Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Inventory of the Jack London Collection
Consult repository  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (194.45 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Research in the Jack London Field
  • Jack London: An American Author
  • Scope and Content
  • History of the Collection
  • Organization of the Collection

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Jack London Collection
    Creator: London, Jack, 1876-1916
    Extent: 594 boxes
    Repository: The Huntington Library
    San Marino, California 91108
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open to qualified researches by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information please go to following URL. 

    Publication Rights

    In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.
    The collection is open to all Huntington readers qualified to use manuscript collections. Before copying copyrighted materials, however, readers and correspondents must first secure the permission of the Jack London estate. A permissions form, supplied by the estate, can be obtained in the Huntington Registrar's office. This form must be completed and signed before readers may request photocopies or permission to publish material written by Jack or Charmian London, Eliza or Irving Shepard, or Jack Byrne. There is usually no problem in obtaining permission from the estate for scholarly use of the material in the collection. Readers are referred to the Registrar for answers to any questions they may have regarding the permission procedure.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Jack London Collection, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Research in the Jack London Field

    Jack London scholarship saw a great resurgence during the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. Today several fine books have been published in the field, including Earle Labor's Jack London, Jack London Reports (edited by King Hendricks and Irving Shepard), Letters from Jack London (edited by King Hendricks and Irving Shepard), McClintock's book on London's short stories, Woodbridge's bibliography of Jack London, etc. Several biographies have been written about London. Beginning with the first : Sailor on Horseback, most have contained serious flaws. Andrew Sinclair's Jack was the first to be written using the Huntington Collections and is scholarly in its approach. Several popular biographies, including Kingman's pictorial, have also been written recently. Scholars active in the field (published or with works in progress) include Earle Labor, Robert C. Leitz (who are together working on a three-volume edition of London's letters) [this has been issued: Labor, Earle, Robert C. Leitz III, and I. Milo Shepard, eds., The Letters of Jack London (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988)], Howard Lachtman (editing several books on Jack London), etc.
    A catalog of the Jack London library is available for use in the rare book catalog area. Approximately 25% of the books in the 5,000-volume library are annotated. A bibliography of the annotated books in the library is in the process of being published . [This has been issued: Hamilton, David Mike, The Tools of My Trade: The Annotated Books in Jack London's Library (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1986).] Several other London organizations or journals are: What's New About London Jack?, The Jack London Newsletter, The London Collector, Wolf House Books, The Jack London Educational Foundation, and the World of Jack London Museum and Bookstore. In addition, London's home and ranch are now part of the Jack London Historic State Park, Glen Ellen, California.

    Jack London: An American Author

    A sometime tramp, oyster pirate, seaman, socialist, laundryman, and miner, Jack London is as famous for the lives he lived and the myths he wove around them as he is for the short stories and novels he wrote.
    Largely self-educated, Jack London was the product of California ranches and the working class neighborhoods of Oakland. Born January 12, 1876, in San Francisco, London's early life revolved around the rural areas of the San Francisco bay area. His edu cation --what little he had --came from Oakland city schools; he earned a high school diploma from Oakland High School after sporadic attendance.
    London's rise to literary fame came as a result of the Klondike gold rush. Unsuccessful in his attempt to break into the magazine market, Jack London joined the flood of men rushing toward instant riches in the Yukon. He found little gold, but returned after the winter of 1897 with a wealth of memories and notes of the northland, the gold rush, and the hardships of the trail. By 1900 Jack London had firmly established himself as a major American writer; his first book, The Son of the Wolf, was published by Houghton Mifflin Company the same year.
    London married Elizabeth May Maddern in 1900. The couple settled in Oakland, later moved to Piedmont, and soon thereafter added two daughters to the family: Joan and Bess. The marriage was not successful, however, and London divorced Bess in 1905, marrying Charmian Kittredge the same year. The marriage, which had come just after a sojourn to Korea to cover the impending Russo-Japanese War for the Hearst newspapers, was covered quite liberally in the press, and London used the exposure to launch a lectu re tour for the benefit of the Socialist Party.
    Charmian was adventurous, and together the Londons planned a seven-year voyage around the world on a yacht they named Snark. The trip, begun in 1906, was cut short in Australia two years later because of London's ill health. Undaunted, London returned with his wife to Glen Ellen, which had become their home. There he expanded his land holding s and began construction of a large ranch complex complete with palatial headquarters. Named "Wolf House," the headquarters home London constructed burned down the day it was finished. London was crushed by the burning (which was rumored to have been arso n) and never fully recovered.
    To support his building program and extravagant life style, London wrote at a furious pace. By 1916 he had published almost fifty books. His body could not withstand the brutal treatment it received, however, and on November 22, 1916, Jack London died. His death has still not been satisfactorily explained.
    David Mike Hamilton

    Scope and Content

    The 594-box Jack London Collection could properly be termed the author's personal archive, because of its size and completeness. With only a few exceptions, the collection contains autograph or typescript versions of almost everything Jack London wrote. Included in the archive are most of the London correspondence files; his literary notes, documents, and contracts; memos and letters regarding the operation of his Sonoma County Beauty Ranch; most of his personal and family papers; his financial records; and his library and photograph collection. The majority of the pieces range in date from 1903 to 1917, and with almost sixty thousand pieces, the collection is the largest literary archive at the Huntington.

