By Eric Homberger
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Additional info for American Writers and Radical Politics, 1900–39: Equivocal Commitments
The major packing houses arranged a cartel to push down the prices paid for the best grade of beef cattle. At the same time the Trust undermined competitors who continued to butcher their own cattle by undercutting prices, threatening to open rival businesses, and by the usual forms of intimidation employed by cartels. They negotiated preferential terms with the railroads which were denied to shippers of live cattle. 13 The Trusts were a power in the land; by taking them on so boldly and so devastatingly, Sinclair came close to the real sources of power in the United States.
It is impossible to foresee a time when the gap between our own wizened realism and Sinclair's blazing hopefulness will ever be reduced. IS Analysis of The Jungle should begin with the long passage describing the butchery of hogs, the way they were hoisted by chains upon an iron wheel: At the same instant the ear was assailed by a most terrifying shriek; the visitors started in alarm, the women turned pale and shrank back. The shriek was followed by another, louder and yet more agonizing - for once started upon that journey, the hog never came back; at the top of the wheel he was shunted off upon a trolley, and went sailing down the room.
While in Chicago Sinclair met the 'Special Sanitary Correspondent' of the Lancet. This man, identified by Sinclair as Adolph Smith, was engaged in a similar exercise in investigative reporting. His reports in the Lancet for two years, beginning with the issue of24 December 1904, were of such detail and seriousness that the United States government issued a formal reply (whicn Smith rebutted in the issues ofl4July and 29 December 1906). The Lancet could not be silenced or discredited in the fashion the meatpacking industry sought to do with Sinclair, and Smith's reports were believed to have resulted in legislation banning meat and especially pork imports from Chicago: they constitute a parallel effort, justifYing Sinclair, but belonging to a higher level of 'public health' seriousness.
American Writers and Radical Politics, 1900–39: Equivocal Commitments by Eric Homberger