- Timeline -
Jack and Charmian on the Ranch


Jack London in brief notes
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Year of event Age Event Historical/Sources
January 12
0 Born as John Griffith Chaney in San Francisco, son of Astrologer William H. Chaney and Flora Wellman. William Chaney denies fathership and disappears.  WhileFlora recuperates from difficulties of childbirth, the infant is suckled by Virginia Prentiss. The wet nurse, who is a former slave, remains close to Jack all of his life.  Through Mrs. Prentiss, Flora meets John London. Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle

The U.S. war against the Indians of the Great Plains (Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho Nations) still being waged, General Custer and 200 soldiers die in the Battle of  Little Big Horn

Typewriters that work are developed but only type capital letters until 1878

Lewis Carroll writes poem "the Hunting of the Snark"
Leo Tolstoy is writing "Ana Karenina"
Mark Twain writes "Tom Sawyer"

September 7
Flora Wellman Chaney marries Civil war Veteran John London. The infant John Griffith Chaney is renamed John Griffith London, henceforth known as Johnny then Jack.  Withdrawal of Federal troops ends post Civil War "Reconstruction" period in Southern U.S. 
1877 1 John London's daughters, Eliza (age 10) and Ida (age 7) are removed from the orphanage and brought into the household. Ku Klux Klan unleashes wave of terror against blacks to reassert white power in Southern U.S.

Thomas Edison invents phonograph

1881 5 Jack attends school in Alameda. John works a truck farm, Flora teaches music and kindergarten. U.S. President James Garfield assassinated 
Henry James publishes "Portrait of a Lady"
1882 6 Robert Louis Stevenson publishes "Treasure Island"
1883 7 Explosion of Krakatoa
1884 8 European powers continue to carve out colonies in Africa at the "Berlin Conference"
1885 9 John London purchases a farm in the Livermore Valley.  Jack discovers the world of  reading and in later years recalls the impact of Washington Irving's THE ALHAMBRA  and Ouida's SIGNA on his young mind. U.S. policy has left only about 2000 bison alive, the main staple of the economy of the Plains Indians, effectively forcing the surviving Indians  onto reservations 
French Artist Henri Tolouse-Lautrec begins work in Paris
1886 (?)  10 Eliza London, Jack's step-sister, marries Captain James Shepard, a widower many years her senior. Discovery of gold in Transvaal, South Africa 
Slavery abolished in Cuba 
Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French unveiled in New York
1886 10 John London purchases a home on east 17th Street near 23rd Avenue in Oakland. A succession of moves for the family.  Jack discovers the wealth of reading available to him through the Oakland Public Library and the guidance of Librarian Ina Coolbrith (later  Poet Laureate). Robert Louis Stevenson publishes "Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
1887 11 Jack attends Cole Grammar School in West Oakland, befriends Frank Atherton, works as news paperboy Sir Arthur Conan Doyle' first Sherlock Holmes story published 
Edison & Swan produce a household electric lamp 
French  "union " of Indochina, colonizing Vietnam  & Cambodia.  Britain annexes Burma.
1888 12 Buys a small skiff and teaches himself to sail. Slavery abolished in Brazil 
George Eastman produces roll film camera 
Edward Bellamy popularizes the ideal socialist utopia  in his futuristic novel (set in 2000), "Looking Backwards" 
Vincent Van Gogh paints "Sunflowers" 
Robert Louis Stevensons sets sail for the South Seas
1890 14 Works in cannery, pressure of family's poverty leads Jack to frequently work overtime, 18-20 hours at a stretch. Massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee by U.S. Cavalry.
1891 15 Graduates from Cole Grammar School (8th grade). Disgusted with factory drudgery and low wages,  turns Oyster pirate; buys sloop "The Razzle Dazzle" with money borrowed from Virginia Prentiss.  Becomes a master sailor on San Francisco Bay. Is known as the "Prince of the Oyster Pirates".  Eventually becomes disillusioned with pirate life. Britain claims East & Central Africa; Factory Act prohibits employment of children under age 11 in Britain 
French artist Paul Gauguin paints in Tahiti 
Famine in Russia follows crop failure. Construction on Trans- Siberian Railroad begins
1892 16 John London works as a watchman, the family is living at 971 West Street. Jack hired by Fish Patrol to stop the oyster pirates.   Makes a suicide attempt  when falls in deep water while drunk but changes his mind. Gives up Fish Patrol, joins a rough gang, is given the moniker " Sailor Kid" learns how to hobo as a "Road Kid". French occupy Benin, West Africa 
Ellis Island in New York Harbor is opened by the U.S. government to process immigrants
January 20

