Kennicott, Robert, 1835-1866

Alternative names

Hide Profile

Robert Kennicott (1835-1865?) and Henry Martyn Bannister (1844-1920) were naturalists and explorers of the Alaska Territory in the mid-1860's. Their discoveries, as publicized before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, contributed to the eventual purchase of Alaska by the United States in 1867.

From the description of Robert Kennicott-Henry M. Bannister Papers, 1857-1873. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 80783346

Robert Kennicott was born November 13, 1835 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He studied natural history as a youth and, in 1855, completed a comprehensive natural history survey of southern Illinois for the Illinois Central Railroad Company. In 1856, he helped found the Chicago Academy of Sciences and was largely responsible for its development. In 1865 the Western Union Telegraph Company hired Kennicott to assist in the survey of northwestern America for the purpose of constructing an overland telegraph line to the Old World. Kennicott died while on the expedition.

From the description of Extracts from diary and journals, 1864-1866. (Oregon Historical Society Research Library). WorldCat record id: 36471085

Naturalist who helped found the Chicago Academy of Science, he was educated mainly through his own work under the tutelage of Jared Kirtland and Spencer F. Baird and worked for the Smithsonian Institution. In 1857 he did a State Zoological Survey of southern Illinois. In 1859 he started a three year exploration of northern Canada and Alaska. In 1865 he began an expedition with the Overland Telegraph Company, again to Alaska and the Bering Strait, but he died before reaching Alaska. William Stimpson, his friend from the Smithsonian took over as director of the Chicago Academy of Sciences when Kennicott left for this expedition.

From the description of Papers, 1853-1882. (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library). WorldCat record id: 51747516

Robert Kennicott (1835-1866) was a nineteenth-century naturalist. His remarkable collecting activities significantly increased the foundational collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. He was born in northern Illinois. He started collecting at age 18 and at age 21 he became one of the founders of the Chicago Academy of Sciences. He came to the Smithsonian in 1958. He enjoyed being out in the field to observe and record everything he saw. In 1959, he embarked on a three-year expedition to northern Canada and Alaska. In 1865, he returned to Alaska to survey a telegraph route and died suddenly on May 31, 1866.

Smithsonian Institution Archives Field Book Project: Person : Description : rid_564_pid_EACP561

A naturalist and explorer, Robert Kennicott was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on November 13, 1835. Along with Henry M. Bannister, Kennicott explored the Alaska Territory in the mid-1860s. Their discoveries, as publicized before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, contributed to the eventual purchase of Alaska by the United States in 1867. Yet the exploration of Alaska was only the foremost of many achievements and discoveries by the two men.

While he was still quite young, his parents moved to Northbrook, Illinois, a town northwest of Chicago. Kennicott received little formal education, yet, with the guidance of his father and others, he was able to train himself in natural history. His progress was rapid. At the age of twenty, he made a comprehensive survey of southern Illinois for the Illinois Central Railroad; at twenty-one, he helped to establish the Chicago Academy of Science; at twenty-two, he established a natural history museum at Northwestern University. In the late 1850s, Kennicott joined the Smithsonian Institution as an explorer and cataloger. He traveled through British America (new Canada) as far north as Fort Yukon and returned to the Smithsonian with many new discoveries. As a reward for his achievements, he was made the curator of the Chicago Academy of Science and later chosen to head the Western Union Telegraph expedition to Alaska. He died of a heart attack at Fort Nulato, Alaska, while on this expedition.

From the guide to the Robert Kennicott (1835-1865?) and Henry M. Bannister (1844-1920) Papers, 1857-1905, (Northwestern University Archives)

Robert Kennicott was born in 1835 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Receiving little formal education, he trained himself in natural history under the guidance of his father, Dr John Kennicott, a renowned horticulturist and physician, and through his association with several scientists, including the naturalist, Spencer Baird. At the age of twenty, he made a comprehensive survey of southern Illinois for the Illinois Central Railroad and the following year became a co-founder of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, later establishing a natural history museum at Northwestern University in Illinois.

After joining the staff of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, Kennicott was appointed to lead the United States Zoological Expedition, 1859-1862, sent by the Smithsonian to make zoological collections from the trading posts in Mackenzie District and Yukon Territory. In addition to collecting a vast quantity of zoological specimens for the Smithsonian, Kennicott made many valuable observations of the fur trade.

In 1863, Kennicott was appointed curator of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, and two years later returned north to lead the Western Union Telegraph Expedition, 1865-1867. The expedition was instructed by Western Union Telegraph Company to survey a route for, and to construct, a telegraph line through Alaska by way of Yukon River and Seward Peninsula, in connection with plans to establish a telegraph link between America and Europe by way of Bering Strait. Kennicott was also to take charge of various scientific studies in Alaska. After arriving at Norton Sound in September 1865, Kennicott led an exploring party to the Nulato trading post on the Yukon. He died of a heart attack on 13 May 1866 at Nulato.

