As I wrote in Return to Doylestown, there is no mention of William Edgar Geil in the Encyclopedia Britannica as recently as the 2013 print edition. I don't find him in the online edition either. Here is a man who traveled the world, was first to walk the Great Wall of China, wrote ten books and drew crowds in the thousands worldwide to hear him speak. Yet the Encyclopedia Britannica knows nothing of him. Geil is indeed the "Forgotten Explorer."

But hopefully not much longer. Since that historic gathering in Doylestown in 2008, there has been a flurry of activity around Geil. Some of this has been described here on this website and at the sites I've linked to. This activity has included the production and release of two documentaries that talk about Dr. Geil, and there are three more in the pipeline. This is very exciting and gratifying! When we gathered eight years ago this was unimaginable.

"Geil of Doylestown: Forgotten Explorer"

The first documentary was commissioned under grant by the Doylestown Historical Society. Released in 2013, it's titled Geil of Doylestown: Forgotten Explorer. Jennifer Lin, a former reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer, produced the film which was directed by her son, Karl Stieg. It runs 45 minutes and was narrated by Alexis Denisof (Much Ado About Nothing, The Avengers, Finding Carter, Grimm, and many more). The film won Best Biography at the New Hope Film Festival and was an Official Selection at DocUtah, the Southern Utah International Film Festival.

It's a quite magnificent film, in my opinion, that I hope you'll get a chance to see sometime. Copies can be purchased from the Doylestown Historical Society. For my friends who live nearby, give me a shout. You'll have to come over sometime and I'll play it for you! Here's the trailer:

Dr. William Edgar Geil


the Great Wall of China


The Great Wall of Two Williams

Click to watch on YouTube

Visit these Other Pages in the William Edgar Geil Section

Wall of Two Williams

Doylestown 2008

Beijing Exhibit 2008

Doylestown 2009

Return to Doylestown

Remembering the Barrens

Geil Documentaries

Jennifer Lin spoke one evening at the Doylestown Historical Society about the film, how it came about, the process of making it, and also showed a clip.

This is a short behind-the-scenes look at the filming of Geil of Doylestown: Forgotten Explorer.

"The Great Wall of Two Williams"

The second documentary that's been released is a 10-part series posted on the website of CNTV (China Network Television). This series is the work of Wang Baoshan who we met in Doylestown in 2008, and it includes footage that Wang shot during that trip. Links are provided below to all 10 episodes at CNTV. The narration is in Chinese since this is a Chinese program produced for a Chinese audience. However, William Lindesay appears speaking in English and Dr. Geil is portrayed with his writings read in English as well. These English portions, along with the pictures, convey enough information that viewers will get the gist of what's happening. To help, I provide a brief synopsis of each episode — as best I understand them!

Part 1

This video tells the story of how William Lindesay discovered the work of Dr. William Edgar Geil. A woman who read Lindesay’s book, Alone on the Great Wall, wrote William and sent a copy of my grandfather’s 1909 book, The Great Wall of China.  

Part 2

This video describes Dr. Geil’s walk along the Great Wall and the photographs he took along the way of the wall and the people he met. It also talks about Dr. Geil’s books.  

Part 3

In this video, both Williams discover how long and far the Great Wall stretches.  

Part 4

The Great Wall of China is so large it's said “it can be seen from the Moon.” This video talks about this and about William Lindesay’s project to rephotograph the same scenes that Dr. Geil took in 1908.  

Part 5

This video describes the materials that the Great Wall is constructed from. You’ll be surprised!  

Part 6

In this video, William Lindesay reunites with people he met in 1987 when he made his own journey along the Great Wall, walking solo over 1500 miles. After this journey, William wrote his book Alone on the Great Wall (Amazon).  

Part 7

This video describes how Dr. Geil reported to the President of the United States about his journey and observations. He predicted that a war would take place between China and Japan. The video also describes that war.  

Part 8

This video describes the work of a Chinese photographer in the late 1930s.  

Part 9

This video covers William Lindesay’s journey to Doylestown in 2008 for the centennial celebration of Dr. Geil’s walk. This was our first time meeting William and his associates Piao Tiejun and Wang Baoshan, and the good people of Doylestown.  

Part 10

In this final video, William Lindesay talks about the purpose and importance rephotography. “Things will only stay if people actively protect them,” William explains.  

Coming Up: New Chinese Television Documentary

In July 2015 a Chinese production team and film crew visited Doylestown and the historical society to research Dr. Geil and shoot a documentary for Chinese television. The program will be broadcast by Chinese Central Television (CCTV) and in six installments. Word has it that production is complete but air dates are to be determined.

These videos, posted on YouTube by the Doylestown Historical Society, were made as the Chinese delegation visited and worked in Doylestown. The descriptions are by the historical society.

A reception held July 20, 2015 for our guests from Beijing who were in Doylestown to visit the home of William Edgar Geil. They are doing a mini series on The Great Wall, and Geil was considered the first Westerner to photograph every main part of the Wall in 1908.

A documentary TV crew from Beijing visits the home of explorer William Edgar Geil. He is considered the first westerner to fully photograph The Great Wall of China in 1908. Geil, and Doylestown, will be featured as part of a six part mini series on The Great Wall, and will air on China's CCTV sometime in 2016.

Coming Up: IMAX Movie

In addition, plans are in the works to produce an IMAX movie for international release using footage shot in China and Doylestown for the CCTV program above. This effort is in its early stages and fingers are crossed. The final go-ahead hasn't been given but the idea is thrilling! Keith Merrill, 1974 Oscar Winner for The Great American Cowboy, has signed onto the project.

Coming Up: Documentary by William Lindesay

In the Wall of Two Williams I describe a 40-day expedition undertaken in Summer 2016 by William Lindesay, his wife, two sons and their associates. They retraced William's 1987 walk along the Great Wall. The entire journey was filmed the in HD and they used a drone for aerial shots.

Details are still in the works, but the film will be edited and assembled into a new 3-part television documentary to air, I believe, in Great Britain. I will provide more information when it's available.

On August 9, 2016, William Lindesay posted this picture on Facebook announcing the start of their journey.

"We are on our way! A 40 day trip following the Wall across China to mark my 30 years in China — for the Great Wall."

On August 12, 2016, William Lindesay posted this picture on Facebook from one of his many campsites.

"We are settling down at a nice camp site beside the rammed earth Ming Wall in the Hexi Corridor, Gansu. On Easter weekend of 1987 I stayed with a lovely family in a remote farmstead nearby, just a stone's throw on the other side of the Wall behind where I'm sitting. Just imagiining the film footage of me making my way along the Wall here on Easter Saturday....."

It was great following William's journey each day on Facebook and I can't wait to see the documentary that will follow!

Pictures courtesy of William Lindesay

And all this is just the beginning...

The documentaries, books, articles and everything else these past few years seems to be reaching a critical mass. Awareness and interest in Dr. Geil is taking off — particularly in China. Increasingly, Doylestown and the historical society are becoming a destination for tourists and formal delegations from China. Recently the historical society met with the Chinese Ambassador to the United States.

The historical society posted the next video on YouTube reporting on a delegation that visited in September 2015. They wrote:

Visitors from the China Great Wall Society made a stop on Sept. 29, 2015, to the Doylestown Historical Society. Han Guowei, international director of the nonprofit organization, said the group's mission is protecting the Great Wall. He and his colleagues had just been in New York City for meetings at the United Nations. Han viewed the exhibit on William Edgar Geil, the famous world traveler, writer and photographer from Doylestown. He also toured the DHS "barn" and saw some of the artifacts and papers in the Geil collection. Stu Abramson, DHS president, presented the group with copies of the documentary, Geil of Doylestown: Forgotten Explorer. Han proclaimed Geil and his work critical to understanding the history of the Great Wall and hoped that more people in China would discover Doylestown and the borough's celebrated explorer.

Pictures courtesy of William Lindesay

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