In late 1904 a brash young writer arrived in the industrial
Sinclair’s efforts resulted in the stunning classic which you are about to read. Critics have attacked the book’s weaknesses in organization and execution and the implausibility of parts of the narrative. So far as the work’s literary quality is concerned, it is difficult to quarrel with these judgments. Deeply influenced by the works of Dickens, Emile Zola, and American Naturalists like Stephen Crane and Jack London, Sinclair clearly hoped to produce a great work of art. But he was equally determined to use his novel to document the class oppression that he saw destroying his society. Thus the book is neither effective naturalist literature nor objective muckraking journalism, but rather a sometimes clumsy fusion of the two. Yet The Jungle enjoyed enormous popularity and influence in its own day, and this popularity has endured over the years. Within six weeks of its publication in early 1906, the novel had become an international favorite, selling more than 25,000 copies. Eventually The Jungle was translated into seventeen languages and read by millions throughout the world. The book clearly influenced George Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, and many other progressive playwrights and novelists.2
For their part, historians often assign The Jungle in American history courses, analyzing it as a classic example of the muckraking literature so often associated with the culture of the Progressive Era. But historians have also been concerned with the book’s immediate political impact: The Jungle is frequently credited with the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, and this part of its reputation is well deserved. Millions of Americans were sickened by Sinclair’s vivid descriptions of the abominably filthy conditions in American meat processing. President Theodore Roosevelt’s reaction to the book, lyrically described by Finley Peter Dunne’s philosopher‑saloon keeper Mr. Dooley, will sound familiar to most of its readers: “Tiddy was toying with a light breakfast an’ idly turnin’ over th’ pages iv th’ new book with both hands. Suddenly he rose fr’m th’ table, an cryin’: ‘I’m pizened,’ began throwin’ sausages out iv th’ window . . . . Since thin th’ Prisidint, like th’ rest iv us, has become a viggytaryan, an’ th’ diet has so changed his disposition that he is writin’ a book called ‘Supper in Silence,’ . . . . Congress decided to abolish all th’ days iv th’ week except Friday.”3 And this is how most readers have remembered the novel‑rats in one’s breakfast sausage.
The story of meat inspection is, of course, vastly more
complicated than this anecdotal history would suggest. Reformers had fought for
effective inspection throughout the late nineteenth century, and a pure food
and drug bill was pending at about the time of The Jungle’s publication. This bill was stalled in the House,
however, and it did not include a provision for meat inspection. Until the
novel’s publication, the president had held back, but in the wake of the public
furor it roused,
The irony of all this, of course, was that Sinclair’s own concern focused far more on people than on meat. For him, the slaughterhouses and the fate of the animals consigned there symbolized a much greater human tragedy being played out in factories and urban slums throughout the world. “One could not stand and watch very long without becoming philosophical,” he wrote, “without beginning to deal in symbols and similes, and to hear the hog‑squeal of the universe.” What outraged Sinclair about the scene in the stockyards, packing plants, and surrounding neighborhoods was not unsanitary production conditions and the threat they posed for America’s consumers, but rather the conditions under which the industry’s workers and their families lived, worked, and died. Sinclair was, of course, an ardent socialist. Indeed, The Jungle was commissioned and first published in serial form in the Appeal to Reason, the largest circulation socialist newspaper of the early twentieth century.5 His writings at the time and since clearly show that he saw his novel as part of the process of working‑class liberation. He sought to win converts, not to meat inspection but to socialism. “I aimed at the public’s heart,” Sinclair observed, “and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”6
Today most scholars and students still pay surprisingly
little attention to the workers whom Sinclair intended to be the focus of his
book. Most concentrate on The Jungle’s literary
qualities or deficiencies or on the book’s relation to the Meat Inspection Act.
Few, if any, treat the book as a document of social history. Consider Sinclair’s
novel as he wished us to read it ‑ as a study of immigrant working‑class
life under early monopoly capitalism and as a species of politics. How accurate
is The Jungle as a reflection of “Packingtown,” the immigrant community closest to
Upton Sinclair’s family roots were planted in wealth among
the southern gentility,’ but he spent his formative years in
Though he did not start school until the age of ten,
The publication of The Jungle in 1906 represented a dramatic turning point in Sinclair’s life. The book not only helped him to overcome the chronic poverty that had cursed him until then but also gave him the confidence to write steadily. Over the next six decades until his death in 1968, Sinclair continued to fuse politics and literature, producing scores of novels, plays, pamphlets, and essays. He never renounced his commitment to democratic socialism, and many of his works are characterized by what we have come to call “muckraking” ‑ investigations of serious social, economic, or political evils and their effects upon people.
