On January 27, 1888, the National GeographicSociety was founded in Washington, D.C., for “the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.” What many may not realize is that the publication of the society’s famous periodical, National Geographic Magazine, might not have gained notoriety without the help of Ida Tarbell, the forerunner of modern investigative journalism from Titusville, Pennsylvania.
Tarbell’s fame is often associated with her 1902 McClure’s serial expose of J.D. Rockefeller, which heavily influenced the demise of Standard Oil as a monopoly. Prior to this, however, Tarbell’s career began following her graduation fromAllegheny College in 1880 where she studied biology and was the only woman in her graduating class. After a brief stint as a teacher in Ohio, Tarbell returned to Crawford County where she met Theodore L. Flood, editor of The Chautauquan, which was published in Meadville. In time, Tarbell’s talents and work ethic would, in time, lead to a position as the managing editor of the publication.