American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Henry Grier Bryant, 1859-1932

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1933

HENRY GRIER BRYANT 1859-1932

In the passing of Henry Grier Bryant on December 7, 1932, in Philadelphia, the American Alpine Club loses a former President and one who ever maintained a keen interest in its activities.

He was born in Allegheny, Pa., on November 7, 1859, a descendant of an old New England family. He prepared for college at Phillips Exeter Academy, and was graduated from Princeton in 1883. Becoming a member of the Philadelphia bar, he was not content to pursue his profession exclusively, his financial independence permitting him to gratify his ambition to visit and explore unfrequented places, to ascend mountains, to float on southern seas, to search the near and far north.

In 1891 he led an expedition to the Grand Falls of Labrador, and in the following year acted as second in command of the Peary relief expedition. In 1894 he commanded the auxiliary expedition which brought Peary back to this country, and in 1897 explored the St. Elias region, being the first to cross the Malaspina glacier.

He traveled extensively in Canada, and his early attempts to ascend Mt. Assiniboine are of historic interest to mountaineers. Turning his attention to the Far East, he visited Java and French Indo-China. In 1912 he organized an expedition to unknown southern Labrador, the results of which caused substantial revision of maps of that region. In 1915 he crossed the Andes.

A contributor to many scientific journals, he recorded his observations and discoveries relating to ethnology and geography. With Admiral Melville, he conducted the successful experiment of floating drift-casks to determine the speed and direction of circum-polar currents.

He was a founder, and for several terms president, of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia; a member of the American Philosophical Society; a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society; former president of the Association of American Geographers; corresponding member of the Geographical and Anthropological Society of Stockholm and of the Appalachian Mountain Club; honorary member of the French Alpine Club, and an officer of the French Academy.

J. M. T.

To older members of the Club, the demise of Henry Bryant brings especial sorrow, for it is they, who, through long association, will recall most vividly his constant devotion to it. I believe that he attended all, or nearly all, of the meetings; thus he was known personally to most of our members. From the beginning he was ever a tower of strength and in the critical early years, when grave doubt existed whether interest in matters Alpine was sufficient to support a club, he, almost single-handed, kept the embers burning by his faithful performance of the duties of Secretary. For nine years, from the founding of the Club, he held this office (1902 to 1911). He then became Vice-President (1911 to 1914) and then President (1914 to 1917).

Although his personal tastes perhaps leaned more strongly towards the field of geographical exploration, he recognized the substantial additions to knowledge that result from organized mountaineering, and believed that the cause of science would be materially advanced by focusing the interests of Arctic explorers, glaciologists and mountaineers in one club. If the trend of events during the past quarter century has taken a different course, it has not impeached the essential soundness of the idea—as the present thriving condition of the Club bears witness.

Many milestones of our history were passed during his terms of office, being successfully engineered under his leadership: the incorporation of the Club in 1915, the creation of the library fund, the arrangement with the New York Public Library whereby our books were rendered more accessible and the use of a lecture hall secured for annual meetings and council meetings. The Bureau of Mountaineering Clubs was instituted at this time, and for ten years, under the management of the late Leroy Jeffers, it accomplished much useful work. Our important photographic collection was begun during this period.

Thus his influence was vital in the establishment of the Club and his memory will be held in warmest esteem by those of us who were associated with him.

H. P.

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