Letter Regarding His Meeting with China’s Delegation on its Historic 1915 Trip to New York City

Signed by Robert E. Peary

$750
Item: 21236
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PEARY, ROBERT E. (1856-1920). American admiral and explorer; widely recognized as the first person to reach the North Pole. ALS. (“Peary”). 3¼ pp. 8vo. Washington, June 2, 1915. On Army and Navy Club stationery. To Dr. Jones, likely DR. E. LESTER JONES (1876-1929), whom Secretary of Commerce William Redfield, had recently appointed the 11th Superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.

The Mayor’s Committee & the Chamber of Commerce of New York, have gathered me in for receptions luncheons etc. for the Chinese Commissioners Thursday & Friday & I am leaving on the 3 – p.m. train today. I could not raise you by phone at your house last evening, & thought I would not call you at your office this morning.

 My address in New York, Thursday & Friday will Imperial Hotel, B’Way & 32nd St.

Saturday it will be [Hotel] Everett Chambers, Portland Maine, & Monday, South Harpswell, Maine…

Title page from History of tour of United States by Honorary commercial commissioners of China under auspices of Associated chambers of commerce of the Pacific coast May 3rd-June 30th, 1915

Beginning in 1881 Peary served in the U.S. Navy as a commissioned civil engineer, contributing to surveys for the Nicaragua Canal (the U.S.’s first choice before deciding on Panama). It was during this period that Peary resolved to be the first man to attain the North Pole, which he attempted in 1893. Despite several setbacks, Peary remained undeterred: “In the years up to 1900 Peary made several unsuccessful attempts on the Pole, during one of which the temperature fell to –50o Celsius (–58o Fahrenheit) and eight of his toes had to be amputated because of severe frostbite. With each attempt he became more determined, enlisting the aid of the Peary Arctic Society [and] of congressmen,” (Great Explorers, Owen). In 1903, he was elected president of the American Geographical Society and that autumn he garnered the unexpected support of both the secretary of the navy and President Theodore Roosevelt. After a failed attempt in 1905, “the next three years were spent in preparation for a final try,” (ibid.). Finally, after traveling hundreds of miles across ice in conditions more extreme than any previously encountered, Peary and his team reached the Pole on April 6, 1909. Yet his claim was challenged by Dr. Frederick Cook who maintained that he had reached the Pole exactly one year earlier. “In October 1909, a committee of experts appointed by the National Geographic Society examined his records and reported that they were unanimously of the opinion that [Peary] had reached the North Pole… His friends also worked actively to induce Congress to give adequate recognition to his achievements… In March 1911… a bill was passed tendering him the thanks of Congress and placing him on the retired list,” (DAB).

In 1911, Peary retired to Eagle Island in Harpswell, Maine, which he had purchased in 1881. Our letter regards the 1915 tour of the United States made by 20 Chinese businessmen, headed by Chang Chen Hsun, the minister for business and agriculture, in order to promote closer relations and to reciprocate a similar trip American businessmen had made to China in 1910. Organized by the Chambers of Commerce of the Pacific Coast, the 1915 tour lasted from May 3-June 30 and included visits to San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago, Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, to name only a few cities. The delegation remained in New York from June 1-8.

Darkly and neatly written on a folded sheet on which Peary has written the lines of pages three and four vertically. Folded and in very fine condition.

Letter Regarding His Meeting with China’s Delegation on its Historic 1915 Trip to New York City

Signed by Robert E. Peary

$750 • item #21236


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