    History of the Collection

    In June 1924, the Huntington staff first learned that Jack London's widow wished to dispose of her husband's papers. Worried over the everpresent danger of fire on the Beauty Ranch, Charmian Kittredge London decided to find safer quarters for her husband's manuscripts. She broached the plan to Willard Samuel Morse, a prominent Los Angeles book collector who specialized in California authors. Morse promptly wrote to the Huntington. Although Charmian had considered disposing of the papers in England, Morse felt strongly that the California author's papers should stay in his native state. The Huntington, he believed, would be the proper place to house them.
    Librarian Leslie Edgar Bliss concurred with Morse's opinion, and with a copy of Charmian London's "Jack London Original Handwritten Manuscripts for Sale" in hand, he wrote to her expressing his and the Library's interest in purchasing the collection:
    ...I have your list of Jack London's manuscripts and have gone over it carefully. I hope that we may be able to come to some satisfactory arrangement whereby the Huntington Library may become the home of this material. ...In any case, before I could close any contract for their purchase, I should have to make a trip to Glen Ellen for a brief examination of them, and that is at least a month off.
    Not until February of 1925 was Leslie Bliss able to arrange a visit to the London ranch. Later he recalled the visit:
    Mrs. London was most hospitable and the material for sale was fascinating indeed. Had it not been for the fact that she had persuaded her husband to give her all his manuscripts early in her work with him they might all have been destroyed as he was in the habit of destroying them after publication. This fact accounts for the nonpreservation of the manuscripts of The Call of the Wild and The Cruise of the Dazzler.
    While at the ranch I asked to see his correspondence files which were extensive indeed and had been carefully preserved. It was easy to see that all of this material was highly important for future students of Jack's work and I requested that all his letters and those written to him be also included in the negotiations. Mrs. London agreed, asking only that any correspondence relating to current business, such as ranch affairs, be excluded at least until a later date.
    Bliss discussed his visit and the Jack London papers with Henry E. Huntington, and both agreed that the collection --including the correspondence files --would make a suitable addition to the Library's literary collections. By early April of 1925, Jack London's manuscripts were safely housed in the rare book stacks of the Huntington Library. His correspondence files, however, were another matter.
    Charmian had accepted the terms offered by the Library and Mr. Huntington for the business correspondence on March 10, but requested time to look over the material before sending it south. As she explained in a letter to Bliss:
    I decided that if I looked through the correspondence I could judge the portions from which I should make notes for possible future need in either compilation or reference otherwise. There is a large bulk of this publisher's correspondence, more than you saw, for much of the older letters, remembered afterward, was taken from the reference files and packed in other drawers, flat. I think it would be worth your while to plan to look through this material.
    It was not until late August of 1925 that Leslie Bliss was able to survey the additional material Charmian had, and to agree on behalf of the Library to accept the publisher-correspondence for inclusion in the new Jack London Collection. His visit with Mrs. London was of consequence, not only because of the additional material to be added to the collection, but also because an important policy was discussed and agreed upon with regard to the papers: that the collection was available to Charmian London, should she need to consult it, but to no other person without special arrangement and permission from her. The Librarian and Mr. Huntington agree to Mrs. London's wishes that access be restricted. Indeed it was not unusual at the time to restrict use of such collections if public access would constitute an invasion of the family's privacy. Thus utilization of the collection was limited during the next twenty-five years.
    From 1925 until 1951, the Jack London Collection remained relatively static. Charmian suggested that the Library purchase Jack London's love letters to her and his letters to an early literary correspondent, Cloudesley Johns, but tightened budgets forced Bliss to decline the offers. Curiously, very few original Jack London letters surfaced during this time. Only the Brick Row Bookshop was able to offer the Library a significant item: the typed The Sea-Wolf manuscript which Jack London had given to George Sterling. Unfortunately, the Library did not purchase the manuscript. Today it is part of the Jack London Collection at the University of Virginia.
    In March of 1951, another important purchase was made from Charmian London, consisting of extensive lots of letters, some of London's personal correspondence, as well as many small manuscripts and other miscellaneous pieces. Negotiations for this purchase were handled by Irving Shepard, Charmian's nephew and attorney-in-fact. With his help, the eight-thousand piece addition, including the charred remains of The Sea-Wolfmanuscript, were integrated into the Library's Jack London Collection.
    By this time the Huntington had acquired a substantial part of the London archive, and it was time to loosen the restrictions against scholarly use of the papers. And so, on 12 March 1951, Irving Shepard and Charmian London officially notified the Library that the Huntington had "full right to grant access to any and all Jack and Charmian London manuscripts and correspondence" with the understanding that the literary property rights and copyrights would continue to remain with the family and that no publication of copyrighted material could be made without written approval from them.
    Charmian died three years after signing this agreement and Irving Shepard became literary executor of the London Estate. In 1959 he negotiated another purchase of London material --this time London's personal library of over five thousand books and pamphlets and his letters to Cloudesley Johns. Scholarly use of the collection gradually increased after the 1959 purchase, and the Library continued to add to the collection with smaller purchases from private parties or dealers. Most prominent among the scholars interested in Jack London at this time was King Hendricks, Professor of English at Utah State University, Logan. Hendricks was able to convince Irving Shepard to donate a large quantity of London archival material to the University at Logan prior to 1972. The collection at Logan today consists of approximately thirty-five boxes of manuscripts and correspondence, and Charmian London's library. A Register of the collection has been published and is available from Utah State University Press.
    The Huntington's London Collection was augmented considerably in 1974. With the urging of Professor Earle Labor, Irving Shepard donated considerably more than five thousand pieces to the Huntington. Included in the gift were Jack London's letters to Charmian and her diaries, which covered a span of almost fifty years.
    These diaries and love letters were given to the Library with the understanding that they be treated differently from the rest of the collection; the family wished to exercise control over access to these manuscripts in order to protect their privacy and to discourage flagrant commercial use of the material. Thus separate permission is necessary from the estate before readers may consult these materials. [Effective May 27, 1992, separate permission is no longer needed for access to the Jack-Charmian letters. They are covered by the general permission form for the Collection.]
    Irving Shepard's untimely death in 1975 left his son Milo and daughter Joy Shepard Shaffer in charge of his estate. Following their father's wishes, they have donated the remainder of the Jack London archive to the Huntington in 1980; allowed the Huntington to copy the London photograph albums, and also the Jack London negative file. The albums will remain with the family. [The original albums have come to the Library but will not routinely be available for research. The contact prints should be used.] The original Jack London negatives have been donated to the State of California.

    Organization of the Collection

    The Jack London Collection is organized into the following categories:
    1. Title: Manuscripts
      (which are arranged alphabetically by author's surname, and under a given author, arranged alphabetically by title). The manuscripts category is filed in Boxes 1-115.
    2. Title: Correspondence
      (which is arranged alphabetically by author's surname, and under a given author, arranged alphabetically by the surname of the addressee). The correspondence is filed in Boxes 116-428.
    3. Title: Unidentified Manuscripts
      (arranged alphabetically by title). These pieces are filed in Box 429.
    4. Title: Unidentified Correspondence
      (arranged alphabetically by addressee if known, or grouped together by date at the end of the file if no names are known). These letters are filed in Boxes 430-431.
    5. Title: Irving Stone File
      (arranged alphabetically by author; manuscripts come at the beginning of the file, then correspondence). This file (which [was] restricted until the death of Irving Stone) is in Box 434.
    6. Title: Harvey Taylor File
      (arranged alphabetically by author; manuscripts come at the beginning of the file, then correspondence). This file (which [was] restricted until the death of Harvey Taylor) is in Boxes 435-436.
    7. Title: Kittredge File
      (arranged alphabetically by author; manuscripts come at the beginning of the file, then correspondence). The Kittredge File is contained in Boxes 437-442.
    8. Title: Documents
      (filed alphabetically by author and subarranged by title or first words of document). Documents can be found in Boxes 443-456.
    9. Title: Photographic Prints
      (filed alphabetically by subject) can be located in Boxes 457-463.
    10. Title: Photographic Positives
      (grouped together according to subject --see the detailed description of this category following) can be located in Boxes 464-485.
    11. Title: Albums
      (arranged by number --see the detailed description of this category which follows). The albums are filed in Boxes 486-505.
    12. Title: Large Albums
      (arranged by number --see the detailed description of this category which follows).
    13. Title: Oversize Prints
      (arranged alphabetically by subject) are located in Box 511.
    14. Title: Oversize Negatives
      (arranged by subject) are located in Box 512.
    15. Title: Photo Album Negatives
      (restricted to staff use only) can be found in Boxes 513-516.
    16. Title: Positive Microfilm Scrapbooks
      (arranged by scrapbook number) are located in Box 517.
    17. Title: Ephemera
      (arranged by subject --see the detailed listing which follows) is contained in Boxes 518-590.
    18. Title: Information File
      (for staff use only) is filed in Boxes 591-592.
    19. Title: Summary and Register
      can be found in Box 593.
    20. Title: Jack London Life Mask
      (staff-supervised use only) is in Box 594.
    21. Title: Jack London Volumes
      consist of the London scrapbooks (organized in loosely chronological fashion) and the manuscript of The Valley of the Moon. See the detailed listing which follows.
    22. Title: Jack London Broadsides
      are arranged by size and content. See the detailed listing which follows.