About George Palmer Putnam, II
George Palmer Putnam (September 7, 1887 – January 4, 1950) was an American publisher, author and explorer. Known for his marriage to and being the widower of Amelia Earhart, he had also achieved fame as one of the most successful promoters in the United States during the 1930s.
Born in Rye, New York, he was the son of John Bishop Putnam and the grandson of his namesake, George Palmer Putnam, who was the founder of the prominent publishing firm that became G. P. Putnam's Sons. He studied at Harvard University and the University of California.
During World War I, George Putnam served with the United States Army field artillery. In 1926, under the sponsorship of the American Museum of Natural History, he led an expedition to the Arctic, up the west coast of Greenland. The following year he headed another expedition for the American Geographical Society to collect wildlife specimens on Baffin Island.
In 1911, he married Dorothy Binney (1888–1982), the daughter of Edwin Binney, inventor and co-owner, with cousin C. Harold Smith, of Binney & Smith Inc., the company that made Crayola crayons. They had two sons, David Binney Putnam (1913–1992) and George Palmer Putnam, Jr.(born 1921), and for a time lived in Bend, Oregon, where Putnam was the publisher and editor of the local newspaper, the Bend Bulletin. He was mayor of Bend from 1912 to 1913. He left Bend in 1915 to become the private secretary to Oregon governor James Withycombe.
Within a few years, the family moved back to the East Coast where George Putnam entered the family publishing business in New York City. There, he was responsible for the publication of the Charles Lindbergh autobiography We.
In 1930, the various Putnam heirs voted to merge the family's publishing firm with Minton, Balch & Co., which became the majority stockholders. George P. Putnam resigned from his position as secretary of G. P. Putnam's Sons and joined New York publishers Brewer & Warren as vice president.
A significant event in Putnam's personal and business life occurred in 1928, before the merger. Because of his reputation for working with Lindbergh, he was contacted by Amy Guest, a wealthy American living in London who wanted to sponsor the first-ever flight by a woman across the Atlantic Ocean.
Guest asked Putnam to find a suitable candidate and he eventually came up with the then-unknown Amelia Earhart. As it turned out, they shared many common interests: hiking, swimming, camping, riding, tennis and golf. Having divorced in 1929, Putnam spent an extensive amount of time with Earhart, which resulted in an intimate relationship and, in 1931, their marriage.
Following Earhart's successful 1932 flight, Putnam organized her public engagements and speaking tour across the United States. Shortly after, he took charge of promoting her career and arranged for endorsement contracts with a luggage manufacturer and a line of ladies' sportswear. In addition, Putnam published two books Earhart wrote about her flying adventures.
Earhart disappeared in 1937 while attempting to set another flying record, and Putnam published her biography in 1939 under the title Soaring Wings. Putnam later donated many of Earhart's belongings, including a flight jacket, to Purdue University, where she had worked as a career counselor. Other personal effects were sent to the Women's Archives in New York.
Putnam had Earhart declared dead on January 5, 1939, and remarried on May 21 of that year to Jean-Marie Cosigny James.
In 1938, Putnam set up a new publishing company in California, George Palmer Putnam Inc.
With America's entry into World War II in 1941, he rejoined the active military, serving as an intelligence officer, enlisting as a captain and rising to the rank of major by 1942. In 1945, he and "Jeannie" divorced; she had initiated the action, citing incompatibility. Shortly after, he remarried again, to Margaret Havilland.
In late 1949, Putnam fell ill, suffering from kidney failure; he died in Trona, California in the first week of 1950, aged 62. He was cremated and his ashes were interred in the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles.
George Putnam authored a number of books, including:
Smiting the Rock
In the Oregon Country
Death Valley and Its Country
Soaring Wings (1939 biography of Amelia Earhart)
Wide Margins (1942 autobiography)
Amelia Earhart, George Putnam's second wife, was the first president of The Ninety-Nines, an organization of (originally) 99 female pilots formed in 1929 for the support and advancement of aviation. Putnam had proposed an award as a means of honoring anyone who supports an individual member of the group (known as a "49½"), a Chapter or Section, or the organization as a whole. The George Palmer Putnam 49½ Award was originated to recognize such exceptional support of The Ninety-Nines.
In 1927, the Boy Scouts of America made George Putnam an Honorary Scout, a new category of Scout created that same year. This distinction was given to "American citizens whose achievements in outdoor activity, exploration and worthwhile adventure are of such an exceptional character as to capture the imagination of boys...". The other eighteen who were awarded this distinction were: Roy Chapman Andrews; Robert Bartlett; Frederick Russell Burnham; Richard E. Byrd; George Kruck Cherrie; James L. Clark; Merian C. Cooper; Lincoln Ellsworth; Louis Agassiz Fuertes; George Bird Grinnell; Charles A. Lindbergh; Donald Baxter MacMillan; Clifford H. Pope; Kermit Roosevelt; Carl Rungius; Stewart Edward White; and Orville Wright.
George Palmer Putnam's Timeline
September 7, 1887
Rye, NY, USA
May 20, 1913
Bend, OR, USA
May 21, 1939
Boulder City, Clark, Nevada, United States
married on May 21, 1939 in Boulder City, Nevada
January 4, 1950
Trona, CA, USA