UPTON SINCLAIR (September 20, 1878 - November 25, 1968)
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Upton B. Sinclair, Jr.(born in Baltimore, MD) wrote nearly 90 books and numerous other publications. He was most noted for The Jungle (1906) which depicted the unsanitary Chicago meat packing industry. This book contributed to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug and the Meat Inspection Acts of 1906. Sinclair, a socialist, then investigated and wrote about corruption in other institutions including the press (The Brass Check ), education (Goosestep and Goslings), and religion (The Profits of Religion). For these, and other writings, that exposed industrial greed and the plight of the workingman, some critics labeled him a "muckraker," or "yellow journalist."
Sinclair championed Prohibition, other Progressive Era health causes, and advocated diet and health cures which gave him the reputation as a "health crank." He established a socialistic community, "Helicon Hall" - which was destroyed by fire (1907), unsuccessfully ran for governor of California (1934), and helped found the California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1943, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for Dragon's Teeth - a novel that was part of a eleven book series on the rise of fascism in the post-World War I era, and produced several films and theatrical productions. He was an avid tennis player and had friendships with many notable authors, statesmen, and scientists.
Until 1915, Sinclair lived primarily in the New Jersey - Delaware - New York City area. He traveled extensively and resided, for short intervals, in several socialistic "single-tax" communities. He also lived in Europe, Bermuda, Mississippi, and California. After 1915, he spent most of the rest of his life in Southern California. Sinclair was married three times and outlived all his wives. His first marriage to Meta Fuller - with whom he had one son, David - ended in divorce in 1912 after she followed his advocacy for, and engaged in, "trial marriages." His second marriage to Mary Craig Kimbrough (1913) - a friend of his first wife - lasted 48 years until her death in 1961. Within six months of her death, Sinclair married a widow, Mary "May" Elizabeth Willis, who died in 1967. Sinclair died at age 90 after a long and interesting life.
Copyright (c) Ruth C. Engs, Bloomington, IN, 2009
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Photo of Upton Sinclair courtesy of Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
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