Bryant, Henry G. (Henry Grier), 1859-1932

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Bryant and Brinton were both involved with the Geographical Society of Philadelphia.

From the description of Correspondence to Daniel Garrison Brinton, 1897. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 226039816

Henry Grier Bryant was a geographer and explorer. He was commander of Peary's auxiliary expedition (1894) and the Mt. St. Elias (Alaska) expedition (1897). He was president of the American Alpine Club (1911-1913), among other professional affiliations.

From the description of Letterbooks, letters, ca. 1884-1918. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122473934

One of Philadelphia's most recognized geographers at the turn of the twentieth century, Henry Grier Bryant was an explorer, traveler, and writer known for an avid interest in the arctic. His financial independence enabled Bryant to devote his life to expanding geographic knowledge, as an officer of the Geographic Society of Philadelphia and Alpine Club of America, and as an explorer and traveler to Labrador, Greenland, the Canadian Rockies, South America, and southern and southeast Asia.

Bryant was born in Allegheny, Pa., on November 7, 1859, the fourth child of Walter Bryant and Ellen Adams (Henderson) Bryant. A self-made man, his father had earned a fortune as a wholesale leather merchant and timber operator before selling his holdings in western Pennsylvania in 1864 and moving to Philadelphia. After prepping at Phillips Exeter Academy, Henry attended university at Princeton, receiving both his BA (1883) and MA (1886) before studying law at the University of Pennsylvania.

Although Bryant began along the standard path to a career in 1889, working as secretary of the Edison Electric Co., he was soon derailed by the prospect of big game hunting, travel, and exploration. Subsisting on a substantial bequest from his father and careful management of his investments, Bryant was inspired by a newspaper article to organize and fund an expedition to map and explore the Grand Falls of Labrador, which were known only by reports from missionaries, traders, and local Indians. Publishing his results in Century Magazine, including geographic information about the Hamilton River and an attempt at an ethnography of the coastal Inuit and interior Indians, Bryant also made an extensive collection of Indian artifacts.

Upon his return to the states in May 1891, Bryant was asked by Angelo Heilprin of the Academy of Natural Sciences to become a founding member of the Geographical Club of Philadelphia, which was renamed in 1894 as the Geographic Society of Philadelphia. Through his new connections, he began what was to become a long association with the arctic explorer Robert Peary in 1891, enlisting as second in command aboard the Kite during the Relief Expedition organized by the Geographic Society in 1892, meeting up with Peary in Greenland after his expedition to the ice cap. Two years later, he lead the Peary Auxiliary Expedition aboard the steamer Falcon, which resupplied Peary and which engaged in its own physical geographic research.

Perhaps Bryant's most arduous expedition, however, may have been his failed attempt to scale the summit of Mount St. Elias in Alaska in 1897. Although he did not succeed in reaching the peak, Bryant's floral and entomological collections were donated to the collections of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. His other major expeditions included a three month return to Labrador in 1912, several mountaineering and mapping trips to the Canadian Rockies, and some extended tours of the Canadian Rockies, South America, Java, and Indochina, usually working in mountaineering. He is credited with climbing many of the major peaks in Europe, Popocataptel in Mexico, Mauna Loa in Hawaii, Pidurutalagala in Ceylon, and Mt. Nantai in Japan.

Bryant approached most of journeys with an interest in expanding scientific and geographic knowledge. Beginning in 1899, he conducted an extensive series of experiments to test the course and speed of circum-polar currents at minimal risk to the safety of investigators, setting loose a bevy of "drift-casks" and monitoring where they drifted. Of the 35 casks released between 1899 and 1901, six were recovered, indicating a strong westward current.

Bryant's enthusiasm and impressive organizational skills were critical to the success of number of organizations. In addition to being elected president of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia 14 times, he was a founded of the Alpine Club of America in 1902, serving as its treasurer, president, and member of the board at various points, was a founding member and president of the American Association of Geographers, and was a delegate to the International Geographical Congresses of 1895, 1899, 1904, 1908, and 1928. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was elected a member of the Royal Geographical Society, the Geographical and Anthropological Society of Stockholm, and the American Philosophical Society (1898). The Geographical Society of Philadelphia established a medal in honor of the "munificent benefactor" in 1935 for distinguished service in geography, and a chair in geography was named for him at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton.

Described by his friends as modest and retiring, Bryant maintained an active life in a number of social and civic clubs, including the Contemporary Club, the Art Club of Philadelphia, the University Club, and the Corinthian Yacht Club. He died of a "general breakdown" at his apartment at 1830 S. Rittenhouse Square. He never married.

From the guide to the Henry G. (Henry Grier) Bryant Letterbooks, 1884-1918, (American Philosophical Society)

Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Alpine Club. corporateBody
associatedWith American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Andrews, Roy Chapman, 1884-1960. person
associatedWith Arctic Club. corporateBody
associatedWith Chamberlin, Thomas C. (Thomas Chrowder), 1843-1928 person
associatedWith Cook, Frederick Albert, 1865-1940. person
associatedWith Dellenbaugh, Frederick Samuel, 1853-1935. person
associatedWith Entrikin, Samuel J. person
associatedWith Falcon (Ship) corporateBody
associatedWith Fay, Charles Ernest, 1846-1931 person
associatedWith Geographical Society of Philadelphia. corporateBody
associatedWith Greely, A. W. (Adolphus Washington), 1844-1935. person
associatedWith Grosvenor, Gilbert Hovey, 1875-1966. person
associatedWith Heilprin, Angelo, 1853-1907. person
associatedWith International Geographic Congress 1904 : United States) corporateBody
associatedWith Kite (Ship) corporateBody
associatedWith Melville, George W. (George Wallace), 1841-1912. person
associatedWith Nansen, Fridtjof, 1861-1930. person
associatedWith Ohlin, Axel person
associatedWith Operti, Albert, 1852-1927. person
associatedWith Peary Auxiliary Expedition of 1894. corporateBody
associatedWith Peary Relief Expedition of 1892. corporateBody
associatedWith Peary, Robert E. (Robert Edwin), 1856-1920. person
associatedWith Princeton University. corporateBody
correspondedWith Rockhill, William Woodville, 1854-1914 person
associatedWith Root, Elihu, 1845-1937. person
associatedWith Russell, Israel C. (Israel Cook), 1852-1906 person
associatedWith Shackleton, Ernest Henry, Sir, 1874-1922. person
associatedWith Vaux, William S. person
associatedWith Verhoeff, John M. person
associatedWith Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Arctic regions
Arctic regions
Arctic regions
Arctic regions
United States
Arctic regions
Saint Elias, Mount (Alaska and Yukon)
Ocean currents
Peary Auxiliary Expedition of 1894
Peary Relief Expedition of 1892


Birth 1859

Death 1932-12-07



Ark ID: w6q83gp0

SNAC ID: 46774540