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Tanquary, Maurice Cole, 1881-1944



  • Existence: 1881 - 1944



Maurice Cole Tanquary (born November 26, 1881, Lawrenceville, Illinois—died October 25, 1944, St. Paul, Minnesota), a biologist, entomologist, and bee enthusiast, was the zoologist on the 1913 Crocker Land Expedition. After returning from Crocker Land, Tanquary taught at Kansas State College, the Agriculture and Mechanic Arts College of Texas and the University of Montana. He was the state entomologist of Texas and ran professional apiaries in North Dakota and Minnesota. Tanquary continued to teach until his death in 1944.

Leaves Vincennes University for University of Illinois.
Graduates from University of Illinois with an BS degree.
Receives master's degree from University of Illinois.
Receives PhD from University of Illinois.
Begins working at Kansas State College as an entomology instructor.
Gets leave from Kansas State College to join the Crocker Land Expedition. He is joined by another University of Illinois graduate, Walter Ekblaw (class of 1910). The expedition is led by Donald B. MacMillan, and Tanquary is acting zoologist.
The expedition leaves New York, moving up the Labrador coast, and, after changing ships due to a small shipwreck, continue the trip north to Etah, Greenland.
The team arrives at Etah, Greenland and begins to prepare for the Arctic stay which includes building a semi-permanent lodge to serve as the team's base of operations throughout the expedition.
The expedition team begins the 1,200-mile trip over the frozen Arctic Sea to reach the supposed location of Crocker Land.
Due to sickness and exhaustion, most of the expedition team, including Tanquary and Ekblaw, begin to return to Etah instead of continuing north.
1914-03 to 1914-04
Tanquary and Ekblaw travel 120 miles south of Etah to a small Danish trading post near North Star Bay to continue scientific analysis of the area.
1914-04 to 1914-08
The pair begin to run low on food, and Tanquary suffers from sun blindness until MacMillan arrives by motorboat to help the pair return to Etah.
Tanquary and MacMillan sledge south to a mail post in Southern Greenland to send word of their need for a rescue ship the following summer. The two get lost and run out of provisions, and eventually MacMillan returns north, forcing Tanquary to continue with a Danish trader and Inuit guide.
1915-01 to 1915-03
Tanquary attempts to return after successfully completing the trip and sending mail to AMNH. Tanquary suffers from frostbite of his feet and has both big toes amputated by the time he returns to Etah.
1915-03 to 195-10
It takes almost 8 months for Tanquary to recover from his injuries.The rescue ship that was supposed to pick up the Crocker Land team gets stuck in the ice on the Nova Scotia coast and doesn't arrive on the Greenland coast till after the sea ice is too frozen to return.
Tanquary, Jerome Allen, Edmund Hovey and Fitzhugh Green (other expedition members) begin a return trip to the US via dog sleds, traveling almost 1000 miles down the coast of Greenland.
Tanquary, Allen and Green reach southern Greenland and take a ship to Copenhagen, Denmark, then catch another ship to New York. The team also contacts AMNH in order to secure a ship for the rest of the expedition team still at Etah.
After Crocker Land, Tanquary returns to Kansas State College to teach as an assistant professor.
Tanquary marries Josephine Perry.
Jean Tanquary, Maurice's daughter, is born.
He moves to Texas, acting as the state's chief entomologist and running the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Art's entomology division.
Tanquary leaves Texas to open a private apiary in North Dakota where he begins his professional beekeeping career.
Appointed as professor of entomology at the University of Minnesota with the stipulation that he could move and continue to manage his commercial apiary.
Tanquary continues teaching in the School of Agriculture, contributing to bee journals and assisting amateur beekeepers.
Maurice Cole Tanquary dies in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Biographical Note

