Geographical Society of Philadelphia

Annual Dinners

November 10, 2015

In 1915, Theodore Roosevelt spoke to a sold out audience at the Academy of Music.His talk, The River of Doubt, described his dangerous exploration of the Amazon River. 100 years later, this Annual Dinner continnued the legacy by honoring Paul Rosolie for his exploration of the Amazon River. A Brazilian feast was prepared at Chima Restaurant in Philadelphia.

September 17, 2013

Very few chefs world wide are acclaimed with the title, Iron Chef. The Geographical Society invited guests to wine and dine with Philadelphia’s own Iron Chef, Jose Garces. He selected a five course feast from his favorite recipes of Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Cuba and Spain. The delicious dinner was held at his JG Domestic Restaurant in the Cira Centre Building.

January 16, 2012

On January 16, 1913 the three most famous competing polar explorers, Roald Amundsen, Robert E. Peary, and Ernest Shackleton, came together to be honored by the Geographical Society of Philadelphia. The historical night was created exactly 100 years later on the same day in the same room at the Bellevue Stratford. While the 1913 menu featured dishes like “clear green turtle in cup and roast guinea fowl in currant jelly,” this grand event’s culinary selection was updated to more contemporary delicacies.

Guests enjoyed the daring travel of National Geographic Adventurer Jon Bowermaster’s six-week exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula by sea kayak, sailboat, foot and plane. They enjoyed his tales and the award winning film,‘Terra Antarctica,’ documenting the expedition.

November 12, 2011

2011 Annual DinnerDiana Nyad, the Queen of the Oceans, told of her Xtreme Dream – to swim from Cuba to Florida. In the 1970s, Diana set a number of open water records and was the first known woman to circle Manhattan. She has led a dignified career as a sports commentator for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, Fox Sports Television, and as a travel writer for National Public Radio. Guests enjoyed hearing of her attempt at 61 years of age and the special footage captured by CNN. 12th Street Catering prepared a Cuban feast

2010 Annual Dinner


Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing


2010 Annual DinnerFifty years ago, only the rich vacationed in Europe. Then along came the guidebook Europe on $5 a Day. Traveling was changed forever and the man who changed it was Arthur Frommer! Guests enjoyed meeting the traveling legend who at 80 years old still is lending the best travel tips in books, blogs, articles and interviews. He spoke about his latest book Ask Arthur Frommer and Travel Better, Cheaper, Smarter , an indispensable addition to anyone’s travel library with savvy advice on everything from internet tools to exposing the myths of modern travel.

Arthur Frommer and Pauline FrommerHis daughter carries on the family tradition in 14 of her own award winning Pauline Frommer Guides with more tips on how to “Spend Less, See More” … in Paris, New York, London, Costa Rica, and other worldwide destinations. The Geographical Society welcomed this unique father/daughter team for an evening of outspoken and entertaining commentary on travel.

April 2009

Robert E. Peary Centennial

Park Hyatt at the Bellevue

2009 Annual Dinner

We commemorated a dinner the Society hosted 100 years ago to honor Peary for reaching the North Pole on April 6, 1909. It was at the same location, the present day Park Hyatt at the Bellevue’s elegant Rose Garden. Michael Robinson, author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture, spoke on “Arctic Fever.” We joined celebrity guests at this glacially “cool” event which included selections from the 1909 dinner menu, re-created by the hotel’s executive chef.

George Peary MedalThe Geographical Society and its members were strong supporters of Robert E. Peary’s explorations, including the Auxiliary Expedition of 1894 which returned crew members, Mrs. Peary, and her infant daughter to the U.S. Peary was awarded our Elisha Kent Kane gold medal in 1902 and this specially-struck gold medal (right) for his attainment of the North Pole in 1909.

The program included a brief reenactment of the gold medal award ceremony and a speaker on Arctic Fever, then and now. Robert McCracken Peck, Senior Fellow at The Academy of Natural Sciences, impersonated Robert E. Peary. (He is a descendant of attendee James Mapes Dodge.) The current Geographical Society President, G. Theodore Burkett, portrayed Henry Grier Bryant, the President in 1909. The Arctic Fever speaker was Michael F. Robinson, author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture, winner of the 2008 Prize of the Forum for the History of Science in America. He was available to sign copies of his book.

June 2008

Alone… At the Bottom of the World

The Union League of Philadelphia

Nearing the PoleIn 1911 two explorers set out to reach the last “unreached” place on earth. With teams of men, dogs, and ponies, Roald Amundsen (Norway) and Robert F. Scott (England) struggled to become the first to arrive at the South Pole – a feat requiring years of preparation and months of exhausting travel.

Todd Carmichael

Todd Carmichael

Nearly a century later, in November 2007, two 21st century explorers made an attempt in unusually grueling conditions and could not complete the mission. Now one of them, Todd Carmichael, are to set out again in November, 2008 to become the first American ever to reach the South Pole solo and unassisted, to plant our nation’s flag. There will be no support crews, no animals, no machinery, no additional food or supply drops, no one to help – but he will use high-tech equipment with capabilities far beyond the dreams of his predecessors.

Todd at the Pole

Todd at the Pole

Although he is embarking on a great Antarctic adventure, many Philadelphians and top chefs know Todd Carmichael better as an owner of the renowned La Colombe coffee business and its Rittenhouse Square and Manhattan cafés.

The Geographical Society is proud to award Todd Carmichael its 2008 Exploration Grant. This special night was a chance to meet him, view images and video from last year’s expedition, and hear his plans for the November 2008 solo trip.

Guided tours of the historic Union League building were available during the cocktail hour. Visitors could see the League House’s beautifully restored decor and distinguished art collection, as well as the club’s private hotel area.

June 2007

Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story

The Union League of Philadelphia

Tony and Maureen Wheeler

Tony and Maureen Wheeler

In mid-1972, Tony and Maureen Wheeler set out on a year-long trip around the world with the intention of getting the travel bug out of their systems. After following the “hippie trail” from England across Asia to Australia, they recognized the need for a new sort of travel guide to suit the new breed of laid-back, independent travelers.

More than 30 years later, they are the owners of one of the world’s largest, most successful, and best-loved independent travel publishing companies. Lonely Planet Publications has offices on three continents, with 400 employees, 250 writers, more than 600 titles in print, and annual sales of more than 6 million books. The Wheelers, from Melbourne, Australia, showed favorite images and related their story as told in Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story — a lively mix of autobiography, business history, and of course, travel!

Guided tours of the historic building were available during the cocktail hour. Visitors viewed the League House’s beautifully restored decor and distinguished art collection, as well as the club’s private hotel area.

May 2006

Dr. Mary Albert: International Polar Year 2007 – 2008

The Union League of Philadelphia

Dr. Mary Albert

Dr. Mary Albert

In 2006, Annual Dinner attendees received a first-hand preview of plans and expectations for the upcoming International Polar Year (IPY) in 2007 – 2008, a two-year initiative by scientists from more than 40 nations. The first IPY in 1882 – 1883 led to major advances in scientific knowledge and geographical exploration, and set a precedent for international scientific cooperation. Dr. Mary Albert identified an important challenge at the May dinner: “The current climate change, so evident in the Arctic, cries out for a large internationally coordinated program of scientific investigations.”

At the time, Dr. Albert was Chair of the U.S. National Committee for IPY 2007 – 2008, and she shared her vision for this project with the Geographical Society. Albert is a research engineer with the Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab, an adjunct professor at Dartmouth College, and an invited advisor to the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs.