Arctic exploration in the mid and late 19th century captured the attentions of a society that required escape. Men who made discoveries claimed the previously unseen and unimagined territories as their own, and were celebrated for it. The books they wrote to chronicle their journeys were vivid tales that paralleled the fiction of their day, and included illustrations to aid the imagination of the reader.
Like the celebrities of today, these explorers were not strangers to controversy:
Charles Francis Hall, born a blacksmith, initially sojourned north to investigate a lost expedition. PPL’s special collections has the first edition of his account of his expedition, Arctic Researches and Life Amongst the Esquimaux (1865):
Hall met a fate that was similarly mysterious and controversial. In 1871 he died on a journey to the North Pole, not from the harsh environs, but from poisoning.
Isaac Israel Hayes, an ambitious explorer who petitioned the United States government and many others to fund his expedition to the North Pole, published The Open Polar Sea in 1874:
It was later determined that some of Hayes claims of northern discovery were erroneous, and possibly faked.