Tag Archives: The Jungle


1907: Gentleman Prefer Blondes…?

By 1907, it had become clear just how the earlier Russo-Japanese War had changed the game. Russia’s defeat (just a few months after Anton Chekhov succumbed to tuberculosis) influenced, though it did not cause, the limited revolution of 1905, itself a forerunner to the sweeping revolution of 1917. The war also delayed the second Hague […]


Friday Fun: Pig 05049

The incredible reach of the contemporary slaughterhouse: Over three years, Dutch Designer Christien Meindertsma tracked down all the products made from a single pig and documented them in her book Pig 05049. In this TED talk, she describes how “pig parts make the world turn.” The below illustration (via Good.is) makes a similar point with […]


Warts and All

The ugliest part of the novels and nonfiction masterworks of the early 20th century are not, in the end, what they describe – all kinds of human cruelty, crushing poverty, corruption and violence – but their authors’ limitations, the muck they failed to rake from their minds. In 1906, just five years after the publication […]


Assassinating Upton Sinclair

The real Upton Sinclair spent a long life refusing to abandon improbable dreams, whereas his fictional counterpart, as vividly imagined by author Chris Bachelder, also refuses to stay dead. In Bachelder’s U.S.!, a 2006 novel-as-collection of stories, songs, letters, interviews and memos – not to forget one hilarious, impossible course syllabus – Sinclair dies violently […]

Lard Ad

Friday Fun: Who Killed Lard?

On a recent Friday, Planet Money‘s Robert Smith and Zoe Chace fingered Upton Sinclair as no less than a cold-blooded (vegetarian) killer. His victim? Lard. The context: The meatpacking industry was huge at the turn of the century. Think Chicago. Think slaughterhouses. And they marketed the hell out of lard. It was in every household […]

Original Corn Flakes

1906: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes

It’s difficult to understand Upton Sinclair’s character without dipping into the 20th century history of cereal. And it’s impossible to tell the story of two brothers’ accidental invention of what would be marketed as corn flakes in 1906 without also talking about God and sex. John Harvey and Will Keith Kellogg were two of a […]


Life in Brief: Upton Sinclair

20 Sept. 1878: Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. born in Baltimore, Maryland to a troubled family 1892:                  … earns $25 when a magazine accepts his first short story for publication 1893:                  … enrolls at the City College at just fourteen years of age 1900:                  … completes his first novel in log cabin near Lake Massawippi, marries Meta Fuller 1901:                  … […]


Friday Fun: The Fool

In his 2006 biography of Upton Sinclair, Anthony Arthur characterizes the author, muckraker and one-time candidate for governor of California as a “radical innocent” and the “most conservative of revolutionaries.” Sinclair himself modeled protagonists like The Jungle‘s Jurgis after Voltaire’s title character in Candide, Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress and the Indian prince Siddhartha who, […]


Quotable: Upton Sinclair

I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit in the stomach With this much-quoted phrase, Sinclair summed up his disappointment that The Jungle had not sparked a socialist revolution and had only played a major role in persuading people as to the necessity of the Pure Food and Drug Act, passed only […]


1906: The Jungle

To the working men of America. Upton Sinclair originally conceived what would become his classic exposé of the American meat packing industry as a book about “wage slavery.” In The Jungle‘s Lithuanian protagonist, Jurgis Rudkus, he recognized both an immigrant everyman and the raw material from which a new America would be born, a country […]