Upton Sinclair’s shocking portrayal of Chicago slaughterhouses in the early 1900s, as seen
through the eyes of Lithuanian immigrants, raised the public’s awareness and prompted Congress to pass
the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act.
U.S. History & Government 11R
Entering one of the Durham buildings,
[Jurgis and Jokubas] found a number of other
visitors waiting; and before long there came a guide,
the escort them through the place.
They make a
great future of showing strangers through the
But Jokubas whispered maliciously
that the visitors did not see any more than the
packers wanted them to.
They climbed a long series of stairways
outside of the building, to the top of its five or six
Here was the chute, with its river of hogs,
all patiently toiling upward; there was a place for
them to rest to cool off, then through another
passageway they went into a room from which there
is no returning for hogs.
It was a long, narrow room, with a gallery
along it for visitors.
At the head there was a great
iron wheel, about twenty feet in circumference, with
rings here and there along its edge.
Upon both sides
of this wheel there was a narrow space, in which
came the hogs at the end of their journey; in the
midst of them stood a great burly Negro, bare-armed
He was resting for the moment,
for the wheel had stopped while men were cleaning
In a minute or two, however, it began slowly to
revolve, and then the men upon each side of it
sprang to work.
They had chains, which they
fastened about the leg of the nearest hog, and the
other end of the chain they hooked into one of the
rings upon the wheel.
So, as the wheel turned, a hog
was suddenly jerked off his feet and borne aloft.
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.
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
And meantime, another was swung up,
and then another, and another, until there was a
double line of them, each dangling by a foot and
kicking in frenzy – and squealing.
The uproar was
appalling, perilous to the eardrums; one feared there
was too much sound for the room to hold – that the
walls must give way or the ceiling crack.
were high squeals and low squeals, grunts, and the
wails of agony; there would come a momentary lull,
and then a fresh outburst, louder that ever, surging
up to a deafening climax.
It was too much for some
of the visitors – the men would look at each other,
laughing nervously, and the women would stand
with hands clenched, and the blood rushing to their
faces, and the tears started in their eyes.
Meantime, heedless of all these things, the