Supplemental Information on Terms from the Introduction page of

Philadelphia: Corrupt and Contented


Lincoln Steffens, author of The Shame of the Cities, was born in San Francisco, California on April 6, 1866. His father's wealth as a business man allowed him to study in France and Germany where he developed his radical political views before graduating from the University of California. In 1892, Steffens became a reporter for the New York Evening Post and later on became an editor for McClure's Magazine--the magazine in which he wrote the articles that were complied to form his book, The Shame of the Cities. During this period, Steffens became interested in muckraking--investigative journalism. In this, the author of The Shame of Cities, exposed the corruption of local governments across large and famous American cities. After this book in 1904 came The Struggle for Self -Government in 1906.

In 1906 Steffens, along with Ida Tarbell and Ray Stannard Baker, established American Magazine. Steffens wrote about corruption until 1910. During the Mexican Revolution he became supportive of the idea that revolution rather than reform, was the way to change capitalism. In 1919, Steffens visited Russia and upon his return in 1921, he made the famous comment, "I have seen the future and it works." (The cartoon picture is shown below. Although he made this comment, his excitement over the Russian government eventually dissipated and by the time he wrote his autobiography, he was disilusioned with communism. In 1936, Lincoln Steffens died, but today he can be viewed as someone who took action in efforts of what he believed in and in trying to show people that America was not always as good as people thought it to be.




muckraker: As previously stated in Lincoln Steffens' biographical summary of achievements, a muckraker is one who practices investigative journalism. As found in the dictionary, to muckrake is to:

a. search for and expose misconduct in publice life

b. (muckraker) one who spread real or alleged scandal about another (usually for political advantage)




McClure's Magazine was founded in June 1893 by Samuel McClure. The magazine was an American literary and political and sold for fifteen cents. The work of popular writers such as Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Jack London was featured in the magazine. In 1902, the magazine began specializing in muckraking journalism and it was from this that Lincoln Steffens was able to write muckraking articles about America's cities and have them published. Not only Steffens' work was published in this McClure Magazine, but also were those of Ida Tarbell and Ray Stannard Baker. The magazine's sales declined in the 1920s and the last issue appeared in March 1929.

Below are images taken from McClure's Magazine.




'Machine' used in The Shame of the Cities is not meant literally as in a mechanical device that aids people in completing tasks. Rather, in The Shame of the Cities, Lincoln Steffens uses the term 'machine' to mean as the dictionary states, "An organized group of people whose members are or appear to be under the control of one or more leaders: a political machine." In the chapter on Philadelphia, the book showed how there was a voting machine that controlled the way in which those who did vote, voted. The city as a whole was controlled by the driving force of the 'machine,' a group of ring leaders that controlled the way everything was done in Philadelphia. The way they conducted politics was the same way in which business is conducted--it was a dog eat dog world in which people did what they felt was necessary in order to achieve personal gains.




An Assessor is "an official who evaluates property for taxation" or "an assistant to a judge or magistrate, usually selected for special knowledge in a particular area," according to the dictionary. As one comes to find out once he reads Steffens' chapter, Philadelphia: Corrupt and Contented, it becomes clear that the assessors, those in high lawful positions do take on power, but at the same time are corrupt in this. They control the voting lists, which in turn disfranchises the general citizens of Philadelphia.


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