The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair, Author of The Jungle
Upton Sinclair, Author of The Jungle. Library of Congress, cph.3c32336

 The Jungle is a novel that was written by Upton Beall Sinclair, an American journalist who espoused strong socialist views.  Sinclair first released the novel in weekly installments in 1905 in a socialist newspaper – Appeal to Reason.  Then in 1906, The Jungle was published by Doubleday, Page & Company and overnight became a best seller.

Sinclair was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 20, 1878.

When he was about ten years old, his family moved to New York City.  At the age of 15, Sinclair began writing dime novels which helped to pay for his education at City College of New York and Columbia University.

Sinclair dedicated The Jungle "To the Workingmen of America" evidencing his intent to depict the working conditions that immigrants were forced to undergo in the meatpacking industry in large American cities.  However, it was not the poor working conditions that captivated America; instead it was the unhealthy and unsanitary practices in this industry that disgusted the country and which led President Theodore Roosevelt to pursue new federal legislation. 

Sinclair had spent seven weeks in 1904 working in the Chicago stockyards, during which time he met a large number of immigrants, who he viewed as so-called “wage slaves” whom were forced to work grueling twelve hour shifts.  In The Jungle, Sinclair transformed Chicago into “Packingtown” and tells the story of the abhorrent conditions of the meat packing industry through a fictitious character – a Lithuanian immigrant named Jurgis Rudkus.

 

Through Rudkus’ eyes, Sinclair describes how the health inspectors would take bribes and then turn their heads away so they would not see the diseased cows being slaughtered for beef or how guts and other filth was swept from the packinghouse floor and then packaged to be sold as potted ham; or how dead rats were scooped up and thrown into the large sausage-grinding machines.

Roosevelt ordered an investigation of the Chicago meat packing industry and designated Labor Commissioner Charles P. Neill along with social worker James Bronson Reynolds to lead this inquiry and compile a study which became known as the Neill-Reynolds Report and which Roosevelt presented to the U.S. Congress.  Roosevelt used this report to force Congress to pass both the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906  – which created the Bureau of Chemistry.  
The Meat Inspection revolutionizing the meatpacking industry, by requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspect all cattle and other livestock for disease both before and after being slaughtered and processed for human consumption.

The Pure Food and Drug Act placed a ban on interstate traffic in contaminated and impure as well as mislabelled food or drug products.  This act also required for the first time that all active ingredients of a product be placed on a drug's packaging label and also set purity standards for drugs.

In 1930, the Bureau of Chemistry became the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  In 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pushed the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act through Congress.

 This act also placed cosmetics and medical devices under FDA control.  Further, it required that the FDA would have to approve all new drugs and require their manufacturer establish that the drug is safe before being released for public use.

In addition to The Jungle, Sinclair also several a number of popular novels, including The Metropolis in 1908 about New York high society and Oil! in 1927 which examined the Teapot Dome scandal during President Warren G. Harding’s administration.  He also wrote about the Sacco and Vanzetti trial in 1928 in a novel titled Boston.

In addition, Sinclair won the Pulitzer Prize in 1943 for his 1942 novel titled Dragon’s Teeth, which detailed the Nazi takeover of Germany during the early 1930’s.  Sinclair passed away in Bound Brook, New Jersey on November 26, 1968.