Monday, July 7, 2008

Upton Sinclair and the Stockyards Arch

Most fearful they are to contemplate, the expenses of this entertainment. They will certainly be over two hundred dollars and maybe three hundred; and three hundred dollars is more than the year's income of many a person in this room. There are able-bodied men here who work from early morning until late at night, in ice-cold cellars with a quarter of an inch of water on the floor—men who for six or seven months in the year never see the sunlight from Sunday afternoon till the next Sunday morning—and who cannot earn three hundred dollars in a year. There are little children here, scarce in their teens, who can hardly see the top of the work benches — whose parents have lied to get them their places — and who do not make the half of three hundred dollars a year, and perhaps not even the third of it. And then to spend such a sum, all in a single day of your life, at a wedding feast! (For obviously it is the same thing, whether you spend it at once for your own wedding, or in a long time, at the weddings of all your friends.) It is very imprudent, it is tragic — but, ah, it is so beautiful! Bit by bit these poor people have given up everything else; but to this they cling with all the power of their souls — they cannot give up the veselija!     - Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

It was very moving to visit the arch, standing at the entrance of what's left of the Chicago Stockyards.   It's huge and stands right next to the railroad tracks where animals would be transported and prepared, for lack of a better word.  

On top of the arch is a bull.  Supposedly he is there representing the prize fighting bull named Sherman, called after John Sherman, one of the Stockyard founders.  

Upton Sinclair exposed the horrific working conditions of immigrants working in The Stockyards in his muckracking novel The Jungle.  He discussed the blood soaked floors, flies and general unsanitary conditions that poor workers were subjected to, because there was no other alternative.  His work led to social ramifications and guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration.  

(You will note our artistic photos depicting the poor worker yearning to break free from poverty and capitalist abuse).

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