The ABP Journal
Fall 2008, Vol. 4 No. 1

ISSN 1939-4578

Daniel Lindley is an editor and journalist. His freelance articles have appeared in Barrons, the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury-News, the Christian Science Monitor, and Field & Stream, among others. He is the co-author, with George Manos, of The Presidents Pianist: My Term with Truman and My Life in Music (2008).

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ambrose bierce takes on the railroad

AMBROSE BIERCE TAKES ON THE RAILROAD: THE JOURNALIST AS MUCKRAKER AND CYNIC, Daniel Lindley. Copyright © 1999 by Daniel Lindley. Reproduced with permission of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., Westport, CT.


daniel lindley
railroad tracks

EDITORS NOTE: In 1999, Daniel Lindley published Ambrose Bierce Takes on the Railroad: The Journalist as Muckraker and Cynic (Praeger Publishers). The book argues that Bierces identity as a journalist has not attracted the scholarly attention it deserves. “Nearly all his published writing, Lindley suggests, “may be considered journalism in a sense, since practically all of it, including fiction, articles, columns, aphorisms, parodies, commentary, and other work, originally appeared in newspapers or magazines. Specifically, Lindley seeks to conflate Bierce with one particular mode of journalism – muckraking.

That Bierce was a muckraker, albeit an unlikely one not only in style but in time and place, is the argument of this work. Part of its task will be to define muckraking, perhaps not as easy a chore as it seems. Like geographic boundaries, definitions can be arbitrary and can shift over time. But a definition of the salient traits of the muckrakers who followed Bierces most active period in journalism by only a decade helps place him in that tradition.

In Chapter Eight, “The Funding Bill and Beyond, Lindley explores Bierces role in the defeat of the Railroad Funding Bill sponsored by Collis P. Huntington. Sent to Washington in 1896 by his employer, William Randolph Hearst, Bierce launched a literary campaign against Huntington and the corrupt Southern Pacific Railroad. Lindley observes that while in Washington, Bierce “became, in essence, a daily reporter rather than the weekly columnist he had been for so long. Yet even as he “was achieving what appeared to be his greatest journalistic success, Bierce was becoming even less enchanted with journalism. . . . [His] greatest newspaper success also became in a sense his greatest newspaper defeat. According to Lindley, Bierces “increasing disgust with Hearsts editors and methods and his refusal to continue writing at times suggest that even as he was attacking the railroad, he was becoming suspicious of the motives for those attacks.

arrow For the password to read Lindley ’s chapter on the Funding Bill, please write to bierce@psu.edu with Lindley Chapter in the subject line.  The excerpt will be made available to readers via a .pdf file.  


Copyright © 2008 The Ambrose Bierce Project and Penn State University. All rights reserved.