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Edward Kern: Wikis


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Edward Meyer Kern was born 26 Oct 1822 or 1823 in Philadelphia - the son of John Kern III and Mary Elizabeth Bignell. He was trained as an artist and was appointed to accompany John C. Fremont on his third expedition in 1845. He was paid $3.00 a day on this trip. He served as cartographer as well as artist, and collected botanical and animal specimens on this journey. (A falcon he found became the type specimen for its species). In Northern California, the Fremont Party committed genocide against the Klamath Indians and Kern drew pictures of the result. He witnessed and During the Bear Flag Revolt he was placed in command of Sutter's Fort. While there, he was appointed to manage funds for aiding the survivors of the Donner Party and was criticized for his mismanagement of same.

He participated with his brother Richard Kern, in Fremont's expedition in the southern Colorado mountains in 1848. A third brother, Benjamin, was killed by Utes or others during this time. He then explored the Canyon de Chelly.

From 1853 to 1855 he was on the ship "Vincennes" on an expedition to East Asia. The captain, Cadwalader Ringgold, was declared insane when they reached Hong Kong. Kern now used photography as well as drawing during this trip. Later the expedition landed on the shores of Siberia, where Kern spent several weeks. They returned home via San Francisco and Tahiti. In 1858 he sailed for California, Hawaii, and Japan, under Capt. John Mercer Brooke. They returned in 1860.

He served for a short time under Fremont in Missouri, but his commission was revoked and he received no pay for this.

Later Kern established a studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He died 23/25 Nov 1863 at his home at 1305 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. He was buried in Glenwood Cemetery and later re-interred in New Glenwood Cemetery.

He suffered from epilepsy from a young age.

His diaries were discovered under the floorboards in an old hotel in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. It was many years later when they were made available to David Weber for his book on Richard Kern (brother of Edward).

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has over eighty of his works. His papers are in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

The Kern River, and thus Kern County, California was named for him.


  • Indian Customs of California (Mar., 1853), in Archive of Aboriginal Knowledge, by Henry H. Schoolcraft (Philadelphia, 1865)
  • Journal of an Exploration of the Mary's or Humboldt River, Carson Lake, and Owens River and Lake, in 1845, Appendix Q, in Report of Explorations across the Territory of Utah in 1859, by J. H. Simpson (Washington, DC, 1859)


External links

  • [2] "Searching for New Sources in Western History"
  • [3] Pioneer Photographers of the Far West by Peter E. Palmquist, Thomas R. Kailbourn
  • [4] The Donner Party: Rescuers and Others
  • [5] Article about Kern's behavior as fund administrator for Donner Party relief


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