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Inside the Peary Expedition: Part 14: Aftermath: June 10, 1910: Franke sues Robert E. Peary

July 23, 2021

After the adverse findings of the commission appointed to examine Dr. Cook’s records at the University of Copenhagen in December 1909, and the superficial examination Peary’s records received by the National Geographic Society the previous month that resulted in a favorable verdict on his claim, Peary was generally acknowledged as the discoverer of the North Pole. After some preliminary lectures in the United Sates, he set off on a triumphal tour of Europe where he was honored and awarded gold medals and other honors. While staying at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin, however, he received something he didn’t want; he was served papers in connection with a suit brought by Rudolph Franke aimed at recovering the monetary equivalent of the furs and other belongings he claimed Peary had extorted from him at Etah in August 1908.

In connection with this suit Franke filed the following deposition:

“To carry out Dr. Cook’s orders, the complainant transferred the things from Annatok {sic} to Etah and from there to Arwagluari-Po[i]nt. This last point was especially difficult as it lead over the very dangerous glacier known as the Morris K. Jesup Glacier, partially melted by the sun. The complainant suffered from a serious sprain to one of his legs. In Arwagluari-Po[i]nt the complainant left his things together with a letter asking passing whalers or any other ship to take the same to New York. In this letter he said the things belonged to Dr. Cook and should be given to Mrs. Cook. The complainant returned to Etah and from there to North Star Bay in a boat. This is a station of the Whalers. Here he left news that he was sick, and any ship happening along the coast to take him aboard or to look for him in Etah, and after his return to Etah, he found there the defendant’s ship ‘Roosevelt’ which ship was joined next day by the Eric {sic}.

“In spite of the fact that the defendant had received the letter left by the complainant at North Star Bay, he offered no assistance. Proof that the complainant received letter as follow: Sworn to by witness Joe White 419 West 39th Street, New York City and for the articles left, testified to by Dr. Cook whose address will be given later.1 The defendant is required to swear the above is true. Furthermore the testimony of the witnesses named below to whom the complainant told the course of this Expedition and showed his drawings which same drawings were placed before the Cook Commission in Copenhagen.

“The defendant was not present when the complainant arrived in Etah, being off on a hunting trip. The physician of the Expedition cared for the complainant. Upon return of the defendant he asked the complainant if he had articles and if so where. This question was only put to give the impression that the letter left at North Star Bay by complainant had not been found by defendant. The Complainant told defendant which articles he had and where they were to be found. He also told defendant that Dr. Cook had requested him to bring these articles to N. Y. and that they belonged to Dr. Cook. Following is the list of the items: 200 blue fox skins valued at from 40 to 50 thousand mark, 7 pieces narwhal horns valued per piece 6 to 7 hundred mark [each], 2 dozen narwhal teeth2 valued 1000 mark Sworn and testified to by Joe White.

“The companion ship Eric was to return from Etah to N. Y. so the complainant asked that he and his articles be taken to N.Y. The defendant made reply that under no consideration would he transport his belongings but if he gave up his furs which the defendant needed for his Expedition he would allow him pass[age to] go on the ship. Testimony as before. Furthermore the defendant told the complainant he would try his utmost to find Dr. Cook. As the complainant was very ill and believed he would die shortly also that the defendant would use furs and narwhal horns solely for his expedition and because he believed that the defendant would do all possible in the interest of the complainant’s employer namely, Dr. Cook, he consented to have his belongings removed by the defendant’s Eskimos from Arwagluari-Po[i]nt. This was soon done and the defendant forced the complainant to give him his belongings on board the Roosevelt. He also forced him to write letters of August 11 and 13th, 1908.3 As compensation for his passage to N. Y. Complainant gave to defendant all his provisions of which he had goodly supply. Testimony as before.

“The complainant began his return on board the Eric and was bedridden the first few days. As he grew better, he learned the return of the Eric had been provided for by a Mr. Norton and that defendant had nothing to do with same. He further learned much to his surprise that many blue fox skins as well as narwhal horns were to be found on board the Eric. The complainant felt sure that he could swear that two narwhal horns were done up in the same packing in which he, the complainant had placed them and directed to the former President of the U. S., Roosevelt. Testimony as before. The complainant has learned that the defendant has made presents of blue fox skins given by the complainant to the following: Pres. Roosevelt, the present President Taft and Mrs. Taft, Capt. Sam Bartlett, Brigus Newfoundland, Mr. Craft from Carnegie Institute, Washington D.C., Edd Larned, 156 Broadway, N.Y. City, Frank Norton, 589 Exchange Place, 14 Etage, N.Y. city, Harry Whitney, Newhaven, Connecticut, U. S. A. In consequence of the above having received blue fox skins and they they {sic} were the same skins given to defendant by complainant the testimony of same will be taken. Mr. Sam Bartlett and Mr. White and crew of the Eric whose names will be given later. The testimony of Capt. Osborn, 138 East 23 Street, N.Y. City is especially important. He is acquainted with all the details relative to the arrival of skins, belongings etc. All the before mentioned articles namely, blue fox skins, narwhal horns, narwhal teeth and provisions were the common property of Dr. Cook and complainant. Cook had agreed with complainant that later on the amount received by the sale of the various articles would be divided between the two as compensation for the Expedition. Testimony of Cr. Cook and his letter, March 17-1908. Further, It must be taken into consideration that it is the right of an old custom to divide the spoils of such an expedition between the others of the same. In this case there were only Dr. Cook and the complainant who took part in the Expedition, so in accordance with this oldtime custom, they should share all share alike.

“When complainant declared all his belongings as Dr. Cook’s property and as such gave them over to defendant, it was with this idea to secure better protection as Dr. Cook is better known here and personally acquainted with defendant, while complainant is unknown, being for the first time in this region.

“The defendant is duty bound to make good to the complainant the value of the different articles. It has already been mentioned that complainant was seriously ill and unable to care for himself. He needed the care of a Dr. and the Whalers on board of which he had accepted to return were gone, therefore he was at the mercy of the defendant and compelled to accept his terms. As the Eric now remained the only ship on which he could return, all this the defendant knew and still refused to give complainant passage if he insisted upon taking his belongings with him.

“The complainant also learned that the statement made by defendant in which he declared the great need of the furs for his expedition to be untrue, as Complainant afterward learned that defendant was richly provided with skins and that same had already been fashioned into garments. Testimony Henry Jo[h]nson Arctic Club 139 E. 23rd Street New York City.

“As has already been testified to, the defendant had no need of the skins etc. for his expedition, but made presents with some of them, sent home by the Eric and turned the rest into money. The defendant doubtless made the presents to those in authority with a view of gaining their favor for himself, characteristic are the two letters of August 11 and 13th, which the defendant had ordered to be written to protect himself against future criticism. As soon as complainant brought his case before the public these letters were published in the New York Times, the paper favoring Peary.

“The date of the paper in which these letters were published is to be found in court. We have already mentioned and put under consideration of experienced people that the skins had a value of from 40 to 50 thousand mark, narwhal horns valued for 4200 to 4900 mark, walrus teeth valued 1000 mark, the total amount being from 45 to 55 thousand mark. The complainant has a right to claim one half of the amount revived by sale of said articles.

“In this case 20,000 mark are required to be paid by defendant to complainant.4

“All explanation and transaction in reference to the above mentioned case between defendant and complainant will be fought.

“The defendant is not in position to return the goods to complainant as he has either sold or made presents of same. On this account he has to be sworn in.

“In conclusion, it will be stated that the Complainant asked aid of the German Rotschafter (consolate) in Washington and was told to go to German authorities.

“Copy to be found in the Gerichtsschreiborei [Judicial Reporters], Berlin, June 8-1910


Richard Thiel.”

1 At the time of this deposition, Frederick Cook had not been heard from since November 1909, and his whereabouts were unknown.

2 Actually the “narwhal teeth” were walrus tusks.

3 See these letters in previous posts in this series.

4 A German Mark at the time was equal to 20 cents, or 5 marks to the dollar. A dollar was worth approximately 25 times as much as it is today in buying power. So 20,000 M would be $4,000, with the buying power of today’s dollar of $100,000.

A typed copy of the deposition is among Peary’s papers at NARA II.


Inside the Peary Expedition: Part 13: Aftermath: Spetember 1908; Franke reaches the United States

June 10, 2021

On August 18th Franke, still brooding over his dealings with Peary, watched the Roosevelt steam slowly north and vanish from sight among the ice of Smith Sound. Peary had forbidden him to take anything aboard the Erik besides his personal effects; he was not even allowed a pair of dogs he wanted to donate to the Catholic relief mission ship St. Bernard. The Roosevelt was hardly out of sight when Franke began to hear grumblings among the crew of the Erik about Peary’s unfair treatment of them, though while the commander had been present they had seemed totally subservient.

The day after the Roosevelt sailed, the Arctic, under the command of Captain Joseph Bernier, anchored in Etah’s harbor. Captain Bernier had hope to try for the North Pole himself in 1908, but the Canadian government had ordered him to visit the islands discovered by Sverdrup and claim Canadian sovereignty over them instead. One of Bernier assignments was to deliver 15 boxes of relief supplies sent by Marie Cook. Bernier also had 11 letters for Dr. Cook, which Franke took on the doctor’s behalf. He gave them to Harry Whitney for safekeeping, since he did not trust Peary’s men to deliver them. When Bernier tried to obtain a team of dogs to aid his explorations, Bos’n Murphy would not allow him to have a single animal, and after caching Cook’s supplies slightly south of Etah, the Arctic left Foulke Fjord bound for Jones Sound.

The meeting with Captain Bernier made Franke all the more depressed and resentful of Peary. Certainly, he thought, Peary must have known the Arctic was coming to Etah but had kept silent in order to extort from him Cook’s provisions and furs for his personal gain. He felt he now realized the extent of Peary’s unscrupulous nature and began to fear for Dr. Cook’s safety in case of his return, as Peary seemed capable of anything. But he had asked Panikpa to keep a watchful eye on things at Annoatok; in this, at least, Franke took comfort as the Erik left Etah on August 23rd . He did not know that at that moment Panikpa was bound for Cape Sheridan aboard the Roosevelt, along with many of the Eskimos who had accompanied Dr. Cook across Ellesmere Land, for further questioning.

