Pulitzer Prize Recipient. Upton Sinclair was a 20th century American author. He received the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for the novel, the "Dragon's Teeth." During his professional career, he wrote more than 90 books, 30 plays and countless other works of journalism. Born the only child in a Baltimore row house, his father was an alcoholic, who was a liquor salesman. His mother's family was affluent. He is quoted as saying "his family went from rags to riches many times over." When he was ten years old, his father moved the family to New York City. As a teenager, he read the classics to most any book he could find. Entering the City College of New York at the age of fourteen, he started selling children's stories and comedic pieces to magazines. After graduating in 1897, he enrolled at Columbia University to continue his studies and, using a pseudonym, wrote dime novels to support himself. As a freelance newspaper reporter, he had an income. His first novel was "Springtime and Harvest" in 1901, and unable to get a publisher, he published himself. The book was not successful as were the next few books. There was some success with the 1904 "Manassas," a novel about a young Union Army soldier who fought in the American Civil War. Seeing the firsthand the plight of the poor compared to his affluent grandparents, his political reasoning was socialism. His involvement in socialism led to a writing assignment in Chicago for the socialist newspaper, "Appeal to Reason," about the plight of workers in the meatpacking industry, eventually resulting in the best-selling 1906 novel "The Jungle." Although he wanted to show the hardship of the workers, the public changed their shopping habits after reading the vivid descriptions of the cruelty to animals and unsanitary conditions, which was not the results he wanted. This book was translated into 17 languages within months of its release. President Theodore Roosevelt met with him about the meatpacking situation and from their meeting, the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act were both passed in 1906. With the royalties from this book, he opened Helicon Hall, a Utopian community located along the Hudson River in New Jersey, which was for those in the literary field, but the place burnt to the ground within a year. Although he published "The Metropolis" in 1908, "King Coal" in 1917, and "The Goose-Step" in 1923, none were really successful. Newly divorced, he moved to California, where he focused on politics as well as writing. He founded the California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and as a candidate for the Socialist Party, he launched unsuccessful bids for Congress. The FBI opened a file on his activities. During this time, he wrote successfully "Oil!" in 1927, which was about the White House's Teapot Dome Scandal, and "Boston" in 1928, which was about the Sacco and Vanzetti's executions for murder. His book "Oil!" was adapted to the 2007film "There Will Be Blood," which was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning "Best Actor and "Best Filmography." With the Great Depression, he helped with feeding the hungry in California. He ran as the 1934 Democratic Party's candidate for governor of California. In a three-candidate race, he came in second with 37% of the vote. He then wrote, " I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked" in 1935. In 1940 he started writing historical novel in what would become an eleven-book series with the same main characters. The third book in 1942, "Dragon's Teeth," was based on Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany; for this book, he received the 1943 Pulitzer Prize. After 1950, his writings were not as popular. In 1900, he married for the first time and a son, David, was born the next year and later became a research physicist. When his second wife died in 1961 from the complications of an earlier stroke, he married again for the third time at the age of 83. Eventually, and with a health decline, he was placed near his son in a nursing home in Bound Brook, New Jersey, where he died.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Upton Beale Sinclair