Sinclair’s real genius, clearly displayed in The Jungle, was an unrelenting realism
in describing the grittier details of life among common people. Viewed in the
context of early twentieth‑century American literary and political
progressivism, this passion for detail is hardly surprising. With many of his
intellectual contemporaries, Sinclair shared an abiding faith in the power of
empirical investigation and blunt exposition of “the facts” to produce reform
in a democratic society. Like the progressive journalists who investigated the
financial abuses of the era’s giant trusts, or the artists of the “
Sinclair’s Jungle uncovers
for us the world of an unskilled immigrant laborer working in a giant mass‑production
factory. Some of the novel’s dramatic scenes are straightforward descriptions
of the labor process on the killing floors of
Moreover, Sinclair understood something many of the industry’s scholars have missed ‑ that while this labor process was a miracle of rationality from a manager’s perspective, those who performed the work often experienced it very differently. Thus Sinclair’s descriptions of this labor process may be read both for the detail they provide about the organization of work in the nation’s first assembly‑line industry and also for the insight they offer into the experience of massproduction work: the alienation produced by an extreme division of labor, the close supervision and often arbitrary discipline exercised by foremen and straw bosses, the furious pace with which much of the work was performed, and, of course, the endless search for a job.9
Even Sinclair’s sensational descriptions of grisly accidents
and rampant industrial disease are reflected, more soberly perhaps, in the
companies’ own figures on health and safety. While it is impossible to verify
Sinclair’s specific cases like the laborer falling into the rendering vat,
there is no doubt that many workers died in the plants or that many more
sustained serious injuries. In one house alone, Swift and Company, 3,500
injuries were reported for the first six months of 1910, and this number
included only those requiring a physician’s care. The safety problems persisted
long after the novel’s publication. The director of Armour’s
welfare department found that half of the company’s 22,381 workers were injured
or became ill at work during 1917, the
The large companies regularly ushered visitors from around the world through their killing and dressing rooms, but Sinclair reached places in the plants and achieved a perspective beyond the scope of casual observers. His method was ingenious in its simplicity: he simply put on a pair of overalls, picked up a metal lunch pail, and blended in with the crowds of butcher workmen. His Socialist party contacts provided trustworthy guides within the departments of the various plants. When he was still unsure of the veracity of any particular detail, especially regarding sanitary conditions, Sinclair consulted a British comrade, Dr. Adolph Smith, a member of the Social Democratic Federation engaged in his own study of the industry’s effects on public health for the British medical journal Lancet.11
Many of the worst health hazards facing the industry’s
workers and their families, however, lay embedded not only in the monumental
filth of the yards and the packing plants but also in the ecology of the
neighborhoods surrounding them. Pollution of the environment, which causes us
so much concern today, was a grim fact of life for Packingtown’s
families. On a map, the community was but one link in a solid industrial chain
that ran north and south along the branches of the
Living in the shadow of the packing plants often meant not
only irregular employment at low wages but also disabling illness and death.
For his information on health conditions in Packingtown,
Sinclair turned first to Algie Simons, a leading
The suffering, disease, and death littering the pages of The Jungle were not figments of the
author’s imagination, then, but rather part of daily life in Packingtown. Even the horrible death of poor little Antanas, who drowns while playing in a street puddle, is
based on information from Simons, who claimed to know of such a case. The fact
that Simons’s recollection was disputed is to some degree beside the point.
Sinclair’s implication that the death of a young child was an extremely common
occurrence in the community is beyond dispute.
