December 27, 2005


Sinclair Letter Turns Out to Be Another Exposé
: Note found by an O.C. man says 'The Jungle' author got the lowdown on Sacco and Vanzetti. (Jean O. Pasco, December 24, 2005, LA Writer)

Inside the box, an envelope postmarked Sept. 12, 1929, caught [Paul Hegness's] eye. It was addressed to John Beardsley, Esq., of Los Angeles. The return address read, "Upton Sinclair, Long Beach."

"I stood there for 15 minutes reading it over and over again," Hegness said of the letter by the author of "The Jungle," the groundbreaking 1906 book that exposed unsanitary conditions at slaughterhouses.

The last paragraph got the Newport Beach attorney's attention. "This letter is for yourself alone," it read. "Stick it away in your safe, and some time in the far distant future the world may know the real truth about the matter. I am here trying to make plain my own part in the story."

The story was "Boston," Sinclair's 1920s novelized condemnation of the trial and execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian immigrants accused of killing two men in the robbery of a Massachusetts shoe factory.

Prosecutors characterized the anarchists as ruthless killers who had used the money to bankroll antigovernment bombings and deserved to die. Sinclair thought the pair were innocent and being railroaded because of their political views.

Soon Sinclair would learn something that filled him with doubt. During his research for "Boston," Sinclair met with Fred Moore, the men's attorney, in a Denver motel room. Moore "sent me into a panic," Sinclair wrote in the typed letter that Hegness found at the auction a decade ago.

"Alone in a hotel room with Fred, I begged him to tell me the full truth," Sinclair wrote. " … He then told me that the men were guilty, and he told me in every detail how he had framed a set of alibis for them."

Even the Left, you'd think, might have been right in just one of their cause celebres. You'd be wrong.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 27, 2005 10:03 PM

. . . but Tookie was REALLY innocent - just like OJ, right?

Posted by: obc at December 27, 2005 11:13 PM

Again and again and again we see it: truth means less than nothing to those people. Truth is a bourgiose affectation, they say. Sacco-Vanzetti, Hiss, Vietnam, Texas National Guard records--truth just doesn't matter

We should never be surprised by this, given that they are, all of them, children of the Father of Lies.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 27, 2005 11:26 PM

All the 20th century socialist icons are taking a real beating lately, aren't they?

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 28, 2005 12:03 AM

Did they have motels in the 1920's?

Posted by: GER at December 28, 2005 12:09 AM

What I found most interesting were Sinclair's rationales for writing what he knew was a lie: "My wife is absolutely certain that if I tell what I believe, I will be called a traitor to the movement and may not live to finish the book", "Of course, the next big case may be a frame-up, and my telling the truth about the Sacco-Vanzetti case will make things harder for the victims", and "It is much better copy as a nave defense of Sacco and Vanzetti because this is what all my foreign readers expect, and they are 90% of my public".

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 28, 2005 12:25 AM

GER: Maybe, but they they certainly had hotels, which is what was claimed.

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 28, 2005 12:27 AM

Just about everybody on this site, whether they know about the case or not, secretly suspected that these guys were guilty based purely on the fact that the entire intellectual universe rose up in their defense.

Still great to have it confirmed, though.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 28, 2005 3:53 AM

Actually, I never doubted that they were guilty. They were given more process than they were due and everything that has happened since has confirmed their guilt. Among many other things, in the early 60s a ballistics test found that Sacco's gun had fired one of the bullets taken from the murder victims.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 28, 2005 8:34 AM

Sinclair's tale comes across as a domestic version of Watler Duranty's story of just a few years later for the New York Times. Advocacy journalism has been around since there have been newspapers, but when a reporter's championing of a cause extends to the point where he/she can justify turning a blind eye to murder because not to do so would hurt the Cause, it might be time to start reassessing priorities.

Posted by: John at December 28, 2005 9:29 AM

Check out the list of winners of the annual Sacco-Vanzetti Memorial Award for Contributions to Social Justice (scroll to bottom):


Posted by: Bob Hawkins at December 28, 2005 7:08 PM

GER: the first motel was built in 1925.

Posted by: PapayaSF at December 28, 2005 7:51 PM