SIA RU007186, United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842), United States Exploring Expedition Collection, 1838-1885

* required
Please succinctly provide us with any information pertinent to your inquiry. If you are writing to us about a research request, provide as much detail as possible about the collections in which you are interested (including collection numbers, box numbers, and folder titles).
(if known)
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Summary

Creator:
United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842)
Title:
United States Exploring Expedition Collection, 1838-1885
Dates:
1838, 1838-1885
Notes:
The United States Exploring Expedition was authorized by an act of Congress in 1836 as "A Surveying and Exploring Expedition to the Pacific Ocean and South Seas." Its commander was Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, USN. It was prompted by a desire to obtain information concerning an area which was rapidly becoming of interest to American traders and whalers. A contingent of scientists accompanied the expedition, including Charles Pickering, Titian Ramsay Peale, Joseph P. Couthouy, James Dwight Dana, William Rich, William Dunlop Brackenridge, and Horatio Hale. In addition to the scientists, two illustrators also accompanied the expedition, Joseph Drayton and Alfred T. Agate
The expedition, also known as the Wilkes Expedition, sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, in August 1838. By the time it returned to New York in June 1842, it had visited and explored Madeira, both coasts of South America, Tierra del Fuego, the South Pacific islands, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, the Hawaiian Islands, Washington and Oregon territories, California, the Philippine Islands, Singapore, the Cape of Good Hope, and St. Helen. Wilkes's voyage along the Antarctic coast during the expedition established the existence of that continent
During the voyage, the scientists gathered specimens and studied the flora and fauna of each place visited. At various points along the route, specimens were packed and sent back to the United States. Eventually, the specimens were placed in the custody of the National Institute in Washington, D.C., and installed in the Great Hall of the Patent Office. They remained there until their removal to the Smithsonian Institution in 1858
Summary:
These papers include manuscripts, notes, lists, catalogs of specimens, correspondence, and drawings relating to the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842 and its scientific work. Of special interest are original drawings of fish and echinoderms done on the voyage; Peale's manuscript history of the expedition; original notebooks of the botanist; Jean Louis Agassiz's notes for his unpublished report on the fishes collected by the expedition; Charles Pickering's notes on fishes and echinoderms; and original specimen lists and catalogs kept by the members of the expedition
Restrictions:
Use of this record unit requires prior arrangement with the Archives staff
Topics:
Geology, Anthropology, Botany, Ichthyology, Invertebrate zoology, Natural history
Subjects:
Rich, William, Agassiz, Louis 1807-1873, Brackenridge, William D (William Dunlop) 1810-1893, Pickering, Charles 1805-1878, Peale, Titian Ramsay 1799-1885, Wilkes, Charles 1798-1877, Couthouy, Joseph Pitty 1808-1864, Dana, James Dwight 1813-1895, Hale, Horatio 1817-1896, Drayton, Joseph, Agate, Alfred T. 1812-1846, National Institute, Patent Office Building (Washington, D.C.), United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842)
Form/Genre:
Scientific illustrations, Collection descriptions
Local Number:
SIA RU007186
Physical Description:
2.27 linear meters

Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives

Record Unit 7186

United States Exploring Expedition, (1838-1842)

United States Exploring Expedition Collection, 1838-1885

Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, D.C. Contact us at osiaref@si.edu.
Creator: United States Exploring Expedition, (1838-1842)
Title: United States Exploring Expedition Collection
Dates: 1838-1885
Quantity: 2.27 linear meters.
Collection: Record Unit 7186
Language of Materials: English

Historical Note

The United States Exploring Expedition, also known as the Wilkes Expedition, was authorized by an act of Congress in 1836 as "a surveying and exploring expedition to the Pacific Ocean and South Seas." It was prompted by a desire to obtain information concerning an area which was rapidly becoming of interest to American traders and whalers. A contingent of scientists accompanied the expedition, commanded by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes of the United States Navy, including Charles Pickering, Titian Ramsay Peale, Joseph P. Couthouy, James Dwight Dana, William Rich, William Dunlop Brackenridge, and Horatio Hale. In addition to the scientists, two illustrators, Joseph Drayton and Alfred T. Agate, also accompanied the expedition.

The expedition, which consisted of five ships and crews provided by the United States Navy, sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, in August 1838. By the time it returned to New York in June 1842, it had visited and explored Madeira, both coasts of South America, Tierra del Fuego, the South Pacific islands, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, the Hawaiian Islands, Oregon, California, the Philippine Islands, Singapore, the Cape of Good Hope, and St. Helena. Wilkes' voyage along the Antarctic coast during the expedition established the existence of that continent.

