Edward Kern

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Edward Meyer Kern (born 26 Oct 1822 or 1823 - 1863) was an American artist.

Early life[edit]

Kern was born in Philadelphia, the son of John Kern III and Mary Elizabeth Bignell. Trained as an artist, he was appointed to accompany John C. Fremont on his third expedition in 1845 at a daily salary of $3.00. He served as cartographer as well as artist, and collected botanical and animal specimens on this journey. Kern's drawings document the party's killing of Klamath Indians in northern California. 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 subsequently criticized for mismanagement.


Kern and his brother Richard Kern took part in Frémont's Third Expedition to the southern Colorado mountains in 1848. A third brother, Benjamin, and "Old Bill" Williams were killed while retracing the expedition trail, looking for gear and survivors. Edward Kern then explored the Canyon de Chelly.[1] (Richard Kern was killed in 1853 during the Gunnison-Beckwith Expedition.)

From 1853 to 1855, Edward Kern was on the ship USS Vincennes (1826) on an expedition to East Asia. The captain, Cadwalader Ringgold, was declared insane when they reached Hong Kong. Kern used both photography and drawing during this trip. The expedition landed on the shores of Siberia, where Kern spent several weeks. They returned home via Tahiti and San Francisco. In 1858 he sailed for California, Hawaii, and Japan, under Captain John Mercer Brooke, on a voyage that 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He served for a short time under Fremont in Missouri, but his commission was revoked and he received no pay for this.

Personal life[edit]

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

Kern suffered from epilepsy from a young age.

His diaries were discovered under the floorboards in an old hotel in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania, and provided source material for David Weber's book on Richard Kern (brother of Edward). The diary and papers are now in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has over eighty of Kern's works. Kern County, California, and the Kern River are 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)


  1. ^ Campbell Grant (1978). Canyon De Chelly: Its People and Rock Art. p. 98. ISBN 9780816505234. 

External links[edit]

  • [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