Ida Minerva Tarbell (November 5, 1857 – January 6, 1944) was an American teacher, author and journalist. She was known as one of the leading "muckrakers" of her day, work known in modern times in the progressive era as "investigative journalism." She wrote many notable magazine series and biographies. She is best-known for her 1904 book The History of the Standard Oil Company, which is 654 pages long and was listed as number five in a 1999 list by the New York Times of the top 100 works of twentieth-century American journalism. She began her work on The Standard after her editors at McClure's Magazine called for a story on one of The Trusts. She thought the public would be bored by the story of the oil regions, even though its head John D. Rockefeller, Sr. had bankrupted her father.
Tarbell was born in Erie County, Pennsylvania. She grew up in the western portion of the state where new oil fields were developed in the 1860s. She was the daughter of Frank Tarbell, a contractor, who built wooden oil storage tanks and later became an oil producer and refiner in Venango County. Her father's business, and those of many other small businessmen was adversely affected by the South Improvement Company scheme around 1872 between the railroads and larger oil interests. Later, she would vividly recall this situation in her work, as she accused the leaders of the Standard Oil Company of using unfair tactics to put her father and many small oil companies out of business.
Tarbell graduated at the head of her high school class in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Tarbell attended Allegheny College college beginning in 1876. She majored in biology and was the only woman in her class of 1880.