Letters, brochures, and “tip sheets” promoted Dr. Frederick Cook’s dubious petroleum ventures.


He was a controversial North Pole visitor whose fraudulent claims were part of failed oil company ventures, a mail fraud conviction, and jail time.

Arctic explorer Dr. Frederick Albert Cook in 1908 made the widely accepted claim to have reached the North Pole after an arduous journey. He became a celebrity after accounts of his feat appeared in newspapers. Cook’s near approach to the pole would be erased in less than a year, when Admiral Robert E. Peary made a scientifically documented journey to achieve the milestone.

In 1909, a special commission at the University of Copenhagen investigated Cook’s conclusion that he had reached the pole before Peary. After examining Cook’s records, the commission on December 21, 1909, found no evidence Cook had reached the pole. The U.S. Congress formally recognized Peary’s claim in 1911.

Cook would spend years defending his claim, despite the lack of navigation evidence. Then he got in the oil business.

Controversial Arctic explorer Dr. Frederick Albert Cook

In 1917 controversial Arctic explorer Dr. Frederick Albert Cook conducted geological explorations in Wyoming for his newly formed company. Fraudulently promoting oil ventures will land him to jail.

Cook published My Attainment of the Pole, and threatened to sue anyone who said he had faked the trip. In 1917 Cook conducted geological explorations in Wyoming for his newly formed company, the Texas Eagle Oil Company of Fort Worth. Wyoming’s first real oil boom had arrived in 1908 when Salt Creek’s “Big Dutch” well came in as a gusher, bringing a flood of entrepreneurs and investors.

However, even with new railroad tank cars, Wyoming oil could not compete in eastern markets because of transportation costs. Read more Salt Creek history at First Wyoming Oil Wells. Falling oil prices forced the Texas Eagle Oil Company into bankruptcy. But in September of 1920, Cook rebounded with Fort Worth investors and incorporated the Revere Oil Company.

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“My experience with the Texas Eagle taught me that if I could have raised $50,000, I could have saved that large company with its large properties for its stockholders,” Cook would later claim.

“Combining with the Revere taught me that that was a reasonable method of how many other companies then being neglected or lying inactive, put under one head, could be renovated and the stockholders put in a position to make some money,” Cook added.

petroleum- producers- association-aoghs

The famed but fraudulent explorer who had laid claim to reaching the North Pole in 1908 will be convicted in 1923 after testimony from almost 300 witnesses.

Postal Service investigators saw it differently. Subsequent federal grand jury indictments of Cook noted:

“In March, 1921, the promoters, it is charged, entered upon a ‘so-called merger plan,’ each merger resulting in the acquisition of additional lists of stockholders who were advised in extravagantly phrased circulars and letters of the merger and promised safety from loss in their investment in the old company.”

The indictments noted that investors were required to “exchange their stock dollar for dollar for stock in the Revere Company with the stipulation that they purchase new stock equal to 25 percent of their holding in the ‘merged company.’”

Blizzard of Hyperbole

Undeterred by legal threats, Cook organized the Petroleum Producers’ Association in 1922 – using the same Revere Company “fold in” merger scheme as it was known at the time.

Revere Oil Company and the Petroleum Producers' Association certificates

A grand jury will accuse Revere Oil Company and the Petroleum Producers’ Association of acquiring of lists of vulnerable stockholders by “having taken over more than 250 smaller companies in most of which investors had already suffered huge losses.”

Cook and his ad man, Seymour “Alphabet” Cox, launched a blizzard of hyperbole. Their marketing campaign eventually amounted to a daily total of up to 30,000 promotional letters, brochures, and industry “tip sheets.” Instead of oilfield roughnecks, Cook contracted for more than 50 full-time stenographers.

Other employees included two “addressograph” operators, two printers, and a full-time mail boy. His fraudulent marketing convinced thousands of unwary investors to buy into the Petroleum Producers’ Association.

Eventually, Petroleum Producers’ Association and Revere Oil Company will be charged for “having taken over more than 250 smaller companies in most of which investors had already suffered huge losses.”

Among the companies taken over was the Rose City Petroleum Company, which was $50,000 in debt at the time, according to G.W. Hays, former governor of Arkansas and a shareholder in the company, founded in 1921 to build a 1,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Little Rock. It had struggled, thus making its investors susceptible to Cook’s scheme.

Hundreds of thousands of promotional letters, brochures, and industry “tip sheets” promoted the failed explorer's oil venture, which earned him a prison sentences of almost 15 years.

Hundreds of thousands of promotional letters, brochures, and industry “tip sheets” promoted the failed explorer’s oil venture, which earned him a Leavenworth, Kansas, prison sentence.

Newspapers reported that Cook bought “sucker lists” from defunct and dying oil companies to target vulnerable investors, “each one holding out a new hope of recouping money lost in a previous adventure or of becoming rich overnight from the black gold that flows from Texas oil wells.”

Federal investigators charged that in three years of operations, Revere Oil Company bilked investors of more than $6 million.

In 1923, after testimony from almost 300 witnesses, Cook, “Alphabet” Cox and others were convicted of ”dispersing stock-sales revenues as dividends, claiming income from nonproducing wells, and otherwise misrepresenting the company’s position.” Learn more about “Alphabet” Cox in Prudential Oil and Refining Company.

Frederick Albert Cook, the self-proclaimed conquer of the North Pole was fined $12,000 and sentenced to 14 years and 9 months in Leavenworth prison in Kansas. “You have at last got to the point where you can’t bunko anybody,” said District Court Judge John Killits.

Paroled in 1930, Cook received a pardoned from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. The explorer who almost reached the North Pole died five months later at age 75.

Smithsonian magazine examined Cook’s claim in an April 2009 article, “Who Discovered the North Pole?”


Recommended Reading – My Attainment of the Pole (1911, 2000). Your Amazon purchases benefit the American Oil & Gas Historical Society.


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? Become an AOGHS annual supporting member. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2022 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Arctic Explorer turned Oil Promoter.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/oil-almanac/secret-offshore-history-of-the-glomar-explorer. Last Updated: February 10, 2022. Original Published Date: April 1, 2013.




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