Jekyll Island History by Tyler E. Bagwell
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Jekyl, or Jekyll Island, Georgia
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Jekyl or Jekyll?
A Spelling Mistake of Historic Proportions

By Tyler E. Bagwell

In 1734, a year or so after the founding of Georgia, colony leader General James Edward Oglethorpe took a boat excursion from Savannah down the Georgia coastline. During this trip, English names were designated to the geographical features of the region. Jekyll Island was named after Sir Joseph Jekyll, a member of the English parliament and financial supporter of the Georgia colony.

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Logotype from Club Menu
By the late 1700s, the island was spelled "Jekyl" in documents such as letters and newspaper articles. One turn-of-the-nineteenth century topographical map dubbed the isle "Jykill Island." For whatever reason, throughout the 1800s and early 1900s Jekyll was spelled with only one "L."

By 1927, most likely through correspondence with a descendent of Sir Joseph Jekyll, club president Walter Jennings learned of the misspelling of the islandís name. A letter, located in the archives of the Jekyll Island Museum, confirms that communication took place between Walter Jennings and the Jekyll family. The letter reads,

                        Munstead Wood
                        Godalming

May 17, 1927

Dear Mr. Jennings

           I am sending a photograph
of my engraving of my respected ancestor,
Thinking you may perhaps like to
present it to the director of the
Jekyl Island Club, or as you please-
Sir Edwin Lutyens was here and when
I said I should like to get it photographed
He carried off the engraving to be
properly done in London for you.

                        Yours Sincerely,
                        (Illegible) Jekyll

The address listed at the top of this note, Munstead Wood in Godalming, England was the residence of renowned author, gardener, and photographer Gertrude Jekyll. In the late 1800s and the early 1900s Ms. Jekyll, a descendent of Sir Joseph Jekyll, collaborated on numerous design projects with her friend and architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Correspondence, such as this letter probably written by Gertrude Jekyll, helped to prompt the revising of the islandís name.

Around 1928 the Jekyll Island Club acquired a painting of Sir Joseph Jekyll. This portrait, donated in memory of club member Bayard Henry, hung for years in a parlor of the clubhouse. A Swedish born artist named Michael Dahl painted the original portrait, which was owned by Sir Herbert Jekyll, the brother of Gertrude Jekyll. The club's painting of the island's namesake was sold in 1947 to the State of Georgia and may presently be viewed during the Jekyll Island Museum's tour of the historic district.

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Jekyll Island Club emblem circa 1930s
In 1929, with encouragement from club members, the Georgia State Legislature passed a resolution to correct the spelling mistake in legal and state documents. This legislative act, passed by the Georgia General Assembly on July 31, 1929, declares:

"Whereas the Island of Jekyll on the coast of Georgia was named by General Oglethorpe, in honor of his friend, Sir Joseph Jekyll;

And whereas the correct spelling, by long usage, has been corrupted by the omitting of the last letter:

And to the end that this mistake may be corrected, so that the correct spelling may become official and legal in the records of this State, and national government.

Therefore be it resolved, by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring, that the correct and legal spelling of the name of said island is and shall be Jekyll Island."

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