Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
In the days before rapid communication, Robert E. Peary's announcement that he had found the North Pole on April 6, 1909, didn't reach the world until that September. Unfortunately, another American explorer, Frederick A. Cook, had announced just a week before Peary's return that he had already reached the pole in April, 1908 -- a full year earlier. The U.S. Congress investigated Cook's claims and ultimately gave Peary credit for the discovery. Most experts agree. An excerpt from The Post of Sept. 7, 1909:
Peary has succeeded. "Stars and Stripes nailed to the north pole." From out the arctic darkness there was flashed today this message, which stunned the scientific world and thrilled the heart of every layman. From the bleak coast of Labrador Peary gave to the world the news that he had attained his goal in the far north, while at the same moment in far-off Denmark Dr. Frederick A. Cook, of Brooklyn, was being dined and lionized by royalty for the same achievement.
Undeniably Yankee grit has conquered the frozen north, and there has been created a coincidence such as the world will never see again.
Two Americans have planted the flag of their country in the land of ice which man has sought to penetrate for four centuries, and each, ignorant of the other's conquest, has flashed within a period of five days a laconic message of success to the waiting world.
Cook in his first message to his countrymen was brief but noncommittal; Peary was even briefer, but specific. "Stars and Stripes nailed to the north pole," he said. That was all, but never before have so few words conveyed to a people a greater meaning or a greater patriotic satisfaction.
Five days ago, on September 1, Dr. Cook sent out from the Shetland Islands the first message of his success -- a message that has aroused a storm of controversy around the world. Today Robert E. Peary, lost from view in the land of ice and unheard from since August, 1908, startled the world by a similar message sent from Indian Harbor, Labrador. Thus two flags with the Stars and Stripes of the United States are floating in the ice packs, proving the courage of intrepid Americans.
With but a word from Peary; the world waits breathlessly for details, but until tomorrow, when he should arrive at Chateau Bay, Labrador, waiting must suffice.
First word of Peary's success reached New York at 12:39 o'clock this afternoon in a dispatch to the Associated Press. It contained the bare announcement of his finding the pole. Almost simultaneously he had transmitted the news to London, repeating dramatically and simply "Stars and Stripes nailed to the north pole." At the same time he similarly advised the governor of Newfoundland.
Both the Old and New World were thus apprised of his great achievement practically at the same moment, and the excitement which followed attests to the high pitch of interest aroused over the climax of man's perseverance. Newspaper extras were rushed from the press, and those who read marveled at the twist of the universe which had snatched the ice mask from the north in so strange a manner.