November 12

17 Family moves to 1321 22nd. Ave. Jack signs on as sailor on the three-masted  schooner 'Sophia Sutherland',  for a seven month sealing voyage along  the coast of Japan and the Behring Sea.  After returning to Oakland, works in jute mill for 10 cents per hour.

At the urging of his mother, Flora, Jack  enters  a contest for a descriptive article.  His essay:" Story of a Typhoon Off the Coast of Japan", wins  first prize ($25.00) in the   competition and is published in the San Francisco Call.  His competitors include students from Stanford and the University of California.  In addition to being his first  time  published, this is the first time Jack earns money by writing. 

U.S. forces depose Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii 
France annexes Laos,  Ivory Coast becomes a French colony 
New Zealand becomes first country granting women the right to vote 
Czech composer Antonin Dvorak's "New World Symphony" performed in New York. 
Norwegian Artist Edvard Munch paints "The Scream"




18 Works shoveling coal for street railway power plant. Discovers how exploited he has been by doing the work of two men.

Joins  Kelley's army, the western contingent of  "Coxey's  Industrial Army of the Unemployed", a group of the unemployed who marched on the capital in Washington  D.C. Thousands of other have-nots from all over the United States participated in this trek. Coxey's contingent marched out of Massilon, Ohio (family home of Jack's mother, Flora) with 100 men. Jack keeps diary.

Deserts and strikes out on his own.  Visits Chicago to see the World's Columbian Exposition, collects mail  and money sent by Flora.  Spends time in St. Joseph, Michigan with Flora's sister, Mary Everhard who encourages his ideas about writing (later names protagonist of THE IRON HEEL after a cousin:  Ernest Everhard ).
Roams as a tramp.

Arrested for vagrancy in Buffalo, New York, spends 30 days in  Erie County jail in violation of his legal rights. In Boston, encounters intellectual, educated hobos who introduce him to  the modern world of ideas (Darwin/ Nietzsche/ Marx). Meets Frank Strawn-Hamilton. Learns to think of education as a  means to social ascent and socialism as the promise of the future

(Source re JL :JL&HT)
French military convicts Dreyfus, a  Jewish French military officer, of treason; world wide protest and the efforts of many advocates  leads to a new trial-eventually his name is cleared
Rudyard Kipling publishes "The Jungle Book"
1895 19 Returns to Oakland determined to finish High School and go to University.  In addition to attending Oakland High School, works as a janitor at the school.  Publishes articles and essays in the Aegis, Oakland High School's  literary magazine. Out of place among his fellow students "middle class boys and girls".  Joins Henry Clay Debating Team.   Embarks on intense regimen of  self education; becomes friends with Oakland Public Library's Frederick  Irons Bamford, Reference Librarian and  Fred Jacobs.  Bamford  and Jack share an interest in socialism, Bamford exposes Jack to the writings of Ruskin, Carlyle, Arnold and Morris.  Fred Jacobs while not a socialist, shares the similar experience of working his way through high school.  Fred introduces Jack toTed and Mabel Applegarth. Also to his fiancé, Bess Maddern who is going to night school in hopes of entering University. Bess Maddern would later become Jack's first wife.  In addition to these new friends, spends time with British  socialist Jim Whitaker who teaches him boxing and fencing. (JL Source:JL&HT¹) 

Jose Marti leads revolution against Spanish rule in Cuba 
H.G.. Wells publishes "The Time Machine" 
French Lumiere brothers first showing of motion pictures

1896 April 


20 Officially joins the Oakland branch of the Socialist Labor Party.
 Frustrated  and appalled at the idea of two more years of High School, borrows money from step-sister Eliza Shepard to enter "cramming" Academy (a college preparatory academy), but after completing the full two years worth in one semester, the extraordinary student is  dismissed and his money refunded in full (he makes the other students look bad, which is bad for business).

