The eldest son of publisher George Palmer Putnam and Victorine Haven Putnam, he was born in London, UK where his father had been living since 1841 while establishing a branch office for his New York City publishing company, Wiley & Putnam. In 1848 the family returned to the United States and George Haven Putnam was educated in New York. He studied at Columbia University then in 1861 went to Germany to study at the University of Göttingen. However, with the outbreak of the American Civil War he left the university without graduating to return home to serve in the Union Army.
Captured after the Battle of Cedar Creek near Middletown, Virginia, George H. Putnam was held for a short time at the notorious Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia before being transferred to Danville where he was held until March 1865 when he was returned to the Union forces as part of a prisoner exchange. At the war's end, Major Putnam joined his father's publishing business, "G. Putnam Broadway." He was also appointed deputy collector of internal revenue. Years later, following the 1911 marking of the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the war, in 1912 George H. Putnam published an account of his experiences titled "A Prisoner of War in Virginia - An Experience in Virginia Prisons During the Last Winter of the War."
On his father's death in 1872, George H. Putnam and his brothers John Bishop Putnam and Irving took over the business, renaming it G. P. Putnam's Sons. George H. Putnam would be made president of the firm, a position he held for the next fifty-two years. In 1884, Putnam hired the then twenty-six-year old Theodore Roosevelt as a special partner who in the ensuing years would write several works published by Putnam.
Like his father, George H. Putnam was active in numerous civic, social, and business causes. He served on the executive committees of the Civil-service reform association, the Free-trade league and the Reform club. He also aggressively continued with his father's work on copyright protection for authors. In 1887, he helped organize the American Publishers' Copyright League that led a successful campaign resulting in the 1891 passage of an international copyright protection law.
George H. Putnam retired in 1924, formally handing over the presidency of G. P. Putnam's Sons to Palmer C. Putnam. He died in 1930, aged 85.
Among Putnam's own writings are scholarly and historical publications but he also wrote children's books such as and The Artificial Mother (1894) and The Little Gingerbread Man (1910).
Other published works:
|Wikisource has original works written by or about: George Haven Putnam|
- Authors and Publishers (1882) (co-authored with brother, John Bishop Putnam)
- Anecdotes of Luther and the Reformation (1883)
- Books and Their Makers during the Middle Ages (2 vol. – 1896 & 1897)
- Washington Irving, his life and work (1903)
- Censorship of the Church of Rome and Its Influence Upon the Production and Distribution of Literature, Part 1 (1906)
- Abraham Lincoln (1909) (Project Gutenberg -)
- A Prisoner of War in Virginia (1912)
- Memories of My Youth (1914)
- Memories of a Publisher (1915)
- Some Memories of the Civil War (1924)