JACK LONDON (1876-1916)
Although born in 1876 near Third and Brannan Streets in San Francisco, Jack London lived much of his childhood eight miles across the bay in Oakland. From 1868 the city’s Long Wharf was the last stop of the Transcontinental and Central Pacific Railroads. Oakland was a rough and vital place. As a child, London fed his tremendous appetite for reading at the Oakland Public Library. His early teens were spent at gruelling labour in a cannery. In his memoir of alcoholism, John Barleycorn (1913), London tells how he escaped that servitude to became an oyster pirate on San Francisco Bay with his own sloop, the Razzle Dazzle. Later he switched sides and became a member of the California Fish Patrol, which inspired the cycle of short stories collected in 1905.
In 1893 London signed on to the schooner Sophie Sutherland and voyaged across the Pacific. The next year he was on the road as a hobo with Kelly’s Army. It was only in 1895 that he was able to attend Oakland High School. After graduation and a brief stint at the University of California in nearby Berkeley, London sailed north to the Yukon for the Klondike Gold Rush. His experiences in the Northlands would lead to the creation of such classic works as The Call of the Wild (1903), White Fang (1906), and ‘To Build A Fire’ (1908). London would soon become one of the world’s most popular writers.
Never losing his love of travel and adventure, Jack London always returned to California. He eventually bought a ranch north of San Pablo Bay in Sonoma County. He died there at the age of forty on November 22, 1916. He had published over forty volumes – novels, short stories, non-fiction, and essays.