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Henry Grinnell & Resolute

Henry Grinnell’s involvement in Resolute’s story is frequently misrepresented. Some accounts even say he is responsible for proposing the 1856 resolution in Congress for the US to buy Resolute from the Perkins and Smith whaling firm, refurbish her at a USN yard, then send her back to England as a gift. His role in the Franklin searches in general is also one that gets represented differently in various sources. So my next series of blog posts are going to be about him, his role in the Franklin searches, and his involvement in the life of HMS Resolute.
Part 1:
In 1850 Grinnell pledged $5,000 towards an American search expedition to find Franklin. After a poor response to a public subscription he increased this pledge to $10,000. Eventually he used $30,000 to buy the two ships Advance and Rescue. However, the rest of the expedition’s costs fell upon the US Congress. On the recommendation of President Zachary Taylor, Congress provided naval personnel, and covered their pay, food and equipment costs. This American Expedition shared with the British 1850 Austin Expedition the discovery of Franklin’s 1846 winter camp on Beechey Island. Both Advance and Rescue and their crews came home safely. The ships were then returned to Grinnell. Although he put his capital at risk, in effect Grinnell’s financial contribution was exactly $0,000, and the American taxpayers footed the rest of the bill. He reaped the benefit on both sides of the Pond during his lifetime for being a philanthropic person and forever by having this 1850 expedition named after him as the 1st Grinnell Expedition to search for Franklin. For many years after this suited his financial shipping industry interests, which included whaling.

a photograph of shipping and whaling magnate Henry Grinnell in the blog about his role in the searches for Franklin and in HMS Resolute's story
Henry Grinnell

By Elizabeth Matthews

Leading authority on HMS Resolute

2 replies on “Henry Grinnell & Resolute”

Henry Grinnell seems to be much less comfortable in front of the camera than he must have been operating behind the scenes of politics and commerce when smoothly promoting his Arctic interests.

He was certainly someone who operated behind the scenes. Although he was not the author or sponsor of the Resolute Resolution that authorised the US government’s purchase of Resolute from Perkins and Smith, he was involved in behind the scenes actions to insure the resolution was seen in a favourable light in Congress. At least one of these back street manoeuvres was illegal! The details of his actions are in the new manuscript!!

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