Who Was Jacques Suzanne?

     Although few outside of the field of arctic exploration know who Jacques Suzanne was, few who learn of his travels can deny that he was as flamboyant as he was dedicated to bringing the experience of his travels back home for others to share. Explorer, actor, sculptor, and painter, the “Great Explorer” as he was known, wore many hats but his focus was always his love for the indigenous tribes of the Arctic regions and their dogs.

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     Suzanne was known to have traveled throughout Siberia on a dog sled pulled by his beloved Malamutes, a 20 month-5000 mile journey. There, he lived among the Samoyed people of northern Siberia at a time when no white man had ever been among them. For more than a year he hunted with them, capturing their way of life in his paintings. In one expedition, he was shown a Woolly Mammoth that was frozen in ice. Of this he said:

             That was marvelous; it was as though I, one of the dominant race, were looking into prehistoric ages and seeing the mightiest being of those times.

     On May 17, 1914, Suzanne created quite a stir when he and his party of two sleds with wheels, three men, provisions for a three-year expedition, and twenty sled dogs traveled down Fifth Avenue in New York City on their way to the northern regions by way of Albany and then Ottawa. Leaving behind the lights of Broadway, he claimed he had an “affinity” for the ice and snow and the Aurora Borealis he was so fond of. Openly, he longed to return to the North.

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     Suzanne married late in life and retired to Lake Placid, New York where he raised “husky dogs” for the movie industry although it is almost certain, he bred a Malamute line from a few of his expedition dogs as they were highly prized. He and his dogs appeared in several silent movies about the Great North. His ranch became a popular tourist attraction where people could see his dogs, trained wolves, horses, coyotes, and other animals. Many films were also shot on his ranch.

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     A 1949 issue of Boys Life, reported that Jacques Suzanne attended a Sportsman show near his home with several  noteworthy outdoorsman of the time. The following is an excerpt of that article:

     The sight of Suzanne and his Malamutes, which weigh nearly 180 pounds apiece, “mushing” through the snow covered streets of Schenectady was enough to cause many a noon-time driver to take to the curb.

     Suzanne aspired to be the first man to the South Pole, a feat accomplished by a fellow explorer and friend, Admiral Byrd. Suzanne passed away in 1967.

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     The line of Malamutes he bred from some of the original dogs from his journeys, a few who had also accompanied Admiral Byrd to the South Pole, still exist today.

 

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