Marie Ahnighito Peary papers, 1862-1995
Collection Scope and Content
This collection consists of a wide variety of material documenting Marie Peary Stafford’s life. There is a large amount of manuscript material including typescripts of her many publications, both books and stories submitted to magazines. The collection holds the published copies, the publishers’ contracts, reviews of her writings, and Marie’s notes for her stories. Also included are drafts of her lectures and speeches, extensive memos about various responsibilities she accepted as the daughter of a world-famous explorer and as a highly regarded expert on exploration herself. Her large manuscript in the form of a Greenland notebook relates to her work with the American-Danish Greenland Commission. She was also involved with the National Geographic Society, to which she donated Peary’s celebrated North Pole American flag. There is extensive correspondence among her papers: correspondence with her mother; some of the letters beginning in the later half of the 1910s forward; letters relating to Admiral Peary’s era and his accomplishments; letters from George Borup, the fiancé to whom she was never married; Viljhalmur Stefansson; and William Herbert Hobbs, her father’s first biographer. There is information about Robert Peary’s early career as a surveyor, documents which demonstrate the honors bestowed on Marie Peary Stafford, and copies of newspaper and magazine articles providing biographical information about her. Some of the collection’s highlights are the personal scrapbooks, journals and diaries, photographs, extensive ephemera and the personal artifacts.
Marie Ahnighito Peary was born in Northwest Greenland on September 12, 1893, to arctic explorer Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary and his wife, Josephine Diebitsch Peary, of Portland, Maine, and Washington, DC. She became known worldwide as the “Snow Baby.” Her middle name honored the Inuit woman who made Marie’s first fur suit. In 1909, when Marie was sixteen years old, Admiral Peary lead arguably the first successful expedition to the North Pole.
In 1917, Marie Peary married Edward Stafford, a Washington attorney, and during the next three years, they had two sons. In 1920, Peary Stafford’s father died. In 1932, she set sail to the Arctic to erect a monument in honor of her father and to memorialize his accomplishments. Peary Stafford was also an important political figure during World War II. She was part of the Danish-American Commission, which stabilized the dollar, as well as established security for Denmark and Greenland. For her contributions to the Commission, the Danish government awarded Peary Stafford the Liberation Medal. In 1950, she was awarded the Henry B. Bryant medal for her contributions to geographical information.
After both her husband and her mother died in 1955, Peary Stafford moved to Brunswick, Maine, and in 1967, she married her second husband, William Kuhne, a retired seaman. She lived in Brunswick until her death in 1978. Marie Peary Stafford Kuhne was the author of five books and many articles, and held an honorary Master of Arts Degree from Bowdoin College.