sensationalism but he/she does so with facts.

In addition to the written article, you are responsible for a political cartoon that graphically shows the need for reform. (You have seen many examples of such political cartoons throughout the year.)

On a separate sheet of paper, you must also submit a short answer (no less than 3 paragraph) response to the following question:

The Process
1. You are to become a muckraker assigned to research the problems of one particular group in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. The issue to which you have been assigned has been highlighted.

2. Use Internet resources listed under your assigned heading and take notes on the problems of your particular group. You may also use additional resources from the school or municipal library or from home or the classroom. Any additional resources you use MUST BE CITED. Your notes will be turned in with the newspaper article.

3. After all the research is done, you must write a muckraking newspaper article and draw a political cartoon.

4. When the article and cartoon are completed, go through the checklist listed in LEARNING ADVICE so that you are sure will receive full points for the assigned tasks.

5. Your final muckraking article should be about one page long. It must be typed (see me if this is a problem). The font size for your article should be NO LARGER than 12, and your margins should be NO LARGER than 1 1/2 inches.

6. Your political cartoon must be on white UNLINED paper, must be neat and show effort. It should be done in ink or pencil. DO NOT make it colorful.

7. Your short answer response should be typed and submitted on a separate sheet of paper. The same font and margin rules should apply.


HEADLINE: (3 pts.) Does the article have a headline that captures the reader's interest, contains an action verb, and has capitalized only the first word?

FACTS: (8 pts.) Does the article present important factual information about the researched problem?

APPEAL TO THE READER: (6 pts.) Are the facts presented in the article in such a way to evoke the reader's emotions and to incite the reader to want to reform the problems?

FORMAT: (4 pts.) Do you have an introduction, body, and conclusion to your article? Does it follow the assignment requirements? (typed, font, margin, etc.)

GRAMMAR AND SPELLING: (5 pts.)Have you proofread the article, checked spelling and made sure that sentences are not run-on or fragments, and that grammatical errors do not occur?

NOTES: (4 pts.) Did you take notes from the Internet and attach these notes to your
article? If you chose to use them, did you cite all outside sources?

EDITORIAL CARTOON: (Total 20 pts.)
OPINION: (6 pts.)Does the cartoon express an opinion on the problem and provoke readers to think about the problem? Remember, the cartoon should not be literal.

COMMUNICATION TOOLS: (6 pts.)Does the cartoon use one of the following tools to communicate its opinion:
humor and irony
exaggeration and/or understatement
caricature and/or stereotype

LIMITED WORDS: (4 pts.) Does your cartoon used limited words? In fact your cartoon can be without any words. If there are words, are the captions, dialogue balloons or any other words large, clear, and easily recognized?

NEAT: ( 4 pts.)Is the cartoon drawn neatly? Does it follow the assigned requirement. (White unlined paper, pencil or pen only, etc.)

RESPONSE:(5 pts) Have you responded to ALL sections of the question?

FORMAT:(5 pts.) Does the response have an introduction that restates the question, a body of supporting details, and a conclusion? Does it follow the assigned requirements? (font, margin, etc.)

DETAIL:(6 pts.) Are the details you’ve supplied appropriate? Do they support your opinion?

GRAMMAR AND SPELLING:(4 pts.)Have you proofread your response, checked your spelling, and made sure that sentences are not run-on or fragments and that
grammatical errors do not occur?

This assignment originally appeared as a webquest at the following address:



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