From the guide to the Robert Kennicott collection, 1865, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Robert Kennicott (1835-1865?) and Henry M. Bannister (1844-1920) Papers, 1857-1905 Northwestern University Archives
creatorOf Kennicott, Robert, 1835-1865?. Robert Kennicott-Henry M. Bannister Papers, 1857-1873. Northwestern University
referencedIn Kennicott, John Albert, 1802-1863. Kennicott Family Papers 1830-1913. Oakton Community College, Oakton Library
referencedIn Charles Bulkley collection, 1864-1867 Scott Polar Research Institute
referencedIn Henry Bannister collection, 1865-1866 Scott Polar Research Institute
referencedIn William Dall collection, 1864-1866 Scott Polar Research Institute
creatorOf Kennicott, John Albert, 1802-1863. Kennicott Family Papers 1830-1913. Oakton Community College, Oakton Library
creatorOf Kennicott, Robert, 1835-1866. Papers, 1853-1882. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
referencedIn Western Union Telegraph Company. Orderly book of the bark Golden Gate and clipper ship Nightingale, 1865-1866. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Henry Elliott collection, 1866 Scott Polar Research Institute
creatorOf Kennicott, Robert, 1835-1866. Extracts from diary and journals, 1864-1866. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
referencedIn Strachan Jones collection, 1859 Scott Polar Research Institute
creatorOf Kennicott, Robert, 1835-1866. Robert Kennicott and family papers, 1852-1975 (bulk 1852-1866). Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Joseph Rothrock collection, 1865 Scott Polar Research Institute
referencedIn Robert Kennicott collection, 1865 Scott Polar Research Institute
referencedIn John L. (John Lawrence) LeConte papers, 1812-1897, 1812-1897 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Dyer, Joseph T. Joseph T. Dyer diaries, 1865-1867. Anchorage Museum Atwood Resource Center, ANCHORAGE MUSEUM OF HIST & ART LI
referencedIn Bulkley, Charles S. Charles S. Bulkley papers, 1865-1867. Minnesota Historical Society Library
creatorOf Robert Kennicott collection, 1865 Scott Polar Research Institute
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873. person
associatedWith Arny, W. F. M. person
associatedWith Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887. person
associatedWith Bannister, Henry M. (Henry Martyn), 1844-1920. person
associatedWith Boston Society of Natural History. corporateBody
associatedWith Brewer, Thomas Mayo, 1814-1880. person
associatedWith Bulkley, Charles person
associatedWith Bulkley, Charles S. person
associatedWith Cavileer, Charles Turner. person
associatedWith Chicago Academy of Sciences. corporateBody
associatedWith Dall William Healy 1845-1927 person
associatedWith Dyer, Joseph T. person
associatedWith Elliott, Henry person
associatedWith Elliott Henry W 1846-1930 person
associatedWith Grove National Historic Landmark (Glenview, Ill.). corporateBody
associatedWith Gunn, Donald, 1797-1878. person
associatedWith Hoy, Philo Romayne, 1816-1892. person
associatedWith Hudson's Bay Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Illinois Central Railroad Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Illinois State Agricultural Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Illinois. State Zoological Survey. corporateBody
associatedWith Johnson, Benjamin Pierce, 1793-1869. person
associatedWith Jones, Strachan person
associatedWith Kennicott family. family
associatedWith Kennicott, John Albert, 1802-1863. person
associatedWith Kennicott, John Albert, d. 1863. person
associatedWith Kennicott, Robert person
associatedWith Kirtland, J. P. (Jared Potter), 1793-1877. person
associatedWith Lapham, Increase Allen, 1811-1875. person
associatedWith LeConte, John L., (John Lawrence), 1825-1883 person
associatedWith New York State Agricultural Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). corporateBody
associatedWith Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). Museum corporateBody
associatedWith Pease, Charles. person
associatedWith Reynolds, John Parker, 1820-1912. person
associatedWith Rothrock Joseph Trimble 1839-1922 person
associatedWith Simpson, George, Sir, 1786 or 7-1860. person
associatedWith Simpson, William, 1832-1872. person
associatedWith Smithsonian Institution. corporateBody
associatedWith Smith, Truman M., 1825-1909. person
associatedWith Stimpson, William, 1832-1872. person
associatedWith Tappan, Henry Philip, 1805-1881. person
associatedWith Trowbridge, William Pettit, 1832-1892. person
associatedWith United States-Russian Telegraph Expedition, 1865-1867. corporateBody
associatedWith United States Zoological Expedition Mackenzie District and Yukon Territory 1859-1862 corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. corporateBody
associatedWith Walker, George C. person
associatedWith Western Union Telegraph Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Western Union Telegraph Expedition (1865-1867) corporateBody
associatedWith Western Union Telegraph Expedition Bering Sea and Alaska 1865-1867 corporateBody
associatedWith William Healy Dall person
associatedWith Winchell, Alexander, 1824-1891. person
associatedWith Woodworth, John M. (John Maynard) 1837-1879. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Illinois
Alaska
Arctic regions
Minnesota
Canada
Yukon River (Yukon and Alaska)
Red River of the North
Wisconsin
Arctic regions Discovery and exploration
Canada
Alaska
Illinois--Glenview
Illinois
Alaska
United States
Alaska
Subject
Agriculture--Societies, etc
Natural history
Horticulture
Nurseries (Horticulture)
Natural history museums
Scientific expeditions
Draft
Naturalists
Habitat (Ecology)
Animal behavior
Natural history--Societies, etc
Medicine--Study and teaching
Telegraph lines--Design and construction
Natural history--Study and teaching
Occupation
Naturalist
Explorers--United States
Function

Person

Birth 1835-11-13

Death 1866-05-13

English

Information

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6z3216d

Ark ID: w6z3216d

SNAC ID: 11001495