During the voyage, the scientists gathered specimens and studied the flora and fauna of each place visited. At various points along the route specimens were packed and sent back to the United States. Eventually, the specimens were placed in the custody of the National Institute in Washington, D.C., and installed in the Great Hall of the Patent Office. They remained there until their removal to the Smithsonian Institution in 1858.

Top of Page

Descriptive Entry

Several reports covering the scientific work of the expedition were made, and most were published. One of the exceptions was the ichthyology report, which Charles Pickering was originally assigned to prepare. It was delayed, however; and by the middle of 1849, Jean Louis Agassiz had been placed in charge of the work. Due to the pressures of his many other commitments, and to the growing reluctance of Congress to appropriate additional funds after 1862, Agassiz never completed the project. In 1885, twelve years after Agassiz's death, the fish specimens, his manuscript, and its illustrations were sent to the United States National Museum.

The two illustrators, Joseph Drayton and Alfred T. Agate, produced numerous drawings of fishes during the expedition, many of which are in this collection. Drayton also helped supervise the illustrations and engraving work for a number of the scientific reports which were published.

A number of the items covering the ichthyology of the United States Exploring Expedition have been held, along with the specimens, by the Division of Fishes of the United States National Museum of Natural History. This record unit includes an unsigned manuscript on the fishes of the expedition, apparently the work of Jean Louis Agassiz which was sent to the United States National Museum in 1885; notes on the fishes and echinoderms collected by the expedition, either by Charles Pickering or based on his notes; a number of items concerning the drawings, specimens and the itinerary of the expedition; and drawings and illustrations of fishes done during the voyage or as illustrations for the ichthyology report. An unpublished manuscript on the fishes of the United States Exploring Expedition by Henry Ward Fowler has been placed in Record Unit 7180.

In addition to the ichthyological materials some items in this collection were held by the Smithsonian Library. These items consist of a letter from R. R. Waldron to Mrs. Sarah Jane Hale concerning her son Horatio Hale's travel plan, 1841; a manuscript on the expedition by Titian Ramsay Peale, which was published by the American Historical Records, 1874; notebooks on botany, mostly by William Dunlop Brackenridge; catalogues and annotated lists of ethnological, geological, mineralogical, and natural history specimens collected by the expedition; drawings of echinoderms by Drayton; original invoices and other official papers of the expedition, mostly shipping lists of specimens sent to the United States; and some loose sheets from the purser's account book, 1838-1842.

Top of Page

Preferred Citation

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7186, United States Exploring Expedition, (1838-1842), United States Exploring Expedition Collection

Top of Page

Container List

Series 1

CORRESPONDENCE, 1841.

Box 1

Folder 1 Letter from R. R. Waldron (U. S. S. Vincennes), Bay of San Francisco, California to Mrs. Sarah Jane Hale, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 30, 1841. Waldron wrote to inform Mrs. Hale of her son, Horatio Hale's travel plan.

Box 1 of 9

Series 2

MANUSCRIPTS ON THE UNITED STATES EXPLORING EXPEDITION.

Box 1

Folder 2 "The South Sea Surveying and Exploring Expedition, its origin, organization, equipment, purposes, results, and termination," by Titian Ramsay Peale, circa 1874. (Includes several typewritten copies). Published in American Historical Records, Philadelphia, v. 3, 1874, p. 244-251, 305-311.

Box 1 of 9

Series 3

CATALOGUES, DRAWINGS, AND OTHER MATERIALS CONCERNING SPECIMENS COLLECTED BY THE UNITED STATES EXPLORING EXPEDITION, 1838-1864.

Box 1

Folder 3 Manuscript on Botany, undated

Box 1 of 9

Folder 4 Original notebooks of the botanist, volumes 1-16. Peru, New South Wales (Australia), Samoa Islands group, Tonga Islands group, Fiji Islands group, and Hawaiian Islands group (William Dunlop Brackenridge).

Box 1 of 9

Folder 5 Botanical notebooks, Fiji Islands, volumes 5, 6, 10-27

Box 1 of 9

Box 2

Folder 1 Botanical notebooks, East Indies, volumes 1-17

Box 2 of 9

Folder 2 Botany: Echinoderms, drawings by Joseph Drayton

Box 2 of 9

Folder 3 Ethnology: "Collection of the United States South Sea Surveying and Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842," by Titian Ramsay Peale, 1846

Box 2 of 9

Box 3

Folder 1 Ethnology (continued): Bound volume labeled Catalogue U. S. Exploring Expedition, and containing "Ethnological collections of the U. S. South Sea Exploring Expedition" and "Molds made by George A. Matile for the Smithsonian Institution 1863, 1864."

