Jack London’s writing tablet on display at The Huntington:
huntington outside

Friends Hall
Friends Hall at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA

Sue Hodson surprised and enchanted dozens of Jack London scholars when she made possible the first public exhibit of Jack London’s writing tablet since 1917, at the Huntington Library Friday Oct. 10, 2008.

The writing tablet was created in 1903, by famous California sculptor Arthur Putnam, with inspiration taken directly from London’s most famous novel, The Call of the Wild.

This exhibit was held during the "9th Biennial Jack London Symposium", which fit in perfectly with this years symposium theme: The Call of the Wild.

Christian Chaffee, the owner of the writing tablet said: "The Huntington Library is the perfect setting for this first exhibition. Not only does the Huntington maintain the largest collection of Jack London items, but Sue Hodson’s personal assistance, and intimate knowledge of the extensive archives, has lead to the discovery of critical information, which lead to the full authentication in 2003."

Jeanne Reesman inspecting the tablet

Jeanne Reesman PhD, Executive Coordinator of The Jack London Society was impressed by the beautiful carving, commenting that "the dog looks just as one would expect "Buck" to look as he is described in The Call of the Wild. Dr. Reesman went on to say "Buck" is a mixed breed, a Saint Bernard / Scotch Shepherd cross, which made him a large dog, and gave him a wolf like appearance.

The redwood sculpture caused quite a stir among London scholars, as the unique writing tablet was not previously known to exist.

Sue Hodson with Christian T. Chaffee

During the morning, there were many enchanted scholars who were amazed that such an object could have been missing for so long, and still surface in good original condition.

There were many questions asked: Where was this found? Does Milo Shepard know about this? Is this writing tablet the property of the Huntington? Is it for sale? What are the plans for it?

At the luncheon, there were several discussions regarding the tablet, and one discussion was fueled by the question: "Does the Huntington own the tablet". When it was revealed that the writing tablet is privately owned, inquiries were made regarding the possible purchase of the writing tablet. Chaffee informed attendees, that the tablet was not for sale at this time, but included that it may be considered in the future.

One spirited conversation centered on the issue of private citizen’s owning historically important objects. The book "Playing Darts with a Rembrandt" was brought up, as some felt that there are unique items that are just too important to be entrusted to any one person. The obvious implication being that such items should be preserved by institutions which are designed to display, preserve, and safeguard historically important objects for the benefit of the public.

It was also mentioned that many historically important objects were initially in private hands and most will, in time, make their way into public museums and other publicly accessible institutions.

The exhibit was a fun, interesting, and amazing surprise for all those who were lucky enough to see this lost work of art for the first time in over 90 years.

A special thanks to those who contributed their time and energy to make this exhibit possible: Sue Hodson, Jeanne Reesman, Christian Chaffee, Tomas Jankovic, Brianne Cross, and Matthew Watkins.


More images of the Symposium

 

Notice: content is continually updated for accuracy. Please contact Christian Chaffee with any and all comments, questions, and corrections.