A Chronology of Jack London’s Life

1876 John Griffith Chaney is born “south of the slot” on January 12 in San Francisco, California. His mother, Flora Wellman, claims the father is astrologer William H. Chaney, who denies his paternity and abandons her. Baby John is given to a wet nurse, Daphna Virginia [Jennie”] Prentiss. Jack London’s mother marries a widower, John London, on September 7. Baby John, then eight months old, acquires his stepfather’s surname, London” and returns to the family household.
1877 Eliza and Ida, John London's daughters from a previous marriage, are removed from the Protestant Orphan Asylum (on Haight between Laguna and Buchanan) in San Francisco to join the London family household (February 19).
1878 Jack and his stepsister Eliza both suffer near-fatal attacks of diphtheria. To escape the growing epidemic, the London family moves from San Francisco to Oakland.
1881 Family moves to a farm in Alameda.
1882 Johnny” attends West End (elementary) school in Alameda.
1883 The family moves to a farm in San Mateo County.
1885 The family moves to the Livermore valley. Johnny discovers the world of books after reading Ouida’s Signa and Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra.
1886 The family moves to Oakland, the first of several moves within the city limits of Oakland. Johnny works as a newsboy and other odd jobs; he also learns to fight. He discovers the Oakland Free Library [a public library]. Its librarian, Ina Coolbrith (later named the first Poet Laureate of the state of California), guides him as he becomes an avid reader. He is known to visit Johnny Heinold at his First and Last Chance Saloon on the waterfront.
1887 In the fall, Johnny enrolls in Cole Grammar School in West Oakland and becomes friends with Frank Atherton. He continues to be a newboy and do other odd jobs (load ice wagons, set up pins in a bowling alley, sweep out saloons). Changes first name from Johnny” to Jack”.
1888 By the time he is 12, he is competently sailing a skiff around San Francisco Bay.
1889 A carefree summer. Jack visits Frank’s family, which had moved to Auburn.
1891 Graduates as an 8th grader from Cole Grammar School. Works in Hickmott’s Cannery. Buys the sloop Razzle Dazzle with $300 borrowed from Mammy” Jennie Prentiss. Becomes known as the Prince of the Oyster Pirates” as he raids oyster beds in the San Francisco Bay.
1892 Joins the California Fish Patrol in Benicia as a deputy patrolman. First tramping experiences as he (Sailor Kid”) hops a train over the Sierra Nevada mountains to Reno, Nevada.
1893 In January, Jack signs on as an able-bodied seaman on the 156-ton, three-masted schooner, Sophia Sutherland, for a seven-month sealing voyage along the coast of Hawaii, the Bonin Islands, Japan, and the Bering Sea. Upon his return in late August, works ten-hour days in a jute mill for ten cents an hour. In November, he wins the $25 first prize in the San Francisco Morning Call contest for best descriptive article” for Story of a Typhoon off the Coast of Japan”; the Morning Call publishes the article.
1894 Works shoveling coal for an electric railway power plant; he quits when he discovers he has been exploited, having performed the work of two men. In April, Jack leaves Oakland to join General Kelly’s Army, the western contingent which is marching to Washington, D.C. to join Coxey’s Industrial Army” to protest unemployment. In late May, Jack leaves the group in Hannibal, Missouri, then continues traveling as a tramp (moniker: Frisco Kid”) visiting the White City” from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and relatives in Michigan. He is arrested (June 29) for vagrancy in Buffalo, New York, and spends thirty days in the Erie County Penitentiary. In August, Jack meets Frank Strawn-Hamilton in Baltimore at Druid Hill Park.
1895 Attends Oakland High School and works as its janitor; completes high school in eighteen months. He is published in the student magazine, The High School Aegis. Participates in the Henry Clay Club (a debating society). He meets and falls in love with Mabel Applegarth. He befriends Herman Jim” Whitaker, who teaches him the art of boxing and fencing.
1896 Jack is already known as the Boy Socialist” of Oakland (see articles in the December 25, 1895 San Francisco Examiner and in articles in the San Francisco Chronicle in early 1896). Jack joins the Socialist Labor Party (April). Crams for university entrance examinations. Attends the University of California at Berkeley for the fall semester; disillusioned, he drops out after only one semester.
