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  FATHER COUGHLIN, HUEY LONG, & UPTON SINCLAIR; VOICES FOR THE DISAFFECTED IN 1930s AMERICA

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UPTON SINCLAIR

Upton SinclairThe life of Upton Beall Sinclair, Jr (1878-1968) was one of paradox. Born into a wealthy family, the wealth his immediate family was through his early years squandered by his alcoholic father (Wikipedia 1). He spent time as a child living with his very wealthy maternal relatives. He lived both rich and poor, and was troubled by the stark contrast and the inequitable distribution of wealth he saw firsthand. (McEdwards 181). Thus, the seed of socialism was planted and through his life it flourished. And, more than anything, Sinclair wanted socialism to bring an answer to the world's uneven distribution of wealth.

After he graduated from City College of New York, Sinclair enrolled in graduate school at Columbia University. While he wrote dime novels and other fiction to help pay his way, he never
realized literary success until the publication of The Jungle in 1903 (Wikipedia 1). The Jungle was pure muckraking fiction, which Sinclair hoped would turn the public eye to the poor and unsafe conditions of labor, but instead, and much like the contradiction of his early life, The Jungle paradoxThe Jungleically led to the government's passing of the first food inspection laws: The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 (Wikipedia 1). QuickTimeAudio

Sinclair took the $30,000 profit from The Jungle, and financed a communal living experiment under Socialist principles in rural New Jersey called Helicon Home Colony, or rather simply, Helicon House, or Helicon Home. After six months, the successful experiment came to an end when a fire overtook the commune and burned it to the ground. The experiment went the way of the fire, but in yet another paradox, Sinclair did not dwell on the loss, but rather reflected on the six months of the commune's success, where production-for-use instead of production-for-profit adequately provided for the workers (McEdwards 183). Indeed, his continued espousal of socialism was not in vain.

Sinclair in press photo For all of Sinclair's life, he was Socialist, and his writings were largely aimed at convincing the reading public that socialism was just right for America. However, on September, 1, 1933, Sinclair nervously entered Beverly Hills City Hall in California and changed his voter registration from Socialist Party to Democratic Party. He was convinced to do so by Gilbert F. Stevenson, Chairman of the Democratic Central Committee of Santa Monica, California, because Stevenson thought Sinclair should bring his Socialist ideas, arguably in need of some fine tuning, to the Democratic platform in the next election for California's governor in 1934 (Hackett 1). With Sinclair's Socialist views not too far left of the New Deal, he seemed a good fit to help solve poverty and joblessness in California.

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