Sinclair, Upton

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Sinclair, Upton

Upton Sinclair (Upton Beall Sinclair), 1878–1968, American novelist and socialist activist, b. Baltimore, grad. College of the City of New York, 1897. He was one of the muckrakers, and a dedication to social and industrial reform underlies most of his writing. The Jungle (1906), a brutally graphic novel of the Chicago stockyards, aroused great public indignation and led to reform of federal food inspection laws. With the money earned from that novel, Sinclair established (1906) a short-lived socialist community, Helicon Home Colony, at Englewood, N.J., and a decade later he moved to Southern California. Among Sinclair's other novels exposing social evils are King Coal (1917), Oil! (1927), Boston (on the Sacco-Vanzetti Case, 1928), and Little Steel (1938). In his social studies, such as The Brass Check (1919), on journalism, and The Goose-Step (1923), on education, he tried to uncover the harmful effects of capitalist economic pressure on institutions of learning and culture.

An ardent socialist, Sinclair was in and out of the American Socialist party and, under its aegis, ran unsuccessfully for congressman, senator, and governor. In 1934 he was again defeated, this time as the Democratic party's candidate for California governor. World's End (1940) is the first of a cycle of 11 novels that deal with world events since 1914 and feature the fictional Lanny Budd as hero; the third, Dragon's Teeth (1942), won a Pulitzer Prize. Many of Sinclair's more than 90 books have been widely translated.

See his autobiography (1962) and reminiscences, American Outpost (1932) and My Lifetime in Letters (1960); biographies by L. Harris (1975), A. Arthur (2006), and K. Mattson (2006); studies by F. Dell (1927, repr. 1970), A. Blinderman, ed. (1975), J. A. Yoder (1975), W. A. Bloodworth, Jr. (1977), and R. N. Mookerjee (1988); bibliography by R. Gottesman (1973).

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