Fun Facts Friday: Ida Tarbell

November 5, 2021

Ida Tarbell (5 November, 1857 – 6 January, 1944) was an author, biographer, lecturer, educator and an early pioneer of investigative journalist.

Fun Facts Friday: Ida TarbellBooks by Ida Tarbell*

Fun Facts about Ida Tarbell:

  1. Born as Ida Minerva Tarbell on a farm in Erie County, PA. Both her parents were teachers, but her father later became an oilman.
  2. In family lore it was said that they were decedents of the first American Episcopalian bishop, Sir Walter Raleigh. Mr. Raleigh was also a member of George Washington’s staff.
  3. Even though she was troublesome in the classroom, Ms. Tarbell graduated high-school at the top of her class.
  4. She attended Allegheny College, studying biology, out of a class of 41, Mr. Tarbell was the only woman.
  5. Wanting to contribute to society, Ms. Tarbell became a teacher at the Poland Union Seminary in Poland, OH. She taught four subjects (trigonometry, geometry, geology, and botany) and four languages (Greek, Latin, German, and French). The job was too hard and the pay was too little, so she returned, exhausted and broke, to Pennsylvania.
  6. Tarbell started writing for The Chautauquan, which focused on home study courses. She moved up to being the managing editor as well as writing longer features.
  7. In 1891 Ms. Tarbell left her secured job at The Chautauquan, and moved to Paris, France supporting herself by tutoring, writing for a bunch of American newspapers and short stories.
  8. In 1894 Ms. Tarbell returned to the US, living in New York City, and then Washington, DC. This is where she wrote her biography of Napoleon Bonaparte. She worked on a tight deadline, publishing the first installment in McClure Magazine only six weeks after starting.
  9. McClure also wrote a biographical series on Abraham Lincoln. She tracked sources, leads, interviewed hundreds of people who know Lincoln first hand, and found more than 300 unpublished letters and speeches, while uncovering the true story of Lincoln’s early childhood days. The series boosted McClure’s circulation to over 300,000.
  10. The landmark book The History of Standard Oil Company, also published as a series in McClure’s Magazine, has been hailed by historian J. North Conway as a “masterpiece of investigative journalism”, and called “the single most influential book on business ever published in the United States” by historian Daniel Yergin.
    The book was instrumental in the dissolution of the monopoly held by Standard Oil, and helped usher in at least three federal legislation, as was as the creation of the Federal Trade Commission.

Books by Ida Tarbell*

Zohar — Man of la Book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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Fun Facts Friday: Ida Tarbell
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Fun Facts Friday: Ida Tarbell
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Ida Tarbell (5 November, 1857 – 6 January, 1944) was an author, biographer, lecturer, educator and an early pioneer of investigative journalist.
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