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Thomas Kensett Family papers


Thomas Kensett Family papers
Kensett, Thomas, Family
Collection number:
26 items
Bulk dates:
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
State of Maryland and Historical Collections
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email:

Correspondence between Thomas Kensett to his Baltimore fiancee, Gertrude W. Brown, during their courtship. Topics include day-to-day life, ill health, dental work, a poem about the joys of smoking, and skin problems. Also included are documents pertaining to the couple's daughter, Gertrude Kensett Vanderhoef, including her 1906 will. A sister collection may be found at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore (MS 2854).

Important Information for Users of the Collection


This collection is open for research.

Preferred citation:

Thomas Kensett Family papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

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Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.

Alternate formats:

Digital copies of the letters in this collection are available at in the University of Maryland's Digital Collections.


This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

Thomas Kensett was born in Cheshire, Connecticut, on February 12, 1814, the eldest son of Thomas Kensett (1786-1829) and Elizabeth Daggett Kensett (1791-1876). Thomas Kensett (the elder), was born in England and immigrated to New York. He and Elizabeth Daggett married in New Haven, Connecticut on May 9, 1813. They had five children. Thomas was the eldest, followed by John Frederick (1816-1872), a well-known American landscape painter; Elizabeth (b.1817); Frederick (1819-1881); and Ezra (1821-1822). In 1825, Thomas Kensett (the elder) and his father-in-law, Ezra Daggett, received a patent for preserving food in tin cans. The younger Thomas opened an oyster and fruit canning factory in Baltimore in 1849. He became prominent in the Baltimore business community where he served as President of the Baltimore Oyster Packers' Association and Director of the Second National and Mechanics Bank. He also had in interest in railroads, owned real estate and was a member of the Presbyterian Church.

Thomas Kensett married Eliza Price Wheeler (1822-1849) in 1838 or 1839. They had four children: Thomas H. (b. 1840), Eliza (b. 1842), Sarah (b. 1844), and John R. (b. 1846). Following Eliza's death in March 1849, Kensett married her sister, Sarah Ann Wheeler (1815-ca. 1872). He and Sarah Ann had three children: Edward (b. 1852), Emily (b. 1855) and Mary (b. 1858). In 1876, Kensett married Gertrude W. Brown (1848-ca. 1906). Their daughter, Gertrude, was born in 1877. Following his death in August 1877, Gertrude and her daughter moved to New York State. Gertrude remarried and was known as Gertrude W. Elder. Gertrude Kensett, the daughter, married Frank Fellows Vanderhoef.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Papers of the Thomas Kensett Family span the years 1856 through 1908 with the bulk of the material dating between 1873 and 1879. The collection contains correspondence and a will. Subjects covered include travel, health, and the sale of paintings by John Frederick Kensett.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the Papers of the Thomas Kensett Family from Carmen D. Valentino, a rare books and manuscripts dealer, in 2005.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by Terry Ann Sayler, April 2006.

Processing note:

The materials were placed in acid-free folders and stored in an acid-free box.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Steven Bookman, June 2006.

Arrangement of Collection

The collection is organized as two series

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1856-1906, undated (25 items)

The bulk of this series consists of letters to Gertrude W. Brown Kensett from Thomas Kensett during their courtship and immediately following their marriage, spanning the years 1873 to 1876. Kensett suffered from various ailments and often retreated to a place called "Vevay Cottage" for rest. Following the death of Kensett's brother, the landscape painter John Frederick Kensett, Kensett arranged for the sale of many of his paintings. Arrangement is alphabetical by correspondent and then chronological.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
To Mrs. Brown -- From Kate and George Mowton (Online), 1856 series 1box 1folder 1
To Mrs. Brown -- From Thomas (Kensett) (Online), 1876 series 1box 1folder 2
To Miss Coddington -- From Gustave T. Fibiger (?) (Online), 1906 series 1box 1folder 3
To Gertrude W. Brown Kensett -- From Thomas Kensett (Online), 1873, 1874, 1875, 1876, undated series 1box 1folder 4
To Gertrude W. Brown Kensett -- From Elizabeth D. Vail (Online), 1878 series 1box 1folder 5
To Gertrude W. Brown Kensett -- From John Gilman (Online), 1879 series 1box 1folder 6

Series 2: Will, 1906-1908 (1 item)

The will of Gertrude Kensett Vanderhoef, daughter of Thomas Kensett and Gertrude W. Brown was signed on July 24, 1906 and later "cancelled" on February 17, 1908. Presumably the will was voided because of the death of Gertrude W. Elder, her mother, shortly after the first will was completed.

In the will, Mrs. Vanderhoef bequeathed her estate to her mother. Jewelry and silver items were left to her husband and his family members. Any children were to be wards of a cousin, John Kensett Kellogg. Thomas F. Balfe of Newburgh, New York, was named executor.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Will of Gertrude Kensett Vanderhoef (Online), 1906, 1908 series 2box 1folder 7

Related Material

Baltimore: Past and Present. With Biographical Sketches of its Representative Men. (Baltimore, Md: Richardson & Bennett, 1871). (UMCP HBK Maryland Room, Maryland Rare Stacks F189.B1 B39) Includes an entry for Thomas Kensett.

The Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, Maryland holds a collection entitled the Gertrude W. Kensett Papers (MS 2854) that consists of 1.50 linear feet of correspondence between 1878 and 1883 regarding the estate of Thomas Kensett. The correspondents are mainly Gertrude W. Kensett, John S. Gilman, the executor of the estate, and the Hinkley and Morris law firm.

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Selected Search Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.