OCTOBER 28, 1875 FEBRUARY 4, 1966
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY 1920 – 1954
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE 1899 – 1954
ELSIE MAY BELL
GROSVENOR, LL. D.
MAY 8, 1878 DECEMBER 26, 1964
BELOVED WIFE AND MOTHER
Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor was the long-time editor of the National Geographic Magazine and is considered to be the “father of photojournalism.” His wife of 64 years, Elsie May Bell Grosvenor, daughter of Alexander Graham Bell, is buried next to him, along with 14 other family members.
The memorial that marks the graves of the Hubbard, Bell, Grossman, and Pillot family members in St. Paul’s Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C., is a traditional gravestone style known as a stele. The stele, a stone or wooden slab that is generally taller than it is wide and designed as a funeral commemorative, dates back many centuries and is one of the oldest forms of gravestone.
This stele has two rosettes on the shaft and is topped with an acroterion motif. The acroterion motif is a stylized palm leaf, which can be found on classical Roman and Greek architecture. The word acroterion comes from the Greek meaning summit. This motif has its origins in Egyptian art and architecture.
In the top of the stele, just under the cornice, is a bas-relief carving showing a classical nude male seated with his body turned to the right showing his profile. In his left hand he holds a torch and his right arm rests on an urn.
The urn was an almost ubiquitous 19th Century symbol found in nearly every American cemetery. The urn symbolically represents the mortal body.
The torch upright with the flame atop represents life. The torch is also seen as an instrument that illuminates the darkness representing enlightenment. It can symbolize zeal, liberty, and immortality.
The stele was designed and carved by Yale-trained sculptor Lee Oscar Lawrie (October 16, 1877 – January 23, 1963). Lawrie was a leading architectural sculptor who worked on commissions that included the Nebraska State Capitol, the Los Angeles Public Library, and the monumental bronze statue of Atlas installed at Rockefeller Center in New York City. The stele and the sculpture of Atlas demonstrate Lawrie’s Moderne or Art Deco style. Both are characterized by strong simple lines, unadorned design, and powerful dynamic imagery.