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The World of Jack London

Most Popular Picture of Jack London

Most famous Jack London picture aboard the Roamer
"The leather jacket just did not match the Hawaiian climate."
– Russ Kingman
Question: The most popular picture of Jack London has appeared many times and in many places. You have it in your book on page 252 as being taken in 1914 on the Roamer by Charmian. But in Charmian's The Log of the Snark she has it facing page 304 as "The Skipper after Suva" (June 1908). Was Charmian mistaken, right, or just included the picture in her book because it is so fine a photo?
– Dave White
Vernal, Utah

Answer: When I first became involved with Jack London this picture posed a real problem to me. Having been in the South Seas I could not conceive of Jack wearing a leather jacket "After Suva." When The Log of the Snark was serialized in The Mid - Pacific magazine this picture was identified "Jack london as he appeared aboard the Snark in Pearl Harbor." Once more the leather jacket just did not match the Hawaiian climate. Then I found the picture in Irving Stone's Sailor on Horseback identified as "On board the Spray." This made more sense because the waters of San Francisco Bay made the leather jacket more appropriate. I was certain that my search was over. But then I picked up a copy of Jack London by Himself and here was the same picture captioned "Jack London on Board his yacht the Roamer." A trip to Glen Ellen to visit Irving Shepard solved this Sherlock Holmes odyssey when Irving showed me the picture in Jack London's album captioned by Charmian as having been taken on the Roamer in the fall of 1914. Now I was certain that my quest was at an end and I felt quite righteous until I looked at the entry for October 22, 1910 in Charmian's diary "take picture of mate. Cockpit, in his pea-jacket." At the time they were in Rio Vista about three miles from Walnut Grove. Now you can also add A Pictorial Life of Jack London by Russ Kingman to the other books and magazines that have the wrong date for the caption under this famous picture. Of course, there is always a possibility that Charmian also took a picture of Jack in the same pose in 1914 so don't close the book on this one completely.
– Russ Kingman
Source: Jack London Echos Vol. 1 No. 4 October 1981
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