|Henson plants flag at Pole in this French Post card.
|Dinner to honor Peary's North Pole victory at the Astor Hotel.
|Peary and Henson had truly
discovered the North Pole, as everyone
expected. In fact, there was no doubt of that in the public mind. When
Cook was exposed as a fraud many people felt apologetic towards Peary,
but many remained bitter that they had been duped. Cook absolutely
spoiled the achievement of America discovering the Pole for everyone.
After the 1909 Cook scandal the world moved on to the
business of rewarding Peary. He receive honors from many American
institutions and foreign countries. Henson, because he was a Negro,
was left out of all such honors. (Negroes had no social status back
then) In his place, Robert Bartlett (Captain of the Roosevelt)
accompanied Peary to social functions.
See the text below
from Congressman Fess's 1915 speech about Peary's achievement.
• Gold medal of the National Geographic
Society of Washington.
|Honors and medal for Peary
• Gold medal of the Philadelphia Geographical society.
• The Helen Culver medal of the Chicago Geographical Society.
• Honorary degree of doctor of laws from Bowdoin College.
• Honorary member of the New York Chamber of Commerce.
• Honorary member of the Pennsylvania Society.
• Gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London.
• The Nachtigall gold medal of the Imperial German
• The King Humbert gold medal of the Royal Italian
• The Hauer medal of the Imperial Austrian Geographical
• Gold medal of the Hungarian Geographical Society.
• Gold medal of the Royal Belgian Geographical Society.
• Gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society of Antwerp.
• A special trophy from the Royal Scottish Geographical
Society—a replica in silver of the ships used by Hudson,
Baffin, and Davis.
• Honorary degree of doctor of laws from the Edinburgh
• Honorary membership in the Manchester Geographical Society.
• Honorary membership in the Royal Netherlands Geographical
Society of Amsterdam.
Peary Went to the Arctic Under Official Orders.
The committee reported:
Peary was an officer of the United States Navy and charged with the
specific duty in which he was engaged. President Roosevelt, July 3, 1908,
detailed Peary to report to the Superintendent of the United States Coast
and Geodetic Survey and instructed that Peary be ordered to make tidal
observations along the Grant Land and Greenland shore of the Polar Sea.
Mr. Peary entered the Navy in 1881 and has served almost 30 years, he is
at present a civil engineer with the rank of captain. When leaving for his
polar trip, the Acting Secretary of the Navy wrote him that he was granted
this leave of absence for Arctic explorations because he is believed to be
better equipped than any other person in the country to undertake such
“You have,” said the letter from the Navy Department, “the requisite
courage, fortitude, and physique; you have had a longer term of service
within the Arctic Circle than any other explorer; and you have had large
experience in sledge journeying on the land and upon the polar pack; you
have demonstrated your ability to maintain yourself in that latitude for a
longer period in health and safety than any other explorer; you have
reduced the inconveniences and hardships of the Arctic service to the
minimum. The attainment of the pole should be your main object. Nothing
short will suffice. Our national pride is involved in the undertaking.
This department expects that you will accomplish your purpose and bring
further distinction to a service of illustrious traditions."
The President of the United States gave Peary this parting injunction:
“I believe in you, Peary, and I believe in your success if it is in the
possibility of man."
Brief Outline of Peary's Campaign to Reach the Pole.
Our congressional committee of investigation outlined Peary’s successful
campaign to reach the North Pole as follows:
Going into winter quarters at Cape Sheridan, tidal observations were
commenced, and the members of the expedition began the transportation of
supplies westward to Cape Columbia. This became a camp and depot of
supplies, from which the journey over the Arctic Ocean to the pole was to
The winter months of 1909 were occupied in preparing Eskimos, dogs, and
other equipments. After careful training the Eskimos and dogs were in the
best condition, hard and fit for the work that was before them.
The men, Eskimos, and dogs were divided into supporting parties. Each
supporting party was independent in the matter of supplies and equipment;
they were sent north over the ice at intervals of a day or more each.
In this way the first supporting party sought and found the easiest trail,
which could readily be found by the succeeding parties coming on.
