Now that you know a little about the book, watch the video below and learn about the working conditions of the workers at the turn of the century. Be sure to take notes for the short quiz that follows.

Video segment. Assistance may be required.

Source: Meat packing jungle, Chrissy76, YouTube

Image of several butchers splitting the backbones of hanging pigs. A sign above them reads Splitting backbones...swift & company.

Source: Chicago Meat Inspection Swift co. 1906, Wikipedia

Now read an excerpt of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle:

"[Mikolas] is a beef-boner, and that is a dangerous trade[....] Your hands are slippery, and your knife is slippery, and you are toiling like mad, when somebody happens to speak to you, or you strike a bone. Then your hand slips up on the blade, and there is a fearful gash. And that would not be so bad, only for the deadly contagion. The cut may heal, but you can never tell. Twice now, within the last three years, Mikolas has been lying at home with blood poisoning–once for three months and once for nearly seven. The last time, too, he lost his job, and that meant six weeks more of standing at the doors of the packing houses, at six o'clock on bitter winter mornings, with a foot of snow on the ground and more in the air. There are learned people who can tell you out of the statistics that beef-boners make forty cents an hour, but, perhaps, these people have never looked into a beef-boner's hands."

Upton Sinclair's The Jungle tells the story of an extended Lithuanian family trying to succeed in Chicago.

Activity: After reading the excerpt, respond to the following questions in your notes:

  1. Sinclair told the story of The Jungle from the perspective of an immigrant family from Lithuania. Most immigrants came to America seeking better opportunities, especially better jobs. Based on this excerpt, what benefits and problems did immigrant workers experience in America? Explain your answer.

    Hint 1

  2. Roosevelt's support for the 1906 Meat Inspection Act was inspired in part by the working conditions described by Upton Sinclair in The Jungle. What information in this excerpt do you think persuaded Roosevelt to support this act? Explain your answer.

    Hint 2

  3. Upton Sinclair made the following statement about the impact The Jungle had on the American public: "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." What do you think Upton Sinclair meant by this? Explain your answer by citing three (3) examples from what you have learned so far.