In part, pollution from a variety of sources caused these
dismal health conditions. The neighborhood’s ecology was shaped largely by its
position within the city’s economy and social structure. The packers,
The quality of Packingtown’s
houses and the congestion within them also lowered the community’s health
standards. Certainly some families maintained decent homes in spite of the
dismal surroundings. Housing investigators noted considerable living space
within and around homes in Packingtown because lots
and the size of rooms in the houses were often much larger than in other poor
neighborhoods. But these observers also found that the community had an
extremely large number of boarders, which contributed to congestion within the
homes, and that the houses themselves were often in poor condition. Over 90
percent of Packingtown’s buildings were all‑frame
in construction, and, like much of
Amazing as they may seem, then, Sinclair’s descriptions of the physical conditions of daily life in the neighborhood are firmly grounded. The worst that he can be accused of, so far as details are concerned, is the common literary strategy of collapsing the real experiences in the lives of many people into the fictional experiences of one character. While there may never have been a single Lithuanian laborer who suffered all the calamities that Jurgis faces in The Jungle, the troubles themselves occurred on a regular basis in Packingtown. But if Sinclair provided some very valuable details of life in a particular type of immigrant working‑class community in the early twentieth century, he also, in his pursuit of realistic detail in the disintegration of the Rudkus family, distorted the character of the very people whom he sought to redeem ‑ the immigrant workers’ and their families.
As literary critics and other observers
have often noted, the vast size and expansive depravity of the factory and big
city slum all but obliterate the people in the novel.16 Not unlike the
To be fair, it is in part this relentless onslaught of massive technology on human nature that gives the novel its moral force, but it also prevents Sinclair from developing what may be the most compelling aspect of Packingtown’s story‑the immigrants’ own efforts to build stable communities in the midst of this “jungle.” Undoubtedly a brutal place in many respects, Packingtown was also a viable community, or rather a complex of communities, created by the very people with whom Sinclair populates his novel. At least two types of workers’ self‑activity appear to have remained very much alive in the midst of the material and psychic carnage that Sinclair so vividly describes. By far the most pervasive and consistent of these was the creation of ethno‑religious cultures by Packingtown’s various nationalities. These were defensive cultures in the sense that they insulated the immigrant workers from some of the worst aspects of life in an urban slum and helped to sustain them materially and psychologically in their daily travail. Labor organization and protest, on the other hand, threatened to shake the very foundations of the packers’ power‑their control over the production process, the labor market, and the terms of employment in the stockyards. The appearance and the character of union organization in the early twentieth century call our attention to the dimension of human agency in the Packingtown story, but its ultimate destruction reminds us of the packers’ enduring power in the marketplace.
Much of The Jungle is concerned with demonstrating
this tremendous power and its effects on the lives of the immigrant workers and
their families, but these corporations lacked the sort of pervasive control
over workers’ lives that employers sometimes achieved in company towns. In the
ethnic enclaves of
The novel opens with Jurgis and Ona’s wedding celebration, a touching evocation of this ethnic culture. The obvious determination shown here to sustain old‑world values and customs in the new urban industrial environment might have been developed as a major theme, but Sinclair uses the scene largely to establish a basic humanity, which the system degrades and destroys in the remainder of the novel. Given only Sinclair’s depiction of Packingtown, one might conclude that ethnic culture disintegrated rather quickly before the relentless force of industrial capitalism and the evils of the big city.
Instead, ethnic culture thrived amidst the forbidding
environment of Packingtown. Soon after arrival in the
community, each ethnic group established its own parish and often its own school,
where instruction came in the vernacular rather than in English. Sinclair’s
theme of moral degeneracy contrasts sharply with Packingtown’s
self image of a devoutly religious community. Recently Evelyn Ostrowski, who grew up in the neighborhood, recalled it as “a
community which was highly religious with a great reliance on the church.”
Indeed, for most Slavic immigrants, the parish was the center of their social
and cultural lives as well as a place to worship. In later years the celebrated
community activist Saul Alinsky noted, “It is the
Catholic church which serves as the medium through which these people express
their hopes, desires and aspirations.” The number and quality of church
buildings in the neighborhoods, the vibrancy of parish organizational life, the
high enrollment at parochial schools, and the extreme sacrifices required to
build these institutions on laborers’ wages all suggest a more cohesive
community than Sinclair’s novel would indicate. Fraternal, economic, and
political groups also organized along ethnic lines.
