Gardiner Greene Hubbard

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Gardiner Greene Hubbard
Gardiner Greene Hubbard.jpg
Born (1822-08-25)August 25, 1822
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died December 11, 1897(1897-12-11) (aged 75)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Lawyer
President, Bell Telephone Company
Children Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, daughter
Parent(s) Samuel Hubbard
Relatives Richard Aldrich McCurdy (brother-in-law)
Alexander Graham Bell (son-in-law)
Grace Hubbard Fortescue (granddaughter)

Gardiner Greene Hubbard (August 25, 1822 – December 11, 1897) was an American lawyer, financier, and philanthropist.

He was the first president of the National Geographic Society and one of the founders of and the first president of the Bell Telephone Company which later evolved into AT&T, at times the world's largest telephone company.

One of his daughters, Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, also became the wife of Alexander Graham Bell.


Hubbard was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Samuel Hubbard (June 2, 1785 – December 24, 1847), a Massachusetts Supreme Court justice, and Mary Greene (April 19, 1790 – July 10, 1827).[1] Hubbard was a grandson of Boston merchant Gardiner Greene.[2] He was also a descendant of Lion Gardiner, an early English settler and soldier in the New World who founded the first English settlement in what later became the State of New York, and whose legacy includes Gardiners Island which remains in the family.

Gardiner Hubbard attended Phillips Academy, Andover and later graduated from Dartmouth in 1841. He then studied law at Harvard, and was admitted to the bar in 1843. He later lived in the adjoining city of Cambridge and joined a Boston law firm, practicing his profession in Boston until 1873, when he relocated to Washington, D.C. Gardiner Hubbard helped establish a city water works in Cambridge, was a founder of the Cambridge Gas Co. and later organized a Cambridge to Boston trolley system.

Hubbard married Gertrude Mercer McCurdy (New York City, March 12, 1827 – October 20, 1909, Washington, D.C.) and had six children: Robert Hubbard (1847–1849); Gertrude Hubbard (1849–1886); Mabel Gardiner Hubbard (1859–1923); Roberta Hubbard (1859–1885); Grace Hubbard (1865–1948); and Marian Hubbard (1867–1869).[3] Gardiner Hubbard's daughter Mabel became deaf at the age of five from scarlet fever.[4] She later became a student of Alexander Graham Bell, who taught deaf children, and they eventually married.[5] Hubbard also played a pivotal role in the founding of Clarke School for the Deaf, the first oral school for the deaf in the United States located in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Hubbard argued for the nationalization of the telegraph system (then a monopoly of the Western Union Company, as he explained) under the U.S. Postal Service stating in an article: "The Proposed Changes in the Telegraphic System",[6] "It is not contended that the postal system is free from defects, but that it removes many of the grave evils of the present system, without the introduction of new ones; and that the balance of benefits greatly preponderates in favor of the cheap rates, increased facilities, limited and divided powers of the postal system."

During the late 1860s, Gardiner Hubbard had lobbied Congress to pass the U.S. Postal Telegraph Bill that was known as the Hubbard Bill. The bill would have chartered the U.S. Postal Telegraph Company that would be connected to the U.S. Post Office. The Hubbard bill did not pass.

To benefit from the Hubbard Bill, Hubbard needed patents which dominated essential aspects of telegraph technology such as sending multiple messages simultaneously on a single telegraph wire. This was called the "harmonic telegraph" or acoustic telegraphy. To acquire such patents, Hubbard and his partner Thomas Sanders (whose son was also deaf) financed Alexander Graham Bell's experiments and development of an acoustic telegraph, which serendipitously led to his invention of the telephone.

Hubbard organized the Bell Telephone Company on July 9, 1877, with himself as president, Thomas Sanders as treasurer and Bell as 'Chief Electrician'. Hubbard also became the father-in-law of Bell when his daughter Mabel Hubbard married Bell on July 11, 1877.

Gardiner Hubbard was intimately connected with the Bell Telephone Company, which subsequently evolved into the National Bell Telephone Company and then the American Bell Telephone Company, merging with smaller telephone companies during its growth. The American Bell Telephone Company would, at the very end of 1899, evolve into AT&T, at times the world's largest telephone company.