Even the prospects of a tranquil voyage vanished when , on the evening of September 22nd the Erik collided with an iceberg that stove in her bow. After some frantic activity, it was determined that the severely damaged ship could still make port. Franke went below to discover that his trunk was also a casualty of the accident. Many of the photographic plat4es were destroyed, but he was able to save Dr. Cook’s diary.

When the Erik limped into Brigus the next day, he was hospitably greeted by Moses Bartlett, who had captained the Bradley. There he found that it was not September 23rd, as he thought, but September 30th. In the nightless Arctic summer he had lost count of seven days. The Erik managed to make it to St. John’s for repairs, and from there Franke took a boat to Sydney, where he caught the train for New York.

Once in the city he met with the secretary of the Arctic Club, B.S. Osbon. Osbon was a flamboyant character with many outspoken views. He knew all the inside gossip about Robert Peary and found him insufferably arrogant. When he heard Franke’s story of his dealings with Peary at Etah, he urged Franke to write a letter to Josephine Peary asking her to set things straight or he would report the affair publicly. Franke enclosed two copies of the letter, one in English and one in German, since Mrs. Peary spoke his native tongue:

[illegible N.Y. address]

Mrs. Robert E. Peary

Washington, D.C.


While I am very sorry to do it, I cannot help

to write these lines to you. No doubt your hus-

band has mentioned me to you in his last letter

and told you that I met him at Etah, North Green-

land. When I first met your husband, sickness and

distressing fatiques had brought me near death, and

people said I could not live much longer.

I told your husband all concerning John Bradley’s

expedition and especially all about Dr. Cook in a

sincere frank and honest way, and was glad not only

to have met your husband but to have won a mutual

confidence. Unfortunately I found how much I was

mistaken on that in return trip on the “Erik” as to

my trust in your husband when I found out how unfair

a man could be, who called himself a gentleman. Let

me tell you my explanation. Among other things your

husband said, he could not allow that Dr. Cook’s be-

longings (about 200 fox skins and 7 narwhale horns)

to go with the Erik for he himself needed winter clo-

thing, etc., and he said he had never traded or

bought furs to be taken South. Your husband knew

that the furs and narwhale horns were Dr. Cook’s

property and how his action in obtaining the same

made him guilty. When I spoke to him the next

day about his action he told me literally:

“Do you think I would allow you to go home with the

furs on board the Eric? I never did it in my life

to send furs and something else home. I will shoulder

the responsibility with Dr. Cook myself.” I told all

I took and the whole thing was settled for me. My

health improved and I could walk around. I saw your

husband must have permitted to send furs home for I

saw boxes and bundles and took notice of some addresses.

found likewise that furs were dried in the salon of the

Eric; furs which belonged to Dr. Cook. When your hus-

band needed furs for winter clothing, why did he not

keep them on deck to be used for the benefit of his men

instead of sending them to you and other persons as pre-

sents: I have acted fair towards your husband. From the

instant I was told he had come here with an expedition.

I stopped buying and trading and left him everything

he needed. I am now busy with getting my report

ready and to be truthful I must mention this inci-

dent. The honor of your husband will very much

be doubted and I leave it to you to remedy this

occurrence in communicating with Mrs. Fred A. Cook.

All women are, as a rule, clever and wise and can

overcome difficulties easily, that are almost im-

possible for men. Please, help! I am writing the

truth to you and if necessary, I can swear too all

I have said above before court.

Sincerely yours

Rudolph Franke

When Jo Peary ignored Franke’s letters, Osbon made good on his promise of creating a “sensation” in the press by claiming Peary had used Franke’s desperate condition to extort from him supplies and valuable fur and ivory worth more than $5,000.

When it came time to write her letters to be delivered to her husband via the Arctic whalers, Jo warned him of the events that had ensued since he departed on his latest expedition:Jo letter

March 23, 1909

My Dearest,
The usual 6 copies of whaler letters are
to go on the 25th so here goes hoping & believing you
will not depend on them for news. Surely you
will come this Fall. You must. I could not
face another winter without you. I never
have wanted you as I have this last year.
The children have been fairly well & things have
gone well but I need you.
The Erik rammed an iceberg on a clear night
after leaving Cape Haven last Sept. & was badly
smashed but managed to reach St. John’s under
her own steam.
Cook & his friends may give you trouble.
That dog Franck told Osbon of the Arctic Club
that you stole all of Cook’s furs & ivory valued at
$5,000 & sent them as presents to Roosevelt,
your wife & others & drove Franck out of
the country at the point of your rifle.
Osbon published this & a lot of similar rot
& I simply had to allow Reick1 to publish
some of the correspondence between you &

Franck. The matter is to be taken up again

when you return according to Osbon.

