Album documenting the Arcturus Expedition, 1925.


261 original photographs measuring 4-1/2 x 2-3/4 in. laid down onto 46 leaves. Oblong 8vo. A PIRATE SETS SAIL ON WILLIAM BEEBE'S EXPEDITION. In a contemporary card album, corners chipped. William Beebe, The Arcturus Adventure (NY, 1926); Howgego III, B14; "Again They Dig for Captain Kidd's Gold" in New York Times Magazine, 21 December 1924, p.2. Item #303873

Under the auspices of the New York Zoological Society, the Arcturus departed New York and sailed via the Sargasso Sea, the Cocos Islands and finally to the Galapagos. Dickerman's official capacity was as assistant artist to the expedition, a role which he carried out with distinction — but he was an outsized presence onboard.

Dickerman, a restauranteur and artist became obsessed with pirates in high school, an interest which never waned. He took every opportunity to dress as them (Norman Rockwell, Dickerman's room mate at art school, painted him in full pirate garb), collected pirate relics, and his restaurant on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village was called The Pirate's Den. In 1924, he even successfully campaigned New York mayor J.F. Hylan for William Kidd's posthumous pardon. This expedition was almost certainly the fulfilment of a life long dream.

A taste of Dickerman is found in Beebe's account of the expedition, The Arcturus Adventure, where he describes Dickerman in search of treasure on the Cocos Islands: “Our atavistic pirate threw his tiny Panama dugout and paddle overboard, dived after, baled it, crawled in, and sped shoreward, in the same spirit with which a pilgrim comes within sight of the Kaaba. No devotee ever climbed the 72 steps of St. Anne de Beaupre with more reverence than Don Dickerman, tumbled ashore by the breakers, crept up the pebbly beach" (p224).

In what is otherwise a very sober account of the expedition, Dickerman provides two highlights, the first as described, the second when involved in catching a giant manta ray: "Assembling every weapon, legitimate and otherwise, the Arcturus afforded, they set out in a tiny row boat and made good." The legitimate weapon was a harpoon, the other a baseball bat.

The album covers the entire excursion, leaving New York harbor, photos of the Arcturus, the crew at work and play, as well as plenty of wildlife. There are several shots of the giant manta ray and of Dickerman in his boat scrambling ashore on the Cocos Islands. It was clearly a happy six months for the crew and the shots of them dressed as pirates seem entirely appropriate.

It was a high-profile expedition, reports of its progress were regularly published in newspapers, and there was much interest in Beebe's use of an underwater diving helmet. Furthermore, it was here that the El Nino phenomenon was first documented. Dickerman contributed two illustrations to The Arcturus Adventure: plate III "Young Fish taken at the Surface in Mid-ocean" and the charming "Unscientific Map of the Cocos Islands."

The album comes from the Dickerman family collection.

Price: $3,750.00 Free International Delivery