The New York Sun broke the news that several members of Congress, including future president James Garfield, were slipped a large amount of free stock in the Crédit Mobilier railroad company in exchange for turning a blind eye to their financial irregularities. Whoopsie-daisies.
This event was one thread in the tangled web between investigative journalism, corporate overreach, and government bribery, and understandably made a lot of people pretty angry.
At a labor rally in Haymarket Square, a bomb was thrown at police present at the event. Eight anarchists were rounded up and sentenced to death, while the rest of the labor movement was demonized in the eyes of many thanks to the bombing. One bad apple, and all that.
Strikers at Homestead Steel clash with Pinkerton Detectives and the National Guard, leading to the deaths of several workers. The strike-breaker, Henry Clay Frick, was almost assassinated by anarchists, and only afterwards did factory owner Andrew Carnegie return from the most conveniently placed vacation of all time.
A key event in the presumably short list of "handshakes gone horribly wrong," William McKinley was shot dead by dispossessed worker Leon Czolgosz during a meet-and-greet at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY.
Not only was this event taken as symptomatic of the bitter class warfare brewing in America, it also launched Vice President Theodore Roosevelt straight into the presidency.
Muckraking article number one right here…at least, in the eyes of many historians. Journalist Lincoln Steffens published this article in McClure's Magazine, blowing the whistle on the election-rigging machine in St. Louis spearheaded by the infamous "Boss" William Tweed.
Three western railroad companies had combined into one big Voltron of a company—the Northern Securities Company—which stood to monopolize the entire Western railway system. William McKinley didn't pursue busting it, but thanks to an assassin's bullet it wasn't really his call anymore. By 1904, Roosevelt had the Department of Justice squash it by ruling that the merger was unlawful.
Socialist and investigative journalist Upton Sinclair published his most famous book, high school English class mainstay The Jungle, a chilling exposé on the gruesome conditions in Chicago's meatpacking factories; conditions he saw firsthand working undercover at them in 1904.
The book freaked everybody out and forced the government to respond.
You probably know this date well by now. Teddy Roosevelt gave this speech at the ceremony for laying the cornerstone of the Cannon Office Building in Washington, D.C.
After The Jungle made everyone afraid to even look at a sausage the wrong way, Teddy Roosevelt signed the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 into law. The law established the Food and Drug Administration to make sure any ingestible product sold on the market wouldn't kill you dead.