Danenhower, John W., Lt., 1849-1887

Danenhower, John W., Lt., 1849-1887



John Wilson Danenhower was born September 30, 1849 in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1870 after which he served in the European Squadron aboard both the USS Plymouth and the USS Juniata. In 1875, Danenhower was assigned to the U.S. Naval Observatory where he attained the rank of master and then lieutenant in 1879. A year prior to this he was committed to an asylum for two months for signs of an unbalanced mind, but sufficiently recovered to return to active duty aboard the USS Vandalia in the Mediterranean Sea, attached to general Ulysses S. Grant's cruise. In 1879, he set sail for the Arctic as a navigator on the USS Jeannette under Captain George W. De Long. Danenhower began a school of navigation for the crew while the Jeannette was wedged in an ice pack. Unfortunately, he was ineffective to the expedition and rendered unfit for duty on December 22, 1879 due to a months-long and ever increasingly treatment-resistant eye inflammation caused by syphilis. On June 12, 1881, the Jeannette was crushed by ice. The team was forced to drag their boats and provisions over the ice towards the Siberian coastline. They finally found open water and set a course for the Siberian Lena River delta in three separate boats which became separated by gale winds on September 12, 1881. Danenhower's boat, under command of chief engineer George W. Melville, reached the eastern Lena River Delta five days later. The crew was rescued by friendly natives. Danenhower set sail for the United States and arrived on May 28, 1882. Danenhower published a book about the ordeal entitled "Lieutenant Danenhower's Narrative of the Jeannette." After the expedition, he he served as the assistant commander for midshipman training at Annapolis and assumed command of the USS Constellation on April 11, 1887. Danenhower committed suicide on April 20, 1887.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Jeanette Expedition collection

Stefansson Mss-289
Identifier: Mss-289
Date(s): 1875 to 2010

John W. Danenhower (1849-1887), Navy officer and arctic explorer. The collection contains correspondence, photographs, diaries, journals, clippings, an account book and other financial documents, a photo album and a scrapbook related to Danehhower's life and his time on-board the USS Jeanette during its search for a Pacific route to the North Pole. Manuscripts and research related to the book “Life’s Wild Restless Sea,” by his grandson Geoffrey Wilson are also included.