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William Dixon Weaver Papers, 1876-1883): Finding Aid

Published in 1992

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 276
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: William Dixon Weaver Papers
  • Dates: 1876-1883
  • Size: 0.29 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 3 folders
  • Creator: Weaver, William Dixon, 1857-
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: William Dixon Weaver was an Assistant Engineer in the United States Navy and a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1880. The Weaver Papers consist of Weaver's Cadet Engineer's Mathematics Notebook, his diary of the U.S.S. Yantic's voyage as a member of the 1883 Greely Relief Expedition, and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings regarding the Greely Relief Expedition and the subsequent public and military reaction over the loss of the steamer Proteus and the failure to rescue the members of the Greely Expedition.

Biography of William Dixon Weaver

William Dixon Weaver was born on August 30, 1857. Appointed a Cadet Engineer at the United States Naval Academy on September 14, 1876, he graduated as a member of the Class of 1880 on June 10, 1880, and achieved the rank of Assistant Engineer on June 10, 1882. In 1883, Weaver was attached to U.S.S. Yantic of the Greely Relief Expedition. Serving as a tender to the steamer Proteus, Yantic was deployed to retrieve the exploring party under LT A. W. Greely at Lady Franklin Bay, visiting Disco, Upernavik, and Littleton Island along the way. During the expedition, Proteus was crushed in an ice pack. Yantic rescued the Proteus' crew, but failed to locate any members of the Greely Expedition.

Weaver resigned his commission on January 24, 1892, but was reinstated on May 20, 1898 for service during the Spanish-American War. Weaver was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy on December 1, 1898.

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Description of Contents

The William Dixon Weaver Papers, comprising 0.29 linear feet of documentation, span from 1876 to 1883. The papers consist of Weaver's Cadet Engineer's Mathematics Notebook, his diary of the U.S.S. Yantic's voyage as a member of the 1883 Greely Relief Expedition, and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings regarding the Greely Relief Expedition and the subsequent public and military reaction over the loss of the steamer Proteus and the failure to rescue the members of the Greely Expedition.

Weaver's Cadet Engineer's Mathematics Notebook, 1876-1878, is composed of mimeographic exercises and tests, accompanied by Weaver's solutions. The Notebook includes algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Labels on the volume identify it as "Note Book No. 1."

Weaver's diary is a personal account of the U.S.S. Yantic's mission and journey from June 13 through September 29, 1883, as part of the Greely Relief Expedition. Weaver's diary describes the Yantic's cruise from New York to St. John's, Newfoundland, and on to various Greenland ports and anchorages. The diary concludes with the homeward journey from Greenland to St. John's, and on to New York. Weaver's diary contains ample description and comments on St. John's, Newfoundland; Disco Island, Greenland; , Godhaven, Rittenbeck, Kudtlissat, Upernavik, Littleton Island, Northumberland Island, and other Greenland locales. Weaver's descriptions include remarks on the local peoples, housing, local government, and wildlife, as well as mentions of encounters with icebergs and pack ice. The diary includes several hand-drawn maps, temperature charts, and sketches of icebergs and Eskimo houses.

In addition to its focus on the expedition's ports of call, Weaver's diary also devotes numerous passages to the loss of the Proteus during the relief expedition, news of which was discovered by the crew of the Yantic on August 3, 1883. Weaver provides information regarding rumors about the fate of the Proteus' crew, the embarkation of rescued Proteus crew members at Godhaven and Upernavik, and thoughts on other Arctic expeditions. The diary closes with Weaver's "Reflections on American Arctic Expeditions," in which Weaver condemns the "incompetency, petty bickerings and mean spirit" of American Arctic expeditions, comments on the mental state of Captain Wildes of the Yantic, and notes the failure of the Yantic to leave provisions for the Greely Party. Weaver also discusses conflicts between LT Garlington, head of the relief expedition, and Captain Pike of the Proteus.

