By the time the family moved to New York City, in his fourteenth year, George had had a little rural schooling.
George preferred business to higher education, however, and in New York he worked in a printing shop, then in an importing company, and finally set up a modest business of his own as a manufacturer of ornamental cases for jewelry and firearms. He soon prospered. In his walks through New York City's tenement districts George had early become interested in the problems of slum children. In the summer of 1890 he decided to take about fifty teen-age boys and girls to the Dryden area of his childhood for a two weeks' outing in the country. Farmers in the vicinity donated food, the New York Tribune's Fresh Air Fund paid the railroad fares, and the outing was a success. In the following summer he took two larger parties to the same place. Churches in the nearby cities of Ithaca and Cortland had now begun donating food and supplies, and George took an annual lease on a forty-acre farm near Freeville. But by the fifth summer a disquieting thought had struck him: the children were taking the charity given them as their due - they were being pauperized. He therefore sought to introduce the idea that everything must be paid for by work, his first project being the building of a much-needed stretch of road. The doctrine was resisted at first, but it gradually took hold. In dealing with the problem of discipline he had experimented with having offenders tried before a jury of their fellows and had been impressed by the results. From this came an inspiration: why not extend both principles and make the summer community self-governing and self-supporting - a sort of small-scale model, both politically and economically, of the larger society to which the children would soon belong? In 1895, accordingly, George launched the "Junior Republic. " Within a few years the basic pattern had been established. The "citizens, " as the residents of the Republic were called, elected their own officials, headed by a president, and made their own laws, at first through an elected House and Senate, later in town meeting. The laws governing the conduct of the citizens were, and remained, highly moralistic. During the late 1890's the Republic was transformed from a summer to a year-round settlement, and a school became an important part of its facilities. For the most part they continued to come from the New York slums, though as the Junior Republic's fame spread, it received some youthful offenders who might otherwise have been sent to reform school, and even wayward children of good families. Contemporary accounts report a high "citizen" morale and suggest that the George Junior Republic was notably successful in channeling the energies and loyalties of potential delinquents to constructive ends. The early course of the Republic was not always smooth. Though George gradually gave up his business during the 1890's in order to devote his full time to the project, funds were often meager. In 1897 a visiting committee of the State Board of Charities issued an adverse report on the Republic. A later report by the Board of Charities, in 1913, lodged serious charges of mistreatment and immorality, but George's board of trustees expressed their continued confidence in him, and the Republic weathered the storm. In 1920 George saw a threat to the very existence of the Republic in the constitutional amendment then before the states forbidding child labor, and for several years he gave much of his time to fighting its ratification. In 1933 he formed the League of Adult Minors to combat not only the amendment but also "leftist" ideas and centralized government generally. At the time of George's death the Republic had, on 400 acres of land, a church, schoolhouse, court-house, jail, gymnasium, library, hospital, printing plant, hotel, stores, bakery, laundry, and fire department, not to mention the farm, all operated by the "citizens" and representing an investment of more than $500, 000. Some 3000 boys and girls had spent varying periods of their teens there and gone out, usually to become good citizens of the greater Republic. George died at the Junior Republic of a heart attack and was buried in Willow Grove Cemetery, in nearby Dryden.
George was survived by his wife, Esther Brewster, whom he had married on November 12, 1896, and their three daughters and a son.