Biography of Connecticut Sen. George P. McLean celebrates his legacy of bird conservation

‘A Connecticut Yankee Goes to Washington’ is published by RIT Press

RIT Press

A Connecticut Yankee Goes to Washington: Senator George P. McLean, Birdman of the Senate, by Will McLean Greeley.

Birders everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to a U.S. senator and Connecticut governor who stood up for wildlife in the early 20th century and saved billions of birds from slaughter.

Republican Sen. George P. McLean and his progressive environmental agenda is the subject of the new biography, A Connecticut Yankee Goes to Washington: Senator George P. McLean, Birdman of the Senate, by Will McLean Greeley, published by RIT Press.

Greeley and McLean are distant relatives born nearly 100 years apart. McLean lived from 1857 to 1932 and had a “rags-to-riches American tale,” Greeley writes.

The senator’s life spanned three periods of U.S. history, from the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era and the Roaring Twenties, during which he witnessed huge technological advancements, such as the advent of electricity, the internal combustion engine, the telephone, and the airplane. McLean, who grew up on a farm, led a public life in Connecticut and Washington, D.C. “He knew eight U.S. presidents, advised five of them, and hunted and fished with four,” Greeley writes.

An influential Progressive Era reformer, McLean is remembered most as an environmental conservationist.

“His crowning achievement was his bipartisan senate legislative effort resulting in the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” Greeley writes.

McLean’s achievement protected migratory birds through international treaties and regulated hunting of birds for the hat trade. More recent interpretation of the legislation has been used to prosecute the killing of protected birds, most notably following the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in 1989 that killed an estimated 250,000 birds.

The 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 celebrated McLean’s legacy. During his lifetime, McLean’s efforts drew criticism from his opponents and he rarely talked about his conservation achievements.

Greeley’s research uncovered a Hartford Daily Courant article from 1915, which includes one of McLean’s few public comments about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—“It has been my dream that the people of the United States would realize the importance of our birds before it is too late, and I am proud to say that progress has been made in that direction.”

To purchase copies of A Connecticut Yankee Goes to Washington, contact RIT Press at 585-475-5819 or

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