Next to its numerous churches, Packingtown’s hundreds of saloons may have been the most important social institutions in the community, at least for male packinghouse workers. In Sinclair’s description of the community they contribute significantly to the moral and financial degeneration of Jurgis Rudkus and his family; in reality they served a number of vital functions. Since the packers provided no cafeteria facilities for their employees, many of the workers chose to eat in nearby taverns rather than amidst the filth of the killing floors and packing rooms. Saloons closest to the yards tended to attract workers from particular plants, while most of those on the corners of residential neighborhood blocks tended to be dominated by one or another ethnic group. Workplace or “daytime” saloons became focal points for union activity and often provided meeting facilities for these and other organizations. Saloon keepers cashed checks, held money for patrons, and might even advance a loan in extreme cases. Perhaps the saloon’s most important function, however, was simply that of refuge‑from the workplace world that the packers controlled and from ‑tie congested wooden tenements that lined the streets near the yards. As such, saloons were part of the ethnic subcultures that workers themselves created throughout the community but that have little presence in Sinclair’s novel. Such subcultures sustained the Eastern Europeans, materially and emotional. Many of these people suffered bitterly but few of them in the sort of isolation and alienation that characterizes Jurgis Rudkus’s ordeal in The Jungle.21
While such ethnic cultures did not confront the power and authority of the giant meat‑packing corporations in any direct way, a fascinating union movement that emerged in the stockyards during the early years of this century certainly did. Building on nineteenth‑century traditions of labor solidarity among the skilled Irish and German butchers, the new Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America began its organizing efforts in 1900 with the “butcher aristocracy.” But organizers soon realized that any effective organization would have to cross the barriers of skill, gender, race, and ethnicity to embrace every worker in the stockyards. “Today it is impossible,” the union’s journal concluded, “to draw the line where the skilled man leaves off and the unskilled man begins.”22 Young, unskilled women, recently arrived Slavic immigrants, and blacks not only poured into the union but also helped to develop strong shop‑floor organizations throughout the various houses. Between the beginning of 1902 and the summer of 1904, these house committees, through the strikes they led, significantly improved many of the worst working conditions.
But the union did more than improve conditions. It also provided the immigrants with a way of coming to terms with their situation and dealing with it on a daily basis. This process had as much to do with culture and ideology as it did with economics. A young Lithuanian laborer tried to describe what this movement meant to him.
It has given me more time to learn to read and speak
and enjoy life like an American .... With more time
and more money I live much better and I am very happy. So is
Thus the union not only succeeded in raising the living standards in Packingtown but also provided the context for immigrant acculturation, a kind of Americanization from the bottom up. While clinging to their own cultures, the Eastern Europeans found a common ground with the various other ethnic groups represented in the industry, and in the process they gained a greater degree of control over their own lives at work and in the community.
During the summer of 1904 the limits of the workers’ power
and the extent of the packers’ were both clearly demonstrated in a long and
bitter strike that destroyed union organization throughout the industry. In
fact, this strike, launched in the face of heavy unemployment, first drew Sinclair’s
attention to Packingtown; the Amalgamated was in
decline by the time the young writer arrived. Yet the immigrants’ behavior
during the strike itself also dispels Sinclair’s image of them as hopeless and
degraded creatures. Not only thousands of wage earners from various ethnic
backgrounds but also priests, ministers, businessmen, and other leaders from Packingtown’s ethnic institutions rose in support of the
strike. Although many
How did the observant young author miss all of this; The answer lies in Sinclair’s own political perspective, characteristic in many ways of a whole generation of radical intellectuals during the early twentieth century. His Socialist party was the, party of middle‑class professional reformers, radical intellectuals, populist farmers, and Christian socialists‑legitimate heirs of America’s nineteenth‑century radical reform tradition, the most recent generation of rebels against industrial capitalism’s debasement of traditional American values. But this group was usually not in intimate contact with the immigrant workers Sinclair portrays, and some of them carried on the traditional prejudices of native‑born nineteenth‑century reformers. The nativism that creeps into some of Sinclair’s treatments of the immigrant workers and the clearly racist tone of his descriptions of the black strikebreakers were not unique in the early twentieth‑century socialist movement.26 Sinclair drew the portrait of the party that appears in the novel from his own experiences. When The Jungle’s hero, Lithuanian laborer Jurgis Rudkus, embraces socialism, he experiences something that looks suspiciously like a religious conversion. His political education comes largely at the hands of middle‑class activists, the sort of socialists with whom Sinclair would be most familiar‑a rich hotel owner and a group of intellectuals and reformers whom Sinclair modeled on Jack London, Gaylord Wilshire, and others of his contemporary associates. The a sudden, almost spontaneous conversion of Rud‑ to socialism is, in fact, an accident. Hungry and cold, he wanders into a hall where, entranced by the charismatic quality of a socialist orator, he is quickly hooked.
