Upton Sinclair

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Baltimore, Maryland
Birth Sign
Baltimore, Maryland

Upton Sinclair was an American author and social reformer best known for his incisive political writings exposing the country’s various social injustices. As the son of an alcoholic father, he endured an impoverished childhood. His family was also known for frequently relocating from city to city due to his father’s lack of employment. He did, however, have wealthy maternal grandparents with whom he spent considerable time. This early childhood exposure to extreme inequalities between rich and poor shaped him into a socialist. He was an intelligent young man with an insatiable appetite for reading, eagerly devouring anything he could get his hands on. He also began writing jokes and stories as a teenager and used the proceeds from his articles to pay for his college tuition. He was a student at Columbia University studying law when he realized his true passion was writing. He was a devout writer who spent weeks researching for a political novel while disguised. He had a strong interest in politics but was unable to achieve political success. He set aside his political ambitions and concentrated on his writing. He wrote a series of novels centered on the character Lanny Budd and won the Pulitzer Prize for the third installment, ‘Dragon’s Teeth’.

Childhood & Adolescence

Sinclair was born in Maryland to a father who was an alcoholic and a mother who was devoutly religious. He endured a trying childhood. On the one hand, he had to deal with his father’s alcoholism; on the other hand, he had to deal with his mother’s extreme strictness.

His father was unemployed and the family was impoverished. His maternal grandparents, with whom he occasionally stayed, were, on the other hand, extremely wealthy. At a young age, he became aware of the disparities between rich and poor.

From an early age, the young Upton was a voracious reader, devouring whatever books he could get his hands on.

This practice aided him in developing a more nuanced understanding of the world around him. He enrolled in City College of New York as a 14-year-old in 1892 and graduated in 1897.

He enrolled at Columbia University with the intention of studying law. He learned several languages there, including Spanish, German, and French. He paid for his college tuition by writing jokes, short stories, and magazine articles.

Career of Upton

Writing was his true passion, and following his graduation from Columbia, he wrote four novels in quick succession. King Midas (1901), Prince Hagen (1902), and Manassas (1904) all received positive reviews despite their commercial failures.

In 1902, he met several Socialist Party of America members, including Leonard Abbott, George Davis Herron, and Gaylord Wilshire. He was advised to read Karl Marx’s, Frank Norris’s, Jack London’s, and Thorstein Veblen’s works, which he did and converted to socialism.

He was commissioned to write a novel about immigrant workers in the Chicago meat industry by the editor of the socialist journal ‘Appeal to Reason.’ Sinclair spent seven weeks in 1904 conducting undercover research in meatpacking plants for the novel.

In 1906, ‘The Jungle’ was published. The book exposed the American meatpacking industry’s difficult working conditions, lack of employee welfare, and unethical practices. The novel became a bestseller and even influenced then-President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration to investigate the meatpacking industry’s malpractices. In 1906, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act.

In 1906, he founded Helicon Home Colony in Englewood with the proceeds from ‘The Jungle.’ However, the community was destroyed by fire in 1907.

He wrote numerous novels over the next several years, but none were successful until the highly acclaimed ‘King Coal’ in 1917. He detailed the appalling working conditions that existed in the coal mining industry during that era.

He became involved in radical politics during the 1920s and ran unsuccessfully for the United States Congress. He was arrested after reading the First Amendment at an Industrial Workers of the World rally in 1923.

From 1902 to 1934, he was a Socialist Party member before becoming a Democrat. He ran for governor of California with his ‘End Poverty in California Movement,’ which sparked considerable controversy. However, he was defeated by Frank Merriam and resigned from politics.

After leaving politics, he concentrated on his writing career and began publishing a series of novels centered on the protagonist, Lanny Budd, in 1940. The series began with ‘World’s End’ (1940), followed by ‘Between Two Worlds’ (1941). (1942).

‘Dragon’s Teeth’ (1942), Lanny Budd’s third novel, dealt with the Nazi takeover of Germany in the 1930s. This book, which spans the years 1929 to 1934, is widely regarded as one of his finest works.

He wrote 11 Lanny Budd novels, the most recent of which was ‘The Return of Lanny Budd’ in 1953. However, subsequent books that followed ‘Dragon’s Teeth’ failed to replicate his earlier success

 Honors and Accomplishments

His first significant work was the novel ‘The Jungle’, published in 1906. It was based on the American meatpacking industry and quickly became a bestseller, compelling the government to enact legislation regulating the industry.

‘Dragon’s Teeth,’ one of the Lanny Budd books, dealt with the life of a socialist during the Nazi occupation of Germany. This novel won the Pulitzer Prize, the author’s only major literary honor.

Personal History and Legacies

He married Meta Fuller, a childhood friend, in 1902, but she left him years later. They had only one child.

In 1913, he married for the second time. He was married to Mary Craig Kimbrough for a long and happy period of time until her death in 1961.

He remarried following the death of his second wife. Mary Elizabeth Willis was his third wife. He was a long-lived man who died in at the age of 90.

Estimated Net Worth

Upton is one of the wealthiest novelists and is ranked as one of the most popular novelists. Upton Sinclair’s net worth is estimated to be between $1-5 million, based on our analysis, Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


In 1932, he adapted his novel ‘Wet Parade’ into a film of the same name.He was passionate about health and nutrition and experimented with a variety of different diets. He even wrote a book about it. He was known for his investigative journalism and was dubbed a muckraker.