Lucile M. Kane: Minnesota historian and archivist, one of the “Greatest Generation”

Lucile M. Kane died on May 30, 2009. In terms of the profession of history in Minnesota, she was truly one of the “Greatest Generation.” A historian and archivist, she was committed to collecting and making available to the public the manuscript records of Minnesota’s history, for today and for tomorrow. During her years as Curator of Manuscripts at the Minnesota Historical Society, and as Minnesota State Archivist, she collected many important groups of  records and started the ambitious program of microfilming through which the MHS has helped preserve its collections and disseminate the information contained in them. She also wrote and edited many important books and articles on Minnesota history, continuing the legacy begun by earlier generations of curators and archivists at the Historical Society, who combined collecting and cataloging with a vital interest in the history of this state.  Lucile Kane was a modest, pleasant, good-humored, and intelligent person, and a dogged researcher. Through her work she inspired several generations of historians and archivists at the MHS and throughout the country. The best honor that the Minnesota Historical Society can give her is to continue to carry out the important mission of the Historical Society to collect the manuscript records of Minnesota’s past and make them available to present and future generations.


Lucile M. Kane, in 1951, looking through a uncatalogued collection of manuscripts, with the enthusiasm she always showed for her job. Minnesota Historical Society photograph.

What follows is Lucile Kane’s obituary, received in an email today. In its original form the obituary mispelled her first name, putting in a double-l. That has been corrected.

Lucile M. Kane, age 89 of Kaukauna, formerly of Plum City, WI, St. Paul, MN and Bloomer, WI Born: March 17, 1920 Died: May 30, 2009 at St. Paul Elder Services, Kaukauna. Lucile was the daughter of Emery and Ruth (Coaty) Kane. She was born and raised in the Town of Salem, Pierce County, rural Plum City. She graduated from Ellsworth High School. Lucile graduated from River Falls College and then taught at Osceola High School. She went on to receive her Masters Degree from the University of Minnesota. Lucile worked as the Curator of Manuscripts for the Minnesota History Society. In 1975 she was appointed State Archivist for the State of Minnesota. A position she held until 1985. While archivist, she discovered the long lost manuscripts of Lewis and Clark. Lucile was a published author and wrote several books and articles of history. Lucile is survived by her two sisters, Dorothy (Shafi) Hossain of Sherwood and Audrey (Kenneth) Cernohous of New Richmond, sister-in-law, Lennis Kane of Plum City, brother-in-law Robert Eder of Amery, many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends. She is preceded in death by her parents, one brother Sheldon “Bud” Kane and two sisters, Georgia “Sr. Alora” and Leona Eder. Private Funeral Services will be 11:00 AM Saturday, June 6, 2009 at St. John’s Catholic Church in Plum City. Rev. Ambrose Blenker will officiate. Burial will be in the church cemetery. Friends may call one hour prior to services at the church on Saturday. Memorials proffered to the Alzheimer’s Association, Women’s Shelters and the Humane Association.

Here is a biographical sketch of Lucile Kane from the Minnesota Historical Society website:

Lucile Marie Kane, a nationally recognized scholar in the fields of state and western American history, was born at Maiden Rock, Wisconsin on March 17, 1920, to Emery John and Ruth (Coty) Kane. She earned a bachelor of science degree at River Falls State Teacher’s College (later known as the University of Wisconsin-River Falls) in 1942, and a master of arts degree in history from the University of Minnesota in 1946.

She taught at Osceola High School (Osceola, Wisconsin) from 1942 to 1946; worked for the University of Minnesota Press (1945-1946); and was a research fellow and editor for the Forest Products History Foundation (Saint Paul, 1946-1948). She was curator of manuscripts at the Minnesota Historical Society from 1948 to 1975, and Minnesota state archivist from 1975 until retiring on July 1, 1979. Kane was a senior research fellow at the Society (1979-1985), and a senior research fellow emeritus (1985- ).

Kane edited and translated a substantial book entitled Military Life in Dakota: The Journal of Philippe Regis de Trobriand (1951). She contributed to The Public Lands: Studies in the History of the Public Domain, which was edited by Vernon Carstensen (1963). In 1966 she published The Waterfall that Built a City: The Falls of St. Anthony in Minneapolis, which was later updated and published as The Falls of St. Anthony: The Waterfall that Built Minneapolis (1987). She helped edit The Northern Expeditions of Major Stephen H. Long (1978), and with colleague Alan Ominsky co-authored Twin Cities: A Pictorial History of Saint Paul and Minneapolis (1983). Kane authored various articles that appeared in such periodicals as Minnesota History, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Business History Review, Agricultural History, and The American Archivist.


Lucile M. Kane: Minnesota historian and archivist, one of the “Greatest Generation” — 2 Comments

  1. Her passion for history — and her recognizing the need for its preservation — is a gift history buffs everywhere should be thankful for. I send thanks to her nephew for giving me the opportunity to learn about her fabulous life and major contributions.

  2. I worked in the manuscript department of the Historical Society for Lucile from 1962 to 1966. She allowed me to schedule work around my class schedule at the U of Minnesota. Without this flexibility it would have been very hard to stay in school. In 1965 my dad died suddenly. She wrote out a personal check to help me out. I think of her selfless giving of not just that check, but going out of her way to help in anyway possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.