The impact of the orator may be exaggerated, but it is not
quite as far‑fetched as one might suspect. The central figure in the
Socialist party was Eugene V Debs, a deeply moving speaker, reputedly capable
of evoking just such a response among immigrant workers, even some who could
not understand his English. Debs’ biographer Nick Salvatore describes the scene
at a Polish Socialist Federation meeting in
Still, Jurgis’s religious‑style conversion has troubled literary critics and generations of readers for good reason. The hero’s instantaneous transformation from degraded, defeated hobo and petty criminal to dedicated, disciplined socialist militant comes off as either a political harangue or, worse, a weak, transparent attempt to resolve all the crisis and tension of an excessively long novel in the last few pages.28
Sinclair himself went through a conversion not unlike Jurgis’s. By his own admission, he was totally‑ignorant of socialism until the age of twenty‑two and assumed that only he recognized the inequities of the American social and economic system. At that point, however, another young writer handed him some pamphlets and a copy of Wilshire’s Magazine. The result was instant political revelation. “It was like the falling down of prison walls about my mind; the amazing discovery, after all those years, that I did not have to carry the whole burden of humanity’s future upon my two shoulders .... The principle fact that socialists had to teach me was that they themselves existed.29
His teachers comprised a rather peculiar lot. Gaylord
Wilshire, having made millions in the archtypical
capitalist pursuit of billboard advertising, suddenly announced his conversion
to socialism and then went to work on Sinclair. George Herron, a professor at
But all socialists were not millionaires and intellectuals,
and most immigrants found their way to the movement by a very different route.
Ironically, Jurgis’s discovery of socialism need not
have been as peculiar as Sinclair’s. Another Socialist party‑in effect,
the party of the unskilled immigrant laborer or machine tender, from whom
Sinclair modeled Jurgis ‑ was very much a part
of Packingtown’s world. Although the Socialist party
did not formally establish foreign language federations until the eve of World
War I, major ethnic groups in
Even the expansive projections of Socialist triumph in the last few pages of the novel appear less fantastic viewed from the perspective of the early, rather than the late, twentieth century. At the national level, both the party’s share of the electoral vote and its membership continued to rise dramatically through World War I. Starting with a membership of less than 10,000 at its foundation in 1901, the party had doubled in size by 1904 and doubled once again by 1908. By 1912 almost 118,000 people had joined, and Eugene V Debs, the Socialist presidential candidate that year, garnered nearly a million votes, about 6 percent of the total. The Socialists remained a major force in American politics until the era of the Red Scare in 1919‑1921, when government repression and factional strife within the party caused its virtual disintegration .31
Packingtown was hardly immune to
radical labor politics. As Sinclair’s narrative suggests, politics in the
community typically took the form of an ethnic political machine dominated by a
ward boss, in Packingtown’s case an organization
known as Carey’s Indians. The chronically dismal conditions and periodic crises
facing the community, however, created the potential for more radical politics.
This happened, in fact, only a few months after Sinclair’s departure, when the
immigrant workers of Packingtown elected a Socialist
to represent them in the state legislature at
The fact that neither this political movement nor the
interracial and interethnic union movement of 1900‑1904 plays much of a
role in The Jungle is not a
coincidence. Sinclair’s dedication to socialism made him not only more
sympathetic but in many ways more sensitive to the plight of the immigrant
worker than most writers of his era. His brilliant descriptions of the
conditions faced by such people are more than moving; they are also quite
accurate. But, ironically, his personal experience with socialist politics, the
inspiration for this novel, also obscured his view of working‑class life.
Notwithstanding his consummate skill in capturing so many details of immigrant
working‑class life, Sinclair, like many writers of proletarian
literature, failed to bridge what historian Daniel Aaron has called the “enormous
gap between literate and unliterate
A whole world of working‑class activity through unions, politics, and, of course, ethnic religious and fraternal organizations remained shadowy to Sinclair. It never became an important part of his novel, but it was very much a part of life in Packingtown. In subsequent years this activity became the basis for some of the most remarkable social movements of the twentieth century. During the depression and war years, the Back of the Yards Council, a powerful community organization that remains a model for neighborhood activists, mobilized Packingtown’s citizens. The packinghouse workers themselves built the United Packinghouse Workers of America, one of the strongest and most progressive industrial unions in American labor history.34
The persistence of such human agency in the face of the severe social, economic, and psychological trauma Sinclair depicts so vividly suggests a different role for the immigrant workers than the one ascribed to them by the young socialist author. For Packingtown was a slum, but it was not a jungle; its people were poor, but they were not degraded and hopeless cogs in some great machine. Like millions before and after them, they fought for what they felt was theirs and tried to improve the quality of life in their community. They could not wait for the arrival of a millionaire socialist nor pin all of their hopes on the ideas of a young, idealistic writer. They faced their problems on a day‑to‑day basis in the only ways they knew, and in the end they proved what Sinclair must have understood all along at some level‑that the human spirit was alive in the shadow of the slaughterhouse, that there was life in “the jungle” after all.
