Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Sinclair mss., 1890-1968, consist of the correspondence, writings, and papers of writer Upton Beall Sinclair, 1878-1968. Also present are copies and transcripts of correspondence, 1814-1879, relating to Commodore Arthur Sinclair and to the Southworth family. Sinclair was born in Baltimore, September 20, 1878, and grew up there and in New York City. He began his writing career when a teenager, producing pseudonymous boys' adventure stories for pulp magazine publishers, as well as writing jokes for humor magazines. Between 1900 and 1905 Sinclair published five novels, but it wasn't until The Jungle, published in 1906, that he became an internationally known author. The success of this novel, which deals with the appalling conditions in the meat packing plants in Chicago, not only made Sinclair a rich man but also provided the final impetus for passage of the pure food law of 1906. With the proceeds from the sale of the novel Sinclair set up a communal living experiment called Helicon Hall in New Jersey. A fire just one year later destroyed everything and left Sinclair and his young family impoverished once again.

Following a tumultuous separation and divorce, Sinclair married Mary Craig Kimbrough and in 1914 they took up permanent residence in Southern California. From 1917 through the early 1940s Sinclair himself published virtually all of his books and pamphlets although many of the major works were published simultaneously by New York houses. Although one of America's best known Socialists, Sinclair succeeded in winning the Democratic party nomination for governor of California in 1934 and ran on his "EPIC" (End Poverty in California) platform. He lost the election but many of the ideas he expressed during the campaign affected advisors and officials in Roosevelt's administrations and later found expression in national legislation. In 1940 Sinclair published the first of the best-selling Lanny Budd series, volume three of which, Dragon's Teeth, won the Pulitzer prize for literature in 1943. The eleven volumes were wide-ranging historical novels presenting the political history of the Western World from 1913-1950, and they were immensely popular. After the death of his third wife in December 1967, Sinclair moved to a nursing home in New Jersey to be near his son, David, and family. He died peacefully, November 25, 1968.

The collection is organized into the following series: I.Correspondence; II. Miscellaneous; and III. Writings. The collection begins with three folders of biographical and genealogical material, followed by the folder of correspondence copies. Series I, by far the largest portion of the collection is correspondence, 1890-1968, arranged chronologically and includes not only letters received by Sinclair but also retained carbons of letters and notes sent by him or written by secretaries on his behalf. Correspondents include writers and translators, politicians, philosophers, educators, businessmen, journalists, physicians, artists, editors and publishers, as well as Sinclair "fans" and family members. Series II, Miscellaneous, includes agreements and contracts, book production related materials, copies of 80th birthday greetings, an EPIC organization plan, an address book, etc. Series III, Writings, is subdivided into Major full-length works; Articles, including book reviews, pamphlets, short stories, and stage and screenplays; Poems; Speeches; and Writings by others.

An inventory to the collection is available. The correspondence is indexed by author and recipient, accessible through the in-house Manuscripts Index in the Lilly Library. A finding aid is also available.

Purchase. Upton Sinclair. Monrovia, CA 1957-1968.

Also see the Guide to the Collections: Upton Sinclair, Sinclair, D. Mss., and Sinclair, M.C.K. Mss.

Collection size: 178,954 items

Related manuscripts: Sinclair mss. II, Sinclair mss. III, Sinclair mss. IV, Sinclair mss. V, Sinclair mss. VI, Sinclair mss. VII

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.