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Polar Controversy what happened in 1909?

"A lie can travel half way around the world in the time it takes the truth to put on its shoes" Mark Twain
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Blame the Newspapers:
In those days of "yellow journalism" they didn't care about proof.

A wireless telegram was all it took and the public simply believed what they read. More...

September 1909: Cook's North Pole story made the front page. However, this apparent "claim jumping" attempt on Peary's North Pole expedition, soon proved utterly false; Frederick never came within 500 miles of the Pole. His unverified adventure was immediately challenged by arctic experts as unbelievable. In fact, his Eskimo guides testified they went south, not north and never traveled out of sight of land. Read their testimony.
Cook had rushed to announce his story only days before Naval Commander Peary returned with his successful North Pole expedition. This aspect of the "Polar Controversy"—two identical claims within 5 days of each other—falsely created the impression that Cook was a rival in some "Race to the Pole". Nothing, in fact, could be further from the truth.

Peary was a legitimate explorer sent to the Arctic under orders from his Commander in Chief; President Roosevelt. On the other hand, Cook was merely a criminal who had previously committed fraud (sold magazine rights, lectures, a book, etc.) falsely asserting he was the first person to climb the highest mountain in North America.

Reaching the North Pole was simply his next attempt to steal fame & fortune he could never achieve through his own deeds. In this case he again had no proof, so he made up the infamous "lost box" ploy to put blame on Peary.
View this complete 50 card set of "polar controversy" postcards from 1909.

Peary's expedition was comprised of capable, experienced men. Their elaborate preparations created a virtual army of support personnel who build a route over the Arctic Ocean for an elite team to dash the final distance. Cook had never even seen the Arctic Ocean.

Irresponsible newspapers popularized Cook's claim because sensational news sold newspapers. Peary immediately called Cook a liar, which was absolutely true. The public knew little about the arctic and some thought Peary was not being a gentleman. However, many experts openly stated their disbelief that Cook was telling the truth. To its credit The New York Times balanced what The Herald was printing with factual information from responsible sources.
By November Cook was forced to hide from an angry and suspicious public disgusted with his evasive responses to their demands for proof. On December 22, 1909 his North Pole claim was headlined a complete fraud by scientists who examined his "records." It was over. Cook disappeared and hid for a year before attempting his come-back.

He returned to America in disguise and, needing some cash, sold his confession to a magazine. Cook had supporters who believed Fred was a victim of a conspiracy comprised of Peary's friends. The truth was that the general public, the press, and all scientific institutions had turned their backs on Cook. With encouragement from his supporters Fred published a preposterous "North Pole" book (1911). Behind the phony story was a vindictive tirade against Robert Peary.

Cook's My Attainment of The Pole accuses the true North Pole explorer of fraud, slander, calumny, adultery, and even murder!

With a supply of these books he joined the vaudeville and Chautauqua (lecture) circuits to sell copies while attempting to win back the hearts and minds of the public in his favor.

For 5 or 6 years Cook toured the country spreading his anti-Peary conspiracy theories this way. Cook even enlisted school children to write essays about "Who discovered the North Pole first—Cook or Peary?" The winner received a copy of Cook's absurd, vitriolic book plus tickets to his vaudeville show.

By 1915 Cook's attempts to manipulate the public and even the US Congress became the subject of a famous 26-page speech by the famous orator S. D. Fess. Read for yourself the almost unbelievable lengths Cook would go in his attempt to "pervert American history", as Fess so aptly labeled this propaganda game that continues today.
Cook's daughter Helene Vetters made the Peary vendetta her lifetime troublemaking pastime until she died in 1979 (see: collection of correspondence). Her equally vindictive daughter, Janet Vetters, ensured that anti-Peary efforts would still be smoldering today—financed from a trust fund she set up for that very purpose (she died 1989).

Continued...

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