1861 - 1930; California
Mayor of San Francisco
from 1897 - 1902
U.S. Senator from 1915
The May 1934 El
Portal was dedicated to Senator Phelan, the sponsor of the
literary contest highlighted in the journal. The journal notes that
Phelan made a $10,000 bequest to the Teachers College so the income
could be used for awards for excellence in poetry and the Montalvo
Contest sponsored by Phelan. The journal also noted that the prizes
had increased student interest in creative writing. El Portal
was a journal published by students of the San Jose State Teachers
College and contained their creative writing. It was replaced by Reed
Magazine in 1948.
Phelan was an honorary
member of the English Club of the San Jose State Teachers College per
the 1924 La Torre yearbook.
Hosted some literary
events for the College at his Villa Montalvo home in Saratoga. He
gifted this estate to the State of California at his death.
"A Day in the
Hills" - September 18, 1926 - "A Poetical Competition of
the Edwin Markham Chapter of the English Poetry Society Held at
Villa Montalvo, Saratoga" (As described in A Day in the
Hills, a book of poetry edited by Dr. Bland, printed in 1926.
Copyright 1926 by James D. Phelan. This was the second annual
meeting of the Chapter at Villa Montalvo.
of the event from the Phelan
Photograph Albums at The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.
of the members and attendees taken that day; also from The
Comment from Edwin Markham in a letter to Professor
Henry Meade Bland dated September 2, 1926 about an upcoming
meeting of the Edwin Markham Chapter of the English Poetry Society to
be held at Villa Montalvo:
"Of course you
will have among you that good friend and comrade of all poets, the
Honorable James D. Phelan, him who is ever ready to lend a helping
hand to all causes poetical and progressive. He not only handles a
skillful pen himself, but he is also ever unselfishly hospitable
to the pens of others. May the immortal Muses let the light of
their faces shine upon him."
Day in the Hills (1926) pages xv - xvi. Also included in The
Laureate's Wreath - An Anthology in Honor of Dr. Henry Meade Bland
August 1906 from The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.
A Day in the Hills, a book of poetry edited by Dr.
Bland, printed in 1926. Copyright 1926 by James D. Phelan, page
GEORGE STERLING, valiant Son of
Thy singing shall survive thee long.
No gentler poet ever trod
Bohemia's pathway up to God.
The Earth deplores thy early fate,
But Heaven's dome's illuminate.
Companion of the stars above,
Thou taught us loveliness to love.
The subtile essence of thy Art
Preserves thee in our world apart.
Ecstatic we shall greet thee when
We weary of the ways of men.
The Laureate's Wreath - An Anthology in Honor of Dr.
Henry Meade Bland (1934), page 100.
All life is alien where no water springs,
And man is stranger to a sterile ground.
The very source of life, as well, may slay:
The solar tyrant drives his fiery car,
And blasts the path that leads to liberty.
There, tortured bones of unsung caravans;
slime of slow decay!
No cinerary urns encompass dust;
No sepulture, nor hope of fair renown;
A monumental void, save for the Sun,
Whose withering glare shall deaden deathless day;
Eternity of stillness, burning night!
For men no hibernation�living death!
No springtime resurrection when he falls;
His portion madness, when he trespass far
Upon forbidden wastes where Nature sleeps.
Is a man a babe upon this barren breast,
Upheaved from cataclysmic pits of hell?
Yet so, the Desert, spurning sacrifice,
Implacable, disdains the puny gift,
And fiercely strikes her foe with whirlwind force�
The sand-storm mantling her distress and wrath.
The vast, unheeding ocean stands aloof.
Allies of cloud and mountain fail response.
The bastard brother of a noble house,
Outcast, unfriended, still shall cumber earth:
Is not the Father's curse the desert dearth?
Legacy of Poetry
from U.S. Congress with photo
D. Phelan California Authors Collection at the San Francisco Public
of the James Phelan Literary Award at SJSU
Per 1947/1948 San Jose State College
Bulletin, pg 50: "Cash prizes are awarded annually for
superiority in the Phelan literary contest. In each of the six
divisions: sonnet, lyric, free verse, essay, short story, and
play, the prizes are $18 for first prize, $10 for second prize,
and $5 for third prize." At this time, tuition was $7
Books and articles by James P. Walsh, SJSU
Emeritus Professor of History:
�Into Dust Thou Shalt Return,� Pacific Historian,
Fall 1971, 53-58.
�James Phelan: Creating the Fortune, Creating the
Family,� Journal of the West, April 1992, 17-23.
�James Phelan�s Montalvo: Many Accepted, One
Declined,� Southern California Quarterly, Spring 1976, 95-111.
Legacy of a Native Son: James Duval Phelan & Villa Montalvo
(1993), Los Gatos, CA: Forbes Mill Press.
on the Olympiad of the Arts event which Phelan started in
1928 with Dr. Bland (which continues to
this day by the West Valley/Mission Colleges Foundation. Contest
information (open to lower division students).
Legacy of SJSU