London, Jack, 1876-1916

Alternative names
Birth 1876-01-12
Death 1916-11-22

Biographical notes:

Jack London was born in San Francisco January 12, 1876. He led an adventurous life, only beginning his career as an author in the 1890s. He wrote short stories, serials, essays, articles, verse and novels. He died November 22, 1916 in Sonoma County, CA.

From the description of Jack London papers, 1897-1916. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122387554

American novelist and short story writer.

From the description of Chronometer method [navigational documents] [1907?] Sept. 11. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122590222

Jack London was a prolific American writer, best known for The call of the wild and White fang.

From the description of Letters and press cutting [manuscript]. 1909 April 3 - 1966 November 19. (Libraries Australia). WorldCat record id: 223075886

Jack London, American author.

From the description of Papers of Jack London, 1866-1977 (bulk 1904-1916). (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 81288809

American author.

From the description of Letter to Max E. Feckler [manuscript], 1914 October 26. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647882983

From the description of Letter [manuscript] : Oakland, Calif., to Houghton Mifflin Company, 1900 January 31. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647824829

From the description of Jack London papers, 1902-1940. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 122291026


From the description of Papers, 1897-1916. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122499131

Jack London was an American novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and journalist.

From the description of Jack London collection of papers, 1900-1948. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122596936

From the guide to the Jack London collection of papers, 1900-1948, (The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.)

Jack London: An American Author

A sometime tramp, oyster pirate, seaman, socialist, laundryman, and miner, Jack London is as famous for the lives he lived and the myths he wove around them as he is for the short stories and novels he wrote.

Largely self-educated, Jack London was the product of California ranches and the working class neighborhoods of Oakland. Born January 12, 1876, in San Francisco, London's early life revolved around the rural areas of the San Francisco bay area. His edu cation --what little he had --came from Oakland city schools; he earned a high school diploma from Oakland High School after sporadic attendance.

London's rise to literary fame came as a result of the Klondike gold rush. Unsuccessful in his attempt to break into the magazine market, Jack London joined the flood of men rushing toward instant riches in the Yukon. He found little gold, but returned after the winter of 1897 with a wealth of memories and notes of the northland, the gold rush, and the hardships of the trail. By 1900 Jack London had firmly established himself as a major American writer; his first book, The Son of the Wolf, was published by Houghton Mifflin Company the same year.

London married Elizabeth May Maddern in 1900. The couple settled in Oakland, later moved to Piedmont, and soon thereafter added two daughters to the family: Joan and Bess. The marriage was not successful, however, and London divorced Bess in 1905, marrying Charmian Kittredge the same year. The marriage, which had come just after a sojourn to Korea to cover the impending Russo-Japanese War for the Hearst newspapers, was covered quite liberally in the press, and London used the exposure to launch a lectu re tour for the benefit of the Socialist Party.

Charmian was adventurous, and together the Londons planned a seven-year voyage around the world on a yacht they named Snark. The trip, begun in 1906, was cut short in Australia two years later because of London's ill health. Undaunted, London returned with his wife to Glen Ellen, which had become their home. There he expanded his land holding s and began construction of a large ranch complex complete with palatial headquarters. Named "Wolf House," the headquarters home London constructed burned down the day it was finished. London was crushed by the burning (which was rumored to have been arso n) and never fully recovered.

To support his building program and extravagant life style, London wrote at a furious pace. By 1916 he had published almost fifty books. His body could not withstand the brutal treatment it received, however, and on November 22, 1916, Jack London died. His death has still not been satisfactorily explained.

David Mike Hamilton

From the guide to the Jack London Collection, (The Huntington Library)

Biographical Information

Jack London was an American author best known for his works Call of the Wild, and The Sea Wolf . Born in San Francisco in 1876, and largely self-educated, London wrote numerous short stories, novels and essays starting in 1895 until his sudden death of uremia in 1916.

For further information about Jack London see: and .

From the guide to the Collection of Jack London papers, 1893-1977, bulk 1897-1916, (The Bancroft Library)


Jack London was born in San Francisco January 12, 1876. He led an adventurous life, only beginning his career as an author in the 1890s. He wrote short stories, serials, essays, articles, verse and novels. He died November 22, 1916 in Sonoma County, CA.

