Thomas L. Kane

A Guide to the Sources


Thomas Leiper Kane was born in 1822 to John K. Kane and Jane Duval Leiper. John K. Kane was a personal friend of several U.S. presidents, including Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk, who appointed John to the federal bench in Philadelphia. Until his death in 1858, John remained well connected to the power brokers in Washington, D.C. His son Thomas, also trained in the law, first learned of the Latter-day Saints through Philadelphia newspaper accounts that described the forced migration of the Mormons from their homes in Illinois in early 1846. Using connections through his father, Thomas began what would be a lifetime role as a friend, mediator, and peacemaker for the Mormons as they dealt with sometimes hostile government officials and tried to combat a negative public image. Thomas traveled west to the Mormon encampments along the Missouri River valley and assisted in the call of the Mormon Battalion in 1846; he publicized their plight in an influential lecture called The Mormons, published in 1850; and he was a major factor in the peaceful resolution of the Utah War in 1857–58. Thomas continued throughout his life to counsel, defend, and actively seek the welfare of the Latter-day Saints. He worked to soften anti-Mormon legislation while mentoring Latter-day Saint leaders like George Q. Cannon in the tasks of working with Congress and the public media to present a more positive and accurate view of the Latter-day Saints. Thomas’s extensive correspondence with Brigham Young shows a deep friendship and trust developed between them. In 1872–73 Thomas and his wife, Elizabeth, journeyed to Utah and traveled with Brigham Young to his winter home in southern Utah. Elizabeth’s Twelve Mormon Homes (1874) remains a classic account of Mormon social history.

Thomas Kane was also involved in a number of other causes during his lifetime, including the antislavery movement and educational and health reform. He was close to his brother Elisha Kent Kane, the famous arctic explorer, whose accounts Thomas helped edit for publication and whose accomplishments Thomas helped publicize. Thomas was a complex individual, never joining a church but living a deeply Christian life of selfless service. He suffered with poor health throughout his life but managed to accomplish much in spite of it. He died in 1883.

I. Manuscript Sources

The L. Tom Perry Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University owns the largest collection of Thomas L. and Elizabeth W. Kane manuscripts in the world. Vault Manuscript 792 contains seventy-nine archival boxes of material, available to researchers on forty reels of microfilm. An eleven-hundred-page guide to this collection is available and includes a listing of important Kane material in other repositories as well as a biographical register of Kane family members and of people mentioned in the Kane papers. This extensive collection is described in David J. Whittaker, “New Sources on Old Friends: The Thomas L. Kane and Elizabeth W. Kane Collection,” Journal of Mormon History 27 (Spring 2001): 67–94. The collection includes military material (Kane fought in the American Civil War, including in the Battle of Gettysburg); Kane’s extensive correspondence with Mormon leaders; family correspondence; information on the development of Kane, Pennsylvania; and an extensive collection of Elizabeth’s journals, miscellaneous writings, and scrapbooks. For both American and Mormon history, this collection is a treasure trove of material for the serious researcher. Very useful is Jana Darrington, “Ancestors and Descendents of Thomas L. Kane and Elizabeth W. Kane” (a professional genealogical compilation of two hundred pages relating to the extended Kane family), MSS 2212, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, BYU, 1999.

The BYU library has subsequently acquired additional Thomas L. Kane and Kane family manuscripts: Vault MSS 3190 was obtained in 2003 and contains an additional fourteen archival boxes. A guide (eighty-five pages) has also been prepared for these materials. The BYU library has been acquiring Kane manuscripts since about 1978, and additional collections are described in the guides mentioned above. A sampling includes the 1852 pocket diary of Thomas L. Kane (VMSS 796) and the 1858 pocket diary of Thomas L. Kane (VMSS 807). BYU also owns an extensive collection of Kane family photographs.

II. Published Sources

Thomas Leiper Kane (1822–1883)

A. Biographies

Grow, Matthew J. “‘I Have Given Myself to the Devil’: Thomas L. Kane and the Culture of Honor.” Utah Historical Quarterly 73, no. 4 (Fall 2005): 346–64.

———. “‘Liberty to the Downtrodden’: Thomas L. Kane, Romantic Reformer.” PhD diss., University of Notre Dame, 2006. Published by Yale University Press, 2009.

