For two months in 1904, Sinclair wandered the Chicago stockyards – a place he would write of as "Packingtown." He mingled with the foreign-born "wage slaves" in their tenements and heard how they'd been mistreated and ripped off. He saw for himself the sloppy practices in the packing houses and the mind-numbing, 12-hour-a-day schedule.
Then it was back to the quietwoods of Princeton to write "The Jungle." Sinclair hunkered down in a hand-built, 18-by-16-foot cabin and took pen to paper.
"For three months I worked incessantly," Sinclair later said. "I wrote with tears and anguish, pouring into the pages all the pain that life had meant to me."