Brady’s National Portrait Gallery. Published by E. Anthony. Elisha Kent Kane (28 February 1820 – 16 February 1857) was a medical officer in the US Navy during the first half of the 19th century. He was a member of two Arctic expeditions to rescue the explorer Sir John Franklin. He did discover Sir John Franklin’s first winter camp, however, he did not find out what had happened to the fatal expedition. Born in Philadelphia, Kane was the son of John Kintzing Kane, a U.S. district judge, and Jane Duval Leiper. His brother was attorney, diplomat, abolitionist, and Civil War cavalry general Thomas L. Kane. Kane graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1842. On 14 September 1843, he became Assistant Surgeon in the Navy. He served in the China Commercial Treaty mission under Caleb Cushing, in the Africa Squadron, and in the Marines during the Mexican-American War.

Kane was appointed senior medical officer of the Grinnell Arctic expedition of 1850-1851 under the command of Edwin de Haven, which searched unsuccessfully for the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin. It is worth noting that in this expedition, the crew discovered Sir John Franklin’s first winter camp. Kane then organized and headed the Second Grinnell expedition which sailed from New York 31 May 1853, and wintered in Rensselaer Bay. Though suffering from scurvy, and at times near death, he resolutely pushed on and charted the coasts of Smith Sound and the Kane Basin, penetrating farther north than any other explorer had done up to that time. At Cape Constitution he discovered the ice-free Kennedy Channel, later followed by Isaac Israel Hayes, Charles Francis Hall, Augustus Greely, and Robert E. Peary in turn as they drove toward the North Pole.

Kane finally abandoned the icebound brig Advance 20 May 1855 and escaped the clutches of the frozen north by an 83-day march of indomitable courage to Upernavik. The party, carrying the invalids, lost only one man in the retreat to stand in the annals of Arctic exploration as the archetype of victory over defeat. Kane and his men were saved by a sailing ship. Kane returned to New York 11 October 1855 and the following year published his two-volume “Arctic Explorations.”

After visiting England to fulfill his promise to deliver his report personally to Lady Franklin, he sailed to Havana, Cuba in a vain attempt to recover his health, after being advised to do so by his doctor. He died there on February 16, 1857. His body was brought to New Orleans, and carried by a funeral train to Philadelphia; the train was met at nearly every platform by a memorial delegation, and is said to have been the longest funeral train of the century excepting only Lincoln’s. CDV. VG. $200