Adm. Schley2 is pres. of the Arctic Club & is solic-
iting money for a relief ship for Cook
to be commanded by Dillon Wallace3.

1. William Reick, sub-editor of the New York Times.
2. Admiral Winfield Scott Schley’s connection with the Arctic came from his rescue of the survivors of Greely’s Lady Franklin Bay Expedition in 1884. He later was the hero of the Naval battle of Santiago during the Spanish American War.
3. Dillon Wallace was a lawyer and best selling author, who mounted three expeditions to Labrador. He was a personal friend of Dr. Cook’s and a fellow member of the Arctic Club.

A typed copy of Franke’s letter and Jo’s letter is at NARA II.


Inside the Peary Expedition: Part 12: August 17; Peary prepares to sail north

May 19, 2021

After a walrus hunt to provide the Inuit with meat lost by his taking some of the best hunters north with him, Peary prepared to sail. He put the Bos’n, John Murphy in charge of Cook’s box house at Annoatok, to live there and guard the supplies Cook had brought against pilfering by the natives. To keep him company and keep the log, as Murphy was perfectly illiterate, he assigned Billy Pritchard, the Roosevelt’s cabin boy to stay with him. Peary wrote out a set of detailed instructions for Pritchard to read to Murphy to remind him of how he was to spend his time.

The instructions he left are long and tedious, so no transcription is provided here. Ross Marvin’s handwritten copy of the instructions, signed by Peary, is generally legible, so the interested reader can read them from the original, dated at Etah, August 17, 1908, which is reproduced below and is now at NARA II.August 17 instructions 1

Instructions 2Instructions 3Instructions 4Instructions 5Instructions 6

Although he declared in the opening paragraph that he was leaving the men “in charge of the station here for the relief of Dr. Cook,” Peary wrote to his wife what his true intentions actually were:

August 17 Peary to Peary

I have Sammy1 on board to
prevent Cook from taking him back.

The Cook circumstances have given
me a good deal of extra work &
trouble; but have worked out satis-

I have landed supplies here, &
leave two men ostensibly in behalf
of Cook. As a matter of fact I
have established here the sub-base
which last time I established at Vic-
toria Head, as a precaution against
in event of loss of the R– either
going up this fall or coming down
next Summer.

In some respects this is an advan-
tage as on leaving here there is nothing to delay me or keep me from taking either side of the Channel going up.

The conditions give me entire control of the situation.

Most of Peary’s dictated instructions are concerned with bartering away Cook’s supplies for fox and other valuable pelts.

Peary had planned to head north that day, but rain, snow and fog prevented him sailing. But he was able to do so on August 18th. As with everything else, Dr. Goodsell recorded the departure in his diary:

“Whitney, Norton, Learned and Craft2 came aboard to bid us good bye, and wish us success. The Erik will remain at Etah for a couple of days, completing the unloading of the coal to be left at Etah for the Roosevelt.
The weather was bad during the morning, but in the afternoon the sun came out and the fog disappeared. It was a pleasant afternoon, and the kind of weather we might desire for a start.
At last the farewell given, we are away for Cape Sheridan and our winter quarters.”

And so Peary sailed and would not be heard from by the world at large at all until his message was flashed to the world on September 6, 1909, from Battle Harbour, Labrador: “Stars and Stripes nailed to the North Pole.”

As for Rudolph Franke, he watched as what only could be the skins he and Cook had collected over the winter were loaded aboard the Erik. Franke had signed a receipt given to him by Ross Marvin acknowledging the $50 in gold given him for his expenses in getting back to New York. Later Herbert L. Bridgman, Secretary of the Peary Arctic Club, billed Mrs. Cook for the cost of Franke’s “relief.” This receipt is now in the Peary papers at NARA II.August 17 Franke receipt

1. “Sammy” was Peary’s first illegitimate son, whose Inuit name was Anaukaq. Apparently, Peary feared Cook might attempt to take him back to the United States to embarrass him. To prevent this, Peary took him north on the Roosevelt.

2. These were all paying “guests” aboard the Roosevelt. Each had paid Peary $500 ($12,500 in today’s buying power) for the privilege of accompanying him to Greenland. All returned with the Erik except for Harry Whitney, who spent the winter at Dr. Cook’s box house at Annoatok and witnessed his return there in April of 1909.


Inside the Peary Expedition: Part 11: August 14-15: The Erik prepares to sail

April 21, 2021

As usual, Dr. Goodsell’s copious diary recorded the latest news on August 14, 1908:

“Rudolph Franke will return on the Erik. Franke is practically disabled. He slipped and injured his left leg some two or three months ago. His disability prevented him from properly caring for himself. He was unable to obtain fresh meat in sufficient quantity and brought on an attack of the scurvy, which particularly affected his injured limb.

“When I first saw him the limb was discolored and badly swollen. He is slowly improving under treatment. Com. Peary has assigned him a berth on the Erik, and provided for his personal use a supply of grape juice and fruit. Franke was unwilling to stay at Etah on account of his disability.

