Upton Beall Sinclair, Jr., was born in Baltimore on September 20, 1878. Perhaps best known for The Jungle, the Pulitzer-winning author produced more than 90 books.
Sinclair’s father was an alcoholic liquor salesman, and the family lived in poverty in a rowhouse at 417 N. Charles Street that has since been demolished. His mother, Priscilla Harden, grew up in a wealthy family. Sinclair’s maternal grandparents lived about 1.5 mile away at 2010 Maryland Avenue. In 1888, when Sinclair was about 10 years old, the family moved to The Bronx.
According to the Baltimore Literary Heritage Project, it during Sinclair’s early years in Baltimore that he developed his love for literature and a voracious appetite for books. As a 10-year-old, Sinclair read the collected works of Shakespeare in two weeks. The stark contrasts of moving between poverty and wealth impressed the young Sinclair, ultimately leading him to socialism.
Sinclair’s 1906 novel, The Jungle, exposed shocking conditions in the meatpacking industry and is partially responsible for passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act, which founded the Food and Drug Administration, and the Meat Inspection Act.