*This is James R. Barrett’s
1. Upton Sinclair, The Autobiography of Upton Sinclair (New York, 1962), 108‑9; Leon Harris, Upton Sinclair, American Rebel (New York, 1975), 70; Christine Scriabine, “Upton Sinclair and the Writing of The Jungle,” Chicago History, 10 (Spring 1981), 26‑27; William Bloodworth, Jr., Upton Sinclair (Boston, 1977), 47; Mary McDowell, “Our Proxies in Industry,” in Mary McDowell and Municipal Housekeeping, ed. Caroline Hill (Chicago, 1937), 58. The first quote is from Ernest Poole’s autobiography, The Bridge, My Own Story (New York, 1940), 95, and the second from Sinclair’s, 109. Biographical information, unless otherwise noted, is drawn from Sinclair’s autobiography or from Harris, Upton Sinclair.
2. Suk Bong Sub, “Literature, Society and Culture: Upton Sinclair and The Jungle” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Iowa, 1985), 27‑28, 86‑87; Scriabine, “the Writing of The Jungle,” 31‑37; Harris, Upton Sinclair, 83‑90; Mark Sullivan, Our Times, the United States, 1900‑1925, vol. 2 (New York, 1927), 474‑75; Judson Grenier, “Muckraking the Muckrakers: Upton Sinclair and His Peers,” in Reform and Reformers in the Progressive Era, ed. David R. Colburn and George E. Pozetta (Westport, Conn., 1983), 71‑92. Literary criticism of The Jungle is voluminous. See, for example, Alfred Kazin, On Native Grounds (New York, 1942); Walter Rideout, The Radical Novel in the United States (Cambridge, Mass., 1956); and on American Naturalism, Maxwell Geismar, Rebels and Ancestors: The American Novel, 1890‑1915 (Boston, 1953); Vernon L. Parrington, The Beginnings of Literary Realism in America, 1860‑1920, vol. 3 of Main Currents in American Thought (New York, 1930); Larzer Ziff, The American 1890s: Life and Times of a Lost Generation (New York, 1966).
3. Finley Peter Dunne, “Mr.
Dooley on the Food We Eat,” Collier’s,
4. Sullivan, Our Times, 2:535‑50; Robert M. Crunden, Ministers of Reform: The Progressives’ Achievment in American Civilization, 1889‑1920 (Urbana, Ill., 1984), 173‑74; Scriabine, “the Writing of The Jungle,” 31‑37; Harris, Upton Sinclair, 83‑90; John Braeman, “The Square Deal in Action: A Case Study in the Growth of the `National Police’ Power,” in Change and Continuity in Twentieth Century America, ed. John Braeman et al. (New York, 1966), 42‑80; James Harvey Young, “The Pig that Fell into the Privy: Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and the Meat Inspection Amendments of 1906,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 59 (1985), 467‑80.
5. On the Appeal to Reason and the socialist subculture from which it sprang, see James Green, Grassroots Socialism: Radical Movements in the Southwest, 1895‑1914 (Baton Rouge, 1980), especially 17‑42, 128‑40; Paul Buhle, “Appeal to Reason,” in The Radical Press in America, vol. 1, ed. Joseph Conlin (Westport, Conn., 1974).
6. Sinclair, Autobiography, 126; Scriabine,
“the Writing of The Jungle,” 36‑37; Robert B. Downs,
“Afterword,” in Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (New York: Signet Edition, 1960), 349. See also
Christopher Wilson, “The Making of a Best Seller, 1906,” New York Times Book Review,
7. John R. Commons, “Labor
Conditions in Slaughtering and Meat Packing,” in Trade Unionism and Labor Problems, ed. John R. Commons (
8. For a full analysis of the work process in meat packing, see James R. Barrett, Work and Community in the Jungle: Chicago’s Packinghouse Workers, 1894‑1922 (Urbana, Ill., 1987), 20‑31.