Capt. Bartlett accompanied Peary to latitude 87° 47', or within 133 miles
of the pole. At this point they exchanged signed statements as result of
observations, and Bartlett turned back with his supporting party, leaving
Peary with picked dogs, good sledges, and plenty of provisions, and in
fact the very best equipment and supplies for the final journey.
In five marches from where Peary and Bartlett parted, Peary reached the
long sought for goal.
Peary's Observations and Instruments.
The report declared:
Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Duvall figured the position of Peary at the pole
independently, but based on the same observations and by independent
methods. Their calculations agree within a second of latitude.
Mitchell states that from his professional experience it would have been
impossible for the data of these observations to have been obtained other
than under the circumstances claimed. The observations at' the pole were
made at different times. He states that in using these observations in
connection with each other they, in a measure, prove each other, and that
error could be detected had the observations not been made at the points
set forth in the data. In other words, the two independent observations
taken, on the 6th and 7th, with the sun in the same direction, practically
agree upon comparison.
On the return of the Peary party to the United States the standard
chronometer used by Peary was sent to its makers for rating and
Peary's Return From the
The committee's report sets forth the speed of Peary and his various
supporting parties comparatively and with considerable detail, as follows:
The return journey was made more quickly than the outward journey. There
was a trail easily distinguishable, and both men and dogs realized that
they were returning to land.
Peary covered 27 outward marches (413 miles) in 16 return marches with the
pick of Eskimos and dogs all in good condition, 25 ½ miles per march.
MacMillan, of the first supporting party, covered 7 outward marches (82
miles) in 4 return marches, 20 ½ miles per march.
Borup, of the second supporting party, covered 12 outward marches (136
miles) in 7 return marches with partially crippled men and poor dogs, 19 ½
miles per march.
Bartlett, of the fourth supporting party, covered 22 outward marches (280
miles) in 13 return marches, 21 ½ miles per march.
Bartlett returned from his farthest, 87° 47', in the same number of
marches (13) as Peary did from that same point.
Later in the season MacMillan and Borup returning from Cape Jesup with the
same dogs used on the northern, trip, covered 275 to 300 miles in 8
marches, and on more than one occasion covered, over 50 miles in a march.
Shackleton, on his outward journey, made marches of 18 and 20 miles. He
returned without dogs, and he and his men, dragging their own sledges,
made marches of 20, 26, and 29 miles.
The report then declares—and I desire particularly to emphasize the next
paragraph, showing that Peary had at last attained the goal of centuries
Your committee recognized that the attainment of the North Pole has been
the object of the world's famous explorers for centuries past; that Peary,
overcoming almost insurmountable obstacles reached the goal of a life's
work, that he was specifically commissioned to do so by his commander in
chief, the President and the Secretary of the Navy.
The committee then reported that if Peary had not gone to the Arctic he
would already have been a rear admiral, and that the advancement in rank
which they recommended would really have the effect of decreasing the
remuneration he was then receiving from the Government. Upon these points
the committee declared:
Peary has at present the rank of captain. Had be remained at home and
served as a chief of one of the bureaus at the Navy Department be would
to-day have the rank of rear admiral. It is proposed in this bill to
bestow upon him this rank with the retired pay of that grade: such retired
pay, the committee learns from the Navy Department, will be $300 per year
less than the pay he is now receiving from salary and allowances under his
Honors Awarded Peary.
The committee further reported that up to the date of its report (Jan. 21,
1911) Peary had already received the following recognition for his
The special great gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London.
The special great gold medal of the National Geographic Society of
The special great gold medal of the Philadelphia Geographical ociety.
The Helen Culver medal of the Chicago Geographical Society.
The honorary degree of doctor of laws from Bowdoin College.
Honorary member of the New York Chamber of Commerce.
Honorary member of the Pennsylvania Society.
The Nachtigall gold medal of the Imperial German Geographical Society.
The King Humbert gold medal of the Royal Italian Geographical Society.
The Hauer medal of the Imperial Austrian Geographical Society.
The gold medal of the Hungarian Geographical Society.
The gold medal of the Royal Belgian Geographical Society.
The gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society of Antwerp.
A special trophy from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society—a replica in
silver of the ships used by Hudson, Baffin, and Davis.
