A Year: Day to Day Men: 20th of September, Solar Year 2018

Afternoon’s Drawing Class

September 20, 1878, was the birthdate of American writer Upton Sinclair.

In 1904, Upton Sinclair spent seven weeks in disguise, working undercover in Chicago’s meatpacking plants to research his next book. After its publication in 1906, Sinclair acquired particular fame for his classic novel “The Jungle”, which exposed labor and sanitary conditions in the U.S. meatpacking industry, causing a public uproar that contributed in part to the passage a few months later of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. With the income from “The Jungle”, Sinclair founded the utopian, but non-Jewish and white-only, Helicon Home Colony in Englewood, New Jersey; this colony burned down a year later under suspicious circumstances.

In 1919, Upton Sinclair published “The Brass Check”, an exposé of American journalism that publicized the issue of yellow journalism and the limitations of the free press in the United States. Yellow journalism is a tern for journalism and associated news sources that present little or no legitimate well-researched news while instead use eye-catching headlines or exposé to generate sales or viewing.  Four years after publication of “The Brass Check”, the first code of ethics for journalists was created.

Writing during the Progressive Era, Sinclair describes in his books the world of industrialized America from both the working man’s and the industrialist’s points of view. In his book “King Coal” published in 1917, Sinclair described the poor working conditions in the coal mining industry during the 1910s. As in his earlier work “The Jungle”, he used the novel to express his socialist view point. The 1937 “The Flivver King” described the rise of Henry Ford, his wage reform program, and the company’s Sociological Department; the book also described Ford’s decline into antisemitism.

Wanting to pursue politics, Upton Sinclair twice ran unsuccessfully for United States Congress on the Socialist ticket: in 1920 for the House of Representatives and in 1922 for the Senate. He was also the Democratic Party candidate for Governor of California during the Great Depression running under the banner of the “End Poverty in California” campaign, but was defeated in the 1934 elections.

“Do not let other people invade your personality. Remember that every human being is a unique phenomenon, and worth developing. You will meet many who have no resources of their own, and who will try to fasten themselves upon you. You will find others eager to tell you what to do and think and be. But it is better to go apart and learn to be yourself.” – Upton Sinclair

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