1897 His letters to the editor are regularly published in local San Francisco Bay Area papers. He is arrested for speaking in public without the mayor’s permission (February) but only one juror finds him guilty, so the city drops the case. As a Socialist, he runs for a seat on the Oakland Board of Education (March). He works at the Belmont Academy laundry. Travels to the Alaska and the Yukon to join the Klondike Gold Rush and to seek his fortune. He is accompanied by his brother-in-law, Eliza’s husband, Capt. James H. Shepard, who has helped to finance the trip by mortgaging his home. Two Gold Bricks” is published in The Owl (September); Jack is in the Klondike and unaware of it. His stepfather, John London, dies on October 14.
1898 Suffering from scurvy and having found very little gold, he leaves the Klondike and returns to Oakland (in July). Pawns his Rambler bicycle and other personal belongings to raise some money. Joins a stampede (which was based on false news of a strike) to the California gold country (August). He undertakes writing as a profession, working intensely to develop his writing skills.
1899 To The Man on Trail” is published in the January issue of Overland Monthly. Turns down job offer as a mail carrier at the U.S. Post Office. Begins correspondence with Cloudesley Johns (February) and meets Anna Strunsky (in December). Receives hundreds of rejections but does publish essays, jokes, poems, and stories (24 in all).
1900 Jack meets Charmian Kittredge while her aunt Ninetta Eames interviews him (January). On April 7, Jack breaks a luncheon date with Charmian to marry his former tutor and friend, Elizabeth (Bessie”) Mae Maddern. Their honeymoon — a bicycle trip to Santa Cruz. Publication of his first book, The Son of the Wolf, a collection of short stories about the Klondike (on April 7).
1901 Daughter Joan London born on January 15. Jack runs unsuccessfully as Socialist Labor Party mayoral candidate in Oakland (receives 245 votes). Meets George Sterling. First journalism assignment to cover the Third National Bundes Shooting Festival for the Hearst syndicate [July]. Publishes: The God of His Fathers.
1902 Travels to England to investigate slum conditions in the East End of London (August-September); he uses this collected information for writing The People of the Abyss. Travels in Europe for three weeks. Daughter Bess (Becky) born on October 20. The Daughter of the Snows, Jack’s first novel, is published. Also published: Cruise of the Dazzler and Children of the Frost.
1903 Jack falls in love with Charmian Kittredge. Jack and Bessie separate. Jack's first visit to Glen Ellen. Bought the sloop Spray. The Call of the Wild brings Jack worldwide acclaim; People of the Abyss and The Kempton-Wace Letters also published.
1904 Jack sails for Yokohama and Korea to report on the Russo-Japanese War for the Hearst syndicate (January through June). On June 28, Bessie files for divorce on grounds of desertion [Bessie erroneously names Anna Strunsky as the other woman”]; Interlocutory Decree is granted November 11. The Sea-Wolf and The Faith of Men are published.
1905 Sails on the Sacramento River on the Spray with Cloudesley Johns [February-March]. Spends summer at Wake Robin Lodge in Glen Ellen and begins to purchase land parcels for his Beauty Ranch”. Again runs unsuccessfully as Socialist candidate for Mayor of Oakland [receives 981 votes]. Begins lecture tour on socialism through the eastern and midwestern United States (October). Jack and Charmian marry in Chicago on November 19, the day after his divorce from Bessie is final. In late December, he interrupts his lecture tour to honeymoon in Jamaica and Cuba. Published: War of the Classes, The Game, Tales of the Fish Patrol.
1906 Jack resumes his lecture tour; speaks at Yale University, Carnegie Hall, and in the Midwest, but cancels lecture tour after becoming ill. Back in Glen Ellen (mid-Feb.). Begins building the Snark. First building on the Ranch (the barn) is completed. Flora (Jack’s mother) visits the Ranch with Johnny Miller (Ida’s son); it is her first and last visit. Jack gets a custom set of teeth. Reports on the April 18th San Francisco earthquake and fire for Colliers. Published: White Fang, Moon-Face and Other Stories, and Scorn of Women.
