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Upton Sinclair

California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual

Lauren Coodley

Publication Year: 2013

Had Upton Sinclair not written a single book after The Jungle, he would still be famous. But Sinclair was a mere twenty-five years old when he wrote The Jungle, and over the next sixty-five years he wrote nearly eighty more books and won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. He was also a filmmaker, labor activist, women’s rights advocate, and health pioneer on a grand scale. This new biography of Sinclair underscores his place in the American story as a social, political, and cultural force, a man who more than any other disrupted and documented his era in the name of social justice.

Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual shows us Sinclair engaged in one cause after another, some surprisingly relevant today—the Sacco-Vanzetti trial, the depredations of the oil industry, the wrongful imprisonment of the Wobblies, and the perils of unchecked capitalism and concentrated media. Throughout, Lauren Coodley provides a new perspective for looking at Sinclair’s prodigiously productive life. Coodley’s book reveals a consistent streak of feminism, both in Sinclair’s relationships with women—wives, friends, and activists—and in his interest in issues of housework and childcare, temperance and diet. This biography will forever alter our picture of this complicated, unconventional, often controversial man whose whole life was dedicated to helping people understand how society was run, by whom, and for whom.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-4

Copyright Page

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pp. 5-7


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pp. 8-9

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

...Upton Sinclair both disrupted and documented his era. The impact of his most famous work, The Jungle, would merit him a place in American history had he never written another book. Yet he wrote nearly eighty more, publishing most of them himself. What Sinclair did was both simple and profound: he committed his life to helping people of his era understand how society was run, by whom and for whom...

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pp. xv-xviii

...Over the past fifteen years, I became acquainted with a fascinating group of Sinclair scholars, who generously shared their work with me. I am profoundly grateful to Ron Gottesman, John Ahouse, and to Robert Hahn for their enthusiasm, their kindness, and their tremendous body of knowledge...

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1. Southern Gentlemen Drank, 1878–1892

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pp. 1-18

...In 1838 twenty-year-old Frederick Douglass quietly slipped away from the shipyards of Baltimore toward a life of freedom. His autobiographical account of his youth as a slave in Maryland electrified the abolitionist movement of the Northern states. Douglass developed an original and devastating style as an orator, and his fervent calls for racial justice challenged and molded the nation’s conscience...

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2. Making Real Men of Our Boys, 1893–1904

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pp. 19-38

...By the 1890s the Sinclairs had managed to rent a tiny apartment on West Sixty-Fifth Street where they could cook their own meals. On a typical day Upton might stop at the neighborhood market on the way home. He would hand a grocery boy a pencil-written order, along with a nickel tip. The meat was wrapped, laid on top of a box of ice, and delivered to his family by sled the next day...

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3. Good Health and How We Won It, 1905–1915

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pp. 39-68

...The years between 1905 and 1916 were rich with possibility for socialists, feminists, and radicals of all kinds in America. Socialism was never again as exciting and persuasive as during these years, before the purges of antiwar activists and immigrant organizers that occurred during World War I. The Republican Progressivism of Theodore Roosevelt opened a space for organizing that flocks of activists surged into, championing causes ranging from passing Prohibition to ending child labor...

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4. Singing Jailbirds, 1916–1927

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pp. 69-100

...The Gabrielino tribe had lived along the Arroyo Seco for thousands of years before Mexican settlement. After the gold rush, Yankees evicted Mexican settlers in 1850 and planted the sweet green Muscat grapes in this part of Southern California. In 1873 a group from Indiana arrived in California with the intention of founding an agricultural community. They planted citrus trees and named the land “Pasadena,” a rough translation of a Chippewa Indian word for “crown of the valley.”...

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5. How I Ran for Governor, 1928–1939

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pp. 101-132

...n August 1927 Upton Sinclair wrote to Kate Crane Gartz that he was no longer interested in fighting over the publication and distribution of Oil! in Boston: “The situation there is too tense and serious for that kind of joking. What I want to do is to go very quietly and gather the material for a big novel, and take a couple of years to write...

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6. World’s End, 1940–1949

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pp. 133-152

...In 1937 Sinclair published No Pasaran! Intellectuals in America and around the world were aware that the first war against fascism was being fought in Spain, and if the Spanish Republic was defeated, fascism could succeed in neighboring countries. Sinclair wrote to Alice Stone Blackwell: “I am trying to make my contribution to the Spanish cause in a novel. I have worked out a plan to get it printed in cheap edition for mass...

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7. A Lifetime in Letters, 1950–1968

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pp. 153-170

...In early 1950 the Sinclairs rented out the house in Monrovia and moved to the desert town of Corona, hungry for cleaner air and needing family support. Craig’s brother Hunter Kimbrough had moved to nearby Riverside in 1948 with his family to open an automobile insurance business. ...

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pp. 171-182

...After Sinclair’s death, Ryo Namikawa wrote an obituary for Japanese readers, lamenting that “the merry days of America have passed away with him.” There is no longer any published journal about Sinclair, no scholarly society, no home or museum in which to teach new generations about his role and significance in American life. Yet despite this neglect, Sinclair and his legacy remain vitally relevant...

Appendix A

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pp. 183-186

Appendix B

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pp. 187-190


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pp. 191-228


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pp. 229-237

E-ISBN-13: 9780803248434
E-ISBN-10: 0803248431
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803243828

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 27 illustrations, 1 map
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 852159371
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Upton Sinclair

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Subject Headings

  • Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968.
  • Social reformers -- California -- Biography.
  • Novelists, American -- 20th century -- Biography.
  • Social change -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Investigative reporting -- United States -- Biography.
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