Begins "cramming" on his own,  studies 19 hours a day in preparation for entrance exams at The University of California, Berkeley in August.  Is tutored by Bess Maddern in mathematics and  Fred Jacobs in physics. 

Takes and passes University entrance exams, enters University of California, Berkeley  and completes first (Fall) semester. Writes first sociological essays, brief stories about his trip to Siberia.

(Source for JL: JL&HT) 
In response to ongoing Pogroms in Russia and the Dreyfus Affair, 
Political Zionism founded by Hungarian Theodore Herzl who calls for  creation of a Jewish state 
Ethiopia's independence recognized by Italy

February 4

February 12

July 25

October 14

21 From step relatives, learns to his shock that John London is not his father. Locates and corresponds with William Chaney who refuses to acknowledge his paternity, an even greater  shock.

Disillusioned with academia, the lack of political sincerity on the part of both the students and the professors, and feeling the pinch of  poverty, quits the University.

In a test case to challenge the constitutionality of a law which infringed upon free speech, Jack volunteers and  is  arrested for speaking in public without permission of the mayor.

Writes feverishly but  unsuccessfully on a borrowed typewriter with only  capital letters.  Exhausting  work in a steam  laundry leaves no energy for reading or writing.

One of the first who follows the gold rush to Alaska "Grubstaked" (funded)  and accompanied by his elderly brother-in- law, Captain James Shepard.  Departs aboard the "SS Umatilla" for PortTownsend Washington, then aboard the "City of Topeka " for Juneau Alaska. Warned of the arduous journey ahead (such as the Chilkoot Pass),  Shepard returns to Oakland.

Step-father John London dies.

Struggles to survive, spends winter in cabin in the Klondike, finds no gold, suffers from scurvy. Gains wealth of material for future writing.

(Source for JL :JL&HT)
Apache groups continue to battle the U.S. government in resistance to forcible removal to reservations.

Bram Stoker publishes Dracula.

Mosquito as source of malaria identified by D. Ronald Ross.

The Klondike-Goldrush



22 Travels by rough boat down the Yukon River,  makes notes for future writing. 

Works his way home as a coal stoker. Returns ill and broke to California.Unable to find work, briefly tries prospecting in the California Mountains. Begins writing about the "White Frontier" in the high north. Flora supplements family income of her  small pension by teaching music, also takes Johnny Miller, son of John London's daughter, Ida, into her home where he is raised. 

 Jack's friend and Bess Maddern's fiancé, Fred Jacobs enlists and dies enroute to Manilla (Spanish American War)


Spanish American War, 
U. S. gains the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico 
Cuba wins independence from Spain, but is occupied by U.S. military 
Britain & France claim Egypt 
Pierre & Marie Curie discover radium
1899 January




23 To the Man on Trail published   by the "Overland Monthly" for fee of $5.00 

Is offered job at the Post Office but turns it down

Begins correspondence with Cloudsley Johns, a writer, critic, and an early fan

The "Atlantic Monthly", a leading U.S. magazine accepts "An Odyssey of the North"  for publication in January 1900 , fee of $40.00.

Meets Anna Strunsky, a brilliant and charming Stanford University student of Russian Jewish descent.   Their  challenging  relationship, stimulated by differing opinions, led to co-authorship.

 Socialist Labor Party goes through faction al diputes in these years 

Second trial  of French officer 
Dreyfus sparks international protest

Second Boer War begins

Composer Jean Sibelius writes symphony "Finlandia"

1900 January 

April 7

24 An Odyssey of the North published in "Atlantic Monthly".

Moves household  (Flora London and Johnny Miller) to East 15th Street

A Son of the Wolf published by Houghton Mifflin. This is London´s first book, a collection of his best short-stories, which is often called the "beginning of the modern American short-story".

