Henry Bannister collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Bannister to Spencer Fullerton Baird, regarding the Western Union Telegraph Expedition, 1865-1867 (leader Robert Kennicott).

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Martyn Bannister was born in 1844 in America. He was educated at Northwestern University in Illinois, where he graduated in 1863. Bannister worked with Robert Kennicott on the newly established Natural History Museum of Northwestern University before joining the Western Union Telegraph Expedition, 1865-1867 (leader Robert Kennicott), as meteorologist. The expedition was sent by the Western Union Telegraph Company to survey a route for, and to construct, a telegraph line through Alaska by way of Yukon River and Seward Peninsula, as part of plans to establish a telegraph link between America and Europe by way of Bering Strait. Despite the death of Robert Kennicott in May 1866 and the failure of its main objective, the expedition conducted the first systematic scientific exploration of interior Alaska, and made the most comprehensive survey of the Yukon River to that date.

In later years, Bannister worked for the Illinois Geological Survey and studied medicine at the National Medical College in Washington DC. He practised medicine in Chicago for many years, publishing widely in the area of mental illness and nervous disorders. He died in 1920.


The correspondence to Baird is arranged chronologically.

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland Garland Publishing, London (1994) and North-western library and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills, San Diego and Oxford, 2003

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible