Elisha Kent Kane Historical Society



Raising Kane:

The Making of a Hero, the Marketing of a Celebrity


Mark Horst Sawin, B.A.



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Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School

of the University of Texas at Austin

in Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements

for the Degree of

  Master of Arts


The University of Texas at Austin

August, 1997



Copyright Mark Horst Sawin, July, 1997


Your heritage is in a goodly land. Its fields are wide; its skies are bright; and its people free. Choose you out its men of mark-the great and good-as patterns for yourselves. Ask of their experience, if in its silent teachings you may not find reason-nay more-encouragement, to hope for a good name too-a place among them.

- Matthew Fontaine Maury  from an address delivered before the University of Virginia, June 28, 1855.


Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

- Matthew 23: 27-28



Table of Contents


  I: Introduction: The Culture of Kane, America in the 1840s and 1850s

Explanation of Paper / Romantic America / Changing America / Writing in America / Popularity of Travel Writing / America's Use of Books

  II: Heroic Ambition: The Beginnings of a Hero

John Kane and Family / Education, Illness and Medicine / Joining the Navy / Cushing Mission / Dislike of Military Life / Mexican American War / Disappointment and Scandal / Mission to Africa / Thomas Kane and Sibling Rivalry / Appeal to Washington / Off to Mexico / A Heroic Battle /  Fleeting Fame and Routine Missions / Yearning for Adventure / Adventure at Last

  III: An Arctic Adventure

The Search for Franklin / Arctic Incentives / Scientific Curiosity and Discovery / Arctic Traffic Jam / Snow's Book; Kane's Storytelling / Continuing the Search / Heading for Home / Achievements, or Lack Thereof

  IV: Hype and Hope: Marketing a Hero

Fortunate Fame / Addressing the Public / Keeping the Public's Eye / Lecturing and Fund Raising / Using the Press

  V: The Image: Hero or Celebrity

Boorstin's The Image / Hero or Celebrity?

  VI: Fox and Kane: The Love-Life of a Hero

History of Margaret Fox / Spirit Rappings / Exhibiting the Spirits / Rapping in New York / Greeley's Interest / A National Phenomenon / The Meeting of Fox and Kane / Their Similar Lives and Missions / Hoax, Help and Fox's Dilemma / Differences and Justifications / Literature as Instruction / Proposals and Tests / Dual Desires of Public and Private / Press and Privacy / Rejection for Reputation / Abandoning the Spirits / Education for Aristocracy / Portraits and "Preacher" / A Loving Farewell

  VII: A Heroic Endeavor: The Second Grinnell Expedition

Ultimate Romantic Adventure / Frozen In / Arctic Wonders and the Open Sea / A Crew Divided / A Daring Escape

  VIII:A Hero at Home

Success of First Book / Growing Concern and Popularity / A Hero Comes Home / The "How-To"s of Heroism / Calculated Cultivation / Hero and Celebrity Revisited / Invasive Popularity

IX: Celebrity and the Collision of Spheres

A Lover Waiting / Spirits and Raised Hands / Broken Reunion / Kane Family's Protest / Rise of Spiritualism / Engaged by the Press / A Public Denial / Pressed to an End / Question of Loyalties / Private Concerns Public / A Sudden Change

  X: Controlled Celebrity

Funds for Freedom / Thankfully Forgotten / Writing Arctic Explorations / Scholarly vs. Sellable / George Childs / Illustrating the Arctic / James Hamilton / Maps & Tables; Blood & Breasts / Glowing Reviews

  XI: The Open Polar Sea: Filling the Needs of a Nation

Resonating with the Times / Reporting What They Saw / Romance Beyond Science / Matthew Maury / Public Love of a Polar Sea / Psychology of the Sea / Projecting the Perceived / Metaphor for the Times

  XII: Closing the Book: A Hero for the Romantic Age

Success of Arctic Explorations / Tender Moments / Secret Marriage Vows? / The Will / Fox Disappears / Love-Letters and Litigation / The Love-Life of Doctor Kane / Fox-less "Dr. Kane" / Fox's Tragic Decline

  XIII: The Icon of an Age

Death of Dr. Kane / Funeral Procession / A Nation Mourns / Sensational Press Capitalizes / Elder's Biography of Kane / A Moral Teaching Tool / Kane Mythologized / Childhood Re-Told / Romantic Adventures Relived / Guiding the Nation's Youth

  XIV: The Whited Sepulcher

Crew-Members' Accounts / Gone and Forgotten? / End of a Celebrity / Hero of the Age / A Hollow Hero / Self-Image / Man vs. Superman

  XV: Conclusion: Raising Kane