Henry Grinnell collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence written by Grinnell regarding Sir John Franklin, the British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition, 1845-1848 (led by Franklin) and the subsequent search expeditions mounted by the Admiralty and private individuals to uncover the fate of Franklin and his men

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Grinnell was born on 13 February 1799 at New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was educated at the New Bedford Academy and, at the age of nineteen, was employed as a clerk in the commission house of H D and E B Sewell in New York City. In 1825, he joined his brothers, Joseph and Moses, and whaling captain Preserved Fish, to form the successful shipping company Fish, Grinnell and Co. (later renamed Grinnell, Minturn and Co). Retiring from the company in 1850, Grinnell pursued his interest in Arctic voyages, financing four expeditions to the Canadian Arctic in the search for Sir John Franklin's missing Northwest Passage expedition, the United States Franklin Search Expedition [first Grinnell expedition], 1850-1851 (leader Edwin De Haven), the United States Franklin Search Expedition [second Grinnell expedition], 1853-1855 (leader Elisha Kent Kane), the United States Whaling and Franklin Search Expedition, 1860-1862 (leader Charles Hall) and the United States Franklin Search Expedition, 1864-1869 (leader Charles Hall). Grinnell also supported American attempts on the North Pole, sponsoring the United States North Polar Expedition, 1860-1861 (leader Isaac Hayes), and the United States North Polar Expedition, 1871-1873 (leader Charles Hall).

He served as a founding member and early president of the American Geographical and Statistical Society and was elected an honorary corresponding member of the Royal Geographical Society in 1862. He died on 30 June 1874. Grinnell Land, now Grinnell Peninsula, is named for him.


The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by recipient

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland Garland Publishing, London(1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and 'Profile, Henry Grinnell' by Elizabeth Cruwys in The Polar Record volume 27 number 161 April 1991 p115-119

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible