George P. Putnam

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This article is about the American publisher, the author and explorer who lived from 1887 to 1950 and was famous for being married to (and the widower of) Amelia Earhart. For his grandfather, the American book publisher who lived from 1814 to 1872, see George Palmer Putnam.
George P. Putnam
GP Putnam and AE.jpg
George P. Putnam and Amelia Earhart c.1935
Born (1887-09-07)September 7, 1887
Rye, New York
Died January 4, 1950(1950-01-04) (aged 62)
Trona, California, USA
Cause of death
Kidney Failure
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard University,
University of California
Occupation Publisher
Spouse(s) Dorothy Binney (divorced)
Amelia Earhart (widower)
Jean-Marie Cosigny James (divorced)
Margaret Havilland (widow)
Children David Binney Putnam and George Palmer Putnam, Jr. (with Dorothy Binney Putnam)
Parents John Bishop Putnam
Francis Faulkner

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.

Early life[edit]

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, Putnam 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.(1921-2013), 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.[1] Putnam left Bend in 1915 to become the private secretary to Oregon governor James Withycombe.[1]

1920s and 1930s Business Interests[edit]

WE CAL 1927.jpg

Within a few years, the family moved back to the East Coast where George Putnam entered the family publishing business in New York City. In July 1927 he was responsible for the blockbuster publication of "We", Charles Lindbergh's autobiographical account of his early life and Orteig Prize winning non-stop transatlantic solo flight from New York to Paris made in May of that year. The book proved to be one of the most successful non-fiction titles of all time selling more than 650,000 copies in less than a year and earning its author over $250,000.[2]

In 1927, his wife, Dorothy Binney, traveled to South America and began a long term, and well chronicled, adulterous affair with George Weymouth, a man 19 years her junior; Putnam would eventually leave Binney two years later.[3] Many thought that George had left his first wife for Earhart, although for Binney, it was her own ticket out of an unhappy marriage.[4]

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 to fly around the world, 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.[5]

Later years[edit]

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, Putnam 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 the book Death Valley Handbook (1947), Putnam was the binomial author of the plant taxon Gilia mohavensis (H.Mason) Putnam.[6] The name has since slipped into synonymy with Linanthus mohavensis H.Mason, its basionym (or, original species name).

George Putnam authored a number of books, including:

  • Death Valley and Its Country
  • Death Valley Handbook (1947)
  • Hickory Shirt
  • Hot Oil
  • In the Oregon Country
  • Smiting the Rock
  • Soaring Wings (1939 biography of Amelia Earhart)
  • Wide Margins (1942 autobiography)


In late 1949, Putnam fell ill, suffering from kidney failure. He died in Trona, California in the first week of 1950, aged 62. His body was cremated and the ashes interred in the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles.


Amelia Earhart, 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 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 18 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.[7]

Due to his relationship with Amelia Earhart, Putnam has been the subject of numerous feature and documentary films including: Amelia Earhart (1976) with John Forsythe portraying Putnam. In Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight (1994), Bruce Dern played him.[8] The documentary Amelia Earhart: The Price of Courage (1993) from American Experience also featured the Putnam-Earhart marriage.[9] Richard Gere portrayed Putnam in the 2009 movie, Amelia.[10]



  1. ^ a b "Drake Park Neighborhood Historic District, Deschutes County, City of Bend, Oregon." National Register of Historic Places. Retrieved: October 25, 2007.
  2. ^ Berg, A. Scott Lindbergh New York: Berkley Books 1998
  3. ^ Cheever, Susan. "Husbands and Wife: A review of 'Whistled Like a Bird: The Untold Story of Dorothy Putnam, George Putnam, and Amelia Earhart.'." The New York Times, September 7, 1997. Retrieved: September 27, 2012.
  4. ^ Werne, Jo. "Unlocking The Past Diaries Reveal Dorothy Binney Putnam’s Secret Loves And Passions." Originally published in The Miami Herald, August 8, 1997. Retrieved: September 27, 2012.
  5. ^ Lovell 1997, pp. 310, 314.
  6. ^ "Plant Name Details for Gilia mohavensis". IPNI. Retrieved March 17, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Around the World." Time (magazine), August 29, 1927. Retrieved: October 24, 2007.
  8. ^ McCallion, Bernadette. "Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight (1994)." The New York Times. Retrieved: May 2, 2012.
  9. ^ "Amelia Earhart: The Price of Courage (1993)." American Experience. Retrieved: May 2, 2012.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger. "'Amelia' (PG)." Chicago Sun-Times, October 21, 2009. Retrieved: May 2, 2012.
  11. ^ "Author Query for 'Putnam'". International Plant Names Index. 


  • Chapman, Sally Putnam, with Stephanie Mansfield. Whistled Like a Bird: The Untold Story of Dorothy Putnam, George Putnam, and Amelia Earhart. New York: Warner Books, 1997. ISBN 0-446-52055-1.
  • Goldstein, Donald M. and Katherine V. Dillon. Amelia: The Centennial Biography of an Aviation Pioneer. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1997. ISBN 1-57488-134-5.
  • Lovell, Mary S. The Sound of Wings. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989. ISBN 0-312-03431-8.

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