Zobell, Albert L., Jr. Sentinel in the East: A Biography of Thomas L. Kane. Salt Lake City: N. G. Morgan, 1965. Book based on his master’s thesis (University of Utah, 1944), but without all the documentation in the thesis.

B. Civil War

Brandt, Dennis W. “The Bucktail Regiment.” Potter County Historical Society Historical Bulletin 127 (January 1998): 1–4.

Imhof, John D. “Two Roads to Gettysburg: Thomas Leiper Kane and the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves.” Gettysburg 9 (July 1993): 53–60.

Schroeder, Patrick A. Pennsylvania Bucktails: A Photographic Album of the 42nd, 149th & 150th Pennsylvania Regiments. Daleville, Va.: Schroeder Publications, 2001.

Thomson, O. R. Howard, and William H. Ranch. History of the “Bucktails”: Kane Rifle Regiment of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps. Philadelphia: Electric Printing Co., 1906.

C. Thomas Kane and the Mormons

Arrington, Leonard J.‘In Honorable Remembrance’: Thomas L. Kane’s Services to the Mormons.” Task Papers in LDS History, no. 22. Salt Lake City: Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978. Reprinted in BYU Studies 21, no. 4 (Fall 1981): 389–402.

Arrington, Leonard J., and Davis Bitton. Saints without Halos: The Human Side of Mormon History. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1981, 31–38.

Ashton, Wendell J. Theirs Is the Kingdom. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1970, 167–205.

———. “Defender of Zion: Pioneer Benefactor Thomas L. Kane.” The Pioneer 41 (September/October 1994): 4–7, 30.

Bitton, Davis. “American Philanthropy and Mormon Refugees, 1846–1849.” Journal of Mormon History 7 (1980): 63–81.

Bowen, Norman R. “General Thomas L. Kane: How He Came to Write ‘The Mormons.’” Times and Seasons 7 (December 1971): 2–5.

Bowen, Norman R., and Albert L. Zobell Jr. “General Thomas L. Kane: The Pioneer.” Ensign 1 (October 1971): 2–5.

———. “General Thomas L. Kane: The Soldier.” Ensign 1 (June 1971): 22–27.

Cannon, Donald Q. “Thomas L. Kane Meets the Mormons.” BYU Studies 18, no. 1 (Fall 1977): 126–28. [Letter of Thomas Kane to George Bancroft, July 11, 1846.]

“Colonel Thomas L. Kane and the Mormons.” In Treasures of Pioneer History, edited by Kate B. Carter, 6:69–128. Salt Lake City: The Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1957.

Crocheron, Augusta Joyce. “Reminiscence of General Kane.” Contributor 6 (September 1885): 475–77.

Fleek, Sherman L. “Thomas L. Kane, Friend of the Saints.” Mormon Heritage 2 (May/June 1994): 36–42.

“Friends of the Pioneers.” In Heart Throbs of the West, 2:27–41. Salt Lake City: The Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1940.

Hartley, William G. “Fair-Minded Gentiles.” New Era 10 (September 1980): 40–46.

Holzapfel, Richard N., and Jeffrey J. Cottle. “A Visit to Nauvoo: September 1846.” Nauvoo Journal 7 (Spring 1995): 3–12.

Melville, J. Keith. “Colonel Thomas L. Kane on Mormon Politics.BYU Studies 12, no. 1 (Autumn 1971): 123–25. [Letter of Thomas Kane to Church Leaders, September 24, 1850.]

Morgan, Nicholas G., Sr. “Thomas L. Kane: Peacemaker.” Instructor 96 (July 1961): 246–47.

“The Mormons and Thomas Leiper Kane.” Collector 58 (December 1944/January 1945): 1–10.

Poll, Richard D. Quixotic Mediator: Thomas L. Kane and the Utah War. Dello G. Dayton, Memorial Lecture, 1984. Ogden, Utah: Weber State College Press, 1984.

———. “Thomas L. Kane and the Utah War.” Utah Historical Quarterly 61 (Spring 1993): 112–35.

Sawin, Mark Metzler. “A Sentinel for the Saints: Thomas Leiper Kane and the Mormon Migration.” Nauvoo Journal 10 (Spring 1998): 12–27.

