Samuel McClure established McClure's Magazine, an American literary and political magazine, in June 1893. Selling at the low price of 15 cents, this illustrated magazine published the work of leading popular writers such as Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle. He also promoted the work of educationalist, Maria Montessori.
In 1902 the magazine began to specialize in what became known as muckraking journalism. On the advice of Norman Hapgood, McClure recruited Lincoln Steffens as editor of the magazine. In his autobiography, Steffens described McClure as: "Blond, smiling, enthusiastic, unreliable, he was the receiver of the ideas of his day. He was a flower that did not sit and wait for the bees to come and take his honey and leave their seeds. He flew forth to find and rob the bees."
Steffens carried out an investigation into St. Louis for the magazine: "Go to St. Louis and you will find the habit of civic pride in them; they still boast. The visitor is told of the wealth of the residents, of the financial strength of the banks, and of the growing importance of the industries; yet he sees poorly paved, refuse-burdened streets, and dusty or mud-covered alleys; he passes a ramshackle firetrap crowded with the sick and learns that it is the City Hospital: he enters the Four Courts, and his nostrils are greeted with the odor of formaldehyde used as a disinfectant and insect powder used to destroy vermin; he calls at the new City Hall and finds half the entrance boarded with pine planks to cover up the unfinished interior. Finally, he turns a tap in the hotel to see liquid mud flow into wash basin or bathtub."
Lincoln Steffens recruited Ida Tarbell as a staff writer. Tarbell's articles on John D. Rockefeller and how he had achieved a monopoly in refining, transporting and marketing oil appeared in the magazine between November, 1902 and October, 1904. This material was eventually published as a book, History of the Standard Oil Company (1904). Rockefeller responded to these attacks by describing Tarbell as "Miss Tarbarrel". The New York Times commented that" Miss Tarbell's fine analytical powers and gift for popular interpretation stood her in good stead" in the articles that she wrote for the magazine.
Other articles that appeared in McClure's Magazine included those by Lincoln Steffens (Enemies of the Republic, March, 1904; Rhode Island: A State for Sale, February, 1905; New Jersey: A Traitor State, April, 1905; Ohio: A Tale of Two Cities, July, 1905) and Ray Stannard Baker (What the United States Steel Corporation Really Is?, November, 1901; The Right to Work, January, 1903; Reign of Lawlessness, May, 1904, What is Lynching; January, 1905; Railroads on Trial, January, 1906, How Railroads Make Public Opinion, March, 1906). Other writers who worked for the magazine during this period included Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Willa Cather and Burton J. Hendrick.
Sales of the magazine declined in the 1920s and the last issue appeared in March 1929.