'The Jungle' is Published

The Jungle is a 1906 novel written by journalist Upton Sinclair.

Sinclair wrote the novel with the intention of portraying the life of the immigrant in the United States, but readers were more concerned with the large portion of the book pertaining to the corruption of the American meatpacking industry during the early 20th century, and the book is now often interpreted and taught as a journalist's exposure of the poor health conditions in this industry. The novel depicts in harsh tones poverty, absence of social programs, unpleasant living and working conditions, and hopelessness prevalent among the working class, which is contrasted with the deeply-rooted corruption on the part of those in power. Sinclair's observations of the state of turn-of-the-twentieth-century labor were placed front and center for the American public to see, suggesting that something needed to be changed to get rid of American wage slavery.

The novel was first published in serial form in 1905 in the socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason. It was based on undercover work done in 1904: Sinclair spent seven weeks gathering information while working incognito in the meatpacking plants of the Chicago stockyards at the behest of the magazine's publishers. He then started looking for a publisher who would be willing to print it in book form. After five rejections by publishers who found it too shocking for publication, he funded the first printing himself. A shortened version of the novel was published by Doubleday, Page & Company on February 28, 1906 and has been in print ever since.

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."

On this day in 1905, a year before book publication, the first installment of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle appeared in The Appeal to Reason. The socialist newspaper had commissioned the work, hoping to get what Sinclair delivered — a sensational exposé novel about life on the meatpacking “disassembly line.” There was a public outcry over the reports of sausages made from diseased meat, of dead rats and the poison that killed them being swept into the processing vats, of immigrant workers falling in too, to be “overlooked for days,” tells Sinclair's hero, “till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham’s Pure Beef Lard.” Before the year was out, the Pure Food and Drugs Act, and the Meat Inspection Act were in force across the country.