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 a prolific popular lecturer, photographer and journalist, writing more than 40 books and many articles and pamphlets on California and the American Southwest.


James was born in Lincolnshire, England. He was ordained as a Methodist minister and came to the United States in 1881, serving in parishes in Nevada and southern California. However, in 1889 he was sued for divorce, accused by his wife with committing numerous acts of adultery. He subsequently underwent an ecclesiastical trial, charged with real estate fraud, using faked credentials, and sexual misconduct. He was defrocked, although he was later reinstated. He had a long-running feud with Charles Fletcher Lummis, another writer with similar regional interests.[2]

James' books included the well-received The Wonders of the Colorado Desert (1906),[3] 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 health faddism. He was associate editor of The Craftsman (1904–05), editor of Out West (1912–14),[4] and lectured at the Panama-Pacific and Panama-California expositions 1915–16.[5]

In Pasadena, James lived with his second wife at 1098 North Raymond Avenue which, according to Lawrence Clark Powell, "became 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 also created the Pasadena Browning Society as well as 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."[6]

The California State Library and the University of California, Berkeley have collections of James' books and pamphlets. A collection of his photographs is on file at the University of New Mexico. The Southwest Museum in Los Angeles also has some of his papers and photographs.


George Wharton James in his workshop.


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "James, George Wharton". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  2. ^ Starr, Kevin (1985). Inventing the Dream: California through the Progressive Era. New York: Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ OCLC 3687761 and OCLC 702604648
  5. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "James, George Wharton". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  6. ^ Powell, Lawrence (1971). California Classics. Santa Barbara: Calpra Press. p. 57. ISBN 0-88496-184-2. 
  7. ^ 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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