Lincoln Steffens

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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Lincoln Steffens In the year 1902, a man named Lincoln Steffens, one of many of his kind, published an article in McClure's magazine called "The Shame of the Cities", an expose in which he uncovered the shocking corruption in city governments across the nation. Included in this article were voter fraud and bribery such that would make the "Florida Crisis" in the 2000 Presidential election appear as no more that a mere case of teenagers ripping ballots in half and voting twice in a class election. Yet the news covered the 2000 recount so closely that it was all you could hear about for a number of weeks. The nation was on the verge of shutting down. Why was it not this way before 1902? It was because the public hardly acknowledged it as wrong, and there was no one there to report it as such.

Steffens changed all this when he wrote of the Philadelphia machine and Tammany Hall; of every stage of fraud"”choosing the election officers, and voting hundreds of thousands of times under false names.

He reported that police officers, who are forbidden by law to stand within thirty feet of voting polls, do not mind the law but help repeat voters vote under their new names.

At first, when confronted with the news that they were being taken advantage of and not being heard, the citizens were aware of the committed crimes, but never thought of them as actually being wrong. Once Steffens told the world about what was going on, and what needed to be done, the public woke up and began thinking, something not usually done at this time by the people. The popularity of McClure's magazine, after other exposes by Ida M. Tarbell, David Phillips, and others, gained an enormous amount...