Josephine Diebitsch Peary Collection, 1861-2003

Container List | Digitized Materials

Volume: 9 linear feet

Organization/Arrangement: The collection is organized into three series:
I. Josephine Diebitsch Peary Files
II. Scrapbooks
III. Artifacts

Biographical Note: Josephine Diebitsch Peary was born May 22, 1863 in Washington, D.C. She was the daughter of Herman Henry Diebitsch of Prussia and Magdelena Augusta Schmid Diebitsch of Saxony. Her father was a clerk at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Josephine was raised in a loving family that encouraged her to explore the world. In 1885, while attending dancing school in Washington, Josephine met Robert Edwin Peary, the future Admiral who would lead arguably the first successful expedition to the North Pole. Three years later, on August 11, 1888, Robert and Josephine married and began a life of discovery together. Josephine Peary's eagerness to explore the world prompted her to accompany her husband on his second expedition to Greenland, from 1891-1892, during which Josephine became the first woman to take part in an Arctic exploration.

Josephine Peary was an active participant in all her voyages to Greenland, showing her talent as a hunter of reindeer, ptarmigan, and other game for food and clothing. She also provided hearty meals to the entire party, and on holidays made a special feast to lift the spirits of the crew who could not be with their families. The letters she sent to her husband, while he remained in the Arctic, show the unconditional love and support she gave him throughout all of his endeavors. He gave her much of the credit for all of his achievements.

During the 1891–1892 expedition, Josephine Peary wrote My Arctic Journal (1893), which provided the world an accurate, elaborate picture of Arctic geography and Inuit culture. In 1893, Josephine again accompanied her husband to Greenland, and during this journey, she gave birth to a daughter, Marie Ahnighito Peary, less than thirteen degrees from the North Pole. Marie was nicknamed "Snow Baby" and would remain famous all her life for this distinction. Her middle name honored the Inuit woman who made Marie's first fur suit.

Josephine and Marie Peary made another voyage to Greenland in 1897, and in 1900, when she received word that Robert's toes were frozen and had to be amputated, Josephine quickly set sail with a crew on the Windward. An iceberg damaged the vessel, and caused Josephine and the crew to spend the winter in Greenland, 300 miles south of her husband’s camp. During that winter, Josephine met Allakasingwah, Peary's pregnant Inuit lover. No matter how much Peary's infidelity privately pained her, Josephine remained a staunch public supporter of her husband throughout her life. Robert joined Josephine in Greenland on May 6, 1901. A final voyage in 1902 to visit the Admiral completed Josephine's journeys to Greenland. The following year, she gave birth to a son Robert E. Peary, Jr. She published two additional books as a result of her Arctic experiences, The Snow Baby (1901) and Children of the Arctic (1903).

After Admiral Peary reached the Pole in 1909, the Pearys spent most of their time at their summer home built on Eagle Island, off Harpswell in Casco Bay. During the winter months, they lived in Washington, D.C. During her lifetime, Josephine Peary was active in many organizations. She was a charter member of the National Geographic Society, the Philadelphia Geographic Society, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and an honorary member of the Woman Geographers.

On May 6, 1955, the National Geographic Society awarded Josephine Peary its highest honor, their Medal of Achievement. This solid-gold, custom-designed award is one that very few women have ever received. After Admiral Peary's death in 1920, she settled into a permanent home on Baxter Boulevard in Portland. She made a few public appearances, mostly to advocate for her husband's achievements or to tell stories of the Arctic. She spent most of her time with her children and grandchildren. She died on December 19, 1955.

Description: The collection consists of a large variety of historic items including four important scrapbooks compiled by Rear Admiral and Mrs. Peary's daughter, Marie Peary Stafford, which place in chronological order, papers and photographs telling the story of their lives, the majority of the contents focusing on Josephine Peary. As in the scrapbooks, the collection contains letters of correspondence between Josephine and Robert as early as 1884 through 1910, publication and speech manuscripts, early personal and historic photographs of all family members, travel diaries, newspaper and magazine articles, ephemera, and much biographical information. Items of interest among the artifacts from the Pearys' lives and travel are pieces of personal and household silver, textiles, some which relate to the family's Arctic experience, and a shotgun belonging to Admiral Peary to name a few. The four scrapbooks focus on the lives of Robert and Josephine Peary, the first one beginning with photographs as early as 1861 and concluding with the fourth scrapbook as a memorial to Mrs. Peary after her death in 1955. Throughout the scrapbooks, clippings, diary entries written by Josephine, photographs, ephemera and a large amount of correspondence to and from Josephine Peary document the family's remarkable achievements and network of contacts such as the National Geographic Society. There is also material relating to the books published by Mrs. Peary about the family's life while in the Arctic, mementoes, both personal and professional, historic correspondence including Peary's letter to her husband relating news of their daughter, Francine's, death, documentation of a tourmaline necklace, and citations from National Geographic.

Access Restrictions: None

Please cite as: Josephine Diebitsch Peary Collection, Maine Women Writers Collection, University of New England, Portland, Maine

Container List:

I. Josephine Diebitsch Peary files

Files containing manuscripts, typescripts, correspondence, photographs, researcher's (Erikson) photographic negative strips and contact sheet, and clippings.
001a.  Manuscript for Children of the Arctic, undated
001b.  Letters from JDP to REP, March; April 3, 1900
001c.  Letter from MAP to REP, 1900
001d.  Letters to JDP from her mother 1900-1943; also other relatives, 1900
001e.  Newspaper article transcription re: Harpswell, 1907
002.  Autograph album, 1878-1881; tintype, 1878
003.  Program for Bowdoin's engineering exhibit drawings, 1876
004a.  Photographs: J. Peary in her home (6 views), 1890s
004b.  Photographs: interior of Peary home, (7 views), 1890s
004c.  Photographs: JDP in arctic furs; 2 of JDP in elegant attire, undated
004d.  Photographs: two 3" views of JDP and others in outside setting attire, undated
004e.  Photographs: Lt. and Mrs. Peary, 1890; Lt. Peary 1890?; family portrait ca. 1910
005a.  Christmas package for Adm. Peary, 1896-97?
005b.  Leather case which held the photos of Marie from the Christmas package, 1896-97?
005c.  Paper pattern for Marie's footprint, undated
006.  Dust jacket for Snowland Folk, undated
007.  Miscellaneous paper ephemera, undated
008.  Explorer's night transcript and photograph of Adm. Peary, 1927
009.  News clipping related to the death of Pearys' second daughter, 1899
010.  News articles, 1939-1999
010a.  News articles about Adm. Peary, 1908-1934
011.  News article and NG Society's program relating to Adm. Peary's flag, 1955
012.  Josephine Peary's obituaries, 1955
013.  Display photographs and negatives, undated
014.  Robert and Josephine Peary Family tree, 2003
014a.  Diebitsch genealogy, 2003
015.  Peary family photo negatives and contact sheet, undated
016-043.  Robert E. and Josephine Peary letters (copies), 1884-1917
044.  Josephine Peary Diary (Photocopy courtesy of the U.S. National
Archives), June 6-July 17, 1891

II. Scrapbooks

Four scrapbooks created by and donated to MWWC by Marie Peary Stafford Kuhne. Contains numerous photographs, correspondence, loose diary pages, contracts, news clippings, and mementoes. Of special note are the 1893 diary pages and 1900 JDP letter to Robert Peary about the death of their daughter Francine. Scrapbook pages are individually housed in folders.

001.  1863-1877 Photographs
002.  Smithsonian resignation acknowledgement, 1887; note written in German, undated
003.  1887 Letter written while traveling
004.  Wedding memorabilia, 1888
005.  1889 Photographs
006.  1890 Photographs
007.  1891 Photographs
008.  1891 Photographs
009.  1891 Photographs
010.  1891 Photographs
011.  1891 Photographs
012.  Photographs
013.  1891 Name cards; 1892 photos; newspaper clipping; list; letter
014.  1892 Honorary membership - Geographic Society; 1893? Truth Magazine picture
015.  1893 Contract for My Arctic Journal; photograph
016.  1893 Photographs
017.  1893 Photographs
018.  1893 Diary: Sept 10-Nov 12; 1894 photograph
019.  1894 Photographs
020-021.  1895 Photographs; the Christmas Munsey article of "The Heroes of the Icy North" and special passport
022.  1895 Lecture announcement, 2 letters; 1895-96 New York Sun article
023.  1896 Article in The Home Queen; photographs
024-025.  1896 Photographs
026.  1896 Newspaper article; 1897 invitation; 1897 photograph
027.  1898 Letter from Emil
028.  1899 Photos and letter
029-030.  1900 - 4 letters (1 from Marie Peary)
031.  1900 - Contract for "The Snowbaby;" articles in the Inquirer
032-033.  1900 Newspaper articles, invitation, photographs
034.  1901 - "Ahnighito:" first appearance in print; letters
035-037.  1901 Letters
038.  1902 - Letter and article in Success
039.  1902 - Newspaper articles and photograph
040.  1903 - Article and contract for Children of the Arctic
041.  1903 - Letter, Photographs and article
043.  1905 Photographs
044.  1906 Photograph; game played at the Bridgman's
045.  1907 Old newspaper account; 1908 photograph
046.  1909 - Letter, telegram, and newspaper article
047.  1910 - Poem and photograph
048-049.  1910 Photographs; 1911 letter
050.   Photograph from London Tatler; Christmas card; 1912 letter
051.  1912 Letter and telegram; 1913 reprint from the Bulletin of the Geographic Society of Philadelphia
052-053.  1913 - Ticket to Egyptian monuments, letters, and telegrams
054-055.  1913 Photographs and newspaper article
056.  1913 - Letter, article, memorabilia from ocean liner
057.  Article; letter; invitation from President and Mrs. Wilson
058.  1913 Newspaper articles
059.  1878-80 Photographs, graduation essay
060.  1880 - Graduation photo, letter, note card holder
061.  1880 Census office appointment
062.  1881 Census office appointment and letter
063.  1885-86 Photographs; 1881 letters
064.  Letter to JDP from REP
065.  1914 Articles and photograph
066.  1914-15 Letters, house advertisement
067.  1917 - Articles, driver’s license, invitation, letter, engagement announcement menu
068.  1918 N.Y. World cartoon: Treasure and Trinket Fund
069.  1920 - Letter, National Geographic Society life membership
070.  1920 - Letter, motor vehicle operating permit
071.  1921 Trip diary; 1922 letter
072.  1922 - Article, letter, travel diary
073.  1923 - Mother's hair, travel diary; 1925 Photographs
074.  1926 Letters to Mrs. Peary (2)
075.  1926 - Letter from Blair Niles, invoice re: books purchased
076-077.  1926 - Letters from Lehigh Univ. librarian, N.Y. Yacht Club (with photo), and James Davidson
078.  1927 Letters from Fitzhugh Green and Glen Walton Blodgett
079.  1928 Passport, ocean liner menu
080-081.  1928 Letter from Brute; 1929 letter from D.A.R. (with reply) travel diary
082.  1929 Letter with newspaper clipping, luncheon menu, invitation
083-084.  1929 - Security storage, travel diary, newspaper article, postcard, invitation to speak
085.  1929 Pi Omicron Society membership
086-087.  1929 - Travel diaries, letter, postcard
088.  1929 - Telegram to Dr.  Hardin, hospital bill
089.  1929 - Newspaper articles, Belles Lettres Club calendar, telegram
090.  1929 Telegram and photograph
091.  1930 Letter and newspaper articles
092-093.  1930 Pi Omicron letter and membership card, newspaper article with photos
094.  1930 Newsaper articles, banquet invitation and reservation
095-097.  1930 - Letter and newspaper article, Photographs
098-100.  1930 Radio interview preparation and newspaper interviews
101-102.  1930 Interview preparation
103.  1931 Telegrams and letter
104.  1932 Letters
105-106.  1932 Newspaper articles and photograph
107-108.  1933 Letter; 1934 newspaper article and letter
109-110.  1935 Peary School - photo, newspaper clipping, and letters
111.  1935 Letters
112-113.  1936 Letters and travel diary
114-115.  1936 Newspaper articles and letters
116.  1937 Photograph and event invitations
117.  1937 Letters
118.  1937 Lock of mother's hair
119.  1938 Letter, Valentine's card, business card from Media Research Bureau
120-121.  1939 Newspaper articles and letters
122-124.  1940 - Letters, script of the "Gallant American Women" radio program
125.  1940 Rose catalog, Photographs
126.  1941 Letters from Mrs.  Grant Rafter and the U.S. Coast Guard
127.  1942 Letters - from JDP re: her siblings, from REP, from Frank Smith re: JDP's first serious illness
128.  1942 Letters, war ration book
129.  1942 Greeting cards, letter from Dept. of Navy
130.  1942 Letters to Marie Stafford
130a.  1942 Farewell tour travel diary, newspaper article, Christmas card
131.  1943 Photographs
132.  1943 Letter, travel diary
133.  1943 Letters
134.  1943 Birthday card, war ration books, letter
135.  1943 Letters to Emil, article in Arkansas Traveler
136.  1944 Letter to Emil, greeting cards
137.  1944 Newspaper articles, list of names from received birthday cards
138.  1944 Photograph, letter, newspaper articles
139-141.  1944 Cards and letters from Marie; 1945 letters
142.  1945 Letter, family Christmas photograph
143-144.  1946 Letters and cards
145-146.  1946 Letters and cards
147.  1947 Photographs and birthday card
148.  1947 June-July travel diary
149-150.  1947 Letter to Marie with newspaper clipping; 1948 card and letter
151.  1948 Announcement, returned check, Christmas card
152-153.  1949 Newspaper articles, Photographs
154.  1949 Birthday telegram, photograph, letter
155.  1949 Newspaper clipping, note, receipt for x-rays
156-157.  1949 Letters, poem, newspaper article, card
158.  1950 Letters, newspaper article
159.  1950 Newspaper photograph and clippings, invitation, letter
160.  1951 Newspaper clippings and cards
161.  1951 Letters from Wendell P. Stafford and the American Alpine Club
162.  1951 Letters
163.  1952 Telegram, newspaper clippings, letters
164.  1952 Letters, newspaper clipping
165-166.  1952 Letters, newspaper clippings
167-168.  1952 Telegrams; 1953 clippings, cards, letters and notes
169-170.  1953 Letters
171-172.  1953 Newspaper clippings and Photographs
173-174.  1953 Letters and newspaper clippings; magazine article "My Wonderful Christmas Tree" by Marie Peary
175-177.  1954 Notes and clippings re: her fall
178-180.  1954 Letters, clipping, and notes re: hospital stay
181-182.  1954 Cards, letters, newspaper clippings
183-184.  1954-55 Conservator papers; 1954 letter
185.  1954 Letter, poem from Edmund McCarthy
186.  1954 Letters
187-188.  1954 Letter, cards, Mark Twain Society honorary membership
189.  1954 Birthday card, newspaper clippings, photograph
190.  1954 Conservator papers
191-192.  1954 Letters
193.  1954 Conservator papers
194-195.  1955 Title sheet, letters, telegram
196.  1955 Conservator papers
197.  1955 Suggestions for daily routine and medicine of Mrs. Peary, newspaper article
198-200.  1955 Letters
201.  1955 Letter, newspaper articles
202-208.  Presentation of Admiral Peary's flag to the National Geographic Society, May 6 1955; gold medal awarded to Mrs. Peary; acceptance speech by Marie Stafford
209-210.  1955 Birthday letter, telegrams, cards
211.  1955 List of names and telegram
212.  1955 Letters, N.G.S. dinner invitation
213-215.  1955 Photograph, newspaper clippings re: Mrs. Peary's death
216-218.  1955-56 - Funeral photographs and clippings
219-221.  1956 Photographs - Arlington National Cemetery
222-224.  Chronology, Dad's whereabouts, family tree
225-227.  Journal 1888-1949, poem
228.  Mother's German sayings
229-233.  Aftermath - 1956 letters
234-236.  Award of gold medal article, letters re: gravestone inscription, graveside remarks
237.  1956 Letter requesting biographical material
238.  1957 Tax business
239-241.  1960 - Letters from Mary Rafter and others, clipping re: nurse's death
242.  1961 Newspaper clipping re: Martha Percy
243-244.  1961-62 Letters from Mary Rafter and Grace Dow
245-246.  1963 Letters from Grace Dow and Mary Rafter
247.  1964 Reader’s Digest article "My Most Unforgettable Character" by Cdr.Stafford and letter; piece of Peary's trousseau gown
248-249.  1964 Newspaper clippings re: mementos
250-252.  1964 Photograph and history of necklace, newspaper clipping
253-255.  1964-65 Letters, card, clipping
256.  1965-66 Letters
257-260.  Article about JDP's life
261-277.  Article "My Mother Lived Three Lives," 1959 letter
278-285.  Story "Mother" for Ladies Home Journal
286-291.  Story "Mother, " marked II
292-294.  Letters to Ed re: Reader's Digest article

III. Artifacts

001.  National Geographic Gold Medal, May 6, 1955
002.  Silver plate mirror, undated
003.  Silver plate tray
004.  Silver plate curling iron and iron rest
005.  Silver plate pincushion




This website uses cookies to understand how you use the website and to improve your experience. By continuing to use the website, you accept the University of New England’s use of cookies and similar technologies. To learn more about our use of cookies and how to manage your browser cookie settings, please review our Privacy Notice.