Discover the National Steinbeck Center

July 23, 2021
National Steinbeck Center in Salinas

The National Steinbeck Center is dedicated to the famous Californian author, John Steinbeck. The center seeks to share Steinbeck's history, creative works, and vision to understand his fellow humans. The center offers visitors the opportunity to discover John Steinbeck through his literature, the history of American agriculture, and special events and cultural activities.

The National Steinbeck Center is located in Steinbeck's hometown of Salinas. The center opened in 1988 and is home to the most extensive collection of Steinbeck materials.

The John Steinbeck House, where Steinbeck lived as a boy, is two blocks away.

About John Steinbeck‍

John Steinbeck

Steinbeck's books often tell of failed dreams and misunderstood farmers. They are deeply rooted in the complex history of California. Steinbeck championed the disenfranchised and told the stories of the neglected. While he wasn't always admired in his hometown of Salinas, he is now respected worldwide as one of America's greatest writers.

John Steinbeck was born in 1902 in Salinas, California. Steinbeck's mother was a teacher, and his father was a manager at a flour factory. When the flour factory closed, John's father lost his job and embarked on several failed business ventures. This period of Steinbeck's life undoubtedly gave him empathy for those less fortunate.

He spent his summers working on nearby ranches, with migrant workers on farms, experiences he called on when writing Of Mice and Men.

Steinbeck was a voracious reader and committed to living as a writer at a young age. Steinbeck attended Stanford University for six years but never graduated.

He lived in New York City in 1926 and became terrified when he couldn't get a job. He returned to California, lived in Lake Tahoe, and worked on his first book, Cup of Gold, published in 1929. He married Carol Henning in 1930. He kept writing and publishing and obtained his first big success with Tortilla Flat in 1935. More success followed with Of Mice and Men in 1937 and The Grapes of Wrath in 1939.

Steinbeck suffered a backlash from various quarters with The Grapes of Wrath, which was even banned from schools and libraries for a time.

John and Carol divorced in 1943, and Steinbeck remarried Gwendolyn Conger and had two children. He and Gwendolyn divorced in 1948, and John married Elaine Scott in 1950.

Steinbeck continued writing and publishing impactful books and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

He suffered ill-health in the 1960s and died in 1968. Steinbeck is most known for his insightful perceptive insights into the lives of everyday working Americans and for his sympathetic humor.

Permanent Exhibit‍

Exhibition at National Steinbeck Center

The National Steinbeck Exhibition Hall takes visitors through Steinbeck's Valley of the World. The exhibit, organized by location, allows visitors to check out the different places Steinbeck visited, lived in, traveled to, and wrote about.

As visitors travel through the exhibit, they will learn about Steinbeck and see various displays of his short stories, journalistic writing, and novels.

Theatrical sets allow visitors to immerse themselves in the different periods represented. Visitors are invited to hear sound clips, watch films, view original artifacts, and experience hands-on activities.

Visitors will love seeing the truck and trailer from Travels with Charley, Steinbeck's novel about traveling through America on a great American road trip.

Cultural Experiences in Monterey‍

National Steinbeck Center Lobby

Monterey has many fascinating cultural and educational opportunities. Steinbeck enjoyed fishing California's waters and learning about marine biology. He spent time with marine biologist Ed Ricketts collecting marine specimens in the Sea of Cortez. This time is immortalized in Steinbeck's 1941 book Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research.

Today, you can visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium to investigate California's marine world that fascinated Steinbeck so much.

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