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Robert E. Peary

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Peary congratulates a colleague on his upcoming retirement as a Rear Admiral:

No one in the service more fully deserved it for faithful, conscientious and long continued service.

Robert Edwin Peary, Sr., 1856–1920.  American explorer; Rear Admiral, United States Navy.  Typed Letter Signed, R. E. Peary, one page, 8½” x 11”, on plain stationery, Hotel Walton, Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania], December 7, 1906.

Eight days before the National Geographic Society would award Peary its Hubbard Medal, certifying his claim that his 1905–1906 expedition achieved a world record for reaching the point farthest north, Peary sends a letter of thanks and congratulations to Rear Admiral Mordecai T. Endicott.  He writes, in full:  “I should have written you immediately on your return from Panama, but Mrs. Peary’s recent serious illness has completely side-tracked my correspondence this week.  She is better to-day.  /  I want to thank you very much for your courtesy and assistance to Mrs. Peary, and your magnificent offer to remain longer in harness at the Bureau, if it could in any way be of assistance to me.  /  I want also to extend my heartiest congratulations that you have faithfully earned the privilege of retiring with the rank and pay of Rear Admiral.  No one in the service more fully deserved it for faithful, conscientious and long continued service.  May you live long and be prosperous.  I shall hope to see you next week.  Mrs. Peary joins me in best regards to you and Mrs. Endicott and the rest of the family.”

Peary undoubtedly writes of Endicott’s assistance to his wife when he was gone for several months while attempting to reach the North Pole in 1905–1906.  Peary claimed that on April 21, 1906, his expedition reached a farthest north world record of 87°06’ north latitude and returned to his previous point, 86°30’, without camping, implying that his group traveled some 72 nautical miles between rest periods when previously it had traveled fewer than 10 miles per day.  His diary for April 1906 stops the day before, on April 20. 

In 1909, Peary’s next expedition became what was generally accepted as the first to reach the geographic North Pole.  Peary’s claim was disputed, both at the time and later, but a committee of the National Geographic Society found that Peary had indeed  reached the north Pole, and Congress passed a bill, which President William Howard Taft signed, crediting him with arctic exploration “resulting in [his] reaching the North Pole.”  He was promoted to Rear Admiral and placed on the retired list of the Navy’s Corps of Civil Engineers.

Endicott (1844–1926) was known as the “Father of the Civil Engineering Corps.”  In 1874, he was commissioned in the United States Navy as a civil engineer.  By 1890, he was assigned to Washington, D.C., and given control over all civil engineering projects.  In 1898, with war with Spain looming, President William McKinley appointed him chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, the naval branch responsible for building and maintaining navy yards, dry docks, and other facilities related to ship construction, maintenance, and repair, a position that he held for three terms, until 1907.  He was the first Civil Engineer Corps officer, and  the first non-line officer, to head the Bureau.  He also served on the second Isthmian Canal Commission, which oversaw construction of the Panama Canal.  He was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1899, the first Civil Engineering Corps officer to hold that rank.  He intended to retire in 1906, shortly before Peary wrote this letter, but remained at the request of the Secretary of the Navy until he, too, left office. 

This letter is uniformly toned, with horizontal and vertical mailing folds and scattered other creases.  There is considerable edge chipping with minor paper loss on the top, bottom, and right margins.  Minor breaks have been repaired on the back.  Overall the letter is in good condition.

Peary has signed this letter in jet black ink with his distinctive signature.  The letter comes with a book weight portrait of Peary, dressed in heavy fur, that is suitable for framing with the letter.  The edge chipping on the letter could easily be matted out were the letter framed.


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