Location: Bowdoin / Library / Special Collections & Archives / Manuscript Collections / Donald Baxter MacMillan Collection, 1884-1975

LibraryGeorge J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives


Donald Baxter MacMillan Collection, 1884-1975



31 linear feet.

Catalog Number: M118

Agency History / Biographical Note:
Donald Baxter MacMillan was born November 10, 1874, in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the younger son of Captain Neil MacMillan and Sarah Gardner MacMillan, a shipbuilder's daughter. After receiving his degree from Bowdoin in 1898, MacMillan served as principal of Levi Hall School in North Gorham, Maine (1898-1900). He later taught at Swarthmore Preparatory School in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania (1900-1903), and at Worcester Academy in Worcester, Massachusetts (1903-1908).

MacMillan's correspondence with Admiral Robert E. Peary (Bowdoin 1877) led to his becoming an assistant to the arctic explorer on his expedition to the North Pole (1908-1909). An accident, however, prevented MacMillan from reaching the pole himself, a goal he never realized except by plane.

Over his lifetime MacMillan would make over thirty expeditions to the far North on the schooner Bowdoin, conducting important work in the fields of botany, ornithology, meteorology, and anthropology. Many of these trips he made with his wife, Miriam Look, whom he married in 1935. Together they led several crews of faculty and students (many from Bowdoin) on expeditions into the arctic between 1935 and 1954.

In addition to his arctic expeditions, MacMillan lectured throughout the United States and wrote several books, including Four Years in the White North (1918), Etah and Beyond (1927), and How Peary Reached the Pole (1934). He also served in the U.S. Navy as Lieutenant (1918-1919), Commander (1941-1945), and Rear Admiral (1954); was Tallman Professor of Anthropology at Bowdoin (1932-1933); and was awarded the F.R.G.S. Special Congressional Medal in 1944. He received honorary degrees from Bowdoin (1918) and Boston University (1937) and was educated at Harvard from 1911-1913. He died on September 7, 1970.

For related collections see: MacMillan "Thebaud" Collection; Miriam MacMillan Collection; and the manuscript and photograph holdings of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum.

Scope and Content:
The collection includes diaries, journals and logs (1902-1961), including those used for the Peary expedition (1908-1909) and the Crocker Land expedition (1913-1915); correspondence; manuscript drafts for Four Years in the White North (1918), How Peary reached the Pole: The Personal Story of His Assistant Donald B. MacMillan (1934), and Green Seas and White Ice (1948); addresses, lectures and articles (1897-1931 and undated); lecture schedules and lists (1924-1960); miscellaneous manuscripts; documents (1839-1969); photographs; and, maps and charts. Principal correspondents include Robert E. Peary, Robert M. Cross, Charles Cabot Easton, Alfred H. Fenton, Bela W. Norton, Harry L. Palmer, and Clifton A. Towle.

Cite as: Donald Baxter MacMillan Collection, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library.
Access Restrictions: None.

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