In a move which surprises many, but  fits with his own plans, marries his friend and former tutor, Bessie Maddern on the same day his first book is published, April 7.

Turn of the century 
Boxer Rebellion in China

Famine in India

Paris, France: opening of the World Exhibition and the Paris Metro

Kodak Brownie Box Camera available for $1.00K

Sigmund Freud publishes "The Interpretation of Dreams"

January 15


25 Birth of daughter Joan.

Becomes member of the new "Socialist Party". Runs for mayor of Oakland on the Socialst balllot.

The God of his Fathers & Other Stories published by McLure, Phillips, second collection of short-stories.

Formation of U.S. Socialist Party

Commonwealth of Australia formed

Britain's Queen Victoria dies

Ashanti Kingdom in Africa annexed by the U.K.

U.S. President McKinley assisinated, Theodore Roosevelt becomes president

Russia occupies Manchuria

Marconi sents first Morse code radio signals across Atlantic




October 20


26 Moves family to semi-rural Piedmont Hills

Children of the Frost, another collection of short-stories published by Macmillan

Publishes Cruize of the Dazzler (Century)and the novel A Daughter of the Snows (Lippincott)

Daughter Bess (later known as Becky) born.

Travels to London, one of the wealthest capitals on earth, initially  hired as   a  war-correspondent to write about the Boer War in South-Africa, but the war ends prior to his arrival in  London. So he decides to stay and investigates "under cover" the situation of "The People of the Abyss...."

Second Boer War ends
Republic of Cuba declared
Catastrophic   eruption of Mount Pelee buries  St. Pierre, Martinique, leaving as the only survivor, a prisoner in the city jail.
French laws improve working conditions

Italian tenor Enrique Caruso's 1st record sells one million copies
Beatrix Potter publishes "The tale of Peter Rabbit" 

January 8





27 William Henry Chaney dies in Chicago, Illinois

The Kempton-Wace Letters
co-authored by Anna Strunsky, published (Macmillan)

The Call of the Wild published(Macmillan), London's all-time bestseller, an allegoryi n which a dog abandons civilization and returns to the origins of nature. Sells all rights to publisher for $2000.00

Falls in love with Charmian Kittredge and decides to separate  from Bess.

Jack moves into Frank Atherton's home in Oakland

The People of the Abyss published (Macmillan)
With this inflammatory book Jack London discovers the investigative social report as a new genre: Sociology narrated as a gripping account.


Panama gains independence

Pogroms in Russia

Turkish massacre Bulgarians ending Macedonian  uprising

Dutch government  forces end to strike of railroad and dockworkers by calling in troops

Attempting to limit immigration, U.S.  imposes $2.00 per person tax on all immigrants

Wright brothers invent a successful powered aircraft, first  flight at  Kitty Hawk, N.C.

First Ford Model A automobile sold






28 Hired by Hearst to cover the Russo-Japanese war.  Under adventurous circumstances, Jack London, the only Western reporter to do so,reaches the front of the Russian-Japanese war.

Faith of Men & Other Stories published(Macmillan)

Bessie M. London sues for divorce, on grounds of desertion, Anna Strunksky named in the case.

The Sea Wolf published (Macmillan)  and becomes book of the season in the US in the following  year, 1905.

Russian expansion into Manchuria leads to Russo-Japanese war

Helen Keller graduates with honors from Radcliffe College

Theodore Roosevelt elected to  4 year U.S. Presidential term

Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov experiments with creating "conditioned reflex"  in dogs

J.M. Barrie's play "Peter Pan" performed







November 18

November 19

December 27

29 Runs as Candidate for Mayor of Oakland  on Socialist ticket receives 981 votes.

War of the Classes published (Macmillan) revolutionary essays.

