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Thomas Kensett Family papers

 Collection 0301-MDHC

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).


  • 1856-1908
  • Majority of material found within 1873-1879

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


26 Items

Scope and Content of Collection

The Thomas Kensett Family papers 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.

Family History

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 an 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.


The collection is organized into two series.

  1. Series 1: Correspondence
  2. Series 2: Will

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

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

Existence and Location of Copies

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

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.

Processing Information

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

Guide to the Thomas Kensett Family Papers
Processed by Terry Ann Sayler.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742