After two unsuccessful missions to the North Pole in 1898-1902 and 1905-06, Admiral Robert Peary embarked on his third and final expedition in the summer of 1908. His previous expedition reached 150 miles from the pole, but Peary's elusive dream was still waiting to be fulfilled. Their ship, the SS Roosevelt, captained by Rober Bartlett, set off from New York City with Peary, Henson, and 22 other men in tow on July 6, 1908. Doctorow describes how groups of men would forge the path and stake out camps in advance of Peary himself. When Peary decided he was close enough to set out on his own, he asked Bartlett to stay behind with the ship. With Peary came his assistant Matthew Henson, who had joined Peary for his Greenland expedition in 1891, and four Inuits, Ootah, Egigingwah, Seegloo, and Ooqueah.
On April 6, 1909, the group established Camp Jesup at what Peary believed to be the North Pole. After his highly publicized expedition, Frederick A. Cook came out to challenge Peary's claim to be the first to reach the North Pole. Cook claimed to have reached the pole by dogsled a year prior. Major controversy surrounded Peary's expedition for some time after, but Congress formally recognized Admiral Peary's claim in 1911.
Modern studies have revealed that neither Cook nor Peary actually reached the pole, but Peary came closer, falling just about 30 miles short of the pole itself. Peary held his claim until May 3, 1952 when U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph O. Fletcher stepped out of a plane and walked to the exact location of the North Pole, becoming the first person to definitively reach the pole.
Dramaturgy for the Ragtime musical and novel.
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