Writing bluntly in October of 2003, noted Chicago journalist Studs Terkel commented on Upton Sinclair’s self-published book called The Brass Check written in 1919, 13 years after The Jungle.


The brass check was the coin used in whorehouses. The customer went up to see the madam and he would pay his two bucks—this was long before inflation—and receive a brass check, which he would give to the girl. And at the end of the day the girl would cash in all her brass checks and get half a buck apiece. So Upton Sinclair took the brass check, and made it a reference to the press in those days. The journalists were pretty much brass check artists, they were like the girls in the brothel. And how much of that has changed ...

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