The Kane family papers span multiple generations; they include letters, deeds, and miscellaneous documents from various members of the Kane Family and documents the family member’s lives and relationships.
Of the 225 items in this collection 185 are letters, of which 121 are dated between 1851 and 1866. Most of the letters are addressed to Bessie Kane from her brothers Thomas Leiper, Robert Patterson, and John Kintzing, and her sisters-in-law Elizabeth Dennistoun Wood Kane and Mable Bayard Kane. The correspondence also has letters to and from other members of the family and some from Mable Bayard Kane’s family. Also part of the collection, are 10 letters from 1800-1801 addressed to Elisha Kane, Sr.
The letters mostly concern family matters such as sickness, deaths, engagements, marriages, the Presbyterian religion, births, and children.
Approximately 35 letters written by Elizabeth D. Wood Kane, wife of Thomas Leiper Kane, present a portrait of a well educated and well-to-do young woman living in Fort Hamilton, New York. These letters fall primarily between 1851 and 1863 and provide details regarding clothing and fashion, her home and nursery and her feelings regarding the sickness and death of her child, Maggie, who died in 1851. She describes walking down Broadway in search of muslin mantillas, weeping over Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and expresses her concern for her husband, who was serving in the Civil War. In 1852, Elizabeth traveled to Europe and provided descriptions of Liverpool and Paris, which included witnessing the extravagant arrival of Louis Napoleon.
The few letters from Mabel Bayard Kane, husband of John K. Kane, Jr., express her feelings of loneliness, John’s leaving for the Civil War, and her appreciation for the sisterly concern shown by Elizabeth. In addition, the collection contains two letters written by Alida Van Rensselaer (1766-1834), Elizabeth’s paternal grandmother. They are written to her cousin, Jane D. L. Kane in 1819 and 1820 regarding a visit with a dying friend, family news, and reading chemistry with another female friend.
Though the correspondence continues through the Civil War few letters mention the war or the Kane family members participating in it. John Kintzing Kane Jr. wrote five letters while in Cairo, Illinois, serving in the hospital there, and one letter from Elizabeth Dennistoun Wood Kane concerns her husband, Thomas Leiper, resigning from the army.
Of note are the nine letters from John Kintzing Jr. describing his medical studies in Paris in 1857. Two letters from Thomas Leiper describe going west with the Mormons in 1846. Also, one letter of July 1855 is a petition to Judge John Kintzing Kane for three slaves being kept in Pennsylvania to be returned under the fugitive slave law.
The collection includes 14 deeds and memorandum to Elisha Kane dating from 1798-1823, most concerning H.G. Livingston and Oliver Phelps. The correspondence to Elisha Kane, Sr. primarily deals with buying, selling and farming land.
The collection also contains two of Robert Patterson Kane’s calling cards with notes on them from July 1858, a fifteen page pamphlet from 1883 on vaccination entitled “Of the Importance of General Vaccination and the Groundlessness of the Prejudices Against it A paper prepared at the request of the state board of health” by John Kintzing Kane Jr., and poem entitled “Goodbye to Noah’s Ark” by S.W.M. and copied by John Kintzing Kane, dated 1849. A sheet of paper with “Kane v. Bitchett and Livingston v. Kane” written on it and 21 miscellaneous envelopes complete the collection. A few letters from Robert Patterson Kane have pen and ink sketches, and one from John K. Kane has a small sketch of a gravestone.