9. Barrett, Work and Community in the Jungle, 54‑58.
10. For the data on accidents
and illnesses at work, see Mary McDowell Papers, folder 20, Chicago Historical
Society; Chicago Tribune,
11. Sinclair, Autobiography, 109‑10; Adolph Smith, “The Stockyards and Packingtown; Insanitary Condition of the World’s Largest Meat Market,” Lancet, January 7, 1905, 49‑52; “The Dark and Insanitary Premises Used for the Slaughtering of Cattle and Hogs‑The Government Inspection,” Lancet, January 14, 1905, 120‑23; “Tuberculosis Among the Stockyard Workers ‑ Sanitation in Packingtown ‑ The Police and the Dumping of Refuse - Vital Statistics,” Lancet, January 21, 1905, 183‑85; “Unhealthful Work in the Stockyards ‑ Shameless Indifference to the Insanitary Condition of the Buildings and the Cattle Pens ‑ Pollution of the Subsoil ‑ the Need for Legislative Interference,” Lancet, January 28, 1905, 258‑60.
12. On health conditions in Packingtown, see Charles J. Bushnell, “Some Social Aspects of the Chicago Stock Yards,” part 1, American Journal of Sociology, 3, no. 3, (1900), map 6, 198; Caroline Hedger, M.D., “The Unhealthfulness of Packingtown,” World’s Work, 12 (May 1906), 7507; idem., “Health‑Summer of 1908,” McDowell Papers, folder 13; Mary McDowell, “Beginnings,” McDowell Papers, folder 3; U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations, Final Report and Testimony (Washington, D.C., 1916), vol. 4, 3468‑69.
“the Writing of The Jungle,” 28; Algie
Simons, Packingtown (
14. City Homes Association, Tenement Conditions in Chicago (
15. “Housing” manuscript
report dated 1911, McDowell Papers, folder 14; Edith Abbott and Sophinisba Breckinridge, The Tenements of Chicago, 1908‑1935 (
16. See Abraham Blinderman, ed., Critics on Upton Sinclair (Coral Gables, Fla., 1975), 102‑3, 113‑14; Morris Dickstein, Introduction to Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (New York: Bantam Books, 1981), xii‑xiv.
17. On Chicago’s sociologists,
see Martin Bulmer, The Chicago School of
Diversity and the Rise of Sociological
18. Ironically, several passages in the novel that did suggest a degree of resourcefulness on the part of the immigrants were cut in the course of revision for publication. See Suh, “Literature, Society and Culture,” 155‑58.
19. This paragraph and several
of the following remarks regarding community life are. based
on Barrett, Work and Community in the
Jungle, chap. 3, On the rising level of Eastern European ethnic
consciousness, see Victor Greene, For God
and Country: The Rise of Polish and
Lithuanian Ethnic Consciousness in America, 1860‑1910 (
20. Louise Montgomery, The American Girl in the Stock Yards District
(Chicago, 1913), 9‑11; Stock Yards Community Clearing House, “1918
Community Study,” McDowell Papers, folder 20; Alice Masaryk,
“The Bohemians in Chicago,” Charities, 13
(December 3, 1904), 206‑10; Eugene McCarthy, “The Bohemians in Chicago
and Their Benevolent Societies, 1875‑1946” (Ph.D. dissertation,
University of Chicago, 1950); Edward Kantowicz,
“Polish‑Chicago: Survival Through Solidarity,” in The Ethnic Frontier: Essays in the History of Group Survival in Chicago and the Midwest, ed. Peter D’A. Jones and
Melvin Holli (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1977), 189‑209;
Politics in Chicago, 1888‑1940 (
21. E. C. Moore, “The Social Value of the Saloon,” American Journal of Sociology, 3 (July 1897), 1‑12; Perry Duis, The Saloon: Public Drinking in Chicago and Boston, 1880‑1920 (Urbana, Ill., 1983), 178, 181‑82, 185‑86; Carl Thompson, “Labor in the Packing Industry,” Journal of Political Economy, 15 (February 1906), 107‑8; Abbott and Breckinridge, The Tenements of Chicago, 1908‑1935, 138‑39; John M. Kingsford, “The `Poor Man’s Club’: Social Functions of the Urban Working‑Class Saloon,” in The American Man, eds. Elizabeth and Joseph Pleck (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1980), 261‑67.
