CONSTITUTIONAL civil liberties FOUNDATION Bill of rights in Action

FALL 2008 (Volume 24, No. 1)


Communism, Capitalism, and also Democracy in China | Upton Sinclair"s The jungle | man Dewey and the reconstruction of American Democracy

Upton Sinclair"s The Jungle:Muckraking the Meat-Packing Industry

Upton Sinclair composed The jungle to expose the appalling working conditions in the meat-packing industry. His summary of diseased, rotten, and also contaminated meat shocked the public and also led to new federal food security laws.

You are watching: Based on the reading what was true about meatpacking plants

Before the rotate of the 20th century, a major reform movement had emerged in the united States. Well-known as progressives, the reformers were reacting to difficulties caused by the rapid development of factories and cities. Progressives at first concentrated on improving the stays of those life in slums and also in gaining rid the corruption in government.

By the start of the brand-new century, progressives had actually started to attack vast corporations favor Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, and also the armour meat-packing company for their unjust practices. The progressives revealed exactly how these companies removed competition, collection high prices, and also treated workers as "wage slaves."

The progressives differed, however, top top how ideal to regulate these large businesses. Some progressives want to break up the huge corporations through anti-monopoly laws. Others believed state or federal federal government regulation would be an ext effective. A growing minority said in favor of socialism, the public ownership the industries. The owners of the huge industries dismissed all these proposals: they demanded the they it is in left alone to operation their businesses together they saw fit.

Theodore Roosevelt was the president when the gradual reformers to be gathering strength. Assuming the presidency in 1901 ~ the assassination of wilhelm McKinley, he remained in the White residence until 1909. Roosevelt favored large-scale enterprises. "The coporation, group is here to stay," the declared. However he favored federal government regulation of castle "with early out regard of the public as a whole."

Roosevelt go not always approve of the progressive-minded journalists and also other writers who exposed what they observed as corporate injustices. Once David Phillips, a steady journalist, composed a collection of articles that attacked U.S. Senators that both politics parties because that serving the interests of huge business rather than the people, president Roosevelt thought Phillips had gone also far. He described him together a male with a "muck-rake."

Even so, Roosevelt had to admit, "There is filth on the floor, and it need to be scraped up through the muck-rake." The ax "muckraker" caught on. It described investigative writers who uncovered the dark side of society.

Few areas had much more "filth ~ above the floor" 보다 the meat- packing homes of Chicago. Upton Sinclair, a greatly unknown fiction writer, came to be an "accidental muckraker" once he composed a novel about the meat-packing industry.


By the early 1900s, four major meat-packing corporations had bought the end the many tiny slaughterhouse service providers throughout the united States. Since they to be so large, the Armour, Swift, Morris, and also National packing companies could dictate prices to cattle ranchers, feed growers, and also consumers.

The huge Four meat-packing companies central their work in a couple of cities. Largest of every was the meat-packing market in Chicago. It spread out through acres of stockyards, feeding lots, slaughterhouses, and also meat-processing plants. In addition to the surrounding housing area where the workers lived, this component of Chicago was known as Packingtown.

Long prior to Henry Ford adapted it to automobile production, meat packers had developed the an initial industrial assembly line. The was more accurately a "disassembly line," requiring almost 80 separate jobs from the killing of an animal to processing its meat because that sale. "Killing gangs" organized jobs prefer "knockers," "rippers," "leg breakers," and also "gutters." The animal carcasses relocated continuously top top hooks till processed right into fresh, smoked, salted, pickled, and canned meats. The organs, bones, fat, and also other scraps ended up as lard, soap, and fertilizer. The workers stated that the meat-packing providers "used everything however the squeal."

Unskilled immigrant guys did the backbreaking and also often attention work, laboring in dark and unventilated rooms, warm in summer and also unheated in winter. Numerous stood every day on floors spanned with blood, meat scraps, and also foul water, wielding sledgehammers and also knives. Women and children over 14 worked at meat trimming, sausage making, and also canning.

Most workers earned just pennies every hour and worked 10 hrs per day, 6 days a week. A few skilled workers, however, do as lot as 50 cent an hour as "pacesetters," who accelerated the assembly line to maximize production. The usage of pacesetters caused an excellent discontent amongst the workers.

By 1904, many of Chicago"s packing-house workers were current immigrants indigenous Poland, Slovakia, and Lithuania. Castle crowded into tenement apartments and also rented rooms in Packingtown, next to the stinking stockyards and also four city dumps.

Real estate agents marketed some immigrants little houses ~ above credit, knowing that couple of would be able to keep up v the payments due to job layoffs, salary cuts, or disabling injuries. Once an immigrant dropped behind in payments, the mortgage holder would certainly foreclose, repaint, and sell the residence to another immigrant family.

Upton Sinclair

Born in Baltimore in 1878, Upton Sinclair came from one old Virginia family. The polite War had actually wiped out the family"s wealth and land holdings. Sinclair"s father came to be a traveling liquor salesman and also alcoholic. The future author"s mommy wanted him to end up being a minister. At period 5, he composed his first story. The told around a pig the ate a pin, which ended up in a family"s sausage.

