American Geographical Society of New York Records, 1723-2010,  (bulk bulk 1854-2000)

Contents List


The American Geographical Society was formed by several wealthy New Yorkers in 1851. The primary objective of the AGS was the collection, diffusion, and advancement of geographical science. The founders all shared an interest in polar exploration, particularly with the search for Sir John Franklin. A committee was formed in 1851 to draft a constitution, and the AGS was officially established when they were granted a charter by the State of New York in 1854. Originally known as the American Geographical and Statistical Society, the AGS amended its charter in 1871 and dropped the "and Statistical" from its name. Initially headquartered at New York University in Washington Square, the AGS moved around to several different New York locations before settling at Audubon Terrace in 1911, and remained there for over 80 years.

In order to contribute to geographical knowledge, the AGS either led and organized expeditions by its own staff, participated in expeditions led by others, or supported the expeditions of others. The support they offered would come in the form of financial contributions or technical assistance. While there was a focus on the polar regions and Latin America, the AGS was involved in expeditions across the globe. The AGS expected the expeditions they supported and their subsequent publications to produce scientific results. Some notable expeditions were the Transcontinental Excursion of 1912, which helped acquaint European geographers with their American counterparts, Robert Peary's Polar expeditions, and Isaac Israel Hayes' Open Polar Sea expedition in 1860.

The AGS has undertaken numerous projects and overseen research studies to help achieve its goal to spread and increase geographical knowledge. During World War I, they participated in the Inquiry and Paris Peace Conference of 1919, which saw the AGS building serve as a headquarters that gathered and analyzed data, and ultimately led to the preparation of maps for the peace negotiations following the war. From 1920 to 1945, they created the Map of Hispanic America 1:1,000,000, producing 107 map sheets of the area as part of an international project to map the world on this scale. World War II saw the AGS assist the government once again. As part of the war effort, the AGS contributed geographical data to various U.S. agencies and departments.

With several publications, the AGS provides an outlet for dispersing new findings in geography. These publications include the Geographical Review, a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal, which began in 1916 and evolved out of earlier titles such as the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, and covers all aspects of geography; Focus in Geography, a short journal that covers a range of related topics aimed at a broad audience; and Ubique, a newsletter that informs readers about AGS news and events. The AGS also awards medals and honors to geographers, explorers, geologists, aviators, and other individuals from related fields. Recipients have included Robert Peary, Theodore Roosevelt, Neil Armstrong, and Richard Hartshorne.

Amidst financial difficulty, the library and map collections, which include books, journals, maps, charts, globes, pamphlets, photographs, atlases, and more, were transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1978 and have resided there ever since. Shortly after that, with their operations scaled down, the AGS moved out of its longtime headquarters at Audubon Terrace. The AGS is now currently located in Brooklyn, New York. They continue to uphold their objectives by contributing to the field of geography with lectures, publications, and supporting expeditions. They also promote its use in education, business, government, and science in order to improve the country's geographic literacy and to benefit the world today.

AGS Directors

1915-1935 Isaiah Bowman
1938-1949 John K. Wright
1950-1953 George H.T. Kimble
1953-1966 Charles B. Hitchcock
1967-1969 Shannon McCune
1970-1973 Burton W. Adkinson
1973-1976 Robert B. McNee
1976-1982 Sarah K. Myers
1983-2010 Mary Lynne Bird
2012-2013 Timothy E. Heleniak
2013- John Konarski III