Lady Jane Franklin

Posted by on Apr 13, 2013 in Bradford Scrapbooks | One Comment

Jane_FranklinAmong the most notable signatures in William Bradford’s scrapbook is that of Lady Jane Franklin, the second wife of Sir John Franklin, a woman of indominable will and spirit, who through her efforts to find traces of her husband’s lost Arctic expedition, became the sponsor of several, and the inspiration for many other, Arctic expeditions in the period from 1850 to 1875, on both sides of the Atlantic. It was her 1849 letter to President Zachary Taylor that led to the First Grinnell Expedition, and her continuing zeal in finding her husband’s fate led her to endorse Kane’s Second Grinnell as well.

Her search for Franklin inspired songs and ballads, and the Times of London dubbed her “our English Penelope,” but Jane Franklin had little time for such public laurels.  She continued to travel, once undertaking a trip from San Francisco to Sitka, Alaska, on the hope that some records of her husband’s expedition might have found their way into the archives there. Whenever an explorer returned from the Arctic, she wrote to him in hopes that he would forward whatever he had found.

By the time she and her niece Sophia Cracroft — her constant companion — signed their names into Bradford’s studio book, she was nearly eighty years old, but her passion for discovering her husband’s fate, and for further exploration generally, was undimmed. By then, however, she had spent her entire fortune, somewhat to the distress of Sir John’s daughter Eleanor Gell (who also, on a different date, attended Bradford’s London studio), and had to be content with inspiring others to take up her cause.

In 1873, after her visit with Bradford, she managed to help launch one final expedition, commanded by Allen Young aboard the “Pandora.” An engraving of a photographer from the “Pandora,” perched with his tripod atop a massive ice-floe, can be seen in the Arctic Visions exhibit. Alas, by the time Young returned, Lady Franklin was dead; in the words of the Franklin memorial at Westminster Abbey:

After long waiting, and sending many in search of him, herself departed to seek and find him in the realms of light.

 Russell A. Potter has been fascinated with the Arctic regions for many years, and has written and lectured extensively on many different aspects of its history. His book Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875, is required reading for anyone interested in our Arctic Visions exhibit. In addition to contributing to this blog he is providing critical guidance as Curatorial Consultant, and has authored the Introduction to our re-publication of Arctic Regions

Wilkie Collins

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Among the more illustrious names found in the Bradford scrapbooks is that of the novelist and playwright Wilkie Collins (1824-1889). Collins, a close friend and protégé of Charles Dickens, was perhaps best known for his novel The Woman in White, which helped launch the genre of “sensation” fiction — fiction which included murders, scandalous behavior, and often a slight whiff of the supernatural.  But there was another, much more pivotal work of Collins’s that explains why he and Bradford would have had already had an interest in each other’s work — a play he wrote, and which was produced by Dickens in 1857 — The Frozen Deep.

The play was a melodrama with an Arctic theme, including a house full of the wives of a group of lost polar explorers, a Scots nursemaid given the gift of “second sight,” and a love triangle involving two of the explorers and the woman they both loved. All of these details would have evoked the tragic Franklin expedition of 1845, including the faithful wife, then widow, Lady Jane Franklin and her niece Sophia Cracroft, who had twice rejected the love of Francis Crozier, Franklin’s second-in-command. Both Lady Jane and Sophia also signed Bradford’s book, so the subject was certainly close at hand in more ways than one — but it was Collins’s play, more than any other literary work, which served to memorialize Franklin in the public eye. After its success in his home theatre and a command performance before the Queen and Prince Albert, Dickens hit on the idea of a series of public performances of the play in Manchester to raise money for the widow of his recently-deceased friend, the journalist Douglas Jerrold. The performances elicited a tremendous amount of emotion from their audiences — Dickens confided to his friend Mrs. Coutts that he reveled in the nightly “crying of two thousand people” at the theatre, apparently including the other actors and stage-hands! And, fatefully, it was a young woman hired for this production by Dickens, Ellen Ternan, who would win the heart of the great writer, an affair which led to Dickens’s permanent separation from his wife Catharine. Bradford must have known of Collins’s, as well as Dickens’s, fascination with the Arctic, and he and Collins enjoyed a private dinner at Collins’s house in London during his first visit there.

Collins’s reputation was at its peak in 1871, which was the year the photographic portrait above was made. Since, due to the rather gaping holes in copyright law at the time, Collins made little money from American reprints of his books, he decided to embark on a series of Dickens-style lecture tours of the United States and Canada, and partly for that purpose he converted The Frozen Deep into a novella, scenes from which were frequently part of his recitals. On his next tour, he accepted the reciprocal hospitality of Bradford, staying at his home near New Bedford; the local papers, though critical of the recital itself (“Mr. Collins, though an animated reader, has no great power of voice, and it was lost in the hubbub caused by the ill-mannered crowd”), made much of his stay with Bradford, noting that Collins “expressed himself delighted with his audience and the numerous attentions paid him.”

Russell A. Potter has been fascinated with the Arctic regions for many years, and has written and lectured extensively on many different aspects of its history. His book Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875, is required reading for anyone interested in our Arctic Visions exhibit. In addition to contributing to this blog he is providing critical guidance as Curatorial Consultant, and has authored the Introduction to our re-publication of Arctic Regions

Dr. John Rae

Posted by on Mar 16, 2013 in Bradford Scrapbooks | 3 Comments

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Among the more illustrious names whose signature appears in William Bradford’s scrapbooks is that of Dr. John Rae, one of the most widely-travelled Arctic explorers and surveyors of his day, and the man credited with discovering the final fate of Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition.  He was also, due to his reporting Inuit testimony that some of Franklin’s men had turned to the “last resource” — cannibalism — widely criticized, and almost persona non grata at any gathering of Arctic luminaries.  He was an outsider in other ways, too: a medical man, employed as a surveyor by the Hudson’s Bay Company, he traveled Inuit-style, by dog-drawn sledge, and survived easily in the same territory where British seamen starved. An accomplished hunter, he quite often gave his extra meat to Inuit he met along the trail. By the time of Bradford’s visits to London, Rae was long-retired, but still took a great personal interest in the frozen regions; he not only signed the book, but his personal correspondence with Bradford, also in the scrapbook, indicates that the two man dined together and planned to do so on a second occasion (Bradford’s replies to Rae’s letters are not included).

This correspondence shows that Rae was still very keenly focused on the Franklin search and his role in it, anxious that his own remarkable record of extended sledge-journeys be noted, and hopeful that his contributions to discovery would be remembered.  In the letter shown here, Rae remarks on Bradford having mentioned Lieutenant Pim’s extended sledge journey, on which he found and rescued the crew of HMS Investigator; Rae calculates it as “only 432 Geo[graphical] Miles,” noting that both Sir Leopold McClintock and he himself had done nearly twice this distance. He then, somewhat skeptically, mentions a sledge journey undertaken during Elisha Kent Kane’s Second Grinnell expedition, figuring that it was in fact little more than half the claimed 1,400 miles.  One can sense a bit of wounded pride on Rae’s part.

His letter continues:

I and my men got the reward of £10,000 or $50,000 for first information of the fate of Sir John Franklin’s party, 2 or 3 years before McClintock went out to look for further traces of these poor people. It was by acting entirely on information brought him by me, that McClintock obtained the additional information he brought home.

And Rae is correct; despite his being shunned by much of the Naval establishment, it was his evidence that showed the right area for McClintock to search, during which search he found many remains of the men and their equipment, along with the famous Victory Point Record.

Many contemporary historians and writers, the Canadian author Ken McGoogan chief among them, have worked to restore Rae’s reputation in recent years, giving him full recognition for the evidence he found of Franklin’s fate, as well as for charting the “Rae Strait” which some regard as the real “last link” in a Northwest Passage.  In addition to McGoogan’s book Fatal Passage, Canadian filmmaker John Walker’s award-winning Passage documents Rae’s career, and the struggles he faced on returning home with Inuit testimony of cannibalism.

Russell A. Potter has been fascinated with the Arctic regions for many years, and has written and lectured extensively on many different aspects of its history. His book Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875, is required reading for anyone interested in our Arctic Visions exhibit. In addition to contributing to this blog he is providing critical guidance as Curatorial Consultant, and has authored the Introduction to our re-publication of Arctic Regions

Signatures in the Bradford Scrapbooks

Russell A. Potter has been fascinated with the Arctic regions for many years, and has written and lectured extensively on many different aspects of its history. His book Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875, is required reading for anyone interested in our Arctic Visions exhibit. In addition to contributing to this blog he is providing critical guidance as Curatorial Consultant, and has authored the Introduction to our re-publication of Arctic Regions

The scrapbooks of William Bradford’s memorabilia owned by the Museum are filled with documentary evidence of Bradford’s life and career. Their contents include many letters and notes to and from Bradford, hundreds of newspaper clippings about him and his achievements, and dozens of autographs.  As we begin to look through the scrapbooks and trace the histories of those who signed their names, we’re getting fresh insights  into Bradford’s relationships with other artists, authors, explorers, and public figures from the late 19th century, as well as the broader culture of the Victorian era in both England and America.

The signatures alone offer a fascinating cross-section of Bradford’s audience; the book was apparently used both in London during Bradford’s sojourns there, as well as back home in New Bedford in his studio. There are, as one might expect, a wide variety of Arctic luminaries, among them Sir John Franklin’s daughter Eleanor Gell, his widow Lady Jane, and her niece Sophia Cracroft. The commanders of many of the searches for Franklin were well-represented, with Sir Francis Leopold McClintock, Captain Edward Augustus Inglefield, Dr. John Rae, and Bradford’s associate Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes all present. American naval officers were also in attendance, including Commander S.B. Luce, a distinguished career officer and founder of the Naval War College, as well as Rear Admiral Charles S. Boggs, then commander of the US European fleet.

Such dignitaries might be expected to take an interest in Arctic exploration, photography, and art, but the scrapbook reveals that Bradford’s admirers were a very diverse group, from all walks of life and interests. The Reverend Francis Russell Nixon, an Australian Anglican bishop and a pioneering photographer, was there, as was Mrs. Baden Powell, whose stepson Robert Baden-Powell would later go on to found the Boy Scouts. Literary types were prominent, among them the novelist Wilkie Collins, friend and protege of Charles Dickens, who had in 1857 written “The Frozen Deep,” a highly-regarded drama loosely based on the Franklin expedition, as well as Henry Morford, an American poet, novelist, and author of numerous travel books who was one of the regulars a Pfaff’s, a legendary beer-cellar in New York whose denizens included Mark Twain and Walt Whitman. The names of several other well-known travel writers are also present, among them Sir Henry Holland and Bayard Taylor.

Politicians, of course, were not scarce among Bradford’s visitors; in addition to a wide cross-section of British aristocracy (Lord Dufferin, Lady Argyll, Lord and Lady Cowper), there were numerous members of Parliament such as Edward Gourley and Arthur Wellesley Soames; US Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, and Sir Herbert Jerningham, later the Governor of Trinidad and Tobago. And yet there were also a great many noteworthy persons who needed no fancy titles to distinguish them; there was Benjamin M. Holmes, one of the original members of the Fisk Jubilee SingersEdward Whymper, the first man to scale the Matterhorn; pioneering feminist writer Caroline Norton; and Frederick Pollock, an eminent legal historian whose grandson, Sir George F. Pollock, is a highly-regarded photographer today.

We’re still combing through the signatures, and learning more about those who passed through Bradford’s studio.  The scrapbooks also contain personal letters, many of them to and from well-known Arctic figures, among them Rae, Charles Francis Hall, and David Brainard, second-in-command of the ill-fated Greely expedition. Lastly, there are newspaper clippings, hundreds of them, such as the one shown here, which describes Wilkie Collins’s lecture tour, and his staying as a guest at Bradford’s home. There’s much more to be discovered, we’re sure, and as we make those discoveries we’ll share them here.

Richard Burleigh Kimball,”Arctic Regions” Editor

This post is submitted by Joanne Seymour, a volunteer at the Museum since February, 2012, who is currently the “tweeter” of Bradford’s and Dr. Hayes’s voices from their books. Working in the Museum’s Research Library, she has contributed to the Arctic Visions exhibit by reading and transcribing items in the Bradford scrapbooks. This is the first in a series of similar posts.

The Museum is fortunate to own three scrapbooks of William Bradford’s memorabilia. Their contents include many letters and notes to–or about–Bradford, various newspaper clippings about him, his achievements and interests, and autographs.  Beyond the wonder of just the existence of these items, the writings provide a wealth of insights into Bradford’s relationships with the authors, the workings of the late 19th century, and the culture of the Victorian era in both the US and England.

Many of these items were written during the 1870s, the decade immediately after Bradford’s 1869 voyage to the Arctic. It was during this period that Bradford was exhibiting and selling his paintings of Arctic sights from that voyage, presenting related “recitals”, and preparing his great book on the expedition, The Arctic Regions.

Bradford hired Richard Burleigh Kimball (1816–1892) to lend his assistance in writing and editing the narrative of The Arctic Regions, published in 1873. Kimball was an American lawyer and author of some note of several books, including two on Cuba, and was living in England when Bradford hired him.

From the Hotel Splendide in Paris, Richard B. Kimball wrote the following short letter to Bradford on September 13, 1872, which referenced his own work on editing the book. The letter reads as follows:

“ Dear Bradford,   I write a word to say —ask the proof reader to take certain liberties with the proof till he reaches my corrections–That is, let him alter faulty constructions, & interwoven sentences, & strike out purely irrelevant matter following my general lead.  I am sorry I could not have had the few pages remaining– Our regards to your wife   We  reached here 11 1/2 last night   Your friend  Richard B. Kimball”