M989.89.1 | Captn. Franklin, R. N. F. R. S. Commander of the Land Arctic Expedition with Fort Enterprise in the background

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Captn. Franklin, R. N. F. R. S. Commander of the Land Arctic Expedition with Fort Enterprise in the background
G. B. Lewis
January 1st 1824, 19th century
Ink on paper
24.8 x 17.1 cm
Gift of Mrs. Donald Byers
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  male (26812) , portrait (53878) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

Sir John Franklin, naval officer, explorer and author, was born in England in 1786. He had such a brilliant career in the Royal Navy that the Admiralty gave him command of two Arctic expeditions in a row: one from 1819 to 1822, the other from 1825 to 1827. These two were called "overland" expeditions because their goal was to explore the northern coast of Canada from land bases near Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake. But it was after his third expedition, in 1845, that Franklin's name became legendary. On that voyage in search of the Northwest Passage, he commanded two ships, the Erebus and the Terror. Two years after their departure, however, the vessels disappeared and the Admiralty sent several expeditions to look for them. Some missions were even paid for by Lady Franklin, the explorer's wife. In 1859 one of these missions confirmed to a horrified England the tragic end of Franklin's expedition in the Canadian Far North.

  • What

    This engraving was done to mark Franklin's first overland expedition in the Canadian Arctic.

  • Where

    The landscape behind Franklin shows Fort Enterprise, a small post near the Yellowknife River, north of Great Slave Lake. That's where Franklin and his men spent the winter of 1820.

  • When

    John Franklin was born in Spilsby, England, on April 16, 1786. He was the son of Willingham Franklin, a mercer (textile fabric dealer), and Hannah Weekes. He joined the Royal Navy as a first-class volunteer in 1800.

  • Who

    Though first and foremost a naval officer, John Franklin was also an author, having published accounts of his expeditions. Few people know that, in addition, he served as lieutenant-governor of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania, Australia) from 1837 to 1843.