A Postal History Gallery of Related Events

Cook, Peary & the Race to the Pole


An Invitation to Dinner

Perhaps ironically, the Arctic Club did not support Robert Peary in either a logistical or financial manner. This letter is an invitation to members to attend the club's annual dinner, an event held every year from 1894 to 1913 (or so).


The invitation is signed by Henry Biederbick, a survivor of Greely's Lady Franklin Bay Expedition, 1881-1884.


Robert Peary was a Very Popular Figure

His visits to the United States were full of invitations to meet admirers. Peary was the great American hope to reach the big prize ... the North Pole.


The Dash to the Pole

Special cards were carried on the 1908 voyage of the S.S. ROOSEVELT, expedition ship during Peary's final dash to the pole. The expedition wintered in Grants Land in 1908-09 and Peary left from Cape Columbia on the first of March, 1909, with a mixed team including six Eskimos, Matt Henson and Captain Bob Bartlett. The party was reduced as supplies became short and on April 6, 1909, Peary made his claim to have reached the pole with a party of four Eskimos and his assistant, Matt Henson. After a stay of only thirty hours they returned to the ship.

The cards were mailed at the first port of call, St. John's, Newfoundland, to mark an event that has been clouded by controversy ever since.

Lieutenant Robert Peary and Dr. Frederick Cook both claimed to have reached the North Pole by dog team in 1908 and the controversy continues to this day. The public took sides, although the proof was not easily understood or available. Post cards depicting Cook's expedition ship BRADLEY appeared in the mails for many years.

Illustrated to the left is an official set of three cards from the expedition on which Robert E. Peary attained the North Pole. The first card was canceled on S.S. ROOSEVELT'S departure from Brooklyn, 9 July 1908; the middle card is canceled upon arrival at St. John's. Newfoundland, 20 July 1908; the last card is canceled upon their return through St. John's, 17 September 1909.

(Courtesy of Herb & Janice Harvis)

(Except where noted, exhibition pieces courtesy of George Hall)