ABOUT JOHN STEINBECK




FACTS ABOUT JOHN STEINBECK
Born: February 27,1902; 132 Central Avenue, Salinas, CA
(what is now the reception room of the Steinbeck House)

Graduated from Salinas High School--June 1919 

Attended Stanford University--1919-1925

Died in New York, December 20,1968

STEINBECK FAMILY
Father:John Ernst Steinbeck,1863-1935, County Treasurer

Mother:Olive Hamilton Steinbeck,1867-1934, Teacher

Sisters: Elizabeth Steinbeck Ainsworth, May 25,1894 - Oct. 20, 1992
lived in Pacific Grove, CA

Esther Steinbeck Rodgers, April 14,1892 - May 9,1986; lived in Watsonville, CA

Mary Steinbeck Dekker, Jan 9,1905 - January 23,1965; buried in family plot

Wives: Carol Henning Steinbeck Brown, married 1930 and divorced 1942; lived 
in Carmel Valley, CA, died February 8, 1983, Monterey, CA

Gwyndolyn Conger Steinbeck, married 1943 and divorced 1948 died on December 30,1975, Colorado

Elaine Anderson Scott Steinbeck, married 1950, lives in New York

Sons: Thomas Steinbeck, August 2,1944
John Steinbeck IV, June 12, 1946 - February 7,1991 
(mother of Thomas and John IV
is Gwyndolyn)


AWARDS & HONORS
1935 - Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal for Best Novel by a Californian (Tortilla Flat)
1936 - Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal for Best Novel by a Californian (In Dubious Battle)

1938 - New York Drama Critics' Circle Award (Of Mice & Men)

1939 - Member of National Institute of Arts and Letters--American Booksellers' Award 

1940 - Pulitzer Prize Fiction Award (The Grapes of Wrath)

1946 - King Haakon Liberty Cross (The Moon is Down)

1948 - Member of American Academy of Arts and Letters

1962 - Nobel Prize for Literature

1963 - Honorary Consultant in American Literature to the Library of Congress 

1964 - United States Medal of Freedom

- Trustee of John F. Kennedy Memorial Library

- Annual Paperback of the Year Award

- Press Medal of Freedom

1966 - Member of the National Arts Council

1979 - US Postal Service issued a John Steinbeck Commemorative Stamp

1983 - Steinbeck Center Foundation started in Salinas, CA

1984 - American Arts Gold Medallion of Steinbeck issued by the US Mint 

1993 - Steinbeck Center Foundation opens interim head quarters

1997 - National Steinbeck Center groundbreaking

1998 - National Steinbeck Center Grand Opening (June 27, 1998)


STEINBECK & SALINAS
Important years in the relationship between Steinbeck and Salinas 

1902: Born February 27 in the Salinas family home, 132 Central Avenue. Steinbeck wrote 
his first stories there. As an adult, he visited his parents and wrote section of various works including “The Red Pony” and “Tortilla Flat.”

1919: Graduated from Salinas High School, then located on West Alisal Street across from the post office. Began attending Stanford University.

1925: Went to New York City, working odd jobs, including manual labor for construction 
of Madison Square Garden. Could not find a publisher. He returned to California the
next year.

1929: “Cup of Gold” became his first published novel.

1930: Married Carol Henning and moved to the family home in Pacific Grove. His father helped support the struggling couple. They divorced in 1942. 

1932: “The Pastures of Heaven” became his first published work set in Monterey County: Corral de Tierra. 

1934: His mother died in the Salinas home. Steinbeck had stayed in the home to take care of her. “The house in Salinas is pretty haunted now. I see things walking at night that it is not good to see,” Steinbeck wrote to a friend. A short story set in Monterey County, “The Murder” won an O. Henry Prize. 

1935: His father died. This was the first year Steinbeck had commercial success. 
“Tortilla Flat” was an instant hit. 

1936: “Of Mice and Men,” set around Soledad, was produced as a novel and then as a play; also more of “The Red Pony.” Steinbeck mentioned labor violence in Salinas in a letter: “There are riots in Salinas and killings in the streets of that dear little town where I was born.” 

1937: “The Long Valley” - a collection of short stories set in the Salinas Valley. 

