10 March 2008

The Jungle, "Packingtown" and the great TR!

With all the uproar about product safety these days, it's interesting to note that in the early part of the 1900's, similar conditions existed here in the United States. In his book, The Jungle, Upton Sinclair was a primary force in pointing this out and arguing for changes in the industry--helping to spawn many of the food safety programs now used today. The National Archives, in their section, America's Historical Documents, posted out a copy of the letter from Sinclair to the then President, Theodore Roosevelt. Here's the letter outlining some of the conditions:




While it's important to know that The Jungle is a work of fiction, Upton Sinclair did quite a bit of research for the book. Here's a quote from the novel that caused quite an uproar:

"...For they had set him to cleaning out the traps; and the family
sat round and listened in wonder while he told them what that meant. It
seemed that he was working in the room where the men prepared the beef for canning, and the beef had lain in vats full of chemicals, and men with great forks speared it out and dumped it into trucks, to be taken
to the cooking room. When they had speared out all they could reach, they emptied the vat on the floor, and then with shovels scraped up the balance and dumped it into the truck. This floor was filthy, yet
they set Antanas with his mop slopping the "pickle" into a hole that connected with a sink, where it was caught and used over again forever; and if that were not enough, there was a trap in the pipe, where all the
scraps of meat and odds and ends of refuse were caught, and every few days it was the old man's task to clean these out, and shovel their contents into one of the trucks with the rest of the meat!..." (3)


The public was outraged! There were massive calls for changes in the industry. Says Wikipedia:

"..The morbidity of the working conditions as well as the exploitation of children and women alike that Sinclair exposed, showed the corruption taking place inside the meat packing factories. Foreign sales of American meat fell by one-half. In order to calm public outrage and demonstrate the cleanliness of their meat, the major meat packers lobbied the Federal government to pass legislation paying for additional inspection and certification of meat packaged in the United States. [2] Their efforts, coupled with the public outcry, led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which established the Food and Drug Administration...."

Check the links below for more details and images. Just make sure you are not getting ready to eat lunch!

Have a great day, see you tomorrow!!!

(5)Wikipedia-The Jungle

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