Ida Tarbell – A Snapshot Biography


“There is no man more dangerous, in a position of power, than he who refuses to accept as a working truth the idea that all a man does should make for rightness and soundness, that even the fixing of a tariff rate must be moral.”

Ida Tarbell didn’t shy away from exposing wrongdoings in society. How people treated others mattered, character mattered. She believed that progress happened from people making moral decisions.

So while an early desire to be a scientist didn’t lead to a career, it birthed her “quest for the truth.” She became a journalist. And it became her way of making the world a better place.  

Ida published many works, but arguably her most famous was an expose chronicling the corrupt practices of John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil, the largest company of the time.

“They had never played fair, and that ruined their greatness for me,” she wrote about the company.

The series was published in full over two years starting in 1905 and helped garner support for passing anti-trust legislation, which was used to break up the company.  


  1. Ida M. Tarbell, ca. 1905-1945 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Harris & Ewing Collection,
  2. Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection (Library of Congress),,_1857-1944_LCCN2001704019.jpg
  3. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,
  4. The Ida M. Tarbell Collection, Pelletier Library, Allegheny College, Meadville PA,
  5. Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division,
  6. All in the Day’s Work: An Autobiography by Ida Tarbell

Carl Sandburg quote: “I want to do the right thing”

Carl Sandburg

“I want to do the right thing, but often I don’t know just what the right thing is. Every day I know I have come short of what I would like to have done. Yet as the years pass and I see the very world itself, with its oceans and mountains and plains, as something unfinished, a peculiar little satisfaction hunts out the corners of my heart. Sunsets and evening shadows find me regretful at task’s undone, but sleep and the dawn and the air of the morning touch me with freshening hopes. Strange things blow in through my window on the wings of the night wind and I don’t worry about my destiny.”

– Carl Sandburg

Monte Irvin: “the only thing a black youth could aspire to be was a bellboy”

Monte Irvin

I was all-state in four sports in New Jersey, but sometimes I couldn’t get served at a restaurant two blocks from my high school. There were no job opportunities then… the only thing a black youth could aspire to be was a bellboy or a pullman or an elevator operator, or, maybe, a teacher. There was a time when all we had was black baseball.

– Monte Irvin, baseball star in the Negro League and then in the MLB