The Gifts of Iban by….

John Steinbeck was a major author of the 20th Century, no?


He was also a master of the short story, no?


So, his first commercial sale of any kind, even before his first book publication, was probably to a literary periodical, no?


“Esquire,” yes?


“North American Review,” yes?


“The Monterey Beacon, yes?


“Argosy?”  “The Nation?”  “Harper’s Magazine?”

No.  No.  No.

Give up?


“The Gifts of Iban” was published in the Vol. 1, No. 1 issue of “The Smoker’s Companion” March 1927.  And it wasn’t even published under Steinbeck’s own name.  The author is given as John Stern.  According to the Goldstone & Payne Bibliography, which cites this as C8 in its Contributions to Periodicals section, there is no positive evidence that this was written by Steinbeck  —  but then it gives us that positive evidence.  It cites a July 1972 letter from Carlton A. Sheffield in which Sheffield “asserts that Steinbeck wrote him that the article was his first literary sale, for which he received a small sum, about ten or twenty dollars.”

Front cover of magazine

Front cover of magazine

Sheffield would have known.  Sheffield was not onely one of Steinbeck’s Stanford University running buddies and roommates, he was also a life-long friend of the Nobel laureate.  Furthermore, it was Steinbeck’s writing technique early in his career to write his stories as if he were telling the story to just one person, rather than to a mass, unseen audience.  That one person was Carlton A. Sheffield.

The magazine issue in question in nearly impossible to find.


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