Hubbard also became a principal investor in the Edison Speaking Phonograph Company. When Edison neglected development of the phonograph, which at its inception was barely functional, Hubbard helped his son-in-law, Alexander Graham Bell, organize a competing company in 1881 that developed wax-coated cardboard cylinders and disks for used on a graphophone. These improvements were invented by Alexander Bell's cousin Chester Bell, a chemist, and Charles Sumner Tainter, an optical instrument maker, at Alexander Graham Bell's Volta Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Hubbard and Chester Bell approached Edison about combining their interests, but Edison refused,[7] resulting in the Volta Laboratory Association merging the shares of their Volta Graphophone Company with the company that later evolved into Columbia Records in 1886.

Hubbard was also the founder and first president for many years of the National Geographic Society, and created a large collection of etchings and engravings, which were given by his widow to the Library of Congress with a fund for additions.

Hubbard devoted considerable donations and attention to the advancement of deaf education and was president of Clarke School for the Deaf for ten years. He died on December 11, 1897.


Gardiner Hubbard's life is detailed in the book 'One Thousand Years of Hubbard History', by Edward Warren Day.[8]

In 1890, Mount Hubbard on the Alaska-Yukon border was named in his honour by an expedition co-sponsored by the National Geographic Society while he was president.

The main school building at the Clarke School for the Deaf, Hubbard Hall, is named after him in his honor.

Hubbard's house on Brattle Street in Cambridge (on whose lawn, in 1877, Hubbard's daughter Mabel married Alexander Graham Bell) no longer stands. But a large beech tree from its garden still (in 2011) remains. After he moved to Washington, D.C. from Cambridge in 1873, Hubbard subdivided his large Cambridge estate. On Hubbard Park Road and Mercer Circle (Mercer was his wife's maiden name) he built large houses designed for Harvard faculty. On nearby Foster Street, he built smaller houses, still with modern amenities, for "the better class of mechanic." This neighborhood west of Harvard Square in Cambridge is now both popular and expensive. For construction dates of individual houses, see and

To service his then-modern Cambridge house, Hubbard wanted gas lights, the then-new form of illumination. So he founded the Cambridge Gas Company, now part of NSTAR.

After his move to Washington, Hubbard helped to found the National Geographic Society and served as its first president. Today, its Hubbard Medal is given for distinction in exploration, discovery, and research. In 1897, he also helped to rescue the A.A.A.S, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (founded in 1848) from financial peril and extinction by enabling its purchase of the (then privately owned) "Science" magazine.[9]

In 1899, a new school on Kenyon Street in Washington, DC was named the Hubbard School in his honor as one of the "most public-spirited men of the District, never neglecting an opportunity to advance its interests, but was also a man of great learning and earnestly interested in all educational movements. Mr. Hubbard was the president of the National Geographic Society, a man prominent in science and a man of the highest character."[10] The school has since been closed and demolished.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Poole, Robert M. Explorers House: National Geographic and the World it Made. New York: Penguin, 2004. ISBN 1-59420-032-7
  • Gray, Charlotte, Alexander Graham Bell and the Passion for Invention, New York, Arcade Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1-55970-809-3
  • Bruce, Robert V., Bell: Alexander Graham Bell and the Conquest of Solitude, Cornell University Press, 1973. ISBN 0-8014-9691-8
  • Israel, Paul, Edison: A Life of Invention, Wiley, 1998. ISBN 0-471-36270-0


  1. ^ Gardiner Greene Hubbard genealogy, website, retrieved September 13, 2013.
  2. ^ National Geographic Magazine, February 1898.
  3. ^ 1860 US Census
  4. ^ Shulman, Seth. 2008. The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., p. 63.
  5. ^ "Mrs. A.G. Bell Dies. Inspired Telephone. Deaf Girl's Romance With Distinguished Inventor Was Due to Her Affliction", The New York Times, January 4, 1923. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
  6. ^ "The Proposed Changes in the Telegraphic System", North American Review, July 1873, Vol. 117, No. 240, pp. 80–107.
  7. ^ Paul Israel, Edison, a Life of Invention, p. 282
  8. ^ Edward Warren Day. "One Thousand Years of Hubbard History", 1895.
  9. ^ "150 Years of Advancing Science: A History of AAAS Origins: 1848-1899". American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  10. ^ "School Building Named" (PDF). The Evening Star. 21 August 1899. Retrieved 14 July 2016. 

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
founding of the Society
President of the National Geographic Society
Succeeded by
Alexander Graham Bell