From acorns mighty oaks grow

Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor (pronounced “GROVE-nor”), started out as a bit of a world traveller himself. Born in Istanbul Turkey, on October 28, 1875 as part of a pair of identical twins to a professor of European History and his wife, he had with his family travelled through most of the Ottoman East, as his father did his research. Finally, after almost twenty years aboard, the Grosvenor’s return home to the States in 1890 when he was fifteen for the three boys to get a college education. Gilbert graduated with honors from the local Amherst high school and had onto continued onto the College itself, where his father, Edwin A. Grosvenor had obtained a position as lecturer.

Alexander Graham Bell, a founder and main benefactor of the fledging National Geographic magazine , had met Professor Grosvenor professionally thru the latter’s lectures on Constantinople, Greece, and Alexander’s Eastern gambit and had been captivated by his vivid retelling of his travels with his family. The terra-cotta colored magazine had only about 900 subscribers, mainly friends and colleagues of the Board, had been envisioned by Bell and Edison as a popular alternative to the British Nature magazine, but so far after nearly ten years of publication was still more or less at a steady 900 subscribers and chockful of scientific articles, and stodgy scholarly monographs .

Bell though was insistent that the idea was sound despite being a drain on the backer’s finances, and he often toured American colleges to hear what was up and coming and meet prospective writers. Despite his constant marketing of the magazine as a “popular” magazine highlighting the wonders of natural science and exploration and obtaining such prominent explorers of General A. W. Greely, the Artic explorer, Major J.W. Powell, the first man to successfully navigate the Colorado River, the magazine was still just treading water..

Grosvenor, with Asteroid Hybris conjunct his Jupiter (big plans in a big way) decided to make a wild gambit to Bell and pitch he could do better. Bell was impressed by his bravado and promoted him to editor and immediately Grosvenor started tackling, like Sisyphus forever going forward, the job of turning the stodgy journal into something more eye-catching and captivating the original magazine was a plain affair with a subscription rate to match, basically friends and colleagues of the Board, it was not living up to the expectation that Bell had had. Ad so with a lot of self-confidence but little experience Grosvenor started out on what ended up being a life long journey to capture on film the untamed brilliance of natural science.

In 1920, he was elected president of the the society, a position he held, along with editor of the magazine until 1954, when he resigned to become chairman of the board,. He stayed on until his death in 1966.

Grosvenor married his mentor’s, and friend of his father, Alexander Graham Bell’s daughter, Elsie May Bell. Together they had seven children with only their second and last son, Alexander Graham Bell Grosvenor dying young; the rest making it to their majority.

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National Geographic Society

The National Geographic headquarters in Washington D.C.

The National Geographic Society was founded in Washington, D.C., in 1888 to support “the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge.” The society’s founders, published the first National Geographic nine months after forming the organization. But the original format was a dull affair, until our man Grosvenor got involved, and changed the magazine from a series of dry travel memorabilia to an exploration journal available only to qualified members — future explorers.

Grosvenor developed the magazine into an extraordinary photographic service and map department, charting the physical world via its geography, minerals, and the biological worlds (peoples, animals, insects and microbes) inhabiting it. His vision boosted membership from 900 in 1899 to more than 2 million at the time of his retirement in 1955.

George Bailey is a member.

Nominations only

It was a great gimmick and for over 60 years that was the only way you could get a Geographic — by nomination to the Society. The major benefit was subscription to the monthly magazine. There were no tags inside for you give to a friend so how it grew I really do not know, but I do remember when an invitation hit my home , everyone felt that this was a momentous occasion (my father was a military and later commercial and private pilot). It was such a big deal that during “Show and Tell” those of us, and we were few, that had the journal, brought it for everyone to see.

Of course all is moot when it became obvious this was a multi-million dollar industry and no one was going to let the Society get it all. But during Grosvenor’s tenure, with revenues from the magazine, the society sponsored many notable expeditions and research projects including Admiral Robert Peary‘s 1909 expedition to the North Pole; Hiram Bingham’s 1911 discovery of Machu Picchu, and William Beebe’s record-setting undersea descent in 1934.

The National Geographic Society continues this tradition, and has sponsored over 8,000 research projects and over 500 expeditions around the globe. Richly illustrated within the magazine, these explorations of land, air, and sea have introduced millions of people to amazing new worlds.

Alot of the old issues are available on and in black and white, but you get to experience how many of those features were the nucleus for future full colour pieces many years later. In many cases, the bulk of the text is similar with the addition of any revisions or updates. National Geographic even has produced their old journals on CDroms, I picked up a few at Goodwill a few months back, for a dollar or two. If you can find them they are rather good, save a lot of space, and are cobbled together via decades. Some of these articles read like science fiction essays as they conjecture who and what these discoveries may benefit . I could get the 40s and 50s, maybe on further journeys, they will have others.

The Chart

Grosvenor’s chart is spectacular, a fixed grand cross dominates the whole thing., that I can only define as a Wheel. We had another a short time ago but that stymied me, seeing it again, in better light, no other pattern works so well the spokes of a wheel all working together for the purpose of a midheaven of 27 Scorpio 48 — the pageant of the fairy world made visible to mortal eyes. Jones writes that is the creation of an object of respect.

It gets the keyword of Truthfulness and has the fixed star Bungula (combining Venus — acquisitiveness — and Jupiter — ebullience ) thus making Grosvenor industrious and preserving in his desire to capture the world.

The only planet outside of the wheel is Neptune in Taurus in the third at 01 Taurus 33, best said by his midheaven, though adding the note, the fantasies of the world brought to its members, on the printed page.

As they said at the time,Yowza.

download here the chart of Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor of the National Geographic.pdf


All images, and their rights, belong to the U.S. Library of Congress .