July 13, 2009

Jack London's ranch, Glen Ellen

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Prior to his early death from kidney failure at age 40 in 1916, Jack London was an extremely prolific author, ladies man, world-wide adventurer, and down-to-earth rancher on his 1000 acre "Beauty Ranch" at Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, California.

Shown above is a small fraction of his 15,000 volume library, which he called "the tools of his trade".   Jack regarded his talent for writing not as literary art, but simply as a means to generate income to support his travels and extravagant lifestyle of his second wife, Charmain.   He poured countless thousands into his ranch to keep it going -- but in the end the ranch turned out to be a colossal failure despite a dedicated effort with "modern" ranching techniques.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Jack London had two major heroes -- Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus Christ although he wasn't a particularly religious person.   That statue on the right is Abe, but sorry -- I inadvertently (?) chopped off the statue of Christ at top-left.

And yes, this office is where Jack London spent his afternoons and evenings writing after working all morning on the Beauty Ranch.   That's his old clunky typewriter and he even used a state-of-the-art Dictaphone to keep pace with his imagination, but I'm fairly sure he had secretarial help to transcribe his extensive notes and drafts.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

While exploring his home and office, a docent explained that until just a few years ago the house was empty and many of his drafts and possessions had ended up in other places.

Many original items have since been recovered, and from photos and recollections of people still living who knew London, the house has been restored almost exactly to the way it used to be.

That box labeled "Michael" is part of the manuscript for his pot-boiler novel "Michael, Brother of Jerry", the complete text of which you can read on-line at: http://london.sonoma.edu/Writings/Michael.   Many of Jack London's other novels and short-stories are also available on-line at:   http://london.sonoma.edu/Writings.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Wikipedia has a plethora of information on Jack London's early years, marriages, novels, non-fiction, essays, short stories, and of course information his beloved Beauty Ranch, which is now part of Jack London State Park.   I visited for the first time a week ago and had a great time exploring his home, museum, and buildings on his ranch.

London was a major activist in the Socialist Party, reflected in many of his writings, such as his essay "How I became a Socialist", "The War of the Classes", and "Revolution".   In 1908 he toured the country giving lectures on Socialism.

Jack was also might have also been a bit of a racist, fearing impact from the influx of Chinese laborers that had flooded into California years earlier during the Gold Rush.   Even though Jack was industrious, he was said to never do any more work than he needed to, yet he loudly complained about the inefficiencies of the Italian laborers he employed on his ranch.

Stop back tomorrow for more on Jack London.

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photowannabe said...

Fascinating. I learned a lot of new things about London from this post. Its been many years since I visited the State Park. I had forgotten so much. Blame it on my age I guess.
Don you cracked me up with your comment about the papple and the snickerdoodle. THANKS.

Blogaire said...

Loved reading about Jack London - what an interesting man! I will drop by tomorrow for more. Nice photos too.

Tomate Farcie said...

Great post with fascinating info.

I'm glad you decided to go up and explore. I first visited the Jack London ranch about 10 years ago but I don't remember learning so much from a simple visit, so thanks for all the good info!

By the way, did you see any wild turkeys? They're always up there, you know, so be careful.

Louise said...

The best part of this is all the absolutely incredible indoor pictures you got. Would not happen if I visited and was taking pictures.

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