22. The quote is from
Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America, Official Journal, 5 (November 1904), 11. On the problems and successes
of union organizing across racial, ethnic, and gender lines, see Barrett, Work and Community in the Jungle, 131‑47.
On shop‑floor organization in this era, see James R. Barrett,
“Immigrant Workers and Early Mass Production Industry: Work Rationalization and
Job Control Conflicts in
23. The quote is
contained in “From Lithuania to the Chicago Stockyards‑An Autobiography: Anatanas Kaztauskis,” in Plain Folk: The
Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans, ed. David M. Katzman
and William M. Tuttle (Urbana, Ill., 1982),
112‑14. Antanas Kaztauskis
was, in fact, a composite character developed by the journalist Ernest Poole on
the basis of interviews and observations he made in the
24. Commons, “Labor Conditions in Slaughtering and Meat Packing,” 243‑45_ On immigrant crowd behavior and the relatively peaceful character of the strike, see Howard B. Myers, “The Policing of Labor Disputes in Chicago: A Case Study” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1929), 540‑47; Sidney Harring, Policing a Class Society: The Experience of American Cities (New Brunswick, N.J., 1983), 121‑27.
25. Barrett, Work and Community in the Jungle, 188‑239.
26. The continuity between the nineteenth‑century radical reform tradition and the native‑born base of the Socialist party is brilliantly captured in Nick Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs, Citizen and Socialist (Urbana, Ill., 1982). See also James R. Barrett, “American Socialism and Social Biography,” International Labor and Working Class History, 26 (Fall 1984), 75‑82; Green, Grassroots Socialism; Mari Jo Buhle, Women and American Socialism, 1870‑1920 (Urbana, Ill., 1981). On nativism and racism in the movement, see Charles Leinenweber, “The American Socialist Party and `New’ Immigrants,” Science and Society, 32 (Winter 1968), 2‑25; R. Laurence Moore, “Flawed Fraternity‑American Socialist Response to the Negro, 19011912,” The Historian, 32 (November 1969), 1‑18; Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs, 225‑27; Barrett, “Socialism and Social Biography,” 76‑77; Philip S. Foner, American Socialism and Black Americans: From the Age of Jackson to World War II (Westport, Conn., 1977), 94‑311; Kate Richards OHare: Selected Writings and Speeches, ed. Philip S. Foner and Sally M. Miller (Baton Rouge, 1982), 6‑7, 44‑49.
27. Quoted in Salvatore, Eugene V.
Debs, 231. See also Salvatore,
28. Harris, Upton Sinclair, 76‑77.
For a particularly perceptive critique of the book’s last section on socialism,
see Walter B. Rideout, The Radical Novel in the United States, 35‑36. Sinclair
recognized the problems with the last several chapters of the book, which he
judged “not up to standard” (Sinclair, Autobiography,
87). Teddy Roosevelt was predictably disgusted with the novel’s
prescription of socialism as a solution to the problems described (Harris, Upton Sinclair, 87). Judging from their
comments in papers and conversations, many of my undergraduate students at the
29. Sinclair, Autobiography, 101‑4 (quote, 101).
30. Ibid. On Herron, see Crunden, Ministers of Reform, 40‑52, 170.
31. Salvatore, Eugene Debs, 241, 242, 283‑86; Greene, For God and Country; Kantowicz, Polish‑American Politics, 29, 35; James Weinstein, The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912‑1925 (New York, 1967), chap. 4 and passim. Although socialist activity among Lithuanians dates back to at least the 1890s, the Lithuanian Socialist Party of America was not formally established until 1905. The organization was renamed the Lithuanian Socialist Federation in 1907 and was the third largest foreign language federation in the country when it affiliated with the Socialist Party of America in 1916. See Arunas Ahsauskas, “Lithuanians,” Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, ed. Stephen Thernstrom, (Cambridge, Mass., 1980), 671.
33. Daniel Aaron, Writers on the Left (New York, 1977), 206.
34. Slayton, Back of the Yards, 189‑223; David Brody, The Butcher Workmen: A Study in Unionization (Cambridge, Mass., 1963), 152‑215.