Family Tree Tuesday – Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor
Known as the father of photojournalism, Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor was the first full-time editor of National Geographic Magazine having served from 1899-1954. He is credited with having built the magazine into the publication that it is today. Grosvenor was also president of the National Geographic Society from 1920-1954 and made it into one of the world’s largest and best known science and learning organizations through its magazine of ambitious natural and cultural explorations around the world. He advocated policies of neutrality and positive, upbeat journalism through the Great Depression and the beginning of the Cold War. By the 1950s Grosvenor and his staff were criticized as being conservative and unwilling to modernize which lead to the National Geographic’s subscription base to fall. Grosvenor stepped down from his role in National Geographic in 1954.
Gilbert Grosvenor was born on October 28, 1875 in Istanbul, Turkey to Edwin and Lilian Waters Grosvenor. He married Elsie May Bell who was the daughter of inventor Alexander Graham Bell and Mabel Hubbard. Gilbert and Elsie are the parents of Melville Bell Grosvenor and Dr. Mabel Harlakenden Grosvenor; and grandparents of Gilbert Melville Grosvenor and Edwin S. Grosvenor.
Dr. Mabel Harlakenden Grosvenor became one of the first female graduates of the Johns Hopkins University medical program in Baltimore, Maryland. She became a pediatrician and worked with disadvantaged children in Washington, D.C.’s Children’s Hospital. Grosvenor had worked as a secretary for her grandfather Alexander Graham Bell. In October 1920, she accompanied her grandfather on his “farewell visit” of Europe, where he searched for long-lost ancestors. They found several cousins he didn’t know existed by scouring genealogical records in Scotland which was where Bell was born. Grosvenor oversaw the stewardship of Bell’s legacy Canadian estate at Beinn Bhreagh, Nova Scotia until her death in 2006.
Melville Bell Grosvenor was the president of the National Geographic Society and editor of National Geographic Magazine from 1957-1969. During this time he increased the size of printed photographs in the magazine, and initiated the practice of opening articles with a two-page photo feature. The magazine began to branch out from land expeditions to cover investigations into space and the deep sea. Grosvenor expanded into the production of documentaries bearing the National Geographic name among them were the first American expedition to Mount Everest and Jacques Cousteau’s underwater exploits.
Melville’s son Gilbert Melville Grosvenor is a past president and chief executive of the National Geographic Society (1980-1996). He was also a former editor of National Geographic Magazine (1970-1980). Grosvenor was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2004. Gilbert’s brother Edwin S. Grosvenor is the editor in chief of American Heritage magazine. He is a former president of the National Geographic Society. Edwin along with Morgan Wesson wrote a biography of his great-grandfather, Alexander Graham Bell: The Life and Times of the Man Who Invented the Telephone.
Check out Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor’s family tree and see how you may be related!