Kane, Elisha Kent (1820–1857)
Arctic explorer and husband of Margaret Fox, one of the
Fox sisters, who pioneered American Spiritualism. Kane attended
the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania
Medical School. In 1843 he was commissioned assistant
surgeon in the U.S. Navy. He served two years in India and
served with the marines in Mexico (1847–48). In 1850 he was
assigned to accompany an Arctic expedition to search for the
lost John Franklin expedition. In 1853 Kane set out on the trip
that gave him some degree of fame. He sailed into the Arctic
on a ship that became icebound. He and the crew made friends
with the Eskimos and learned much of their culture. Abandoning
the ship, they marched across land to a Danish settlement
in the south of Greenland, arriving in 1855.
Kane met Fox soon after his return from Greenland. They
were married in a simple ceremony in 1856. Kane’s health had
been broken by his Arctic experience and he died the next year.
His relatives refused to accept the marriage or Margaret’s claim
to Kane’s estate. In 1865 Margaret published a volume, The
Love-Life of Dr. Kane, which contained his correspondence to
her.
Kane did not believe in spirits, but there was nothing in his
letters to suggest that he discovered fraud on Margaret’s part.
On the contrary, in a letter to her sister Kate he writes ‘‘Take
my advice and never talk of the spirits either to friends or
strangers. You know that with my intimacy with Maggie after
a whole month’s trial I could make nothing of them. Therefore
they are a great mystery.’’ A lively controversy arose, however,
about the meaning of his accusations against Margaret for ‘‘living
in deceit and hypocrisy.’’
In another letter he writes ‘‘I can’t bear the thought of your
sitting in the dark, squeezing other peoples hands. I touch no
hand but yours; press no lips but yours; think of no thoughts
that I would not share with you; and do no deeds that I would
conceal from you.’’
Sources
Baird, George W. Great American Masons. Kila, Mont. Kessinger
Publishing, 1992.
Fornell, Earl L. The Unhappy Medium Spiritualism and the Life
of Margaret Fox. Austin, Tex., 1964.
Kane, Margaret Fox. The Love-Life of Dr. Kane. New York,
1865.