Scandal! | Confession | Vaudeville | Vendetta | Doctor? | Fiennes | Herbert's myths | Contact | Peary | Home
Helene Cook Vetters' anti-Peary vendetta
Wally Herbert wrote: "...the general public could easily be fooled..."
"...the general public could easily be fooled that what you have to say has never before been said...I would of course be delighted to review your manuscript for the publisher (at a price proportionate to the time spent on the work). I would expect the publisher to pay my fee...You might let them know I am prepared to do this."
1971: Wally Herbert to anti-Peary author Hugh Eames.
Source: Ohio State Byrd Polar Archives
The third wave—the vetters vendetta

Cook's daughter, Helene Vetters took over where her convicted felon father left off. She ultimately left, through daughter Janet, a $1,000,000 trust fund to carry on the anti-peary vendetta from the grave. To sum it up briefly:

After his death in 1940 Cook's grand daughter Helene Vetters kept up the anti-Peary vendetta and made it her own obsession. She continuously promoted anti-Peary, pro-Cook literature to magazines, and encouraged numerous writers. As a backlash to the gains made by American blacks in the 1960's some authors have sought to destroy black icon Matthew Henson by attacking Peary. Lately they have even pulled off the gloves and simply accuse Henson of being a fraud like Peary.

In the 1970's, the controversy was reignited by a book titled Peary at the Pole; Fact of Fiction? This encouraged Vetters and she was able to have a despicable made for TV movie produced that stared the handsome and charming Richard Chamberlain as an innocent Cook whose achievement was suppressed by Peary. This outraged many people and during the 1980s the anti-Peary/pro-Cook groups began splintering off into several branches. These in turn generated a confusing family of anti-Peary factions that now take turns hating Peary, hating Henson, arguing about arcane navigational details and even hating each other.

In stepped Wally Herbert who took his British pot shot at Peary. Many people quickly noticed his agenda was really an effort to make his 1969 dog sled trip to the Pole the first to reach the North Pole by virtue of his theory that Peary was lost. It turns out that Herbert was totally wrong.

The Encyclopedia Britannica (as in Britain, get it?) was happy to take Wally's mistakes and make them institutionalized facts to poison the minds of their readers. There is a remarkable irony here in that the Royal Geographical society of Great Britain awarded Peary its highest honors. Before Wally Herbert was born, of course.

Then Dennis Rawlins, a man one journalist described as "glory starved", offered his "Me, too!" revelation about Peary. But his publicity stunt backfired on him. His headlined "discovery" of proof that Peary was 100 miles from the Pole only proved that he was a fool. His "secret coded numbers" proved to be nothing more exciting than the serial numbers of Peary's chronometers (triple set of precision watches). Unfortunately the press did not headline with equal force "Whoops! We were wrong!" and instead left the impression upon the public that Peary had been somehow proved to be a fraud.

A junior college librarian from nearby Maryland then joined the fray with an encyclopedic sized book about Cook. This pretense to solving the polar controversy was greatly assisted by the Cook Society, who supplied him with material, paid for research (according to the records of their tax-exempt trust fund) and otherwise encouraged his efforts. But the librarian found what history had long known - that Cook was a fraud. Not just a little fraud, but a colossal fraud. Cook, Bryce reveals, was a career criminal. A compulsive liar, a con man, and a vindictive, manipulative troublemaker.

But the public again thought that somehow Peary had been proved to be a fraud. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Peary and Henson did exactly what they claimed they did. But it may take a lot of information on the Internet to make this fact accessible to enough people. Those of us who know the facts and care about our American history have begun to take the time and make the effort to do this.

For 50 years
the author of every significant anti-Peary magazine article or book has left a trail of correspondence with Vetters, and/or Russell Gibbons. Their Frederick A. Cook Society has served as a sort of campfire attracting any literary oddball who shares their anti-Peary, anti-establishment, and even anti-National Geographic Society sentiments.

In the Ohio State University Cook Archives there are letters from Wally Herbert to Helene Vetters and Russell Gibbons that reveal deep bonds in what seems to be an "anti-establishment" philosophy.  Wally Herbert retraced Cook's 1908 route as a training exercise in 1966 for his polar marathon. But first he wrote numerous letters to Vetters proposing this route while "fishing" for her funding.  Similar files were kept, and may be researched at the Ohio State University, on Dennis Rawlins, Hugh Eames, Robert Bryce, etc., etc.
"The extent of this conspiracy is amazing. Vetters constantly helped and encouraged these writers with everything from photos, maps, cash, and publicity assistance for their book promotions."

Here is an example. Wally Herbert almost grovels, in his letters, hinting or asking directly for Vetters' cash, publicity, anything he can get. Excerpt from: Wally Herbert letter to Hugh Eames, 1971 (Eames is author of the anti-Peary book Winner Lose All)

"...most of the other books (polar controversy) on the subject are out of print, and the general public could easily be fooled that what you have to say has never before been not appear to have a chip on your shoulder--but rather, let the reader form his own conclusions...(the publisher may be hesitating) because you have brought all your guns to bear on Peary as though determined to rid the world once and for all (of him)...this you should not try to do..." [Yes, leave something about Peary for Wally to destroy in his book!]
"...if it is merely a David and Goliath situation--where you are determined to take on the American "establishment" and fell it with one well-timed book --beware!...I would of course be delighted to review your manuscript for the publisher (at a price proportionate to the time spent on the work). I would expect the publisher to pay my fee...You might let them know I am prepared to do this."

Source: Ohio State Byrd Polar Archives

139-129-5 21 6 Herbert, Wally, 1966, 1968-1972; note: he was head of the British Trans-Arctic Expedition. The purpose of the expedition was to retrace Cook's route from N. W. Greenland to the Northern tip of Axel Heiberg Island; correspondence between H. Levin and W. Herbert, re: the above expedition, which Levin forwarded to H. Vetter; correspondence between Herbert and others; clippings by or about Herbert; H. Vetter's notes; excerpts from "Across the Top of the World," Herbert's book, re: the British Trans-Arctic Expedition; "In Amundsen's Track on the Axel Heiberg Glacier," by Herbert, and autographed by him to H. Vetter, 1966 (reprinted from Geographical Journal, vol. 129, part 4, December, 1963
More to come...

Email Page  |  Forum  |  Book store  |  Contact  Home

© 2002. To use our material: Terms