Item #4898 [Typed letter, signed, from Richard Byrd to Ms. Margaret Attwood.]. Richard E. Byrd.

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[Typed letter, signed, from Richard Byrd to Ms. Margaret Attwood.]

Boston, 8 August 1939. Typed letter, signed (26.5 cm), 1 p. CONDITION: Very good; old folds and minor foxing.

A brief but evocative thank you note by U.S. polar explorer Richard Byrd, regarding a photograph of the first African American Coast Guard officer and their common Arctic vessel, the U.S.S. Bear.

The letter reads in full:

My dear Miss Attwood,

Thank you very much for sending me the photograph of Captain Healy. I shall be delighted to place it in my cabin on the [U.S.S.] BEAR and take it with me to the Antarctic. I know that you must prize this picture very much and, therefore, greatly appreciate your giving it to me.

With kindest regards,
Sincerely yours,
RE Byrd

Richard Evelyn Byrd (1888–1957) was a U.S. naval officer, pioneer aviator, and polar explorer best known for his explorations of Antarctica by airplane and for planning the path of the first transatlantic flight, in 1919. This letter, dated 8 August 1939 and addressed to one Ms. Margaret Attwood of West Roxbury, Mass., appears to be written just before Byrd undertook the United States Antarctic Service Expedition (1939–1941). Often referred to as Byrd’s Third Antarctic Expedition, the expedition was jointly sponsored by the United States Navy, State Department, Department of the Interior and The Treasury, with the objective of establishing two Antarctic bases.

Captain Michael A. Healy (1839–1904), later nicknamed “Hell Roaring Mike,” was born to an enslaved mother and, with his other white-passing siblings, was sent to school in the North. He was the first officer of African-American descent to serve in the Coast Guard. Commanding several vessels along the Alaskan coastline over the course of his career, he became “a legend enforcing federal law” and, “In addition to being a friend to missionaries and scientists…was a rescuer of whalers, natives, shipwrecked sailors, and destitute miners.”

Byrd’s vessel, the U.S.S. Bear, was the very same cutter with which Healy made his name. It was originally purchased by the U.S. Navy in 1884 to rescue the survivors of the Greely Mission to the Arctic, and made thirty four Arctic and Alaskan voyages.

REFERENCES: “Captain Michael A. Healy, USRCS,” United States Coast Guard online.

Item #4898

Price: $375.00

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