Kennicott vs. Kennecott

For those of you who think I can’t use a spell checker, I thought I should clarify something.  There really are two distinct spellings of “Kennicott” – one with an ‘i’, one with an ‘e’.

  • Kennicott refers to either the river or the glacier.  The name comes from Robert Kennicott (1835-1866), an early explorer and naturalist who made two trips to the Alaska-Yukon region (at the time, Russian America).  His first trip in 1859 was purely scientific, having been tasked with collecting specimens of animals yet unknown back east.  Given his experience in the area, Western Union hired him in 1865-1866 to lead a scouting expedition to site a telegraph line the western United States up to the Bering Strait, where it would connect with a submarine cable and a similarly long line across Siberia to Europe.  (Kennicott died of a suspected heart attack in 1866 near Fort Nurato in northwestern Alaska, and the telegraph project was never completed.)
  • Kennecott refers to the Kennecott Copper Company or the company town at the base of the mill.  The ‘e’ was a misspelling on the incorporation paperwork that has persisted in the company’s name to this day.

Honestly, the mine and the town are referred to by both spellings, and it all gets used interchangeably.  I try to be at least consistent, but I guarantee a truly pedantic editor will find me abusing that principle at least a few places on this site.

One thought on “Kennicott vs. Kennecott

  1. Ronald Simpson

    Although I have no proof of this, I am convinced that the difference in spelling was no accident. Having studied that company, especially its historic Alaskan operations rather extensively, I see no way that the powers-that-be over there could have made that kind of a mistake.


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