When he was 10, Sinclair"s family members moved to brand-new York City wherein he visited school and college. While attending Columbia University, he started to offer stories to magazines. He specialized in western, adventure, sports, and war-hero fiction for working-class readers.

Sinclair i graduated from Columbia in 1897, and three years later he married Meta Fuller. They had one child. Sinclair began to create novels yet had difficulty getting castle published.

As he to be struggling to make a living as a writer, he started reading around socialism. He come to think in the idea that a peaceful revolution in i beg your pardon Americans would vote because that the federal government to take over the ownership of big businesses. He joined the Socialist Party in 1903, and also a year later he started to create for Appeal to Reason, a socialist magazine.

In 1904, the meat-packer"s union in Chicago walk on strike, demanding better wages and working conditions. The big Four companies broke the strike and the union by bringing in strikebreakers, replacements because that those on strike. The new workers preserved the assembly lines to run while the strikers and also their families fell right into poverty.

The editor the Appeal to Reason argued that Sinclair compose a novel about the strike. Sinclair, at age 26, went to Chicago in ~ the end of 1904 to research study the strike and also the problems suffered through the meat-packing workers. That interviewed them, your families, lawyers, doctors, and social workers. The personally it was observed the appalling conditions inside the meat-packing plants.

The Jungle

The Jungle is Sinclair"s fictionalized account that Chicago"s Packingtown. The title mirrors his check out of the brutality he experienced in the meat-packing business. The story centered on a young man, Jurgis Rudkis, who had actually recently immigrated to Chicago through a team of relatives and also friends from Lithuania.

Full the hope for a far better life, Jurgis married and bought a residence on credit. He to be elated once he got a job as a "shoveler of guts" at "Durham," a fictitious firm based upon Armour & Co., the top Chicago meat packer.

Jurgis soon learned exactly how the company increased the assembly line to squeeze an ext work out of the guys for the exact same pay. He uncovered the firm cheated employees by not paying them anything for working part of an hour.

Jurgis saw guys in the pickling room with skin diseases. Men who provided knives on the sped-up assembly lines generally lost fingers. Guys who hauled 100-pound hunks of meat crippled your backs. Workers with tuberculosis coughed constantly and also spit blood top top the floor. Right beside where the meat to be processed, workers supplied primitive toilets v no soap and also water to clean your hands. In part areas, no toilets existed, and also workers had to urinate in a corner. Lunchrooms were rare, and also workers ate where they worked.

Almost as an afterthought, Sinclair had a thing on exactly how diseased, rotten, and also contaminated meat products were processed, doctored through chemicals, and mislabeled for sale to the public. He created that employees would procedure dead, injured, and also diseased pets after regular hours once no meat examiners were around. He explained how pork fat and also beef scraps to be canned and also labeled together "potted chicken."

Sinclair created that meat for canning and also sausage was piled ~ above the floor before workers carried it turn off in carts hold sawdust, human spit and also urine, rat dung, rat poison, and even dead rats. His many famous description of a meat-packing horror involved men who fell into steaming lard vats:

. . . And when they were fished out, there to be never sufficient of lock left come be worth exhibiting,--sometimes they would be overlooked because that days, it rotates all yet the skeleton of them had actually gone the end to the people as Durham"s Pure leaf Lard!

Jurgis suffered a collection of heart-wrenching misfortunes that began when that was hurt on the assembly line. No workers" compensation existed, and the employee was no responsible for world injured top top the job. Jurgis" life dropped apart, and also he lost his wife, son, house, and also job.

Then Jurgis met a socialist hotel owner, that hired him together a porter. Jurgis listened come socialist speaker who appeared at the hotel, attended politics rallies, and also drew motivation from socialism. Sinclair offered the speeches to express his very own views about workers voting because that socialist candidates to take over the government and end the malice of capitalist greed and also "wage slavery."

In the last scene of the novel, Jurgis attend a celebration event of socialist election victories in Packingtown. Jurgis to be excited and also once again hopeful. A speaker, most likely modeled after ~ Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, begged the group to "Organize! Organize! Organize!" do this, the speak shouted, and "Chicago will certainly be ours! Chicago will be ours! CHICAGO will certainly BE OURS!"

The public Reaction

The jungle was very first published in 1905 as a serial in The Appeal to Reason and also then as a book in 1906. Sales rocketed. It was an worldwide best-seller, released in 17 languages.

Sinclair was dismayed, however, once the publicly reacted with outrage around the filthy and also falsely labeled meat yet ignored the plight of the workers. Meat sales to reduce sharply. "I aimed in ~ the public"s heart," he said, "and by accident i hit that in the stomach."

Sinclair believed of himself together a novelist, not as a muckraker who investigated and also wrote about economic and also social injustices. But The Jungle take it on a life that its own as one of the an excellent muckraking functions of the gradual Era. Sinclair came to be an "accidental muckraker."

The White house was bombarded v mail, calling for reform of the meat-packing industry. After analysis The Jungle, president Roosevelt invite Sinclair come the White residence to discuss it. The president then appointed a unique commission to investigate Chicago"s slaughterhouses.

