Date: Mon, 8 May 2000
All of the Henson photos that I know of are in the archives of the
American Museum of Natural History. In fact, this was kind of funny. I was
at the symposium at the Naval Academy in 1991 shortly after my father died.
Rawlins thought he would steamroll me, because I was filling in for my
Rawlins said in his book that Peary had destroyed ("suppressed" I
think was his actual word; it is one of his favorites) all of Henson's 106
photos because they were damaging. Someone in the audience was from the
American Museum of Natural History and said they had a bunch of photos (not
surprising, given Henson's relationship with the Museum). In any case, I
trooped up there and got Xeroxes of all of the photos, and glossies of the
ones that I thought would be useful for my purposes.
I only found 104. There are a couple of Henson photos in the Peary
collection—identifiable because he used a number 1 pocket Kodak, whereas
Peary had a number 4—and these might make up the full complement. Actually,
at 12 to the roll, there should have been 108, but maybe a couple didn't
One of Henson's photos is "lunch 15 miles from the pole" published in
Worlds Work. This is on the return trip (it is bright an sunny, compared to
Peary's B.11 and the diary entries showing overcast). Assuming this photo
was taken at about 10:00 (6 hours after leaving the pole), the sun's
direction relative to the direction the sleds are pointing and sun's
elevation are right on.
A couple of Henson's photos showing easy sledding need further analysis. The
sun is very low in these photos. I think they were probably taken soon after
leaving Bartlett. Henson took one photo of the Eskimos lined up in front of
his igloo at Camp Jesup. This was taken about the same time as the similar
Peary photo that is either G.7 or one of the Fs. Henson took two views of
Camp Jesup (one vertical, one horizontal). By comparing these with Peary's
photo of Camp Jesup, one can make a pretty good three dimensional map of the
camp. This is useful in analyzing how long they spent at the camp, which
again agrees well with the stated chronology.
I have a set of prints and negative numbers, and order forms, etc. from the
American Museum of Natural History. I had a contact, but it has been about 8
years since I was there.
Peary's negatives are 4 by 5; Henson used a size 1, rather than size 4,
Kodak. I forget the dimensions, but the negatives are much less square,
something like 2 by 4.5. (This is true at least of the cameras taken on the
actual pole trip. The expedition appears to have had several cameras.)
Getting roll numbers and negative numbers is not that easy. Not even close
to all negatives have anything marked on them. Of course, the prints show
nothing, since the marking is on the border between exposures.
To make things worse, all the original negatives (silver nitrate) at the NGS
have been destroyed, since they represented a fire hazard. Copy negatives
generally seem to have picked up the entire film, but I am not sure about
Here is what I have on the American Museum of Natural History. I dealt with
the "Department of Library Services." I do have some phone numbers, but
these are likely to be very out of date: (212) 769-5418, 5420 General
Information, Billing (212) 769-5419 Special Collections Librarian (212)
769-5233 General AMNH Fax.
The prices in 1991 were $12 per print, 8x10. (Contact prints $10). This does
not include reproduction rights, which they were asking $30 to $150 for
print rights, depending on North America vs. World rights; cover vs. text,
etc. These are probably negotiable. I got some large sheets (11x17) with
poor xerographic reproductions of about 8 pictures on each. They gave me
these gratis, I believe. I am quite sure I looked at enough of these sheets
to account for about 96 photos, but I only seem to have copied 3 of them.
Perhaps these had exposures of possible interest.
Here is what I copied of the large sheets:
Prints 9 through 16, Negative Numbers 2A-11529 through 2A-11536
Prints 25 through 32, Negative Numbers 2A-11309 through 2A-11316
Prints 56 through 63, Negative Numbers 2A-11340 through 2A-11347
On the back of these sheets, there is a legend indicating that the prints
were from negatives loaned (sic) by Matthew Henson October 1909. Also, there
appear to be some records indicating the subject matter of the print. E.g.,
number 16 is "the glacier at the head of Etah."
I purchased 8x10s of the following prints:
2A-11309 2A-11310 two men on large ice ridge
2A-11311 sled going over pressure ridge
2A-11314 man standing on young ice with ice lance
2A-11315 blurry shot showing two men on a large pressure ridge and sleds in
2A-11344 big floeberg
2A-11393 stop along trail - very flat
2A-11394 lunch 15 mi south of pole
2A-11395 easy going (looking at sled ahead)
2A-11396 2A-11397 easy going (looking at sled ahead)
2A-11398 going along trail (viewed from off to side) - very flat
2A-11399 2A-11400 close up of man standing in front of ice ridge (face
2A-11531 the north pole Eskimos
A couple of these I don't have in the file I found. In general, I think
these include most of the shots in the World's Work article. Well, back to
my work station for now. Hope some of this is helpful.
Henson photo archives
• The Museum of Natural History in New York City (this is where Matt's
original box camera photos are located)
• The New York City Explorers Club has a private collection.
• The Charles Blockson Collection, Temple University, Philadelphia (this
collection holds photos of Matt bestowing honors on young Boy Scouts as well
as other photos)
• The National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C. (when Peary and Matt
returned from the pole these guys got the first dibs on all expedition
photos since they had financed the whole thing, the remaining leftovers were
sent to the National Archives and other Government archival repositories)
• The Library of Congress, National Digital Library, American Memory
Collection, Washington, D.C. (this collection holds the photo of a mass
banquet held in Peary's honor at the Astor Hotel in NYC on March 5,1910.
After enlarging the image one finds Matt sitting all the way in the back of
the banquet room)
• Culver Pictures in New York City (this collection some Matt photos, maybe
12 to 15 --one of the original banquet programs and menus from that night)
• Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. (this is a collection of
artifacts and photos)