Cover image for Explorers house : National Geographic and the world it made
Explorers house : National Geographic and the world it made
Poole, Robert M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Penguin Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
357 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
For more than a century, through unparalleled research, exploration, publications, and photography, the National Geographic Society and its magazine have, in many ways, defined how we see the world. This book, based on unprecedented archival and inside information, provides a behind-the-scenes look, from its start in 1888 to its evolution into an iconic American institution, as well as the family story ₀of the Grosvenor media dynasty which, along with Alexander Graham Bell, created the photography-based monthly. Also shows the inside workings of the magazine's editorial process, providing a look behind some of its ground-breaking articles and explorations--from Cousteau's famous Calypso voyages to the origins of Jane Goodall's research on chimpanzees to the institution's 1963 Mt. Everest expedition.
General Note:
Includes index.
Alec and Mabel -- A quiet birth -- The first Grosvenor -- A new generation -- Educating Melville -- The first hero -- off to war -- The changing order -- The crash -- A gentlemanly standard -- The birthright -- Melville takes charge -- The best of times -- facing life -- Broken friendship -- The third flowering.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
G3 .P66 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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For more than one hundred years, the National Geographic Society has brought "the world and all that is in it" to millions worldwide. Through its unparalleled research, exploration, publications, and photography, the organization and its magazine have, in many ways, defined how we see the world. Now Robert Poole's Explorers House gives a vibrant, behind-the-scenes look at National Geographic, from its start in 1888 to its evolution into one of the most esteemed and iconic American institutions.

The story of the National Geographic is a family story of a media dynasty to rival the Sulzbergers or Luces. The Grosvenors, along with Alexander Graham Bell, who was linked to the family by marriage, created the institution's photography-based monthly, and the family has been on the masthead since the McKinley administration. Content to stay in the shadows, however, they have remained modestly obscured from public view while their media empire has grown to reach some forty million readers and viewers each month. The Grosvenor and Bell family history is not merely the story of the National Geographic; it is a captivating view of the sweep of American scientific, geographic, and political history since the late nineteenth century, rendered in fascinating human terms by Poole.

Moreover, Explorers House shows the inside workings of the magazine's editorial process, providing an unprecedented look behind some of National Geographic's ground-breaking articles and explorations-from Cousteau's famous Calypso voyages to the origins of Jane Goodall's research on chimpanzees to the institution's 1963 Mt. Everest expedition, the first to place an American on the summit. We also hear of the writers and photographers who are larger than life figures themselves, such as Luis Marden, the writer-photographer who unearthed the remains of the H.M.S. Bounty off Pitcairn Island, among many other feats.

Explorers House presents the National Geographic from the inside out-from its remarkable founding family to the very ends of the earth it investigates.

Reviews 5

Booklist Review

Ruled until recently by the nepotistic Grosvenor dynasty, National Geographic magazine here has its history narrated by a former editor. Poole is not, however, blinkered by his association with the publication and writes candidly about bigoted editors, vapid articles, and dumb business decisions. Combined with his insight into what has editorially made the yellow-bordered icon one of the most successful in the magazine industry, that frankness ensures the work is not just a dreary institutional history. National Geographic is tantamount to a public trust, and its millions of readers will be curious about how it ascended to that status. Poole credits the climb to the son-in-law and protege of Alexander Graham Bell, Gilbert Grosvenor, who established the magazine's editorial formula in the early 1900s and, as importantly, its financial foundation as part of the tax-exempt National Geographic Society. Poole notes how Grosvenor's racist sentiments affected the organization, then phases into the tutelages of son Melville and grandson Gilbert. Fans of the magazine will appreciate Poole's revealing examination of its evolution. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Alexander Graham Bell didn't just invent the phone: he cofounded one of the world's great magazines. Bell and Gardiner Hubbard, a blue-blood Bostonian, launched the National Geographic Society in 1888. That fall, its journal first appeared, shedding light on subjects like volcanism and botany and establishing itself as an authority in scientific and technical arcana. The organization grew, but the magazine stalled until Gilbert H. Grosvenor, a young schoolteacher, signed on as editor, and the stories of the Grosvenor family and the magazine have been linked ever since. The organization and magazine grew steadily over the years, with more people, places and things for its members to discover. However, the magazine's growth often overshadowed subagendas of racism, sexism and conservatism within its offices, according to Poole. The 1950s and '60s brought rapid changes, as previously glossed-over subjects-domestic poverty, life under communism, apartheid-finally appeared in full color. Poole, recently retired as National Geographic's executive editor, maintains objectivity without sacrificing scope and detail; the book has been built with all the painstaking care you'd expect from a National Geographic article (and thus, it's also a bit abstruse). Recent magazine troubles, chronicled in the last chapter, may not interest everyone, but then, back in 1888, who besides Alexander Graham Bell knew a beetle's wing structure would be so fascinating? Photos. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (On sale Oct. 25) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

For over a century, National Geographic has graced the shelves of millions of home libraries, known for its stunning photography and in-depth articles. The magazine's history turns out to be equally lively and entertaining. This behind-the-scenes look at the popular magazine and the society from which it sprang is adeptly told by Poole, retired executive editor of the magazine. He delves into how founder Gardner Green Hubbard saw a need to share and promote geographic research and exploration, and how subsequent family members like the famous inventor Alexander Graham Bell and Gilbert H. Grosvenor shaped and expanded the society's mission and the magazine's circulation through skillful leadership. Poole highlights how a family legacy impacted the institution's success and longevity. From its high standards in membership selection to uncompromising editorial philosophy, the society and the magazine have reflected both the positive goals ("diffusion of geographic knowledge") and negative aspects (racism and sexism) of this family of leaders. Poole's book reads like an intriguing family saga while remaining a well-researched text. For all libraries.-Donna Marie Smith, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-In 1888, Gardiner Greene Hubbard and selected associates decided to start a group that would meet regularly to share views and then share that knowledge. Thus the National Geographic Society came into being. In 1898, upon Hubbard's death and at the insistence of his widow and of his daughter, Mabel Hubbard Bell, Alexander Graham Bell took over the organization. He picked Gilbert H. Grosvenor to follow him. The Grosvenor family became the lineage that would control the organization to the present day. Poole's book is the combined story of the evolution of the NGS, its publications and forays into various other media, and the struggle to keep the organization viable and on the cutting edge of important information for readers everywhere. Much of the volume necessarily deals with the complicated lives of the Grosvenors. Poole offers insight on selected NGS-sponsored explorations, especially Robert Peary's, and the politics that surrounded them. Small black-and-white photos, mainly of people, serve as markers to the chapters. Poole's uncomplicated writing offers a clear history, and his book leaves readers with an appreciative understanding of the often-overlooked marvel of how the society came to be and what it continues to offer.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Use of primary sources such as correspondence and interviews provides insight--into people, institutions, or events--that allows for first-hand interpretations that generally avoid speculation or supposition. Poole, a retired editor of the National Geographic Society, relied heavily on primary sources to compose a mosaic of one of the world's most enthralling organizations. The author explores the highs and lows of the evolution of National Geographic in 16 chapters, offering insights that can be documented from primary sources. The book is as much a history of the society itself, as it covers the people who made it successful. Intimate and frank details of the Hubbard-Bell-Grosvenor families are traced, encompassing a fascinating series of events that brought National Geographic to prominence. Poole also describes the evolutionary viewpoint and attitudes of the magazine over time as the readership too experienced change. Sensitivity to real world events and attention to small-scale locales were routine, and high priority was given to producing a top-quality product and keeping up with technological innovations and shifts. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers through specialists. L. Yacher Southern Connecticut State University