Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation

Protecting and Preserving All Life -- By Extending Human Vision

George Wharton James

George Wharton James was born 27 September 1858 in Lincolnshire, England.   He emigrated to the United States as a young man after being ordained as a Methodist minister.  In America he became a popular lecturer, photographer, journalist and editor.  

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.
In addition to writing his own books, James was associate editor of The Craftsman (1904–05), and editor of Out West (1912–14). 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.

James had a long-running feud with Charles Fletcher Lummis, a California writer with similar regional interests. 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), 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."
James died 8 Nov 1923 (aged 65) in Saint Helena, Napa County, California, USA and is buried inMountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum in Altadena, Los Angeles County, California, USA