1938: “The Grapes of Wrath.” - inspired nationwide attention on the living conditions and exploitation of farm workers. From Los Gatos, Steinbeck wrote: “The vilification of me out here from the large landowners and bankers is pretty bad. The latest is a rumor started by them that the Okies hate me and have threatened to kill me for lying about them. I'm frightened at the rolling might of this damned thing, It is completely out of hand ; I mean a kind of hysteria about the book is growing that is not healthy.” 

1940: Film version of “The Grapes of Wrath.” Steinbeck also received the Pulitzer Prize for the novel. 

1943: Married Gwyndolyn Conger; divorced in 1948. War correspondent in Europe for the Herald Tribune of New York. First edition of “The Portable Steinbeck” was published. On a visit to Africa, Steinbeck wrote, “The sea was the same blue as in Monterey and it made me very terribly homesick.”

1944: Movie “Lifeboat” released. Steinbeck bought a house in Monterey but was unwelcome; no one would rent him an office for writing. He was harassed when trying to get fuel and wood from a local wartime rations board. 

Steinbeck wrote that his old friends did not want him, partly because of his works and partly because he was so successful: “This isn't my country anymore. And it won't be until I am dead. It makes me very sad.” He left Monterey the next year and moved to New York. 

1945: “Cannery Row,” which is set in Monterey. 

1948: Moved from New York to Pacific Grove, Examined The Californian's files of old newspapers to research “East of Eden,” which is set in the Salinas Valley. Wandered around many childhood hangouts in the hills around Salinas and San Juan Grade.

“I am told that a little quiver of terror has crept through old Salinas at the project. I am on no punitive expedition. I just want it straight,” he wrote.

Steinbeck wrote that people were already telling untrue but dramatic stories about him: “I have a whole life and adventures in Salinas all of which are new to me. It would be fun to collect them sometime.”

Steinbeck said he was being credited with other boys mischief, including “the throwing of the roast of beef through the glass door at City Hall. I have become a giant kind of half criminal, half ape over there.”

Steinbeck also wrote that he was trying to buy the ranch where he had set “The Red Pony,” partly because he wanted to write “East of Eden” there. He did not.

“I am on my marathon book, which is called ‘Salinas Valley.’ It is what I have been practicing to write all of my life. Everything else has been training.” 

1949: Met Elaine Scott at the Pine Inn at Ocean Avenue and Monte Verde in Carmel. They married the next year.

1951: “The Log from the Sea of Cortez” published; the work is frequently referred to at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

1952: “East of Eden,” his major work about the history of the Salinas Valley, was published. 

1955: Holiday magazine ran a series by authors about their hometowns. Steinbeck wrote an article, “Always Something to do in Salinas,” that included many barbs at his hometown.

1956: Steinbeck wrote to an aspiring writer from Salinas: “Don't think for a moment that you will ever be forgiven for being what they call ‘different.’ You won’t! I still have not been forgiven. Only when I am delivered in a pine box will I be considered ‘safe.’ After I had written the Grapes of Wrath and it had been to a large extent read and sometimes burned, the librarians at the Salinas Public Library, who had known my folks remarked that is was lucky my parents were dead so that they did not have to suffer this shame.” 

1957: Salinas contemplates naming North Salinas High School after Steinbeck. Steinbeck wrote a now-famous letter to a Californian staff member against the idea, saying he doesn’t want school children to curse his name: “If the city of my birth should wish to perpetuate my name clearly but harmlessly, let it name a bowling alley after me or a dog track or even a medium price, low-church brothel; but a school!” 

1960: Traveled through America with his poodle to write “Travels with Charley.” Took his last view of the Salinas Valley from Fremont Peak. 

1962: Steinbeck accepts the Nobel Prize in Stockholm. He wrote a college friend, “This prize business is only different from the Lettuce Queen of Salinas in degree.” 

1968: Died December 20 in New York. 

1969: On March 4, his ashes were buried in the Garden of Memories cemetery. 

Timeline compiled by Walter Neary. Quotations from letters drawn from “Steinbeck, A Life in Letters,” The Viking press Inc., New York, 1975, edited by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Walsten.