Today in History: The Wild Calls Jack London
Jack London leaves for the Klondike to join the gold rush, where he will write his first successful stories.
London was born in San Francisco in 1876. His father, an astrologer named Chaney, abandoned the family, and his mother, a spiritualist and music teacher, remarried. Jack assumed his stepfather’s last name, London.
From an early age, London struggled to make a living, working in a cannery and as a sailor, oyster pirate, and fish patroller. During the national economic crisis of 1893, he joined a march of unemployed workers. He was jailed for vagrancy for a month, during which time he decided to go to college. The 17-year-old London completed a high school equivalency course and enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, where he read voraciously for a year. However, he dropped out to join the 1897 gold rush.
While in the Klondike, London began submitting stories to magazines. In 1900, his first collection of stories, The Son of the Wolf, was published. Three years later, his story The Call of the Wild made him famous around the country. London continued to write stories of adventure amid the harsh natural elements. During his 17-year career, he wrote 50 fiction and nonfiction books. He settled in northern California about 1911, having already written most of his best work. London, a heavy drinker, died in 1916.