George Wharton James

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George Wharton James
Portrait of the photographer George Wharton James, ca.1890-1905 (CHS-3994).jpg
Born 27 September 1858
Lincolnshire, England
Died 1923
Occupation lecturer, photographer, journalist
Subject California and the American Southwest

George Wharton James (27 September 1858[1]1923) was an American popular lecturer, photographer, journalist and editor. Born in Lincolnshire, England, he emigrated to the United States as a young man after being ordained as a Methodist minister.

He served in parishes in Nevada and Southern California, gradually beginning his journalism and writing career. An editor of two magazines, he also wrote more than 40 books and many articles and pamphlets on California and the American Southwest.


George Wharton James was born in Lincolnshire, England. He married and was ordained as a Methodist minister. He and his wife immigrated to the United States in 1881.

He served in parishes in Nevada and southern California. However, in 1889 his wife sued for divorce, accusing him of committing numerous acts of adultery. He was tried by the Methodist Church, charged with real estate fraud, using faked credentials, and sexual misconduct. He was defrocked, although he was later reinstated.[2]

In addition to writing his own books, James was associate editor of The Craftsman (1904–05), and editor of Out West (1912–14).[3] In the style of the times, he was a popular lecturer in the region. He also lectured at both the Panama-Pacific and Panama-California expositions 1915–16.[1]

James had a long-running feud with Charles Fletcher Lummis, a California writer with similar regional interests.[2] Both men also explored the American Southwest, becoming acquainted with Father Anton Docher, a French-born missionary priest who served at Pueblo of Isleta in New Mexico for 34 years.

James' books included the well-received The Wonders of the Colorado Desert (1906),[4] Through Ramona's Country (1909), In and Out of the Old Missions of California (1905), and The Lake of the Sky (1915). Characteristics of his writing included romanticism, an enthusiasm for natural environments, idealization of aboriginal lifeways, and promotion of health fads.

After his divorce, James married again, living in Pasadena, California with his second wife at 1098 North Raymond Avenue. Writer Lawrence Clark Powell later described James' home as serving as "a kind of museum salon in the same way that El Alisal served as the center for his rival booster Lummis' Los Angeles followers. He founded the Pasadena Browning Society, and the Anti-Whispering Society. According to Powell, the Anti-Whispering Society was "devoted to the suppression of (1) talking audiences, (2) peanut fiends, and (3) crying babies."[5]



George Wharton James in his workshop.


  1. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "James, George Wharton". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  2. ^ a b Starr, Kevin (1985). Inventing the Dream: California through the Progressive Era. New York: Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ OCLC 3687761 and OCLC 702604648
  4. ^ Adams, Cyrus C. (March 2, 1907). "Wonders of the Far West: George Wharton James's New Book on the Colorado Desert". The New York Times Saturday Review of Books. Retrieved August 30, 2012. ...[James] has gifts of observation far above the common and the literary art of vivid and picturesque description. 
  5. ^ Powell, Lawrence (1971). California Classics. Santa Barbara: Calpra Press. p. 57. ISBN 0-88496-184-2. 
  6. ^ Eytel contributed the color plate Mirage in the Desert (1905) and over 300 drawings – Edwards, Elza Ivan (1962). Desert Harvest. Los Angeles: Westernlore Press. p. 128. OCLC 2022836.  LCC Z1251.S8 E3


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