In 1930, G. P. Putnam’s Sons published Byrd’s own account of the expedition, Little America. As a ploy to help sell the book, Putnam’s invited readers to submit essays on the topic, What Value, to the Civilized world, is the Byrd Expedition? Writers were competing for prizes that ranged from $250 to an autographed copy of Little America. The publisher was trying to sell the volume during the Great Depression. Concurrently, they also appeared to be asking the public for specific reasons for Americans to be interested in the exploration of Antarctica, particularly at a time when economic and social problems at home seemed particularly threatening.

Letter by James A. Michener, 1930, Richard E. Byrd Papers, #4852. Michener was a young school teacher at the time he entered the contest. Although his letter was not a prize winner, Michener would win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction seventeen years later.

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