Jack London: A Biography
John Griffith London, better known to us as Jack London, was born to Flora Wellman January 12, 1876, in San Francisco. (Ranch Album) His father was presumably W.H. Chaney, who left Flora after finding out she was pregnant. (Stasz, 9) Flora met and eventually married John London on September 7, 1876 bringing John's two other children, Ida and Eliza, into the family. (Ranch Album) Flora enlisted the help of a wet nurse and, with the help her and Eliza, Jack London was raised. For the next ten years, John and his family relocated several times within California, moving from farm to farm trying to become financially successful. (Marshall) Finally, the London family moved to Oakland where Jack began to attend school. At the age of eleven, Jack was put to work to help support the family due to his father's business failures. (Stasz, 19-28) This began what would be many years of odds and ends jobs for Jack.
Having to drop out of school to provide for his family, Jack continued working around the Bay area and developed a love for the sea. His first piece of writing, "Typhoon off the Coast of Japan," won him first prize in a literary competition and reaffirmed his love of writing. (Stasz, 51) The same year, 1893, Jack began working on the whaling ship "Sophia Sutherland." (Ranch Album) After this stint at sea, he joined the march of General Kelly's Army to protest unemployment; he left this and hoboed around the country for the next year. At the age of nineteen, he finally entered high school, and after graduation, attended the University of California at Berkley for a year. (Marshall) The experiences of the previous five years lead him to a deep belief in socialism and he joined the Socialist Labor Party.
Jack London became intrigued with the possibility of quick wealth and followed the masses to the Klondike gold rush in the Yukon. After a year, he returned not rich, but ill with scurvy from malnutrition. (Stasz, 78) He also found that his father had died and resolved to support his mother solely from writing. His experiences in the Yukon lead to what are called his Northland...