Upton Sinclair, (1878-1968), was an American writer and reformer. Sinclair was an idealistic supporter of socialism and became famous as a "muckraker." The muckrakers were writers in the early 1900s whose principal goal was exposing social and political evils.
Sinclair's work is uneven in quality, yet he is one of the most translated American authors. The impact of his fiction on American political history is perhaps greater than that of any other American novelist except Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote UNCLE TOM'S CABIN. Sinclair's best-known novel, THE JUNGLE
(1906), is a powerful naturalistic exposure of the wretched sanitary and work conditions in the meat-packing industry. THE JUNGLE led to the passage of America's first pure food laws. In other novels, Sinclair attacked capitalistic society (THE METROPOLIS and THE MONEYCHANGERS, both 1908), conditions in coal mines (KING COAL, 1917), and the oil industry (OIL!, 1927).
Sinclair also wrote several nonfiction books exposing what he saw as the corruption that capitalism created in various areas of American life. For example, THE BRASS CHECK (1920) deals with journalism, and THE GOOSE-STEP (1923) with higher education.
From 1940 to 1953, Sinclair wrote the Lanny Budd series of 11 novels, named for the main character. The novels span American and world history from 1913 to 1949. The best-known novel in the Lanny Budd series, DRAGON'S TEETH (1942), received the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Sinclair helped organize the American Civil Liberties Union and the League for Industrial Democracy. He ran unsuccessfully three times each for Congress and for governor of California. Upton Beall Sinclair was born on Sept. 20, 1878, in Baltimore. He died on Nov. 25, 1968.
Daniel Mark Fogel, Ph.D., Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, Louisiana State University.
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