Tanquary transferred to the University of Illinoisfrom Vincennes , where he completed his B.S. in 1907, his M.A. in 1908, and his Ph.D. in 1912. . During this time he assisted the state entomologist of Illinois (2). Tanquary began working for Kansas State College in 1912 but was given leave to join the Crocker Land Expedition in 1913 (1, p. 539). Tanquary and the Crocker Land Expedition team left for the Arctic in July 1913 and arrived in Greenland that August. After less than a month, Tanquary, as well as several other expedition members returnedsouth with Donald B. MacMillan, Fitzhugh Green and two Inuit guides (4, p. 386-390). While the smaller team continued north, Tanquary and Walter E. Ekblaw (another University of Illinois graduate) traveled south of Etah to a small Dutch trading post at North Star Bay. The two were trapped at the trading post for almost three months, both suffering from frostbite. Tanquary continued fieldwork throughout his encampment at North Star Bay. In August 1915, Tanquary and Ekblaw were rescued by MacMillan and returned to Etah via motorboat, only to learn that Crocker Land did not exist. Despite this disappointment, the expedition team continued to work, travelling around Greenland and various islands on the Polar Sea, collecting specimens and taking extensive field notes (5, p. 14-19). In December 1914 Tanquary and MacMillan attempted to reach a mail service in southern Greenland but got lost and ran out of provisions. MacMillan turned back urging Tanquary to continue with an Inuit guide and Danish trader to the mail post and back. He suffered debilitating frostbite on both his feet, leading to the amputation of his big toes by fellow expedition member, Dr. Harrison Hunt (5, p. 16-19). After months of recovery and field work, Tanquary again headed south, trying to reach the US via dog sled. This trip was undertaken after two failed attempts for rescue by ship. After Crocker Land, Tanquary returned to Kansas State, as an assistant professor and then promoted to associate professor in 1919. Soon after, he accepted the position of state entomologist in Texas, where he also ran the entomology division at the Agriculture and Mechanic Arts College of Texas. In 1924 Tanquary left Texas to start a commercial apiary in North Dakota and began his work as an avid beekeeper and entomologist. In 1928, he moved his entire apiary to northern Minnesota, where he accepted a position in the Department of Agriculture at the University of Minnesota. He continued teaching at the university and working as a professional beekeeper for the next 16 years until his death on October 25, 1944 (1, p. 539-540).


(1) Riley, William A. "Maurice Cole Tanquary," Science vol. 100, no. 2607 (1944), p. 539-540.

(2) Bowdoin College Library, "Maurice C. Tanquary papers," accessed March 22, 2018 from

(3) Freed, Stanley A. "Fate of the Crocker Land Expedition," Natural History Magazine, accessed March 22, 2018 from

(4) MacMillan, Donald B. "Geographical Report of the Crocker Land Expedition, 1913-1917", American Museum of Natural History Bulletin 56 (1928): 379-435.

(5) Franch, John. "Grand illusion: doom, death, and drama infuse a university of Illinois expedition to the arctic," Illinois Alumni Magazine (January/February 2008): 14-19.

(6) MacMillan, Donald B. 1925. Four Years in the white North. Boston and New York, The Medici Society of America.



Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Crocker Land Expedition field photographs

Identifier: PPC .C76
Scope and Content Note This collection is a small subset of copies of prints from the larger Photographic Collection no. 14 – Crocker Land Expedition field photographs. The photographs in this collection are individually sleeved and arranged in four series. Folder 1 consists of 4 photographs that were taken prior to departure for the Arctic and include images of the S.S. “Diana” in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and group portraits of the expedition team.Folder 2 is divided into two sets. The...
Dates: circa 1913-1917

Crocker Land Expedition papers, 1907-1922.

Identifier: Mss .C76
Dates: Majority of material found within 1907 - 1922

Edmund Otis Hovey records

Identifier: Mss .H683
Scope and Content Note The Edmund Otis Hovey Records collection consists of approximately 50 field notebooks and journals from his and Mrs. Ettie Hovey’s travels around the Caribbean, North America, Europe and the Arctic; as well as, manuscripts of his papers and lectures notes. The collection also includes photographs, postcards, ephemera and newspaper clippings regarding the Crocker Land Expedition that took place from 1913-1917. The collection spans a period of approximately 20 years, beginning in 1890 and...
Dates: 1890-1919