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What Matt said about "The Prince of Liars"
Need more info? Two websites detail Dr. Frederick Cook's many frauds by which he "perverted American History"; polarcontroversy.com & drfrederickcook.com

Kind hearted Matt Henson was never bitter towards the crook, Fred Cook, who ruined his achievements by lying that he had reached the Pole before Matt. Matt tactfully suggested that Cook was probable just confused.

Federal Prison stopped Fred's stock frauds. He never made restitution, however, to the thousands of people he swindled. Instead, he hid the money and passed it to his daughter Helene Vetters who used it to fund what some now call "the Vetters' Vendetta". For decades she paid people to write favorable stories and books about her father. Records show that this money may have paid Wally Herbert and certainly did pay college students to submit favorable "Dr. Cook" articles to top Encyclopedias.

Crook served 6 years in prison! When he got free Cook sued people who wrote that he didn't reach the North Pole! But the judges tossed his suits out of court. He became a bitter and vindictive alcoholic, as evidenced by his appearance.

August, 1909
It is late summer, Henson and the team members of the successful trip to the North Pole are finally free of the ice which had locked their ship the Roosevelt in it's grasp since the previous year. They are sailing South between Greenland and Ellesmere Island taking the Inuit families with their dogs home to Smith Sound. Along the way there are only Inuit villages - they have not yet reached a port possessing a telegraph with which Peary could inform the world of their accomplishment. Instead they hear that Dr. Frederick Cook has claimed he went to the North Pole. This is the beginning, the "ground zero" of what will become a nasty international hoax. Dr. Cook's bogus claim is beautifully assessed here in Henson's own words from his own 1912 book, A Negro Explorer at The North Pole.

"...we had no faith in (Cook) whatever. He was not even good for a day's work, and the idea of his making such an astounding claim as having reached the Pole was so ludicrous that, after our laugh, we dropped the matter altogether. " Matt Henson's diary, 1909


"We knew Dr. Cook and his abilities; he had been a surgeon on two of Peary's expeditions and, aside from his medical abilities, we had no faith in him whatever. He was not even good for a day's work, and the idea of his making such an astounding claim as having reached the Pole was so ludicrous that, after our laugh, we dropped the matter altogether."

"I have reason to be grateful to Dr. Cook for favors received; I lived with his folks while I was suffering with my eyes, due to snow blindness, but I feel that all of the debts of gratitude have been liquidated by my silence in this controversy, and I will have nothing more to say in regard to him or to his claims."

At Etah there were two boys, Etookahshoo and Ahpellah, boy about sixteen or seventeen years old, who had been with Dr. Cook for a year, or ever since he had crossed the channel to Ellesmere Land and returned again. These boys are the two he claims accompanied him to the North Pole. To us, up there at Etah, such a story was so ridiculous and absurd that we simply laughed at it. We knew Dr. Cook and his abilities; he had been a surgeon on two of Peary's expeditions and, aside from his medical abilities, we had no faith in him whatever. He was not even good for a day's work, and the idea of his making such an astounding claim as having reached the Pole was so ludicrous that, after our laugh, we dropped the matter altogether. On account of the world-wide controversy his story has caused. I will quote from my diary the impressions noted in regard to him:

August 17, 1909, Etah, North Greenland.
Mr. Harry Whitney came aboard with the boatswain and the cabin-boy, who had been left here last fall on our way to Cape Sheridan. Murphy is the boatswain and Pritchard the boy, both from Newfoundland, and they look no the worse for wear, in spite of the long time they have spent here. Mr. Whitney is the gentleman who came up on the Erik last year, and at the last moment decided to spend the winter with the natives. He had a long talk with the Commander before we left for the north, and has had quite a lengthy session with him since. I learn that Dr. Cook came over from Ellesmere Land with his two boys, Etookahshoo and Ahpellah, and in a confidential conversation with Mr. Whitney made the statement that he had reached the North Pole. Professor MacMillan and I have talked to his two boys and have learned that there is no foundation in fact for such a statement, and the Captain and others of the expedition have questioned them, and if they were out on the ice of the Arctic Ocean it was only for a very short distance, not more than twenty or twenty five miles. The boys are positive in this statement, and my own boys, Ootah and Ooqueah, have talked to them also, and get the same replies. It is a fact that they had a very hard time and were reduced to low limits, but they have not been any distance north, and the Commander and the rest of us are in the humor to regard Mr. Whitney as a person who has been hoodwinked. We know Dr. Cook very well and also his reputation, and we know that he was never good for a hard day's work; in fact he was not up to the average, and he is no hand at all in making the most of his resources. He probably has spun this yarn to Mr. Whitney and the boatswain to make himself look big to them.

The Commander will not permit Mr. Whitney to bring any of the Dr. Cook effects aboard the Roosevelt and they have been left in a cache on shore. Koolootingwah is here again, after his trip to North Star Bay with Dr. Cook, and tells an amusing story of his experience.

It is only from a sense of justice to Commander Peary and those who were with him that I have mentioned Dr. Cook. The outfitting of the hunting expedition of Mr., Bradley was well known to us. Captain Bartlett had directed it and had advised and arranged for the purchase of the Schooner John R Bradley to carry the hunting party to the region where big game of the character Mr. Bradley wished to hunt could be found. We knew that Dr. Cook was accompanying Mr. Bradley, but we had no idea that the question of the discovery of the North Pole was to be involved.

I have reason to be grateful to Dr. Cook for favors received; I lived with his folks while I was suffering with my eyes, due to snow blindness, but I feel that all of the debts of gratitude have been liquidated by my silence in this controversy, and I will have nothing more to say in regard to him or to his claims.

from A Negro Explorer at the North Pole by Matthew Henson, 1912


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