Grinnell, George Bird

George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938) was raised in New York where his family lived for a time on the former estate of John James Audubon. There, Grinnell was schooled by Lucy Bakewell, Audubon’s widow. After graduating from Yale University with his Ph.D. in 1880 he became best known for his long editorship of Forest and Stream magazine (from 1876 to 1911). In that capacity he panned Theodore Roosevelt’s book, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman. Roosevelt went to discuss the bad review with Grinnell, and they struck up a friendship. Trained as a zoologist, Grinnell served as the naturalist on expeditions to the Black Hills in 1874, the new Yellowstone Park in 1875, and Alaska in 1899. His expertise on Plains Indians, the American bison, and other aspects of western natural history brought Grinnell and Roosevelt together. They shared the belief that if something was not done to stop the wanton hunting of large mammals, the logical and terrible result would be their extinction.

This led the pair to organize the Boone and Crockett Club in 1887 and to launch it officially in January 1888. Grinnell and Roosevelt co-edited the Club’s various publications and worked together on legislation to preserve Yellowstone’s wildlife. Similar fears about the extinction of birds moved Grinnell to found the early Audubon Society. He began the American Game Foundation in 1911 and in 1925 became president of the National Parks Association. He belonged to a large array of organizations dedicated to preserving and protecting wildlife and wild spaces. A prolific author, Grinnell was an important and respected leader in the American conservation movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, called by the New York Times, “the father of American conservation.” He died in 1938, survived by his wife, Elizabeth Curtis Williams, whom he married on August 21, 1902.