Arctic Explorer
Born in 1866 - 1955

Matthew Henson

Matthew Henson's mother died when he was very young. After she died, his father moved his family to Washington D.C. Then his father died when Matthew was only eleven years old. The uncle with whom he lived was so mean to him that Matthew ran away from home. He was only thirteen years old.

He had no place to go, so he found a job at a small restaurant, and the owner took pity on him and let him sleep on the floor of the restaurant at night.

Next a sea captain hired him to work on his ship. During the next few years he sailed around the world, learned to read, and learned about ships and navigation.

At one point when he was between voyages, he worked for a man who owned a store which sold supplies to men embarking * on expeditions. This is where he met Robert Peary.

Peary was so impressed with Henson's credentials * he made him his assistant and right-hand-man on his expeditions.

The first trip they made together was to Nicaragua * to chart the jungle there. He spent twenty years of his life traveling and exploring with Robert Peary.

He was with Peary for seven years in the Arctic where they covered 9,000 miles on dogsleds. On the final trip in 1909 they finally reached the North Pole. Henson said he was the first man there because he was at the front of the sled and Peary was riding in the back of the sled.

Peary, of course, took credit for being first since it was his expedition. His attitude * toward his assistant changed, and Henson was pushed out of the limelight * . Peary wanted the attention to be focused only on him, and he did not want Henson to receive credit * for his hard work.

After the expedition, Henson could not get a very good job. Then four years later President Taft assigned to him the title of clerk in the New York Customs House. He held this post for 23 years. During those years Henson attended Harvard University and earned a master's degree.

Matthew Henson in later years
holding a picture of Robert Peary

After many years he began to be recognized for his contribution to the polar exploration. In 1944 Matthew Henson received the Congressional Medal of Honor. In 1954 President Eisenhower presented him with an award. Another honor was bestowed on him when the Explorer's Club accepted him as a member. A ship was named after him; the U.S.N.S. Henson, schools were named after him, and other honors were given in his memory.

Matthew Henson was survived by an only son, Anauakaq, whose mother was an Inuit woman named Akatingwah. Anauakaq once visited his father's family and the site where Henson was buried.

In 1988 Henson's body was moved to Arlington National Cemetery where he was interred near the place where Robert Peary was buried. Those in attendance included his American family as well as his Inuit family.

At last, Matthew Henson was recognized for his contribution to the successful North Pole expedition.

This biography by Patsy Stevens, a retired teacher, was written in 2007.

A frequent question:
"Who wrote this biography
and when was it written?"
Look on this Reference Citations Chart.

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Matthew Henson, Arctic Explorer

Matthew Henson
student activities and links to information about Henson

The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum

Photos Peary Expedition

North Pole 1909

Photos of Matthew Henson
expedition pictures at National Geographic

Arlington Cemetery
describes his resting place

Matthew Henson
Arlington Cemetery

Matthew Henson With Peary to the Pole

Explorer Hero: Matthew Henson

Matthew Henson
information about his family

Matthew Henson

From Word Central's Student Dictionary
by Merriam - Webster

(Pronunciation note: the schwa sound is shown by ə)

Pronunciation: im-'bark
Function: verb
to begin some task or project as to embark on a career

Pronunciation: kri-'den-chəlz
Function: noun plural
documents showing that a person has a right
to perform certain official acts

Pronunciation: "nik-ə-'rahg-wə
Function: geographical name
country Central America; capital, Managua

Pronunciation: 'kred-ət
Function: noun
something that adds to a person's reputation or honor
as to get credit for a discovery

Pronunciation: 'lIm-"lIt
Function: noun
the center of public attention

Pronunciation: 'at-ə-"t(y)ood
Function: noun
a particular feeling or way of thinking about something

104508: Arctic Peoples Arctic Peoples
By Mir Tamim Ansary / Heinemann Raintree

Come along with us as we meet some of America's first peoples. Turn the pages of Arctic Peoples to discover: how a house of snow can be warm and comfortable, what clothes we wear today were invented by Arctic peoples, how Arctic sled dogs can swim without getting wet. Each book in the Native Americas series explores a different area of our country and the people who first lived there. Find out how these people lived long ago, what happened when Europeans arrived, and how Native Americans today are keeping their cultures alive. Each book includes: colorful maps, photos, and illustrations, a section on famous Native Americans, a list of books to show you where you can learn more. 32 pages, softcover.

