Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Upton Beall Sinclair (September 20, 1878 - November 25, 1968) wrote in many genres, often advocating Socialist views, and achieved considerable popularity in the early twentieth century. He gained particular fame for his novel, The Jungle (1906), which dealt with conditions in the U.S. meat packing industry and caused a public uproar that ultimately led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act in 1906.
His parents came from the Southern gentry, and his father's family had a distinguished naval tradition stretching back to the American Revolution. His great-grandfather, Commodore Arthur Sinclair (died 1831), served in the War of 1812. His grandfather, Captain Arthur Sinclair, served first in the United States Navy then resigned to join the Confederate service.
Childhood and Education
The family fortunes had suffered after the Civil War, and so Upton Sinclair had an unusual upbringing that mixed wealth and poverty. His father was an alcoholic and his immediate family was poor, but he often stayed with his wealthy maternal relatives in New York, allowing him to experience two extremes of American society which later influenced his socialist views.
To pay his way through City College of New York, Sinclair wrote jokes and fiction for magazines and newspapers, as well as dime novels for the firm of Street & Smith. He also attended graduate school at Columbia.
Political and Social Activism
An early success was the civil war novel Manassas written in 1903 and published a year later. Originally projected as the opening book of a trilogy, the success of his The Jungle caused him to drop such plans, although he did revise Manassas decades later "moderating some of the exuberance of the earlier version"; a description - in Sinclair's case - very much of a relative kind.
After writing The Jungle, Sinclair invested nearly 30 percent of the proceeds into the Helicon Home for Jews Colony , a utopian society being set up in New Jersey. Unfortunately, it burned down four months later.
He ran for Governor of California twice. The first time he ran as a Socialist candidate and garnered few votes. The second time, in 1934, as a Democrat. This time around, during the depths of the Great Depression, he began a political movement that he hoped to both combat the effects of the Depression and use as a springboard to the governorship. That plan, known as EPIC (End Poverty in California), galvanized the support of the Democratic Party, and Sinclair gained its nomination. Conservatives in California were themselves galvanized by this, as they saw it as an attempted Communist takeover of their state and used massive political propaganda portraying Sinclair as a Communist. Sinclair was defeated in the election and largely abandoned EPIC and politics to return to writing.
Upton Sinclair in fiction
- an article by Sinclair on EPIC at the Museum of the City of San Francisco
- Project Gutenberg e-texts of some of Upton Sinclair's works
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