Scope and Content
Special Collections holds about 90 published items by and about Upton Sinclair, including many autographed presentation copies of first editions. Special Collections is also in possession of a small collection of 9 letters and postcards, mostly addressed to Ben and Martha Olin. Other contents are photos and ephemera related to Sinclair's bid for Governor, publicity and book reviews, and the program from a tribute banquet for Sinclair.
The Upton Sinclair collection was the personal collection of Ben Olin (1886-1969) who was Sinclair's secretary for many years, and lifelong friend. The collection contains a nearly complete record of Sinclair's published works.
This collection was a given to Oberlin College Library in 1991 by Janet Olin Gest and Howard Gest, parents of Ted Gest OC '68 and Don Gest OC '74. Ben Olin, 1886-1969, father of Janet Olin Gest, met Upton Sinclair in 1912 and became Sinclair's secretary in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1913. He later moved with Sinclair to Pasadena where he continued as secretary for several years. The two friends kept in contact until Sinclair's death.
Upton Sinclair was born in 1878 in Baltimore Maryland to parents who were part of the newly ruined Southern aristocracy. His family having moved to New York in 1888, Sinclair went on to attend the City College in New York. For graduate studies, he attended Columbia University. During his years there, he supported himself by writing for pulp fiction magazines. Under pseudonyms, he wrote upwards of 100 dime novels for such publishers as Street and Smith — he churned out about one of these books per week during that time. Sinclair went on to write almost as many books in his career, about 90. These include The Jungle, which had enormous social impact and earned Upton Sinclair a name for himself; Metropolis; Oil!; King Coal; and the Lanny Budd series, which included the novel for which he won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize, Dragon's Teeth.
Sinclair was passionately involved in political and economic issues, running on the Socialist ticket and later on the Democratic ticket for various offices. Moreover, he also founded several organizations, such as the Authors League of America, the Southern California chapter of the ACLU, the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, and the EPIC (End Poverty in California) League. Sinclair was married three times and had one son, David, from his first marriage. Upton Sinclair died in 1968.
Upton Sinclair Papers at The Lilly Library, Indiana University Bloomington