First Day on the Job, April 1, 1899

Truly a family-run business, Alexander Graham Bell oversees his son-in-law's editing of the magazine. In the foreground, Gertrude and her brother Melville are visible. Melville Grosvenor would also become Editor and President in time and leave his own indelible mark on the Society. Photo by John Alexander Douglas McCurdy, c. NGS.

On this day in 1899, a quiet revolution took place at the Geographic. The Society, founded in 1888, was still a small, mostly local, organization and struggling mightily to stay afloat. All of that would change after Alexander Graham Bell took charge. And his most significant move after becoming its president quite likely was hiring a particular young man to handle the day-to-day affairs of the Society…

And so, on April 1, 1899, 23-year-old Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor reported to work as the Society’s first full-time employee. He stayed until 1954 and made National Geographic magazine into a household name, credited with being “its principal architect and master builder.” When Grosvenor married Bell’s daughter Elsie May the following year, they embarked on “a shared and joyous labor, the building of the National Geographic Society and its journal, a magazine whose very name would become synonymous with the romance of travel, exploration, and the unending quest of knowledge.”


About Cathy Hunter

I have worked as an archivist at National Geographic for over 20 years and particularly love learning more about our old expeditions.
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3 Responses to First Day on the Job, April 1, 1899

  1. John Coan says:

    I’ve always held NG to the highest standard of writing. Thus, it dismays to read misuse of the word ‘principle’ when ‘principal’ is intended. [Ref, last paragraph, third line.]
    I use a mnemonic taught my Mrs. Suzanne Teague, my fifth grade teacher and a wonderful lady. Perhaps knowing it will help other writers: “Remember that our school princiPAL is your PAL.” Another memory aid comes from “Principle is only a noun; principal is both adjective and noun.”

    • Cathy Hunter says:

      Dear Mr. Coan,

      Thank you for alerting me to this. Since the word in question is part of a quote, I will have to check my source when I return to the office.

      Kindest regards,
      Cathy Hunter

    • Cathy Hunter says:

      Dear Mr. Coan,

      I have updated this post to correct the error you noted.

      Best wishes,

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