Meat-packing House Inspections
"I aimed at the public's heart and by accident hit it in the stomach." Upton Sinclair, on the public reaction to his book The Jungle
"Muckraker" is the term Theodore Roosevelt used to label writers and journalists of the early 1900s who wrote to expose, and ultimately reform, the ills and corruptions that plagued many of the nation's public and private institutions. In The Jungle, author Upton Sinclair took aim at the brutalization and exploitation of workingmen in a Chicago meat-packing house; however, it was the filthy conditions, described in nauseating detail—and the threat they posed to meat consumers—that caused a public furor.
Public reaction to the book was a major factor in the passage of the 1907 Meat Inspection Act, which established a system of meat inspection that endured for nearly a century. In July 1996, the federal government announced new rules requiring more scientifically advanced methods of meat inspection.
The Records of the Department of Agriculture, which administered the Meat Inspection Act of 1907, are preserved by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Letter from Upton Sinclair to President Theodore Roosevelt, March 10, 1906
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North Pole Exploration
"A few toes aren't much to give to achieve the Pole." Robert E. Peary
upon losing toes to frostbite during his
first attempt to reach the North Pole
The North Pole is the northernmost point of the earth. It is the point at which the imaginary line of the earth's axis intersects the planet. It is at this point that all time zones converge, and sunrises and sunsets are annual events. Located in the middle of the ice-covered Arctic Ocean more than 400 miles from land, it has one of the most hostile climates on the planet. Being the first person to reach the North Pole was the driving obsession of explorer Robert E. Peary.
Peary claimed that he and his party reached the North Pole on April 6, 1909, during his third attempt. Doubt was cast on this claim almost immediately. To this day, some experts maintain that Peary may have missed the pole by as much as 50 miles, while others maintain that he did reach it. Individuals seeking to prove or disprove Peary's claim are drawn to his own records of his polar explorations, which are preserved by the National Archives and Records Administration. The papers of Robert E. Peary, including field notebooks, diaries, photographs, and maps relating to his arctic explorations were donated to the National Archives by the Peary family.
Peary sledge party at the North Pole, April 7, 1909
Page from the diary of Robert E. Peary, April 6, 1909
Age, weight, and measurements of the Northern sledge party, returning April 27, 1909
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World War I
"We make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: Make war together, make peace together." Zimmermann Telegram
January 16, 1917
On January 16, 1917, in the midst of the European war that would later be known as World War I, German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann sent an encoded message to be conveyed to the President of Mexico, proposing a military alliance against the United States. In return for Mexican support in the war, Germany would help Mexico regain New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona from the United States. The British intercepted the secret message, deciphered it, and turned it over to the U.S. government.
Public revelation of the Zimmermann Telegram in the United States on March 1, 1917, came at a crucial moment. By the spring of 1917, German submarine warfare had killed nearly 200 Americans. The United States had recently broken diplomatic relations with Germany in response to the German decision to begin unrestricted submarine warfare. The Zimmermann Telegram further inflamed U.S. public opinion against Germany, particularly in the West and Southwest. On April 2 President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war against Germany and the Central Powers; on April 6, 1917, Congress complied.
The Zimmermann Telegram is part of the Central File records of the Department of State preserved at the National Archives and Records Administration.
Telegram from Acting Secretary of State Frank L. Polk to the American Embassy in Mexico City, February 26, 1917
Photostat of Zimmermann Telegram, as received by the German Ambassador to Mexico,
January 19, 1917
Decode of the Zimmermann Telegram made by Edward Bell of the American Embassy in London,
sent to the State Department,
March 2, 1917, selected page
Teaching suggestions related to the Zimmermann Telegram are available in the National Archives Digital Classroom.
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The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)
Colonization and Settlement (1585-1763)
Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
The Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900)
American Originals 2