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Putnam, George Palmer, 1887-1950

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: September 7, 1887 - January 4, 1950

Biographical Information

George Palmer Putnam II was born in Rye, New York on September 7, 1887. He was the third and last child, all boys, born to John Bishop and Frances Faulkner Putnam. He was named after his grandfather who was the founder of the renowned New York and London Publishing House, G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

In 1904, at seventeen years of age, George was enrolled in The Gunnery School at Washington, Connecticut. In the fall of 1906 George entered Harvard, but early in 1907 ill health forced him to withdraw. When his health permitted, he worked at G.P. Putnam’s Sons. In early 1908 Putnam matriculated at the University of California during the fall semester in economics, French, literature, and short story writing.

Putnam was editor of a newspaper in Bend, Oregon from 1910 to 1913, and twice was elected mayor there while still in his early twenties. After serving as a lieutenant in the field artillery during World War I, he joined his father’s firm and became treasurer of George P. Putnam Sons, a post which he held until 1930. He was vice president of another publishing house, Brewer & Warren, from 1930 to 1932, and chairman of the Editorial Board of Paramount Productions from 1932 to 1935. Mr. Putnam’s greatest personal prominence was achieved as the result of two expeditions which he led to the Artic. In 1926, under the sponsorship of the American Museum of Natural History, he proceeded by steamship up the west coast of Greenland with Captain Bob Bartlett and radioed daily dispatches of his adventures to The New York Times. The trip covered 8,500 miles.

A member of the Explorers’ Club, Putnam was a close friend of Richard E. Byrd, Roy Chapman Andrews, William Beebe and Sir Herbert Wilkins. His interest in exploration and aviation led him as a publisher to present a number of books on these subjects, including “We,” by Charles A. Lindberg. He himself was the author of ten books, including, “Soaring Wings,” a biography of Amelia Earhart, his second wife; “Wide Margins,” an autobiography, and three volumes on Death Valley.

Putnam married four times; Dorothy Binney in 1911, the daughter of Edwin Binney, inventor and co-owner, the company that made Crayola crayons. They had two sons, David Binney Putnam (1913–1992) and George Palmer Putnam, Jr (1921-2013). They divorced in 1929.

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 aviatrix, Amelia Earhart. As it turned out, they shared many common interests: hiking, swimming, camping, riding, tennis and golf. When Putnam first met Earhart, he was still married to Binney. After Earhart successfully completed her flight across the Atlantic, Putnam offered to help her write a book about her flight, following the formula he had established with Charles Lindbergh in the writing of "WE". The resulting Earhart book was "20 Hrs., 40 Min.,” (1928). He later published Earhart’s book, “The Fun of It,” (1932).

When they began writing, Putnam invited Earhart to live in his home because he felt like it would make the process easier. Shortly after, Binney left for South America which was followed by the divorce of George and Dorothy Putnam in 1929. Putnam had undertaken to heavily promote Earhart in a campaign that included a series of lecture tours and using pictures of her image in mass market endorsements for products including luggage, Lucky Strike™ cigarettes.

Putnam and Earhart made their relationship official shortly after his divorce was finalized, but they didn't marry until 1931. Earhart's ideas on marriage were liberal for the time as she believed in equal responsibilities for both "breadwinners" and pointedly kept her own name rather than being referred to as Mrs. Putnam. GP, as she called him. Earhart joined the faculty of Purdue University College of Technology in 1935 as a visiting faculty member to counsel women on careers and as a technical advisor to the Department of Aeronautics. She disappeared in 1937 while on her second attempt to complete a flight around the world.

In 1938, Putnam set up a new publishing company in California, George Palmer Putnam Inc. After Earhart was officially declared dead in 1939, he married Jean Consigney. With America's entry into World War II in 1941, Putnam rejoined the active military, serving in an Intelligence unit, 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 and together, they operated the Stove Pipe Wells resort in Death Valley, California. George Palmer Putnam died on January 5, 1950 at the age of 63 from uremic poisoning, after a month’s illness.

Citation

MSP 20, George Palmer Putnam papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

Citation

George P. Putnam. Wikipedia. Accessed September 14, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_P._Putnam

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Amelia Earhart at Purdue papers

 Collection — Box: 1-3
Identifier: MSF 450
Scope and Contents The Amelia Earhart at Purdue Collection (1935-2000; 1 cubic foot) documents Amelia Earhart’s arrival at Purdue University, her time there, and the efforts to memorialize Earhart after her disappearance. Types of materials include correspondence, ephemera, administrative reports, photographs, publicity materials, and speeches.

George Palmer Putnam collection of Amelia Earhart papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 9
Scope and Contents The George Palmer Putnam collection of Amelia Earhart papers (1785-1948; 31.1 cubic feet) documents the personal life, aviation career, and business activities of pilot Amelia Earhart. Types of materials include: advertisements, articles, artifacts, awards, blueprints, books, certificates, charts, commemorative coins, contracts, correspondence, data sheets, diagrams, ephemera, flight logs, licenses, maps, newspaper clippings, notebooks, notes, permits, photographs, poetry, postage stamps,...

George Palmer Putnam papers

 Collection — Box: Box 1
Identifier: MSP 20
Abstract The George Palmer Putnam papers include correspondence, news clippings, and articles related to the life of Putnam.  Also included are his will and various obituaries.