Monday, November 12, 2012

Arctic Newspapers II: The Arctic Moon

Among the more unusual papers printed by Arctic explorers is the Arctic Moon, published at Fort Conger by members of the Greely Expedition.  It was unusual not only for its content, but for its means of production; the Moon was printed using an apparatus known as the "hektograph"or gelatin duplicator, a relatively new invention at the time, and a distant cousin of the mimeograph machines common in the 1960's and '70's. Like the mimeograph, the hektograph used a dense ink containing a dark blue analine dye; one wrote with a special pencil upon coated paper; this paper was then lain down upon a bed of gelatin, which absorbed the ink. To "print" additional copies, one lay a sheet of clean paper on top of the bed of gelatin, and gently passed a roller over the surface.  The ink was then absorbed by the paper, which was then removed and allowed to dry. Lieutenant Lockwood and Sergeant Rice were the principal producers and editors of this newspaper; Lockwood drew the masthead, which depicted the main building at Fort Conger, while Rice oversaw the production; it was noted at the time that he was able to produce "enough for all, and many to spare."

This copy of the Arctic Moon was that belonging to Sergeant David L. Brainard, and is from the private collection of a friend. Alas, like nearly all surviving copies, it has suffered considerable indignities, becoming folded, torn, and water-stained on it way to becoming a dear-bought souvenir of a terrible ordeal.  There is said to be one nearly perfect copy in the archives of the Bostonian Society, but I have not been able to personally inspect it (although I certainly hope to do so someday).

The hektograph -- later hectograph -- process continued to be used well into the 1940's, when drum-based machines such as the mimeograph, as well as ink-extrusion ones such as the Gestetner, overtook it in popularity and ease of use.


  1. I was wondering when you were going to post the second half :-) too bad the writing's too small to read the Arctic Moon.

  2. Thanks for your comment -- there's yet a third part to come! -- but I am sorry that the Arctic Moon is not easily legible. The poor condition of most copies means that it would have to be transcribed by hand and in person, and no one's done this yet (though if I can, I might well do it). One commentator of the day said that it had much "bright matter" but that most of it was only of interest to the expedition members themselves!

  3. Very interesting, I suposse that making a good zoom and treating the picture with Picassa or a similar program, you will be able to read something. I am also waiting for the third part...sorry Russell for the pressure. hehe!!