, Newburyport, MA


October 10, 2013

National Geographic's birthday and its local connections


Gilbert Grosvenor was the son of Newburyport native Edwin A. Grosvenor, who was a professor of history and international law at Amherst College and had previously taught at Robert College in Constantinople (now Istanbul), Turkey, where Gilbert was born in 1875. Gilbert’s grandfather was a well-known physician in Newburyport.

When Gilbert took over as editor, his first major innovation was to start using more photography, which up until that time had not been used very much in magazine publications. He soon began sending writers and photographers to different parts of the world and they returned with spectacular photos and amazing stories that soon captured the attention of readers across the country. As everybody knows, that innovation has lasted for over a century now. Gilbert Grosvenor then became known as the father of photojournalism.

In 1920 Gilbert became president of the society and he held both positions until his retirement in 1954. At that time the circulation had reached 4.5 million and the magazine had capital in the millions. Today’s circulation is 9 million and the magazine is published in 32 languages around the world.

Gilbert Grosvenor died on Feb. 4, 1966, at Baddeck, Nova Scotia, at the age of 90. He was succeeded as editor by his son, Melville. The current issue lists two of his descendants as members of the board of trustees.

Back to Gen. Greely. In 1923 the National Geographic Society commissioned a bronze tablet to be placed at Camp Clay on Cape Sabine, 800 miles north of the Arctic Circle. This was the site where 18 members of Greely’s expedition perished in 1884. The tablet was dedicated to these men and was attached to a rock there by Capt. Donald MacMillan, another Arctic explorer and friend of Gen. Greely.


Joe Callahan is a former fire chief of Salisbury who is interested in historical accounts of the area.

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