The Game published (Macmillan), a novel about boxing.

Spends summer at Wake Robin Lodge, Glen Ellen, Sonoma County

Tales of the Fish Patrol published (Macmillan)

Buys 129 acre Hill Ranch, Glen Ellen
Starts thinking about long sea voyage

Begins a four-month socialist lecture tour, where Jack London puts foward his essay Revolution again and again. In this essay he calls openly for a coup

Divorce from Bessie M. London final.

 Marries Charmian Kittredge in Chicago,Illinois.

Honeymoon in Jamaica and Cuba 

 Norway gains independence from Sweden

Earthquake in India's  Lahore province claims 10,000 lives

Revolution begins in Russia but is crushed
 Sinn Fein Party founded in Ireland

Albert Einstein formstheory of relativity

Group of  Expressionist artists, "Die Bruke" form in Germany 

"Les Fauves"  artists Matisse, Braque, Derain, Vlamink and Dufy shock the Paris art world with their wild colors



April 18-19





30 Begins to build the yacht "Snark" (named after a being in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland). 

Reports on the San Fancisco earthquake for Collier's  Weekly "The Story of An Eye-Witness" published in May 5 edition. 
Because of the inflated cost of supplies and labor caused by the rebuilding of San Francisco after the earthquake,  and the unscupulousness of certain individuals, the cost of the project skyrockets, it becomes a media-event of high interest.

The Londons take a brief vacation, horseback trip through Northern California

Moon-Face & other Stories published (Macmillan)

White Fang published (Macmillan) 

Scorn of Women published (Macmillan)
In the background London writes his "great socialist novel" The Iron Heel...

Spain and France  agree to share control of Morocco 

In France, Dreyfus declared innocent

Devastating earthquake in San Francisco levels much of  the City

Film companies worldwide set up studios in New York City

First (voice)  radio broadcast


April 23



31 Leaving  Charmian's aunt, Ninetta Eames, in charge of the ranch and business affairs  the Londons depart for a  proposed seven year voyage  around the world.

The Snark sets sail 

Discovering that Charmian's Uncle,  Sailing Master Roscoe  Eames, is incompetent, London teaches himself  navigation and arrives safely in Hawaii

Stay in Hawwian Islands,
Visits and writes of the leper colony of Molokai

The Road  published (Macmillan) his wonderful account of adventures as a hobo, a colorful painting of his time.

Indian patriot  Gandhi leads civil disobedience campaign supporting rights of Indians in South Africa

U.S. supports revolution in Nicaragua

New Zealand becomes a dominion of the British empire

Spanish artist Pablo Picasso  creaties the first Cubist painting "Les Damoiselles d' Avignon"

1908 32 Stay in the south-sea, Hawaii, adventures with headhunters, visit of a leper's colony etc.
1909 33 Return to California, enforced by desease.
Martin Eden, autobiographical novel.
1910 34 Enlarges his ranch to a model of modern agriculture.
1911 35 dito; South Seal Tales a.m.
1912 36 dito; Smoke Bellew , written only for the market but very successful and enyoable return of the Alaska-Theme.

Journey on a four-mast vessel round Cape Horn (Basics for "The Mutiny of the Elsinore").

Sinking of the Titanic
1913 37 On the surface the most successful year. Jack London´s - best money making author of the world -, in his private life a year of catastrophes: alienation form his daughters, troubles with bess, loss of unborn children by Charmian, failures in agricultures, Wolf House burns down.  weiter...

John Barleycorn , the bible of the Prohibition movement- written by a notorious drinker.

1914 38 a.o. The Valley of the Moon, a sentimental eulogy of the landlife as escape from proletarian drudgery. World War I
1915 39 War correspondent in Mexico.
The Star Rover, Novel about re-incarnation and a harsh pillory of punishment in state prisons.
1916 40 22.11.  dies on kidneys failure after 14 hours of agony on his Beauty-Ranch at Glen Ellen, Sonoma-County.
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¹ ) JL&HT = abbr. "Jack London and his Times" back to text

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