Founder of the American Polar Society
August Howard was born “August Horowitz” on January 2, 1910, but he changed his name in the early 1940s. The son of a tailor and Russian immigrant, he grew up fascinated by Byrd and the romance and adventure of the North Pole flight. Polar exploration and discovery became the avocation of his life, even as it was the vocation of his hero, Byrd. Howard’s other interest was in the Boy Scouts. In 1928, after years of pleasure in scouting, he became an employee of the National Council of Boy Scouts of America, which would become his life-long career.
Howard’s interests in polar exploration, Byrd, and scouting all came together in 1928, when Byrd and the Boy Scouts conducted a national campaign to select a scout to accompany Byrd on his first expedition to Antarctica. Howard and the successful applicant, Eagle Scout and Sea Scout Paul Siple, became close friends.
To report the activities of fellow scout Siple in the first Byrd Antarctic Expedition (1928-30), Howard created The Metropolitan Pilot, a mimeographed newsletter distributed monthly to relatives and friends of Paul Siple and to the 25 members of Siple’s Sea Scout Ship. This was the official beginning of Howard’s career in journalism and the first step towards The Polar Times.
The first issue of The Polar Times appeared in June of 1935. It brought news of interest to explorers, arm-chair explorers, and polar enthusiasts excited by tales of adventure. Of course, much of the issue focused on Byrd’s second expedition and that of Ellsworth. The paper also included stories of adventure in the Arctic, plans by Sir Hubert Wilkins for a submarine expedition beneath the Arctic Ice, and Soviet activities in polar regions. For the explorer-in-waiting, there were useful articles about tractors in polar work and surveying in Antarctica. Historians then, and even now, appreciated the biographical information contained in obituaries of famous figures in polar exploration and scientific discovery.
Howard’s interest in polar environments, his vision for the APS, and his work in creating and sustaining the Society and The Polar Times earned him a lasting memorial. Two places in Antarctica owe their names to him. In 1948, Cape Howard on the Weddell Sea was named in honor of August Howard and a glacier bears the name of The Polar Times. Ironically, Howard never had the opportunity to visit Antarctica before his death on December 4, 1988.
[Biographical information about August Howard cited here was assembled by Raimund E. Goerler and Lynn Lay (Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University) for an article, which ran in the Fall-Winter 2003 and Spring-Summer 2004 issues of The Polar Times. It is adapted from a paper of the same title in Juli Braund-Allen and Cathie Innes-Taylor, editors, Creativity, Lighting the Poles: Collaborative Solutions to Common Problems: Proceedings of the 16th Polar Libraries Colloquy (Anchorage: University of Alaska Anchorage Press, 1997), pp. 40-45.is found in RG 56.16, box 1, folders 1-4, at The Ohio State University Archives. Documentation consists of newspaper clippings, obituaries, and an oral history interview of Doris Howard by Peter Anderson in 1989, as well as documentation of The Little America Times and the records of the American Polar Society. It is reprinted with permission.]