Mathew A Henson was born on August 8, 1866 in Maryland. By age 12 he was already a bit of an explorer, having gone to sea as a cabin boy on the ship the Katie Hines. In 1887 Henson met Robert Peary and they went on their first expedition together.
After their first expedition (which went to Nicaragua) Henson went with Peary on seven others, all into the Arctic. On these expeditions, Henson learned Inuktitut and became very familiar with the culture of the Inuit. As part of Peary’s crew on their seventh attempt to reach the North Pole, Henson was the one to accompany Peary on the final leg of the trip to the North Pole. With the help of four Inuit men, Henson and Peary reached the pole on April 6, 1909.
After his adventures in the Arctic, Henson worked as a messenger and clerk at the Customs House in New York City. He also spent some time going around the country giving speeches about his expeditions with Peary. Henson was given honorary degrees at Howard University and Morgan College and admitted into the Explorers Club. Henson died in 1955 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.