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Bannister, Henry M. (Henry Martyn), 1844-1920



  • Existence: 1844 - 1920


A naturalist and explorer, Henry M. Bannister carried on the work of Robert Kennicott. Along with Robert Kennicott, Bannister explored the Alaska Territory in the mid-1860s. Their discoveries, as publicized before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, contributed to the eventual purchase of Alaska by the United States in 1867. Yet the exploration of Alaska was only the foremost of many achievements and discoveries by the two men.

Born on July 24, 1844, the son of Dr. Henry Bannister, a professor in the Garrett Biblical Institute, Bannister received his education at Northwestern University, where he met Kennicott. After graduation in 1863, Bannister worked with Kennicott on the Northwestern University museum. Because he was a hard worker, Bannister was taken on the Western Union expedition to Alaska in March of 1865. After Kennicott's death, Bannister returned to Washington, where he delivered an expedition report to the Smithsonian Institution and supplied expert information to Senator Charles Sumner and Secretary of State William H. Seward. This information was later used in the Senate ratification of the purchase of Alaska. In later years, Bannister worked for the Illinois Geological Survey and studied medicine in the National Medical College in Washington, D.C. Bannister practiced medicine in Chicago for many years and published widely in the area of mental illness and nervous disorders. He died on May 1, 1920.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Robert Kennicott (1835-1865?) and Henry M. Bannister (1844-1920) Papers

Identifier: 11/2/2

The papers of Robert Kennicott and Henry M. Bannister constitute a small but valuable collection, especially for the history of American science. The bulk of the collection consists of the letters and diaries of the two explorers, for the years 1857-1873. The papers of Henry Bannister are more extensive than those of his mentor. Photographs and correspondence concerning the history of the collection are also included.

Dates: 1857 - 1905