In February 1905, newspaper Appeal to Reason—the most widely circulated socialist newspaper of the era—hired Upton Sinclair to report on wage slavery in Chicago's meatpacking industry.
Sinclair spent seven weeks working in Packingtown, gathering meatpacking workers’ stories.
His desire to write the next great American novel and his appalling discoveries conceived The Jungle, a newspaper serial that followed a fictitious Lithuanian meatpacker, Jurgis Rudkus.
“Of ... all who used knives, you could scarcely find a person who had the use of his thumb; ... it was a mere lump of flesh against which the man pressed the knife to hold it. ... They would have no nails—they had worn them off pulling hides; their knuckles were swollen so that their fingers spread out like a fan.”
Excerpts from Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Click for image caption.
After its newspaper run, Doubleday, Page & Co. published it as a book in February 1906.
“There was never the least attention paid to what was cut up for sausage ... There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, ... where the workers ... spit uncounted billions of consumption germs.There would be meat stored in great piles ... and thousands of rats would race about on it. ... These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread, and meat would go into the hoppers together. ... There were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbit.”
[Upton Sinclair. The Jungle. 1906.]