London’s Childhood

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London’s Childhood

  • London at age 8 with dog Rollo
  • ChildhoodReference sites:
  • London as a school boy

Became an avid reader at age 10 when an Oakland librarian encouraged him to escape his life of poverty through reading.

  • Became an avid reader at age 10 when an Oakland librarian encouraged him to escape his life of poverty through reading.
  • Bought his first sailboat at age 12—loved to sail


  • Dropped out of school at age 14 & had series of low-paying jobs:
    • Seaman delivered papers sweatshop worked in cannery freight train hobo cleaned local saloon
  • Loved to listen to stories about the California Gold Rush of 1849

Forming Ideas/Attitudes

  • Experiences that shaped London’s life and attitudes:
  • -oyster pirate -seal hunter in the North Pacific -1894—arrested & jailed in Niagara Falls for vagrancy -adopted socialistic views
  • Educated self by reading in public library
  • Attended University of California at Berkeley
  • Left school after 1 year to seek his fortune in gold fields


  • Traveled to Klondike Gold Rush in 1897
  • Spent one winter at Split-Up Island, near the Stewart River
  • Did not find gold; had a wealth of experiences he would later use to write stories and books
  • Returned home to support himself and his family by publishing his writing
  • Gold DISCOVERED in the Yukon
  • Jack London outfitted to travel to the gold fields of the Klondike Gold Rush
  • Photo actually taken in at Truckee, CA.

Adult Life

  • An avid sailor—loved his boat, the Snark
  • Aboard the Snark with friends

Married twice—two daughters

  • Bess Maddern—London’s first wife
  • Becky and Joan London—London’s daughters
  • Charmian London Jack London’s second wife

London owned and loved a ranch in Sonoma Valley

London’s Directions to his ranch at Glen Ellen

“Next to my wife, the ranch is the dearest thing in the world to me.”

  • Jack London
  • The Londons at home

“I believe the soil is our greatest asset.” Jack London

“I hope to do two things with the ranch: To leave the land better for my having been; To enable 30 or 40 families to live happily on the ground that was so impoverished when I bought it.”

“..he was mighty good to us, and there never was a man who came here who went away hungry.”

  • “..he was mighty good to us, and there never was a man who came here who went away hungry.”
  • Ranch workman

London—the Author

  • Began avidly writing in 1897
  • He commonly spent 15 hours a day writing
  • Daily quota of 1000 written words a day
  • Became recognized as a talented & successful writer
  • Jack London wrote 50 books and 1,000 articles between 1899 and 1916.

“The greatest story London ever told was the story he lived.” Alfred Kazin Literary critic

  • “By 1916, London was the highest-paid writer in the country and the most widely read American author in the world.”

“His literary works like The Road, written in 1907, inspired later writers like John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac.”


Life Then and Now

  • Then…1900
    • 1 in 7 homes had a bathtub
    • 1 in 13 homes had a telephone
    • Camera cost $1.00
    • 1 lb sugar--4 cents
    • Dozen eggs--14 cents
    • 1 lb. Butter—24 cents
  • Now…2000
    • 2.3 tv’s per household
    • 20% of U.S. connected to the Internet
    • 1 lb sugar—43 cents
    • Dozen eggs--$1.12
    • 1 lb. Butter--$2.35
    • Camera—too many to list
  • The Londons several weeks prior to his death
  • Jack London died on November 22, 1916.
  • A memorial for he and his second wife, Charmian Kittredge, is located at Glen Ellen.

“One of the reasons Jack London’s popularity as an author remains so high in the world today is because his life was as interesting as his works.”

from Jack London journals…

  • Thoughts about life..

“It is so simple a remedy, merely service.”

  • Jack London

“Not one ignoble thought or act is demanded of any or all men and women than to make fair the world.”

The call is for service, and such is the wholesomeness of it. He who serves all best serves himself.” Jack London

London’s Creedo


Jack London's "Credo" I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out     in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.… The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.

What others thought of Jack London

  • See bibliography slide

“No writer, unless it were Mark Twain, ever had a more romantic life than Jack London.” Ernest J. Hopkins http://www.parks.sonoma,net/JLStory.html

The story of his adventure-filled life still intrigues readers of all ages and from all walks of life. Russ Kingman

London was described “as a “born teller of tales who wrote as he lived—in a hurry.” Howard Lachtman

“The fact that his gift for writing was ever realized came to be used as an example of someone achieving “The American Dream.”


Title: The Call of the Wild Genre: Realistic Fiction Setting: Late 1800’s, Klondike gold rush

Call of the Wild--Comments

“In his story the Klondike became ‘not only a real country, but a territory of the mind’ where his characters lived or died because of what they had in them.

  • (Lachtman, 1984)

He was paid three cents per word for the story, which he had shortened by 5,000 words.

London received a total of $2,750.00 for his work.

The book has never been out of print during the last seventy-five years


The Call of the Wild is the greatest dog story ever written and is at the same time a study of one of the most curious and profound motives that play hide-and-seek in the human soul.” Carl Sandburg

From the time The Call of the Wild caught the imagination of the world in 1903, until his death by a stroke and heart attack in 1916,

his 51 books, hundreds of short stories, essays and other writings had more newspaper coverage than any other writer.


“I have everything to make me glad I am alive. I am filled with dreams and mysteries.” Jack London


Jack London sites:

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