The special commission issued its report in might 1906. The report confirmed nearly all the horrors that Sinclair had written about. One day, the commissioners observed a slaughtered hog that fell part means into a worker toilet. Workers took the carcass the end without clean it and also put the on a hook through the rather on the assembly line.

The commissioners criticized existing meat-inspection regulations that forced only confirming the healthfulness of pets at the moment of slaughter. The commissioners recommended that inspections take place at every stage of the processing of meat. They also called for the secretary of farming to do rules requiring the "cleanliness and also wholesomeness of animal products."

New federal Food Laws

President Roosevelt dubbed the conditions revealed in the distinct commission"s report "revolting." In a letter come Congress, the declared, "A legislation is necessary which will allow the inspectors of the federal government to inspect and supervise indigenous the hoof to the deserve to the preparation of the meat food product."

Roosevelt overcame meat-packer opposition and also pushed through the Meat investigate Act the 1906. The regulation authorized examiners from the U.S. Department of agriculture to stop any kind of bad or mislabeled meat native entering interstate and also foreign commerce. This legislation greatly broadened federal federal government regulation of personal enterprise. The meat packers, however, winner a provision in the law requiring federal federal government rather than the providers to pay for the inspection.

Sinclair did not favor the law"s regulation approach. True to his socialist convictions, he desired meat-packing plants to be publicly owned and operated by cities, together was typically the instance in Europe.

Passage the the Meat investigate Act opened up the means for congress to grant a long-blocked regulation to manage the revenue of most other foods and drugs. Because that over 20 years, Harvey W. Wiley, cook chemist at the room of Agriculture, had actually led a "pure food crusade." He and also his "Poison Squad" had actually tested chemicals included to keep foods and found plenty of were dangerous to person health. The uproar end The Jungle revived Wiley"s lobbying efforts in conference for commonwealth food and drug regulation.

Roosevelt signed a law regulating foods and also drugs on June 30, 1906, the exact same day that signed the Meat inspection Act. The Pure Food and Drug Act regulation food additives and prohibited misleading labeling that food and also drugs. This law led come the development of the commonwealth Food and Drug administration (FDA).

The 2 1906 laws ended up increasing consumer confidence in the food and also drugs castle purchased, i m sorry benefitted this businesses. The laws likewise acted together a wedge to increase federal regulation of various other industries, one of the strategies to control big business sought by the progressives.

After The Jungle

The jungle made Upton Sinclair rich and famous. He began a socialist swarm in a 50-room mansion in brand-new Jersey, but the building burned under after a year. In 1911, his wife ran off through a poet. He divorced her, however soon he remarried and moved come California.

During his lengthy life, he wrote much more than 90 novels. King coal was based on the 1914 massacre of striking miners and also their family members in Colorado. Boston was about the very publicized case of Sacco and Vancetti, 2 anarchists tried and also executed for financial institution robbery and murder in the 1920s. His novel Dragon"s Teeth, about Nazi Germany, won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize. No one of these novels, however, accomplished the success that The Jungle.

Several that Sinclair"s books were made into movies. In 1914, Hollywood released a movie version of The Jungle. Recently, his job-related Oil!, which encountered California"s oil industry in the 1920s, to be made into the movie There will certainly Be Blood.

During the good Depression, Sinclair gotten in electoral politics. That ran for governor of California together a socialist in 1930 and also as a Democrat in 1934. In the 1934 election, he advocated a routine he dubbed "End poor in California." He wanted the state to buy idle factories and abandoned farms and lease them to the unemployed. The Republican incumbent governor, frank Merriam, defeated him, however Sinclair still winner over 800,000 votes (44 percent).

After the fatality of his 2nd wife in 1961, Sinclair moved to brand-new Jersey to be with his son. He passed away there in 1968 at period 90.

People still check out The Jungle for its realistic picture of conditions in the meat-packing industry at the revolve of the 20th century. Like Harriet Beecher Stowe"s Uncle Tom"s Cabin, The Jungle showed the power of fiction to move a nation.

For Discussion and Writing

1. Why walk the present inspection device fail come guard the safety of meat for person consumption?

2. Why to be Upton Sinclair dismayed around the windy reaction and legislation that complied with publication of The Jungle?

3. Exactly how did The Jungle help the progressives attain their goals?

For additional Reading

Mattson, Kevin. Upton Sinclair and also the other American Century. Hoboken, N. J.: john Wiley & Sons, 2006.

Phelps, Christopher, ed. The tropical by Upton Sinclair. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin"s, 2005.

A C T i V T Y

Working in Packingtown

Upton Sinclair was disappointed that Congress go not address the injustices suffered by employees in Packingtown"s meat-packing industry. Take it on the function of a muckraker and also write one editorial the details the injustices come workers and what Congress must do around them.

See more: How Many Calories In A Pound Of Strawberries And Nutrition Facts

A together T E R N A T i V E A C T i V ns T Y

A modern-day Muckraker

Look in ~ a modern problem in the community, state, or nation. Investigate it. Create an editorial ~ above what have to be done around it.