"The childhood shows the man, As morning shows the day." – Milton
It was wedding day for Flora Wellman Chaney and John London on September 7, 1876. Flora's eight month-old son, John Griffith Chaney, was present. From that moment on he knew real father-love, but never knew who his real father was. For about fourteen years he used the name John London—Johnny at home—but after that he was known to the world as Jack London.
Boy Jack LondonDespite the close and warm relationship with John London, Jack always lived under a cloud of doubt as to the identity of his real father. He must have seen his mother's wedding certificate in the plain wooden box where she kept her keepsakes. Yet Frank Atherton, Jack's childhood chum, never mentioned Jack's concern about his paternity in his unpublished manuscript, Jack London in Boyhood Adventures, so it is possible Jack did not know that he was not a London until 1897, when he was twenty-one.

Jack London Jack London's nature compelled him to search for his real father, but Flora's personality made it impossible for Jack to ask her. His logical mind led him across the Bay to the San Francisco Library to dig through old newspaper files for records of his birth.

Under births in the Chronicle he looked for the name Flora Wellman Chaney, since that was his mother's name on the marriage certificate when she married John London. Thumbing back to January 13, 1876, he read this annoucement:


CHANEY - In this city, January 12, the wife of W. H. Chaney, of a son.

There it was in print. No more denying it. He thumbed back several more months hunting for further clues. He was dumbfounded when he saw this article in the Chronicle of June 4, 1875:

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Jack London was born in San Francisco, CA. January 12, 1876 at this location
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This article taken from:
A Pictorial Biography of Jack London
– Russ Kingman
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A Discarded Wife
Why Mrs. Chaney Twice Attempted Suicide Driven from Home for Refusing to Destroy her Unborn Infant - A Chapter of Heartlessness and Domestic Misery

Day before yesterday Mrs. Chaney, wife of "Professor" W. H. Chaney, the astrologer, attempted suicide by taking laudanum. Failing in the effort she yesterday shot herself with a pistol in the forehead. The ball glanced off, inflicting only a flesh wound, and friends interfered before she could accomplish her suicidal purpose.

The Incentive To The Terrible Act

The terrible act was domestic infelicity. Husband and wife have been known for a year past as the center of a little band of extreme Spiritualists, most of whom professed, if they did not practice, the offensive free-love doctrines of the licentious Woodhull. To do Mr. Chaney justice, he has persistently denied the holding of such a broad tenets. He has been several times married before this fiasco of the hearthstone, but it is supposed that all his former wives have been duly laid away to rest, and now repose, like Polonius, in rural churchyards.

The last marriage took place about a year ago. Mrs. Chaney, formerly Miss Flora Wellman, is a native of Ohio. She came to this coast about the professor took the journey overland through the romantic sagebrush, and for awhile supported herself by teaching music. It is hard to see what attracted her toward this man, to whom she was united after a short acquaintance. The union seems to have been the result of a mania like, and yet unlike, that which drew Desdemona toward the sooty Moor.

The Married Life of The Couple

is said to have been full of self-denial and devoted affection on the part of the wife, and of harsh words and unkind treatment on the part of the husband. He practiced astrology, calculated horoscopes for a consideration, lectured on chemistry and astronomy, blasphemed the Christian religion, published a journal of hybrid doctrines, called the Philomathean, and pretended to calculate "cheap nativities" on the transit of planets for $10 each, for all of which he obtained but slender pecuniary recompense. Astrological knowledge is, of course, highly valuable, but the supply in San Francisco seems to be slightly in excess of the demand, and no

matter how much Professor Chaney lectured, scattered circulars, watched the movements of the planets, and cast nativities, his exchequer continued painfully bare and his larder nearly empty.

Sometimes he almost PINED AGAIN FOR THE CONFINEMENT OF THE TOMBS PRISON, within those massive walls and gloomy shadows his rigorous assertion of personal freedom is once said to have brought him. The wife assisted him in the details of business, darned his hose, drudged at the wash-tub, took care of other people's children for hire, and generously gave him whatever money she earned and could spare beyond her actual expenses. She never told her sorrow, nor since her recent great trouble had she communicated them, except to intimate friends. She says that about three weeks ago she discovered, with a natural feeling of maternal pleasure, that she was encente. She told her husband, and asked to be releived for two or three months of the care of the children by means of which she had been contributing to their material support. He refused to accede to the request and some angry words followed.

Driven From Home

Then he told her she had better destroy her unborn babe. This she indignantly declined to do, and on last Thursday morning he said to her, "Flora, I want you to pack up and leave this house." She replied, "I have no money and nowhere to go." A woman in the house offered her $25, but she flung it from her in a burst of anguish, saying, "What do I care for this? It will be of no use to me without my husband's love." This show of sincere affection had no affect on the flinty-headed calculator of other people's nativities. He told the poor woman that he had sold the furnishings (for which she had helped to pay) and it was useless to think of her remaining there any longer.

Wife's Despair and Attempted Suicide

He then left her, and shortly afterwards she made her first attempt at suicide, following it by the effort to kill herself with a pistol on the following morning, as already stated. Failing in both endeavors, Mrs Chaney was removed in a half-insane condition from Dr. Ruttley's on Mission Street to the house of a friend, where she still remains, somewhat pacified and in a mental condition indicating that she will not again attempt self-destruction. The story given here is the lady's own, as filtered through her near associates.

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