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Adolphus W. Greely Papers, 1867-1871; 1908-1909

Identifier: MM 29

Scope and Content Note

The Adolphus W. Greely Papers consist of military records and personal papers of Adolphus Washington Greely. This collection has been arranged into two series.

Series I. Records of the U. S. Army 36th Infantry Division includes ordnance accounts, receipts, vouchers, invoices, and addressed envelopes, related to Greely's time as Second Lieutenant in the 36th Infantry. These records reflect the basic equipment and financial concerns facing a regiment of soldiers on the frontier. The material in this series has been arranged chronologically.

Series II. Personal Papers includes correspondence, clippings, and maps from Greely's life after his retirement from service. Correspondence in this series discusses diplomatic events, geological publications, and military matters. Also included is a letter from Henry Cabot Lodge (1850-1924) regarding the death of his son, George Cabot. The material in this series has been arranged chronologically.


  • Creation: 1867-1871; 1908-1909


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketch

Adolphus Washington Greely was born on March 27, 1844 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He enlisted in 1861 as a private in the 19th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry at age 17 and achieved the rank of brevet major of US volunteers by the end of the Civil War. After the war, he remained in the Army as a second lieutenant in the 36th Infantry. In this position, Greely began to study telegraphy and electricity under Brigadier General Albert Meyer, founder of the Signal Corps. From 1867 to 1870, Greely worked establishing telegraph lines on the frontier and assisted Meyer in the organization of the U.S. Weather Bureau in Washington, D. C. He earned promotion to first lieutenant in 1873.

Greely married Henrietta Nesmith (1846-1918) on June 20, 1878 and the couple had six children: Antoinette Greely (b.1879); Adola Greely (b.1881); John Nesmith Greely (b.1885); Rose Ishbel Greely (b.1887); Adolphus Washington Greely (b.1889); and Gertrude Gale Greely (b.1891).

From 1881 to 1884, Greely led the International Polar Expedition promoted by the United States Army Signal Corps to establish one of a chain of meteorological-observation stations. Known as the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition or the Greely Expedition, the expedition resulted in multiple rescue attempts. After serving more than twenty years in the Army, Greely was promoted to major general in 1906 and on March 27, 1908 he reached the mandatory retirement age of 64. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his military service on March 21, 1935. He died on October 20, 1935 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


2 linear feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Adolphus W. Greely Papers consist of military records and personal papers of Adolphus Washington Greely.

Series List

SERIES I. Records of the U. S. Army 36th Infantry Division

SERIES II. Personal Papers

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


This material was found in the collection. Fam. Mss. 396 (correspondence which was purchased in 1951) was incorporated into this collection.

Bibliography and Related Collections

"Adolphus Washington Greely." Presidio of San Francisco. National Park Service, n. d. Web. 29 Jan 2012.

Alden, Todd L., Abandoned: the story of the Greely Arctic Expedition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961.

Greely, Adolphus W. Report on the proceedings of the United States expedition to Lady Franklin Bay, Grinnell Land. Washington: Government Print Office, 1888.

Greely, Adolphus W. Three years of Arctic service: an account of the Lady Franklin bay expedition of 1881-84, and the attainment of the farthest north. London, 1886.

United States. Navy Department. Report of Winfield S. Schley: Commander, U. S. Navy, Commanding Greely Relief Expedition of 1884. Washington: Government Print Office, 1887.

"BG Adolphus W. Greely." Regimental Division, Office Chief of Signal. United States Army Signal Center, 2008. Web. 29 Jan 2012.

Processing Information

Collection processed and cataloged by Halley Grogan, January 2012.

ADOLPHUS W. GREELY (1844-1935) PAPERS, 1844-1871; 1908-1909
Inventory prepared by Halley Grogan
Language of description
Script of description
Processing of this collection was funded by a grant from the NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission).

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA