Skip to main content

Upton Sinclair Letters to Melville Kress

 Collection
Identifier: MSN/MN 3014

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 55 typescript letters, typically one page in length, sent by Sinclair to Kress, February 1933 to October 1958. All are signed in ink. Most of the letters were written between 1938 and 1948. Much of the content pertains to Sinclair's current literary work, particularly the World's End novels written between 1940 to 1953. But there are also reflections on past events, including two letters discussing Sinclair's relationship with Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein. In addition, Sinclair's letters contain literary comments (often sharply critical) of Kress's written work. Finally, the letters provide insight into Sinclair's thoughts about contemporaneous events, especially political developments in Russia.

Dates

  • 1933-1958
  • Majority of material found in 1938-1948

Creator

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. was born in Baltimore, Maryland, 20 September 1878 to Upton Beall Sinclair and Priscilla Harden Sinclair. In 1888, the Sinclair family moved to Queens, New York where as a teenager Upton began his writing career, producing boys' adventure stories for the pulps and writing jokes for humor magazines. He graduated in 1897 from the City College of New York and studied for a time at Columbia University. Sinclair published his first novel in 1900. His sixth novel, The Jungle (1906), treating the conditions in the Chicago meat packing plants, made him an international figure and provided the final impetus for the passage of the The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

Sinclair would go on to write over ninety books and numerous short stories, plays, and pamphlets. As one of America's best known Socialists, he ran twice for Congress on the party ticket, losing both times, and was Democratic nominee for Governor of California in 1934. In a contentious campaign, which saw his End Poverty in California platform (EPIC) vilified by his opponents, he was defeated by Republican Frank F. Merriam. In 1940, Sinclair published the first of the World's End (or Lanny Budd) novels, an eleven volume sequence that portrayed the political history of the Western World from 1913 to 1950. The series was immensely popular. Volume three, entitled Dragon's Teeth, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1943.

Melville Kress, Sinclair's correspondent, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 20 March 1906, the first of three children of Henry and Mary Kress. Leaving school in the eighth grade, Kress was a factory worker and union organizer with the American Federation of Labor, who at some point during the 1920s took an interest in Sinclair's writings. The two men began a correspondence that would last for over forty years. When Sinclair, who described Kress as his "fastidious left-wing critic," began writing his World's End series, he asked Kress to review the manuscripts. It is likely that while editing Sinclair's novels Kress got the idea of writing a biography of his famous friend. The biography was not completed during either man's lifetime. Melville Kress died on 30 December 1998. In 2005, his son, Ken M. Kress, compiled, edited, and posthumously self-published his father's unfinished biography of Sinclair under the title Mightier Than the Sword: The Era of Upton Beall Sinclair (Bloomington IN: Authorhouse, 2005).

Extent

.5 cubic feet.

Overview

Fifty-five letters written by American novelist, playwright, and essayist Upton Sinclair to Melville L. Kress, dated between 1933 and 1958.

Arrangement

The collection consists of one series; materials are arranged chronologically, one letter per folder.
Title
Upton Sinclair Letters to Melville Kress
Status
Completed
Author
Debra Dochuk
Date
2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

Contact:
102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556
574-631-0290