1907 The Snark sets sail from Oakland (April 23), bound for the Hawaiian Islands and eventually Tahiti, the start of a proposed seven-year, around-the-world voyage. Accused of nature faking” by President Theodore Roosevelt. Published: The Road, Before Adam, Love of Life and Other Stories.
1908 Briefly returns home in mid-January to straighten out financial affairs. Resumes Snark voyage in April. In late November, Jack is hospitalized in Sydney, Australia, for a double fistula operation; he is also suffering from multiple tropical ailments. Announces publicly (December 8) that the Snark voyage must be abandoned. Published: The Iron Heel.
1909 After recovering in Sydney, Jack returns home (in July) via Ecuador, Panama, New Orleans, and the Grand Canyon. Sails the San Joaquin and Sacramento River deltas aboard the Phyllis. Published: Martin Eden.
1910 In June, daughter Joy” dies 36 hours after birth (June 19). Construction of the Wolf House begins. Hires stepsister Eliza Shepard as ranch superintendent and business manager. Reports the Johnson-Jeffries world championship fight in Reno, Nevada. Sailed aboard the Roamer in the San Joaquin River delta. Visits friends at the artists’ colony in Carmel. Published: Burning Daylight, Lost Face, Revolution and Other Essays, Theft: A Play in Four Acts.
1911 Visits Los Angeles (January-February). Sails aboard the Roamer in the San Francisco Bay (April-May). Four-horse wagon vacation to Northern California and Oregon with Charmian and Nakata, his valet. Meets with architect Albert Farr to discuss plans for the Wolf House. Moved into the Ranch House. Travels by rail to New York City (December). Published: The Cruise of the Snark, Adventure, South Sea Tales, When God Laughs and Other Stories.
1912 Spends two months in New York City. In March, sets sail from Baltimore and sails around Cape Horn on the Dirigo to Seattle. Charmian miscarries on August 12 and is informed she will not be able to bear children. Sails the San Joaquin and Sacramento River deltas aboard the Roamer. Publishes: The House of Pride and Other Tales of Hawaii, A Son of the Sun, and Smoke Bellew.
1913 Neuadd Hillside, prize-winning Shire stallion, arrives at the Ranch. Jack has an appendectomy (July 8). He is warned that his kidneys are deteriorating. Wolf House is destroyed by fire (cause — spontaneous combustion) on August 22. Cruises Sacramento and San Joaquin River deltas aboard the Roamer during the fall. Copyright trial with Balboa Amusement Producing Co. Published: John Barleycorn and The Valley of the Moon. Also published: The Night-Born, The Abysmal Brute.
1914 In January, travels to New York. In April, Jack travels to Vera Cruz to report on the Mexican Revolution. Contacts severe dysentery complicated by pleurisy. Returns to Glen Ellen in June. Published: The Strength of the Strong and The Mutiny of the Elsinore.
1915 Attends Winter Carnival in Truckee (January). Suffering from acute rheumatism in February. Visits the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco (February 22). Spends five months in Hawaii in an effort to improve his health. Published: The Star Rover and The Scarlet Plague.
1916 Jack is in Hawaii from January through late July. Attends California State Fair in Sacramento (September). Neuadd Hillside dies. Water rights trial. Resigns from the Socialist Party. Suffers severe bouts of rheumatism and uremia. Complains of insomnia. Dies on November 22 at 7:45 p.m.; his death certificate states the cause of death as uraemia following renal colic” and contributory [for three years]: Chronic Interstitial Nephritis” [more probably stroke and/or heart failure, plus Jack was a heavy smoker for years]. Published: The Acorn-Planter: A California Forest Play, The Little Lady of the Big House, and The Turtles of Tasman.

Books published posthumously:

1917 The Human Drift, Jerry of the Islands, Michael, Brother of Jerry, The Red One, On the Makaloa Mat
1920 Hearts of Three
1922 Dutch Courage and Other Stories
1963 The Assassination Bureau (completed by Robert L. Fish)

Editor’s Note: This Chronology does not include all of the work (poems, books, jokes, essays, etc.) written by Jack London.
It is meant to serve as an overview.

© 2001 by Margie Wilson. All rights reserved.
Reproduction, distribution, or transmission of this Chronology is expressly prohibited without prior written consent.


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updated June 2013