The Papers of George Comer in the Dartmouth College LibraryWMST Mss-204

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Comer, George
Title Remainder: Papers. 1905-1985
Dates: 1905-1985
Identification: Mss-204


George Comer (1858-1937) served on several whaling ships, advancing to the rank of captain and voyaging into both the Arctic and Antarctic. He was born in Quebec City but moved with his family to Connecticut when he was five years old. He made his home in East Haddam and sailed from New London. The first of his fourteen Arctic voyages was made in 1875 as a green hand before the mast; and on his last, 1919, he lost his ship, the Finback, off Cape Fullerton in Hudson Bay. In this period, he also sailed five times into the Antarctic and served, in 1915-16, as ice pilot on the Joseph P. Cluett, which relieved Donald B. MacMillan's Crockerland Expedition.

Comer early became interested in the Eskimos, who worked with the whalers and, as whaling became less profitable, hunted furs for the trade. During his many years of close association with the Eskimos, Comer made valuable observations and collections, and although he wrote only a few articles, much of his material was incorporated in the works of Franz Boas on the Hudson Bay-Baffin Island Eskimos. “Comer's Midden” near Thule, Greenland, was the find that first determined the Thule Culture. Comer began taking pictures in the Arctic in 1893, and a large collection of his photographs can be found at Mystic Seaport Museum.

The photographic prints and negatives in this collection were the gift of Webster T. Gault '50. Dorothy Harley Eber donated the copy of Natural History containing her article on Comer. In addition to the material in this collection, there is some correspondence (1918-1930) with Vilhjalmur Stefansson in the Stefansson Correspondence, and in 1984 An Arctic Whaling Diary: The Journal of George Comer in Hudson Bay, 1903-1905 was published.


Interview of George Comer by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, October 21, 1919. Photocopy of typescript carbon in Stefansson Correspondence.


“Whaling in Hudson Bay, with Notes on Southampton Island,” by George Comer. Photocopy from Anthropological Papers Written in Honor of Franz Boas (1906).


“Bringing the Captain Back to the Bay,” by Dorothy Harley Eber in Natural History (January, 1985). Quotes interview above and a letter in the Stefansson Correspondence


Letter from George Comer, Etah, North Greenland, 22 November 1916, to Mary C. Dickerson, American Museum of Natural History. Two pages. Mentions Vilhjalmur Stefansson.


Letters (2) about George Comer and the photographs in this collection: Webster T. Gault to Vilhjalmur Stefansson, January 29, 1959; and Stefansson to Gault, February 7, 1959. Photocopies from the Stefansson Correspondence.



Eskimos in snow igloo, Cape Fullerton, Hudson Bay, March 24, 1905. Prints (2) and glass negative.


Canadian steamer Gauss at Cape Fullerton, May 5, 1905. Print and glass negative.


Scotch Ketch Albert in Repulse Bay, September 1912. Print, copy negative, and glass negative.


Albert in Repulse Bay, another view, September, 1912. Print and glass negative.


Preparations for whaling: schooner, boats, Eskimos, and dogs. No date. Print and glass negative.

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