30745: Draw Write Now, Book 4: The Polar Regions, The Arctic, The  Antarctic Draw Write Now, Book 4: The Polar Regions, The Arctic, The Antarctic
By Marie Hablitzel / Barker Creek

Explore the world with, Draw Write Now, a collection of drawing and handwriting lessons developed by an elementary school teacher and tested by over 800 children. The contents include: Colorful easy to follow drawing lessons. Text for practicing handwriting. Theme related questions, answers and book lists. A child friendly format. And countless ideas to spark children's imagination and creativity! In Book Four, children explore The Polar Regions, The Artic and The Antartic. One of eight books in the Draw Write Now Series by authors, Marie Hablitzel and Kim Stitzer Barker Creek Publishing.


Matthew Henson, easy biography
by Katherine Scraper (selected pages) Order here

Reader's Theater: Mark Henson at the North Pole
by Candice Kramer (selected pages) Order here

Preview these Amazon books using the links below.

A Negro Explorer at the North Pole
by Matthew Henson (selected pages)

Matthew Henson, Arctic Adventurer
online book by B. A. Hoena (selected pages)

Arctic Explorer: The Story of Matthew Henson
by Jeri Ferris (selected pages)

Matthew Henson, First Biographies
by B. A. Hoena (selected pages)

Matthew Henson, The Quest for the North Pole
by Kathleen Olmstead (selected pages)

Fifty American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet
by Dennis Denenberg, Lorraine Roscoe (selected pages)

How they got over: African Americans and the call of the sea
by Eloise Greenfield, Jan Spivey Gilchrist (selected pages)

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Biographies in this Series

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the United States
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  Martin Van Buren Abraham Lincoln Theodore Roosevelt Franklin D. Roosevelt Harry S. Truman Dwight D. Eisenhower
  John F. Kennedy Lyndon B. Johnson Jimmy Carter Ronald Reagan Barack Obama Calvin Coolidge
American Patriots Benjamin Franklin Francis Scott Key Deborah Sampson Molly Pitcher
World Leaders Constantine Alexander the Great Winston Churchill Margaret Thatcher
Inventors Alexander Graham Bell Johann Gutenberg Cyrus McCormick The Wright Brothers Henry Ford Thomas A. Edison
  Sequoyah Nikola Tesla Michael Faraday Dean Kamen Jack Kilby Leonardo Da Vinci
  Donald O'Neal
Explorers Christopher Columbus Meriwether Lewis Robert Peary John Muir Matthew Henson Sir Edmund Hillary
  Kit Carson Johnny Appleseed Daniel Boone
Women who made
a difference
Clara Barton Helen Keller Florence Nightingale Joan of Arc Amelia Earhart Annie Oakley
  Susan B. Anthony Elizabeth Keckly Harriet Tubman Anne Frank Eleanor Roosevelt Madam C.J. Walker
  Sadako Sasaki Henrietta Lacks Malala Yousafzai      
Scientists George Washington Carver Sir Isaac Newton Marie Curie Louis Pasteur Albert Einstein Galileo
  Lise Meitner Norman Borlaug Benjamin Banneker
Educators Noah Webster Booker T. Washington Aristotle Mary McLeod Bethune
Physicians Hippocrates Walter Reed Albert Schweitzer
Religious Leaders George Muller Increase Mather
Athletes Lou Gehrig Wilma Rudolph Tiger Woods Michael Phelps
Civil Rights
Martin Luther King Rosa Parks Sojourner Truth Frederick Douglass Mary Ann Shadd Cary James Forten
  Gandhi César Chávez William Wilberforce Nelson Mandela
Composers Beethoven Mozart
Authors Laura Ingalls Wilder Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) Ernest Hemingway Greg Mortenson Phillis Wheatley
Artists John James Audubon Gutzon Borglum Ansel Adams Dale Chihuly Van Gogh Michelangelo
  Rembrandt Grandma Moses Cassatt Renoir Cezanne Rockwell


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