“In my judgment he was disabled to such an extent that it would have been unwise for him to have remained another winter. The Eskimo had helped themselves to portions of his stores. His sugar and milk were gone. His condition would have prevented him from providing sufficient fresh meat and other essentials for another winter.

“Com. Peary will be short two of his men who will be left at Etah with sufficient stores to remain the year if necessary and receive Dr. Cook on his return, probably this fall or winter when the ice has frozen sufficiently to cross Smith Sound.

“The disability of Franke compelling his return would leave Dr. Cook’s supplies to be squandered by the Eskimo if not protected by the men from the Roosevelt.”

As the Erik prepared to sail, Ross Marvin penned a final letter to Louis Bement:August 15 1August 15 2

8-15 1908
Etah, North Greenland

Dear Mr. Bement: -
Here we are still at Etah
and it is Saturday Night. We finished
transferring coal & cargo this evening
& expect to get out Monday. it is
midnight and I have still some work
to do but I feel that I must drop
you a few lines of importance for
fear I may not get another chance.
It is just like this Lou, the
Dr. Cook affair has become a tangle
and a hard nut to crack. I am writing
Peary’s confidential letters concerning
the matter & so my lips must be
closed. So you see how I stand. I know
more about it than anyone else but
I can say less. The others can write
what they know, with me it would
be a breach of trust.
I Imagine the affair
will create newspaper talk when the
Erik returns so I wan to keep out
of it. Whatever I have told you and
what little more I may add is between
you and me. I hope you will understand
the position I am in, I would like to tell
you all but I owe a duty to Com. Peary.
Dr. Cook’s man is returning by
the Erik, and we are leaving two men
here to take his place. That robs us
of our Bos’n, a valuable man at all
times. It is hard to tell where Dr. Cook
is but I honestly believe he is alive and
somewhere north of here on the other side
of the channel (The Grand Land side) He
will have a hard time I am afraid if
we do not run across him, which
we are very apt to do.

[sincerely yours
Ross G. Marvin]


Inside the Peary Expedition, Part 10: August 13, 1908: Rudolph Franke decides to go home

March 6, 2021

This following letter was addressed to Peary by Rudolph Franke. Franke later said that he wrote the letter under duress, that Peary made it the condition of his return that he turn over to him all of Dr. Cook’s stores at Annoatok, as well as the blue fox furs and narwhal horns he and Cook had collected since their arrival in 1907. Franke said that Peary told him that he was short of furs and needed them to outfit his expedition, and that none would be sent back to the United States. Later, however, Franke saw bundles of furs being loaded aboard the Erik. He knew Peary could not possibly have collected that many furs in the short time since his arrival in Greenland, and was certain they were the same ones that had belonged to Dr. Cook.

The letter is in the hand of Ross Marvin, not Franke. It is evidently a copy of Franke’s original, which is not among Peary’s papers. Whether the mistakes it contains in spelling and form are Franke’s or Marvin’s is unknown, because Marvin’s own letters to Louis Bement are prone to such errors as appear here.

August 13 Franke Letter 1

Etha, August 13th 1908 No. 3 I

Mr. Peary, Esq.
Now is the question before me to do
what is right for the future and after thoughtful
consideration I have resolved to do the following
1. I leave you all the stuff, laying at
Etha and Anoatook to take care of them
because I cant do it. I am in crippled condition
from my boat-trip to Oominui and back,
your judgement and experience will know
to make the best use of them.
2. The enclosed letter authorized you
concerning the 5 boxes, 1 bundle Narwahl
horns and one trunk of furs and one compass,
what to do with them. They are laying on
Arwagluarwi Pt. This is all Dr Cook’s property
except one horn, the heaviest top broken off.
This belongs to me and I beg you to take that
from me, as a present, received for your

August 13 Franke Letter

your kindness and hospitality. I
thank herewith for the care you, Mr.
Bartlett, Marvin & Dr. Goodsell they
gave me, they were very kind to me.
3. My self respect orders me now, not to
go home, but to stay and wait for Dr Cook’s
return. After thoughtfull consideration
I found it would be unwise and foolish to
stand in Anoatook a second winter. I
resolved to go home with the vessel “Erik,”
which you kindly placed to my disposal.
To justify my step for you and others I tell you
the following points.
1. If Dr. C. is going south the Wast Coast of
Greenland he will find assistance there. I
suppose there is now an Danish Expedition
and furthermore plenty provisions at
Shannon and Pendulum Island.
2. If Dr. C. comes back by way the west Coast
of Greenland, he will find assistance at
Anoatook, I cant stand there, because

August 13 3 Rudolph Franke

because there are just for one not for
two provisions, the right kind, and it
would be for both dangerous. The provisions
are now shorter than I leave Anoatook
for my boar-trip to Oominui, in the
meantime the Esquimaux break in the house
and committed burglaries. How much it is,
I cant tell, I cant go up in my condition,
but I hope your Captain Mr. Bartlett will
make a statement by his voyage up the
sound for gathering information about
the ice.
3. If Dr. C. comes back to East Coast of
Ellemereland he will meet you.
4 If Dr. C. goes south the West coast of Ellesmere
Land, he got there provisions at Cape Thomas
Hubbard and on (near) Cape Lockwood coals.
5. By returning way over Alaska he will fall
in with the whalers, wintering at Marshall
4 I must go home, Dr Cooks orders me that, why
I don’t know. I dont know who will pay me off Mr
Bradley New York or Dr. C. I have now written