Walker, Ronald W. “Thomas L. Kane and Utah’s Quest for Self-Government.” Utah Historical Quarterly 69 (Spring 2001): 100–119.

Whittaker, David J. “New Sources on Old Friends: The Thomas L. Kane and Elizabeth W. Kane Collection.” Journal of Mormon History 27 (Spring 2000): 67–94.

———. “Thomas Leiper Kane.” In American National Biography, edited by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, 12:370–72. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Winther, Oscar O. “Thomas L. Kane: Unofficial Emissary to the Mormons.” Indiana Historical Bulletin 15 (February 1938): 83–90.

Young, Richard W. “Major General Thomas L. Kane.” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 72 (February 24, 1910–March 3, 1910): 2-part series.

Zobell, Albert L., Jr. “Thomas L. Kane, Ambassador to the Mormons.” Utah Humanities Review 1 (October 1847): 320–46.

D. Obituaries

Boyle, H. G. “A True Friend.” Juvenile Instructor 17 (March 1, 1882): 74–75.

Cannon, George Q. “Editorial Thoughts.” Juvenile Instructor 19 (January 15, 1884): 24–25.

Cannon, John Q. “The Spouting Well at Kane.” Contributor 2 (February 1881): 151–53.

“Death of General Thos. L. Kane.” Deseret News (January 2, 1884): 790–91.

Obituary, The Press [Philadelphia] (December 27, 1883).

Wells, Junius F., ed. “General Thomas L. Kane.” Contributor 5 (March 1884): 234–39.

E. Published Writings of Thomas L. Kane

Kane, Thomas L. Alaska and the Polar Regions. New York: Journeymen Printer’s Cooperative Association, 1868. [Lecture of Kane before the American Geographical Society, New York City, May 7, 1868.]

———. “Coahulia.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge 16 (January 19, 1877): 561–67.

———. The Mormons: A Discourse Delivered before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, March 26, 1850. Philadelphia: King & Baird, Printers, 1850. [A 2nd edition, expanded, also appeared in 1850.]

Winther, Oscar O., ed. The Private Papers and Diary of Thomas Leiper Kane, A Friend of the Mormons. San Francisco: Gelber-Lilienthal, 1937. [Printed at Grabhorn Press, limited to 500 copies.]

Elizabeth Dennistoun Wood Kane (1836–1909)

A. Biographies

Barnes, Darcee D. “A Biographical Study of Elizabeth D. Kane.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2002.

B. Published Writings of Elizabeth Kane

Kane, Elizabeth Wood. A Gentile Account of Life in Utah’s Dixie, 1872–73: Elizabeth Kane’s St. George Journal. Edited by Norman R. Bowen. Salt Lake City: Tanner Trust Fund, University of Utah Library, 1995.

———. Twelve Mormon Homes Visited in Succession on a Journey through Utah to Arizona. Edited by Everett L. Cooley. Salt Lake City: Tanner Trust Fund, University of Utah Press, 1974. [This volume was first published in 1874 in Philadelphia by J. P. Lippincott.]

C. Articles

Bushman, Claudia L. Mormon Domestic Life in the 1870s: Pandemonium or Arcadia? Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture, Utah State University, October 7, 1999. Logan: Special Collections and Archives, Utah State University, 2000.

Solomon, Mary Karen Bowen, and Donna Jenkins Bowen. “Elizabeth Dennistoun Kane: ‘Publicans, Sinners and Mormons.’” In Women in the Covenant of Grace, edited by Dawn Hall Anderton and Susette Fletcher Green, 212–30. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994.

Elisha Kent Kane (1820–1857)

Chapin, David. Exploring Other Worlds: Margaret Fox, Elisha Kent Kane, and the Antebellum Culture of Curiosity. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004.

McGoogan, Ken. Race to the Polar Sea: The Heroic Adventures and Romantic Obsessions of Elisha Kent Kane. Toronto: Harper Collins, 2008.

Mirsky, Jeannette. Elisha Kent Kane and the Seafaring Frontier. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1954.

Sawin, Mark Metzler. Raising Kane: Elisha Kent Kane and the Culture of Fame in Antebellum America. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2008.


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