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The Cook-Peary Files: June 28, 1937: Franke recounts “The Gumdrop Story”

Written on May 17, 2019


John R. Bradley

This is the 13th in a series examining significant unpublished documents related to the Polar Controversy.

It all began with an interview with John Bradley, Dr. Frederick Cook’s financial backer. Exasperated by endless and often ridiculous questioning, the gambler put his tongue in his cheek when asked by a New York Times reporter how Cook had persuaded the Eskimos to venture onto the dangerous sea ice. “An Eskimo will travel 30 miles for a gumdrop, for his is the sweetest tooth in the world,” Bradley replied, adding that his yacht had gone north with two barrels of them among her stores.  Instantly, there appeared bags of “Cook Gumdrops” in the windows of all the candy stores along with the slogan “A little gumdrop now and then is relished by the Eskimen.”

When Andrew Freeman was doing research in the 1930’s for his biography of Cook that only emerged in very truncated form as The Case for Dr. Cook in 1961, he sought information from many who were still living then, and who had first-hand knowledge of the events of the Polar Controversy. He was very thorough, even in seeking small details. One of them was Rudolph Franke, who had been Bradley’s chef on his yacht and who stayed with Cook at Annoatok the winter before his attempt to reach the North Pole in 1908.

Freeman asked about the “Gumdrop Story,” and received this reply from Franke. Gumdrops

After Cook’s After Cook’s downfall, some recalled the story and used it to ridicule him as “The Gumdrop Explorer.”gumdrops

As for Dr. Cook, he denied he had any gumdrops along on the trip.  He said that the only prepackaged sweets he took with him were boxes of Nabisco Wafers, which in those days were a plain shortbread cookie similar to those marketed today under the trade name of Lorna Doone.

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