The honorary degree of doctor of laws from the Edinburgh University.
Honorary membership in the Manchester Geographical Society.
Honorary membership in the Royal Netherlands Geographical Society of
The North Pole the Greatest Geographical Prize of Three Centuries.
Upon this point the committee said:
The President of the United States and the Secretary of the Navy have
recommended that fitting recognition by Congress be accorded Peary for
this great achievement. The scientific societies of the world accord in
pronouncing this the greatest geographical prize of the last three
centuries. It is a matter of just pride that this honor has come to the
The Committee's Tribute to Peary and its Recommendations.
The committee reported:
Your committee believed that in view of his long distinguished service in
the Arctic regions in ascertaining the northern boundaries of Greenland;
his soundings and tidal observations; his ascertainment of facts
concerning the northern Arctic Ocean; the general information he has
obtained by living over 12 years within the Arctic circle; and finally
having successfully followed a carefully laid plan resulting in his
reaching on April 6, 1909 and bringing back to civilization the conditions
existing at the North Pole, that Robert Edwin Peary has performed a most
remarkable and wonderful service; that he has attracted the favorable
attention of the civilized world; and that therefore the American people,
through its Congress, shall render him thanks and bestow upon him the
highest rank of the service which he adorns.
These, Mr. Speaker, are the important paragraphs in the official report of
the committee of investigation and upon which the Congress of the United
States acted when they extended to him the thanks of Congress, and
authorized that he be raised to the rank of rear admiral. And in
submitting the report to the Congress they transmitted the testimony
before them, covering 142 printed pages. The act of Congress adopted upon
report of the committee became effective March 4, 1911. So much for
official American recognition of the services of the explorer.
Action of the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain.
Although our own National Geographic society had acted with more rapidity
than did Congress and had more than a year prior to the act of Congress
acclaimed Peary the discoverer of the North Pole, it is of interest to
note that the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain accorded Peary
the highest honor within their power, nearly a year before Congress acted,
to wit, on May 4, 1910, at a meeting of the society in Albert Hall,
London. In conferring upon Peary at that time the special gold medal of
the society, President Darwin, son of the great scientist, Charles Darwin,
extended to him, in the presence of its members, the fullest assurance of
their conviction that he was "the first and only human being who has ever
led a party of his fellow creatures to a pole of the earth," for it will
be remembered that at that time the South Pole had not as yet been
reached. He said:
I stand here to-night as the representative of the Royal Geographical
Society, and, armed with the full authority of its council to welcome you,
Commander Peary, as the first and only human being who has ever led a
party of his fellow creatures to a pole of the earth.
At the same time the vote of thanks to Peary was moved and seconded by two
of Great Britain's most distinguished Arctic explorers, Admiral Sir George
Nares and Admiral Sir Lewis Beaumont. The motion was also supported in a
feeling speech by Capt. R. F. Scott, who so soon was to lose his life
returning from the South Pole, The proceedings may be found set out in
full in the Geographical Journal of London for August, 1910, pages 129 to
Subsequently Admiral Peary laid before the Royal Geographical Society
additional proofs of his attainment of the pole and supplemental to those
previously submitted. This was not done at their request, but voluntarily,
that there might be no question hereafter as to the action of that
world-famous organization being based upon adequate examination of Admiral
Peary’s proofs. President Darwin wrote Peary on December 5, 1910, in his
official capacity as president of the society, acknowledging the receipt
of the documents and advising him of the results of the examination of
same. He said:
They have been thoroughly examined by us. In the opinion of my council
there is nothing in this or any other new matter which has come to their
notice that in any way affects the position indicated by me when I, on
behalf of the society, presented you with a special gold medal at the
Albert Hall for your explorations, during which you were the first to
reach a pole of the earth.
And about the same time another member of the council of the Royal
Geographical Society wrote Admiral Peary advising him that the documents
he sent had been “most thoroughly and critically examined.” Both these
letters are set out in full in the record of the proceedings before our
congressional investigating committee. So much for the recognition of the
services of the explorer by distinguished men and bodies in foreign
countries, and more particularly mentioned in the report of the committee
as quoted supra.