Sinclair Upton (1878 - 1968)
Upton Sinclair was born in Baltimore on 20th September, 1878. His alcoholic father moved the family to New York City in 1888. Although his own family were extremely poor, he spent periods of time living with his wealthy grandparents. He later argued that witnessing these extremes turned him into a socialist. A religious boy with a great love of literature, his two great heroes were Jesus Christ and Percy Bysshe Shelley. An intelligent boy he did well at school and at 14 entered New York City College. Soon afterwards he had his first story published in a national magazine. Over the next few years Sinclair funded his college education by writing stories for newspapers and magazines. By the age of 17 Sinclair was earning enough money to enable him to move into his own apartment while supplying his parents with a regular income. Sinclair's first novel, Springtime and Harvest, was published in 1901. He followed this with The Journal of Arthur Stirling (1903), Prince Hagen (1903) Manassas (1904) and A Captain of Industry (1906), but they all sold badly. In the early 1900s Sinclair became an active socialist after reading books such as Merrie England (Robert Blatchford), The People of the Abyss (Jack London), Appeal to the Young (Peter Kropotkin) and Octypus (Frank Norris). In September 1905, Sinclair joined with Jack London, Clarence Darrow and Florence Kelley to form the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. The work of Frank Norris was especially important to the development of Sinclair as a writer. He later spoke about how Norris had "showed me a new world, and he also showed me that it could be put in a novel." Sinclair was also influenced by the investigative journalism of Benjamin Flower, Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens and Ray Stannard Baker. In 1904 Fred Warren, the editor of the socialist journal, Appeal to Reason, commissioned Sinclair to write a novel about immigrant workers in the Chicago meat packing houses. Julius Wayland, the owner of the journal provided Sinclair with a $500 advance and after seven weeks research he wrote the novel, The Jungle. Serialized in 1905, the book helped to increase circulation to 175,000. However, Sinclair had his novel rejected by six publishers. A consultant at Macmillan wrote: "I advise without hesitation and unreservedly against the publication of this book which is gloom and horror unrelieved. One feels that what is at the bottom of his fierceness is not nearly so much desire to help the poor as hatred of the rich." Sinclair decided to publish the book himself and after advertising his intentions in the Appeal to Reason, he he got orders for 972 copies. When he told Doubleday of these orders, it decided to publish the book. The Jungle (1906) was an immediate success selling over 150,000 copies. Within the next few years The Jungle had been published in seventeen languages and was a best-seller all over the world. After President Theodore Roosevelt read The Jungle and ordered an investigation of the meat-packing industry. He also met Sinclair and told him that while he disapproved of the way the book preached socialism he agreed that "radical action must be taken to do away with the efforts of arrogant and selfish greed on the part of the capitalist." With the passing of the Pure Food and Drugs Act (1906) and the Meat Inspection Act (1906), Sinclair was able to show that novelists could help change the law. This in itself inspired a tremendous growth in investigative journalism. Theodore Roosevelt became concerned at this development and described it as muckraking. Sinclair was now a well-known national figure and decided to accept the offer of the Socialist Party to become its candidate for Congress in New Jersey.
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