Socialism in Piedmont

Kevin Starr in the Americans and the California Dream:

A loquacious socialism bound the Piedmont Crowd together and their lively debates continued down the Coast" to Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Mrs. Willa Baum, department head, Regional Oral History Office:


You've mentioned briefly how your father first met Jack London when they were both interested in socialism. You said there was a small group of socialists who got together to discuss socialism and that your father became one of the group.


Xavier's wife, Elsie Whitaker Martinez:


Father [Herman Whitaker] was already a member of the Socialist Party in Oakland when the young Jack London, 20 years old, stopped to listen to a harangue, as the brilliant Englishman Strawn-Hamilton called it, in the city park. Jack met father there and he and Jack became friends. In Joan London's book is an accurate description of their meeting.

"SOCIALISM AND ITS RELATION TO THE GOLD STANDARD"

This matter was the subject of a Lecture given by F.E. Reynolds, M.D. in the month of November 1911 before the Order of Hibernians in San Francisco, Cal.

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National Magazine -- Volume 38, 1913

And Whitaker's essay "Natural Selection, Competition and Socialism"

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Americans and the California Dream, 1850-1915

Volume 1 - By Kevin Starr · 1986

Socialism had provided young London a means of organizing himself against the threat of his class background, conferring conceptual control over life and society upon a would-be intellectual of spotty education. London’s socialism always had a streak of elitism in it and a good deal of pose. He liked to play working class intellectual when it served his purposes. Invited to a prominent Piedmont house, he featured a flannel shirt, but, as some there remarked, Jack’s badge of solidarity with the working class “looked as if it had been specially laundered for the occasion.” Mark Twain saw straight through the ambiguity of London’s hopes for revolution.

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Berkeley Daily Gazette - Wed - Feb. 19, 1975

London was an enthusiastic socialist and recruited Whitaker to the party. They were both arrested by police while expounding the socialist doctrine from a soapbox in downtown Oakland.

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The San Francisco Examiner - Fri - Jan. 25, 1924

Ruskin Club

Mrs. Willa Baum, department head, Regional Oral History Office:

How long were your father and London together in the socialist group? The Ruskin Club?

Xavier's wife, Elsie Whitaker Martinez:


I think it was about 1897 to 1901, when my father [Herman Whitaker] left the party. Encouraged by Ina Coolbrith, a literary Oakland librarian, some members of the socialist group organized the Ruskin Club.

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Oakland Tribune - Sat - May 18, 1901

Founding (various versions)

In 1900 under the leadership of Frederick Irons Bamford, the Ruskin Club was formed in Oakland for the purpose of dinner and debate once a month at the Metropole Hotel. Bamford was a mentor of London’s at the public library and a few socialists. London joined the club, which counted among its members the prominent socialists Austin Lewis, David Starr Jordan, Jacques Loeb and other professors at the University of California, the poet Edwin Markham, liberal ministers, and a wide variety of other socialists. At the monthly meetings Darwin and Marx were read and analyzed, as were other intellectual figures of the day. Several figures London read and met there were exerted lasting influence on him. Indeed, among the most influential sources on race for him were the books such as those he encountered through the Ruskin Club.

Jack London's Racial Lives - A Critical Biography By Jeanne Campbell Reesman · 2011

Californian, poet, and naturalist Charles Keeler is the father of the California Craftsman style. A good friend of John Muir, Keeler sought a simple rustic life joined with nature which would become the foundation for the California Craftsman style. Keeler was a follower of the Arts and Crafts Movement and organized the Ruskin Club in the 1890s to "show the necessity of art in the home-in homemaking, in home decoration, and for the general spirit of our daily life." In his 1902 publication, The Simple Home, he advocated for functionalism of style that associated beauty with need, a concept taken directly from William Morris. In the preface of The Simple Home, Keeler asserts that "a simpler, a truer, a more vital art expression is now taking place in California."

A website about The Arts and Crafts Movement

ruskin club - Berkeley Bohemia By Shelle
ruskin club - Berkeley Bohemia By Shelle
ruskin club - Berkeley Bohemia By Shelle
ruskin club - Berkeley Bohemia By Shelle

Berkeley Bohemia - By Shelley Rideout · 2009

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San Francisco Call, Volume 97, Number 60

In 1900 under the leadership of Frederick Irons Bamford, the Ruskin Club was formed in Oakland for the purpose of dinner and debate once a month at the Metropole Hotel. Bamford was a mentor of London’s at the public library and a few socialists. London joined the club, which counted among its members the prominent socialists Austin Lewis, David Starr Jordan, Jacques Loeb and other professors at the University of California, the poet Edwin Markham, liberal ministers, and a wide variety of other socialists. At the monthly meetings Darwin and Marx were read and analyzed, as were other intellectual figures of the day. Several figures London read and met there were exerted lasting influence on him. Indeed, among the most influential sources on race for him were the books such as those he encountered through the Ruskin Club.

San Francisco Call, Volume 97, Number 60

January 29, 1905

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Oakland Tribune - Sat - Apr, 1906

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Berkeley Daily Gazette - Sat - Nov. 10, 1906

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San Francisco Chronicle - Mon - Mar. 11, 1907

Conflicting Worlds

Mrs. Willa Baum, department head, Regional Oral History Office:


What did your father think of Jack London's logic, as a socialist?

Xavier's wife, Elsie Whitaker Martinez, daughter of Herman Whitaker:


Well, Jack London could project socialism as a way of life, a vivid recreation of his love of life. Darwinism was the key. His pet phrase was Darwin's "The survival of the fittest". When he went to Alaska, wherever he looked was "survival of the fittest".


Baum


It doesn't seem to fit with socialism, though.


Martinez


There has never been anyone whose struggle was such a conflict — trying to fit his rugged individualism into the mold of materialism. He always burst the mold and his love of life outstripped his theory — and ended in disillusionment at forty.

He told us that after he had made his success, I guess he wasn't yet thirty, he was going up Market Street and he looked in all the windows, and remembered as a boy how he'd looked in those same windows and how he had yearned for many of the things that were there. Now that he had all the money he wanted, he didn't want a thing that was there — so he cried.

He radiated vitality and his enthusiasm was contagious. Few people recall his voice. I had a perfect mania for voices, I had studied music and voices I remember clearly. The depth of feeling which he projected with that voice - though not strong or low - carried as much might as if it had been a strong male voice. His His voice was rather husky and it was vital and it was rich in feeling. I used to love to hear him talk.

Now, my father's voice was a typical well-trained English voice, rather a middle register, but clear and it could carry.
So the two together were a curious combination really. My father was logical and thoughtful. The English never give in to temperament, with the young Jack London that was simply all. His enthusiasm was what propelled the young Socialist Party. It wasn't the logical Germans, Swedes, and English that kept the party going, it was young Jack London.