August 13 4 Rudolph Franke

written agreement. It is also the
highest time, that my old mother,
where I am and to take care of her what
is one of my first duty.
Now you see, Mr. Peary, that I justified myself in
every line and I beg you to take in care all the
property of Dr. C. After advise of your surgeon
I should take care of myself and it would be
foolish to stand a second winter. Please lend
me your helping hand furthermore, I will be
very thankfull In another paper you will find
a statement a statement of the provisions and
supplies and in leaving them I give you full
power to use them. Excuse my bad english
I am foreigner. I remain, Sir,
Respectfully yours,
Rudolph Franke.

Lists of the supplies turned over by Franke is also in Peary’s papers.  These lists are also in Ross Marvin’s hand:

Supplies 1 Rudolph Franke

Supplies 2 Rudolph Franke

The letter and the lists are in the Peary Papers at NARA II.


Inside the Peary Expedition, Part 9: August 10, 1908: Rudolph Franke returns

February 8, 2021

On August 10, Dr. Goodsell wrote in his diary:

“The Captain, McMillen, Borup and boat crew have returned from Littleton Island. They secured four Walrus and nearly one hundred birds. The Captain reported from the summit of the island the pack ice to the northward was nearly continuous. He started out again to be gone a couple of days for a more extended observation of the ice pack. Foggy conditions prevailing, he returned shortly, bringing Dr. Cook’s assistant, Rudolph Franke. Franke desired transportation southward and attention from myself for an injured leg considerably swollen and partly disabling him for a couple of months.

“. . . The Captain reported that from the summit of the Island the pack ice to the northward was nearly continuous. He started out again to be gone a couple of days for a more extended observation of the ice pack. Foggy conditions prevailing he returned shortly bringing Dr. Cook’s assistant Rudolph Franke. Franke desired transportation southward and attention from myself for an injured leg considerably swollen and partly disabling him for a couple of months.

“He reports that Dr. Cook left Cape Inglefield on February 26th striking across Smiths Sound for cape Sabine and then to Koldeway Bay on Bache Peninsula. Dr. Cook’s party left Koldewey Bay March 3rd westward for Nanson Strait where they found Musk-Ox in more than sufficient numbers. At this point Franke and a portion of the Eskimo (3) returned to Cape Inglefield. Two months later some more (6) of the Eskimo returned leaving two with Dr. Cook. A letter brought with the returning Eskimo May 7th said that D. Cook was at Cape Thomas Hubbard on March 17th, but fourteen days after leaving Koldewey Bay. Dr. Cook started on his expedition with about 100 dogs. Eleven Eskimo and the assistant, Rudolph Franke. Left a cache of provisions at Cape Thomas Hubbard and Etah. He intend to try for the Pole and join Danish expedition on the east coast o Greenland, or return southward towards Ellesmere Land.

“A letter from Dr. Cook was received on May 7th by Rudolph Franke who was awaiting at Anoratok, Cape Inglefield, where the expedition started from. The letter said they had killed one hundred Musk-oxen, two hundred hare, and six or eight Bear.”

Ross Marvin informed Louis Bement of the latest developments the next day:August 11 1

August 11 2

8 – 11 1908
Etah, North Greenland.

Dear Mr. Bement: -
Just a few more lines to close
this letter and put it in my bundle to be mailed
in Sydney, before the Erik arrives. What chance
I get to write a little after the Com. gets here
I shall keep the letter open until the last day
and send it by way of St. John’s Newfoundland.
My last message will probably be a post card,
The Erik is already in sight and will
probably be here in less than an hour. The Dr.
Cook affair grows more complicated every day.
His man Rudolph Frankie arrived here yesterday in
a boat from North Star Bay. He is real anxious to leave
here & wants to go home on the Erik. He has not heard
from Dr. Cook since March 17th at Cape Thomas
Hubbard, the Commander’s most western point.
He has a sore leg which our doctor has
begun treating and which the Dr. says needs
rest for some time. He is in no condition
either physically or more especially
mentally to spend another winter
here. Perhaps you may think I ought
to tell you more about the Dr. Cook
affair but as things seem to be so
mixed up here I hesitate about saying
much of anything about it. And as
far as actual news goes there is not
much to be said. Dr. Cook is not
back and no one her knows where
he is. He left Cape Thomas Hubbard
with two native boys and two sledges
that means that he cannot get
very far nor be in very good condition
at present.
We are here at Etah nearly a
week ahead of last trip but we shall
probably not leave here any earlier than
we did last year as the ice is still
heavy north of us. I dont see any chance
as yet to send back any souvenirs on
the Erik this year. I would like to send
something to Cornell. Must close for
the present,
Ross G. Marvin

Dr. Goodsell was asked to examine Franke. Afterwards, he wrote his official report to Peary:

August 12 Goodsell Letter

Aug 12 1908
Commander R.E. Peary. U.S. N.

Dear Sir:
Rudolph Franke requested
professional treatment when
brought aboard the Roosevelt. He
reports having slipped on the ice
the latter part of May, 1908, injuring
his left leg.
On examination the limb is badly
swollen, purple in spots, involving the
thigh, in a less degree. Franke is practically
disabled from the injury and
complicating scurvy.

Respectfully yours
J. W Goodsell Dr. &
“Peary Arctic Club Expedition”

A typed copy of Goodsell’s diary and his official report are at NARA II.


Inside the Peary Expedition, Part 8: Word of Dr. Cook gets out: August 7, 1908

January 6, 2021

Once Dr. Cook’s March 17 letter was retrieved from Annoatok, apparently, as Peary’s secretary, Marvin was asked to make a copy.  He couldn’t help himself from telling his friend what he learned of Cook’s movements.  A copy of Cook’s letter, with a number of transcription errors, is among Peary’s papers at NARA II.

August 7, 1August 7, 2

8 – 7 08
Etah, N. Greenland.
Dear Mr. Bement: -
Here we are at Etah in
the Roosevelt. The Com & Matt went on the
Erik up in Olriks Bay & around to all the
settlements. Dr. Cook seems to be the whole
topic of conversation here but whatever
I tell you I wish you would consider it as
confidential. He sent all but two of his
natives back from Cape Hubbard where the
Com had been last summer1 & said he was
going on to Crocker Land2 but not the pole.
The man he left here went down to
North Star Bay & left a note which we picked
up. He is in a whale boat & is not back yet
but ought to be in a few days. Most of the
men are over to Anarotok3 but are expected
here in a few days, they seem to travel
back and forth.
Dr. Cook and his two natives
are not back yet, they had a canvass boat
big enough for three on the sledge with them
all we know is what we have picked up
from the Eskimo perhaps we will see his
white man before we leave here.
He has a little cache here
at Etah and a box house at Anaratok which
is just north east of Cairn Point. He also
left a cache at Cape Hubbard and found
plenty of Musk Oxen and bear this side
of there. In fact he seems to have had
better lusk than we thought for.
The natives here dont seem
to be worried about his not returning. They
say he is over on the other side eating bear
and musk oxen and will be back here when
the sledging begins again. In that case
he will probably go on to Upernivik during
the fall & sail to Denmark from there.
I would not dare write this
about Dr Cook if I did not feel sure that you
will keep it to yourself.
We will lay here
several days before the Erik arrives and
then several days of hustle like the
devil before we leave here. I will write
again before we leave.
Sincerely yours

Ross Marvin


1 Actually it was the summer of 1906. Marvin makes this mistake several times, referring to “last year” when it was actually two years since Peary’s last expedition. Marvin served on that expedition as well.

2 Crocker Land was supposedly sighted by Peary from Cape Thomas Hubbard in 1906. However, all evidence points to Peary inventing this sighting in an attempt to attract more financial support from the rich banker George Crocker. In any case, Crocker Land does not exist.

3 Annoatok, as Cook spelled it, was a seasonal hunting settlement located about 20 miles northeast of Etah.


Inside the Peary Expedition, Part 7: A Letter from Rudolph Franke

December 6, 2020

At Etah, Peary retrieved a letter sent north via a native by Rudolph Franke, who had been the cook on Bradley’s yacht, and whom Cook had paid to overwinter with him in a house he had built from packing crates at Annoatok. Franke had received a letter from Dr. Cook in May via the Inuit who had accompanied him to Cape Thomas Hubbard, dated March 17. In it he had given these instructions to Franke in case he was not back by June. It read in part:

“While I expect to get back to you by the end of May, still I wish you to be ready to go to Acponie, the Island off North Star, where the whalers’ steamers come, by the 5th of June, and if I am not back go home with the whalers, I think however we will be back.

“Gather all the blue fox skins you can. These must be our money on the return trip. If you can get a few bear skins take them, also Narwhal and Walrus tusks, but do not give too much for them. . . .

“There is likely to be much open water between you and Etah so you had better send the trunk, the Narwhal tusks and all things for the return to Etah at least, if not further, as soon as you can.”

When Cook had not appeared by the appointed date, Franke set out for North Star Bay. Not finding any whaling ships, he started back for Etah, sending ahead this letter to deliver in case he encountered a ship along the way or one had arrived at Etah during his absence:

July 13 Franke Letter

Oomanui, July 13, 1908

Herewith I beg to inform you:
I am from the Yacht “John R. Bradley” New York and stayed with Dr. Cook, Brooklyn, N.Y. the winter 1907-1908, at Anorotok, 20 miles further north than Etah. Dr. Cook did leave me March 3d, Flagler Bay, to start for the far north. I received lettre from him dated Mar. 17th, Cape Hubbard, on May 7th at Anorotok, announcing his return by the end of May. He advised me in that letter to communicate with the whalers, at Akponie1, but I found out by my arrival here, that 2 vessels was already 2 months ago here. I want explain that I must go north again to my quarters, and I beg you to come up to Etah with your vessel to take me home. I have not, the right kind of provisions, which enables me to stand without danger, a second winter, and I am the only white man here. Tillto date I have no messages from Dr. Cook to take this in account I fear he didn’t return and is driven out in East Greenland Sea. I have values for your [illegible word] security against risk, Excuse my bad English. I am foreigner. Please help me.
Respectfully yours,

Rudolph Franke

I am now going up with boat along the shore. Please look good out. Perhaps you arrive in Etah sooner than I. I expect to be back in 8 or 10 days in Etah. Please give the bearer of this a little gift of tobacco and put it to my account.2

1 Acponie, as Cook spelled it, is a large island near North Star Bay.

2 This last sentence is printed upside down and backwards in the space occupied by the signature and must be read by holding it up to a mirror. Perhaps it was on the outside of the envelop containing the message, but why it is so oriented on the transcript is unknown. Perhaps it is a bleed through from the other side of the carbon paper.

The typed transcript of the letter is in the Peary Family Papers at National Archives II, College Park, MD


Inside the Peary Expedition, Part 6: Waiting for the ice in Melville Bay, August 5, 1908

November 10, 2020

The Roosevelt was delayed at North Star Bay while waiting for the ice to loosen in Melville Bay before heading farther north. Melville Bay was notorious for hazardous ice jams, but beyond was generally clear in August. While he waited, Marvin added a few details about the expedition’s outfit. The “Huskies” referred to here are the Inuit men Peary took on board at North Star, along with their families. The women worked all winter aboard the ice-bound ship preparing skins and sewing fur garments.

August 5, 1908

8 – 5 1908

We have as many good men as we
had last time but near as many
children. We have more dogs, more
walrus meat for the huskies and about
50 ton of whale meat for the dogs. We
have a fine outfit of furs and our clothing
100% better than last time.
The Com. gave me a
Narwhal Horn tonight and I am going
to send it to Cornell for the Museum.
I am going to write Pres. Schurman
tonight concerning it.
The ice is hard and
loose north of us so we are in no
rush to leave here the way we did
last year. I may have another chance
to add a few lines tomorrow. If not
Goodbye. We are safe, dont let Mother
worry too much.
sincerely yours,
Ross Marvin


Inside the Peary Expedition: Part 5: The Roosevelt reaches the native settlements, August 3, 1908

October 18, 2020

August 3  1

August 3 2

8 – 3 1908
North Star Bay.1
Dear Mr Bement:-

It has been longer than I ex-
pected since I wrote last but you know how
busy we are among the settlements here. We are
all going walrus hunting early tomorrow
morning. It is now midnight and I ought to
be in bed but I wont get another chance to
write soon if I go on the Erik.

We reached Cape
York Bay the night of July 31st a week ahead of
last trip but we are going to use most of that
week in spending more time among the native
settlements so that we wont leave Etah much
earlier than we did last year. We had a
rough foggy passage2 and have had dis-
agreeable weather since we reached here. A
snowstorm in Cape York Bay.3

The people are pros-
perous especially with dogs and we have
nearly 150 on board already so we ought to
be secure there. We have more skins of our own
this time so we are more independent of the
natives. The Commander is staying on board
more this time and is actually letting
me do some of his trading with the natives4
& am getting along fine in everyway. I am
in the best of health once more, much
better than when I left home.

We have already
got about a dozen families on board, but we
will clean out the poorest ones when we reach Etah.
I probably wont know much
about the plans until after we leave Etah
but I ought to get something nice out of
the spring work, either east or west, and
that will suit me as well as North.

The tribe seems to be still on
the increase there has only been two or
three deaths and a good many more births.
The Roosevelt has two good salt water
Scotch boilers this time and is going to
be much more powerful this time. There
is no good reason why we should not
be in winter quarters by the first of Sept.
if we meet with anything but the
hardest kind of hard luck. We have nearly
twice as much food and board and about
40 ton of whale meat for the dogs. It is
fresh this time and will not poison the
dogs the way the salted whale meat did
last time.5

Our doctor this time is a nice fellow
and perhaps a more scientific man than
we had before, but he is not going to be
the man for field work that Dr. Wolfe
was. Dr. Wolf wanted to come but his father
had bought him and office outfit and
did not want him to go. There are seven
old timers on board Peary, Captain, Chief6,
Bos’n7, Matt, Percy and myself. Well

Ross Marvin


1  North Star Bay was the southern limit of the so-called Polar Eskimo tribe, with whom both Peary and Cook interacted on their polar expeditions. It is the current location of Thule.

2  That is:  across Melville Bay.

3  Cape York lies at the northwestern end of Mellvile Bay, which was known for its treacherous ice in the age of sail.

4  Peary was notoriously stingy in allowing members of his expedition to trade for anything valuable.

5  On his 1905 expedition, Peary bought tainted whale meat en route that poisoned 80 of his 200 sled dogs over the winter.

6  George A Wardwell, the Chief Engineer.

7   John Murphy.