From the guide to the Jack London Papers, 1897 - 1916, (Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.)

John Griffith "Jack" London was born John Griffith Cheney on January 12, 1876, in San Francisco, California. His parents, William Henrey Cheney and Flora Wellman, split up when Flora refused William's wish to have the pregnancy aborted. After the child's birth the doctor ordered that the London be raised by former slave Virginia "Mammy Jennie" Prentiss, an arrangement that lasted until his mother married John London on September 7, 1876. Brought back into the household and renamed John Griffith London, he spent his childhood moving around California with his family and immersing himself in reading. He graduated from Cole Grammar School in 1891 and was forced by his family's poverty to enter the workforce with only an eighth grade education. For the next four years London struggled to find his financial footing, working at a cannery, poaching oysters from the California coast, serving on the California Fish Patrol, laboring at a jute mill, and shoveling coal for a power plant.

In 1895 London decided to complete his education and enrolled at Oakland High School where he also worked as a janitor. After completing his secondary education, London attended the University of California at Berkeley but dropped out after only one semester when he found out that John London was not his biological father. After an unsuccessful attempt at publishing his writings and an arduous job at a laundry, London left with his brother-in-law, Captain James Shepard, for the Alaskan Klondike where he hoped to strike it rich. After a year-long, difficult, and terribly cold foray into Alaska's interior, London managed to find just $4.50 worth of gold dust and a bad case of scurvy. But less tangible and infinitely more valuable were the people he met and the experiences he had while living on the Last Frontier; these stories would be what propelled London to the forefront of American literature.

Upon his return from Alaska, London rededicated his efforts to writing. Between August 1898 and May 1900, he submitted 103 works to publishers, only twenty-four of which were accepted. Among these was An Odyssey of the North published in Atlantic Monthly in 1899, a story from his time in Alaska. It drew the attention of Houghton Mifflin who offered to publish a book of London's Alaska experiences. The book, The Son of the Wolf, was published on April 7, 1900, the same day London married his high school math tutor, Elizabeth Mae "Bessie" Maddern. The relationship was not for love, but for utility; London wedded Elizabeth mainly so she could have his children. While the union with Elizabeth gave him two daughters, London's heart was with friend and collaborator Anna Strunsky, his co-writer in The Kempton-Wace Letters (1903). With this novel and four others to his name, London composed his masterpiece, The Call of the Wild in 1903. He followed this wildly successful novel with two more noteworthy works, The Sea-Wolf (1904) and White Fang (1906). Meanwhile, London's heart was once again wondering, this time to his long-time friend Charmian Kittridge. He divorced Bessie on November 18, 1905, and married Charmian the next day. Though London was by all accounts content with his new bride, he fell into a depression caused by alienation from his own success. He continued to work tirelessly on his writing, but was never able to produce anything that matched the success of his earlier works. Broken by personal despair, two unsuccessful attempts to have children with Charmian, the destruction of his California dream home, and slow kidney failure from years of alcohol abuse, London died on November 22, 1916, at age forty.

From the guide to the Jack and Charmian London correspondence and papers, 1894-1953, (Utah State University. Special Collections and Archives)


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  • American literature--20th century
  • Authors, American--20th century--Correspondence
  • Women authors, American
  • Business, Industry, Labor, and Commerce
  • Authors, American--Archives
  • Russo--Japanese War, 1904-1905--Sources
  • Booksellers and bookselling
  • Novelists, American--20th century--Photoprints
  • Authors, American--20th century
  • Publishers and publishing--United States--Correspondence
  • Correspondence
  • Newspaper publishing
  • World War, 1914-1918--Propaganda, etc
  • Authors, American
  • Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
  • Literature
  • Strikes and lockouts
  • Publishers and Publishing
  • Material Types
  • English language--Dialects
  • Authors and publishers
  • London, Jack, 1876-1916--Photographs
  • Artists' books--Specimens
  • Miniature books--Specimens


  • Authors


  • Crater Lake (Or.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Australia--Broken Hill (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • Oceania (as recorded)