Sinclair was a writer who started his journalism career in 1922 with the Toronto Star and first became famous writing a series of articles written after living among a group of homeless people, which Sinclair called “Toronto’s hobo club” From that point, Sinclair rose to become one of the paper’s star reporters, spending most of the next decade traveling the world, filing reports from exotic locations. During an Asian tour in 1932, Sinclair spent four months in India and, after returning home, wrote his first book, Foot-loose In India. It was published in October 1932 and became a best-seller in Canada, with the first edition selling out on the first day of release.
Before the end of the year, Sinclair announced that his next trip would be to Southeast Asia. A public farewell was held on January 13, 1933 filling Massey Hall, with the Starestimating that an additional 6,500 people were turned away. His experiences on that trip were collected in Sinclair’s second book, Cannibal Quest, which was a best-seller in Canada and also reached #9 on the U.S. best-seller list. That was followed by a series from Devil’s Island, which was also turned into a book, Loose Among the Devils, published in 1935.
Later that year, Sinclair was fired by the Star after failing to get the story on the outbreak of the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in Ethiopia. The Star reported that Sinclair was leaving journalism to take a job in advertising. The Star wrote that Sinclair had traveled 340,000 miles in 73 countries for the newspaper. At the time, he was working on his fourth book, Khyber Caravan, based on his travels in Afghanistan.
Doubts were frequently raised by readers that Sinclair had actually experienced the incidents he reported. His Khyber series was so widely questioned that the Star assigned another reporter to investigate Sinclair’s claims.
Following the unsuccessful Dieppe Raid in 1942, Sinclair was asked by Red Foster, a news broadcaster at Toronto radio station CFRB, to provide some narration for a broadcast on Canadians at Dieppe. Sinclair ended up writing the story as well as reading it on the air, and continued to contribute brief reports to the station. Several months after he started, his radio work came to the attention of his bosses at the Star, which had a policy prohibiting its reporters from regularly writing reports for other outlets. Once again, Sinclair was fired.
In February 1943, he formally joined the CFRB team, becoming part-owner of the station the following year. He would continue to be associated with CFRB for over 40 years until his death.
He returned to the Star in 1949—this time as a freelancer—for one final international tour, which included his coverage of the end of the Berlin Blockade. He remained a contributor to the paper, writing a radio and TV column, until December 1962.
In 1957, Sinclair also began a career in television, as a panelist on the CBC Television series Front Page Challenge. He would hold that position for 27 years until his death. While Sinclair was often controversial, he caused an uproar in 1969 when he asked Canadian Olympic swimmer Elaine Tanner if menstruation interfered with her training.
Sinclair was a vocal opponent of water fluoridation (calling it “rat poison” in 1958), the singing of God Save the Queen, medicare and taxes. Although he was raised as aMethodist and taught Bible class as a youth, Sinclair became a forceful critic of religion and the church. “I had 31 years of being a Christian, and it was enough,” he said in 1969.
Sinclair had invested his earnings in the Depression-era stock market and was independently wealthy by the end of the Second World War. In 1960, he boasted that he earned more than $50,000 a year. By the end of his life, Sinclair reportedly had liquid assets of more than $2 million. He bought a Rolls-Royce in 1961 and drove it for 11 years.
Sinclair’s autobiography, Will the Real Gordon Sinclair Please Stand Up was published in 1966, followed in 1975 by a sequel, Will Gordon Sinclair Please Sit Down.
“The Americans” is a legendary commentary by Canadian broadcaster Gordon Sinclair. Originally written for a regular broadcast on CFRB radio in Toronto on June 5, 1973, it became a media and public phenomenon, replayed several times a day by some United States radio stations, released as a hit audio recording in several forms, credited by Ronald Reagan for giving comfort to the United States when it needed a friend, and widely rediscovered and redisseminated as the United States faced new crises in the 2000s.
On June 5, Sinclair discussed some stories from the day’s news. Widespread heavy tornado damage afflicted the U.S. midwest. The Mississippi River was in flood. The American Red Cross faced an imminent threat of insolvency. And the United States dollar reached very low levels, something Sinclair, an inveterate market watcher, was keenly aware of.
“The Americans” was not, as widely reported later, an angry response to countries that were criticizing the American failure in the Vietnam War. Sinclair pointed out that when many countries faced economic crises or natural disasters, Americans were among the most generous people in the world at offering assistance, but when America faced a crisis, it often faced that crisis alone.
His editorial became a phenomenon on American radio, and was even released on record in several forms, with all profits going to the American Red Cross. Sinclair’s version went to #23 on the US record charts, making the 73-year-old the oldest living person ever to have a Billboard US Top 40 hit. Ironically, a version recorded by CKLW reporter Byron MacGregor was an even bigger seller in America, making it all the way up to Number Four in Billboard. In Canada, Sinclair’s version peaked at #30, topping McGregor’s recording which stalled at #42.
MacGregor’s recording came about because the station asked for the copy of the commentary and received a written transcript instead of a recording. So MacGregor recorded Sinclair’s commentary, and after CKLW received many requests for it, a record was released by Westbound Records.
II don’t remember the Gordon Sinclair version, but I do remember playing the Byron MacGregor version, since that was the one available at KING-AM when I worked there at the time.
Here is Gordon Sinclair’s version, since it was the original broadcast:
The United States dollar took another pounding on German, French, and British exchanges this morning, hitting the lowest point ever known in West Germany. It has declined there by 41% since 1971, and this Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous, and possibly the least-appreciated, people in all the earth.
As long as sixty years ago, when I first started to read newspapers, I read of floods on the Yellow River and the Yangtse. Well who rushed in with men and money to help? The Americans did, that’s who.
They have helped control floods on the Nile, the Amazon, the Ganges, and the Niger. Today, the rich bottom land of the Mississippi is under water and no foreign land has sent a dollar to help. Germany, Japan, and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy, were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of those countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.
When the franc was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up, and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris. And I was there — I saw that. When distant cities are hit by earthquake, it is the United States that hurries into help, Managua, Nicaragua, is one of the most recent examples.
So far this spring, fifty-nine American communities have been flattened by tornadoes. Nobody has helped.
The Marshall Plan, the Truman Policy, all pumped billions upon billions of dollars into discouraged countries. And now, newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent, war-mongering Americans.
Now, I’d like to see one of those countries that is gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar build its own airplanes.
Come on now, you, let’s hear it! Does any other country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing Jumbo Jet, the Lockheed Tristar, or the Douglas 10? If so, why don’t they fly them? Why do all international lines except Russia fly American planes? Why does no other land on earth even consider putting a man or a women on the moon?
You talk about Japanese technocracy and you get radios. You talk about German technocracy and you get automobiles. You talk about American technocracy and you find men on the moon, not once, but several times, and, safely home again. You talk about scandals and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everyone to look at. Even the draft dodgers are not pursued and hounded. They’re right here on our streets in Toronto. Most of them, unless they’re breaking Canadian laws, are getting American dollars from Ma and Pa at home to spend up here.
When the Americans get out of this bind — as they will — who could blame them if they said “the hell with the rest of the world.” Let somebody else buy the Israel bonds. Let somebody else build or repair foreign dams, or design foreign buildings that won’t shake apart in earthquakes.” When the railways of France, and Germany, and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them. When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose. Both of ‘em are still broke.
I can name to you 5,000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble. Can you name to me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don’t think there was outside help even during the San Fransisco earthquake.
Our neighbors have faced it alone, and I am one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them kicked around. They’ll come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they’re entitled to thumb their noses at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles. I hope Canada is not one of these. But there are many smug, self-righteous Canadians.
And finally, the American Red Cross was told at its 48th Annual meeting in New Orleans this morning that it was broke.
This year’s disasters — with the year less than half-over — has taken it all. And nobody, but nobody, has helped.
- Audio from the June 5, 1973 Canadian Broadcast of Gordon Sinclair: