• American Arctic Exploration: A Social and Cultural History, 1890-1930

      Kusmer, Kenneth L., 1945-; Klepp, Susan E.; Isenberg, Andrew C. (Andrew Christian); Nelson, Frederick E. (Temple University. Libraries, 2011)
      The Arctic has long held power over the American imagination as a place of otherworldly beauty, life-threatening elements, and dangerous wildlife. Nearing the end of the nineteenth century, in a time of great anxiety about the direction of American society, the region took on new significance. As a new frontier, the Arctic was a place where explorers could establish a vigorous and aggressive type of American manhood through their exploits. Publications, lectures, newspaper accounts, and other media brought the stories of these explorers to those at home. Through such accounts, the stories of brave explorers counteracted the perceived softening of men and American society in general. Women played a crucial role in this process. They challenged the perceived male-only nature of the Arctic while their depiction in publications and the press contradictorily claimed that they retained their femininity. American perceptions of the Arctic were inextricably intertwined with their perceptions of the Inuit, the indigenous peoples that called the region home. In the late-nineteenth-century, Americans generally admired the Inuit as an exceptional race that embodied characteristics that were accepted in American Society as representing ideal manhood. Over time the image of the Arctic in American society shifted from a terrifying yet conquerable place to an accessible and open place by the 1920s. This "friendly Arctic" - a term coined by anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson - appeared to be a less threatening and intimidating place. Due to new technologies and geographical accomplishments, the Arctic appeared to become more accessible and useable. As the Arctic's depiction in American society gradually shifted towards a more "friendly Arctic," the role of women in the Arctic shifted as well. Women increasingly participated in this new friendly Arctic. While still claiming that their femininity remained, both fictional and non-fictional female explorers participated in a wide array of Arctic activities. The image of the Inuit, too, underwent a transformation. Americans viewed the Inuit with less respect than in prior decades. Open Arctic theories and rising technological advancements contributed to this change. The decline in respect also stemmed from beliefs that the indigenous northerners were set on a course of extinction or assimilation. Ultimately, the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century relationship between Americans and the Arctic laid the foundation for present-day views of the region and the Inuit.