The 1883 Greely Relief Expedition Scrapbook contains sixty-nine pages of newspaper clippings. Among the topics covered are the Yantic, the loss of the Proteus, the rescue of the Proteus survivors, the Proteus Court of Inquiry, the question of culpability of Captain Pike (captain of the Proteus) and Lieutenant Garlington (leader of the Greely Relief Expedition), speculations on the fate of the Greely Expedition, and suggestions for later relief efforts.

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The William Dixon Weaver Papers are organized into the following three files:

  • File 1: Mathematics Notebook, 1876-1878
  • File 2: Diary, 1883
  • File 3: Greely Expedition Scrapbook, 1883
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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The William Dixon Weaver Papers are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Jeanne Weaver in August 1991. Accession No. 91-38.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material pertaining to Weaver's time at the Naval Academy may be found in his Midshipman Conduct Record, the Register of Candidates for Admission, and Record of Physical Condition of Cadets, all available at Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library.

Materials Cataloged Separately

Twenty-one books and other publications have been removed from this accession and cataloged separately.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

William Dixon Weaver Papers, MS 276

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:

Callahan, Edward William. List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps, from 1775 to 1900. New York: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1901.

United States. Navy Department. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy. Washington, 1883.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1992. Finding aid written by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1992 and revised by David D'Onofrio in June 2014.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Arctic regions -- Discovery and exploration
  • Greely Relief Expedition (1883)
  • Greenland -- Description and travel
  • Mathematics -- Study and teaching
  • Proteus (Ship)
  • United States Naval Academy -- Curricula
  • Weaver, William Dixon,
  • Yantic (Screw gunboat)

Genre Terms

  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Diaries
  • Manuscripts
  • Notebooks
  • Scrapbooks
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Mathematics Notebook, 1876-1878

Box 1 Folder 2

Diary, 1883

  • June 13-June 28: Description of journey from New York to St. John's, Newfoundland. Description of St. John's, it's geography, people, and economy.
  • June 30-July 3: Notes on icebergs, including two drawings.
  • July 4-7: Exhaustion of fresh provisions.
  • July 8: Sighting of Sukkertoppen.
  • July 9: First encounter of midnight sun.
  • July 12-22: Description of Disco Island, including Eskimo graveyards, Danish government, and natives (housing, clothing, women, passion for dancing). Party of naval officers ascend Lygenmark Fjeld. Arrival and explorer Professor Nordenskjold.
  • July 23: Arrival at Rittenbeck. Description of area and natives.
  • July 24-26: Description of glacier. Providing rations to natives.
  • July 27-29: Arrival at and description of Upernavik.
  • August 1: Steaming through Melville Bay.
  • August 2: Cape York. Description of pack ice. Discovery of remnants of an 1875 expedition on Cary Island.
  • August 3: Capes Alexander and Isabella sighted. List of previous vessels and explorers to visit the area. Discovery of sinking of Proteus.
  • August 4: Description of Northumberland Island.
  • August 5: Search of Northumberland, Hakluyt, Herbert, and Wostenholm Islands.
  • August 9: Remarks on numerous supplies left behind by various ships.
  • August 11: Receives news of Greely party from Governor at Upernavik.
  • August 12-21: Danish Governor's opinion on the death of Captain Hall of the Polaris. Eskimos of Upernavik (including their dancing and physical condition).
  • August 23-26: Coaling at Kudtlissat.
  • August 28-30: Arrival at Godhaven. Rumor of the murder of an explorer by an Eskimo.
  • August 31-September 1: Discovery of seven members of the relief party from Proteus and news of Captain Pike. Account of the party's experiences.
  • September 2: Arrival at Upernavik and discovery of Captain Pike's party. Account of the party's survival.
  • September 2-29: Yantic's home bound journey. Sea burial of Gunner's Mate Harry Wilson.
  • Pages 135-137: Copy of brief record of H.M.S. Enterprise and Investigator, August 6, 1848, left by J.H. Ross, Commander of the Expedition. Record found by R.G. Pike of the Proteus.
  • Pages 140-148: Weaver's "Reflections on American Arctic Expeditions." Followed by a hand-drawn map of Greenland and temperature charts for the period of August 13-September 5.
Box 1 Folder 3

Greely Expedition Scrapbook, 1883

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