Rare Autograph Letter by Swedish Scientist and Balloonist, S.A. Andrée

Signed by Salomon Andree

Item: 73
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ANDRÉE, SALOMON. (1854-1897). Swedish scientist and polar explorer who perished in his attempt to reach the North Pole in a hydrogen balloon. ALS. (“S.A. Andree”). 1p. 4to. Stockholm, October 6, 1895. To ROBERT UNDERWOOD JOHNSON (1853-1937), influential editor of The Century magazine.

“Your letter of the 10 Sept. is received. I would certainly have estimated it agreeable to do with you, as the proposed price is acceptable, etc. But I am sorry to say, that under the present circumstances I have no time at all for anything but necessary work. Besides I may say that I have so many years experience as a scientific man and as a journalist, that I can under no circumstances agree to have the payement [sic] for my articles depending of discretion. I know how to write such matters, and in fact I permit no essential alterations in articles signed by me. The letter sent to the American minister at Stockholm has not been forwarded to me. But I think, that a letter addressed to my friend Mr. Ekholm has, some days ago, been forwarded to him by the minister.”

S. A. Andrée and Knut Frænkel with the crashed balloon on the pack ice, photographed by the third expedition member, Nils Strindberg

Trained as a mechanical engineer, Andrée first became fascinated by ballooning at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. After participating in the Spitsbergen scientific expedition of 1882-1883, led by Swedish meteorologist Nils Ekholm (1949-1923), he published numerous articles in scientific journals on such subjects as electricity and heat while working at the Swedish patent office.

In 1897, funded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, King Oscar II and Alfred Nobel, Andrée attempted to pass over the North Pole in a hydrogen balloon with two other Swedish adventurers. Swept up by the nationalist fervor while planning his attempt to fly over the pole, Andrée overlooked several key technical points, including the warnings of Ekholm, who was initially charged with the expedition’s meteorological research. Most damaging, as Ekholm predicted, was the fact that the balloon leaked hydrogen faster than expected, precipitating its crash after only two days aloft, and leaving the party to escape the Arctic winter on foot. The fate of Andrée’s expedition remained a mystery until the 1930 discovery of their camp on the Norwegian Arctic island of Kvitøya.

Johnson joined The Century magazine, one of the most prominent journals of its day, in 1873, serving as associate editor from 1881-1909 and heading the magazine from 1909 to 1913. He was also instrumental in the establishment of international copyright protections for which he was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1891 and the cavaliers of the Crown of Italy in 1895. Among his many prominent friends were the eccentric inventor and electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla and naturalist John Muir, with whom he helped establish Yosemite National Park in California.

Written two years before his own doomed balloon ascension. Creased with some small paper loss along several folds, otherwise in very good condition. Scarce.

Rare Autograph Letter by Swedish Scientist and Balloonist, S.A. Andrée

Signed by Salomon Andree

$950 • item #73

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