Box 3 of 9

Folder 2 Geology: Original catalogue of geological specimens from Australia [by] James D. Dana

Box 3 of 9

Folder 3 Geology: Original catalogue of geological specimens collected at Sandwich Islands by James D. Dana

Box 3 of 9

Folder 4 Signature card of James Dwight Dana, undated (Accession 11-078)

Box 3 of 9

Folder 5 Mineralogy: Checklist of minerals

Box 3 of 9

Folder 6 "Original Invoices and other Official Papers of the U. S. Exploring Expedition"

Box 3 of 9
Official letters to Capt. Wilkes, 1839-1840, mostly transmitting shipping lists of specimens, and some loose sheets from the purser's account book, 1838
Original invoices of shells, 1839-1840
Original invoices of miscellaneous specimens, 1839-1841
Original invoices and catalogue of geological and mineralogical specimens, 1839-1840

Folder 7 Annotated lists of specimens received from the U. S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842

Box 3 of 9

Folder 8 Catalogue of specimens collected by the U. S. Exploring Expedition and received by the Philadelphia Museum, 1838-1842

Box 3 of 9

Folder 9 List of specimens unpacked by Charles Pickering, undated

Box 3 of 9

Folder 10 Catalogue of specimens sent to the United States by Charles Pickering, undated

Box 3 of 9

Series 4

MANUSCRIPT ON THE FISHES COLLECTED BY THE UNITED STATES EXPLORING EXPEDITION.

Includes an uncompleted manuscript covering the fishes collected by the United States Exploring Expedition. The manuscript's author is unidentified; but appears from handwriting samples to be Jean Louis Agassiz. It was sent to the United States National Museum about 1885.

Box 4

Folder 1 Introduction

Box 4 of 9

Folder 2 Lophobranchii

Box 4 of 9

Folder 3 Tetrodons

Box 4 of 9

Folder 4 True Balistes

Box 4 of 9

Folder 5 Diodons

Box 4 of 9

Folder 6 Aluterini

Box 4 of 9

Folder 7 Ostraceons

Box 4 of 9

Folder 8 Clarias

Box 4 of 9

Folder 9 Scomberesoces

Box 4 of 9

Box 5

Folder 1 Gadites

Box 5 of 9

Folder 2 Clupeoides

Box 5 of 9

Folder 3 Salmonides

Box 5 of 9

Folder 4 Erythroides

Box 5 of 9

Folder 5 Descriptions of seventeen unnamed genera

Box 5 of 9

Folder 6 Xyrichthys

Box 5 of 9

Folder 7 Scaroids

Box 5 of 9

Folder 8 Corsyphus

Box 5 of 9

Folder 9 Chirhio

Box 5 of 9

Folder 10 Somphosus

Box 5 of 9

Folder 11 Anampres

Box 5 of 9

Folder 12 Epibulus

Box 5 of 9

Folder 13 Eels

Box 5 of 9

Folder 14 Myzontes

Box 5 of 9

Folder 15 Selachians

Box 5 of 9

Series 5

NOTES, LISTS, AND RELATED MATERIALS CONCERNING WORK DONE ON FISH AND ECHINODERM SPECIMENS COLLECTED BY THE UNITED STATES EXPLORING EXPEDITION.

Box 6

Folder 1 Folder labeled "Notes relating to Expl. Exp. Collections by Charles Pickering." Also on folder is note "All these collections of Echinoderms have been returned to Smithsonian by A. Agassiz." Includes notes concerning drawings and plates, notes on sharks, six page list of specimens, "List of Specimens sent to Prof. Agassiz" and apparently transcribed notes of Charles Pickering covering echinoderms and fishes of the Exploring Expedition.

Box 6 of 9

Folder 2 Itinerary of the United States Exploring Expedition sent to Louis Agassiz by Charles Wilkes

Box 6 of 9

Folder 3 List of drawings sent to Charles Wilkes, January 28, 1860

Box 6 of 9

Folder 4 Report on care of fish specimens of the United States Exploring Expedition at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, by Robert Bliss, Jr., undated

Box 6 of 9

Folder 5 Unidentified lists of fish specimens of United States Exploring Expedition, undated

Box 6 of 9

Series 6

DRAWINGS AND TRACINGS OF FISHES, MARKED "REJECTED."

This series contains drawings and tracings of fishes seen and/or taken by the United States Exploring Expedition. The majority of the works are signed by either Joseph Drayton or John H. Richard. Drayton was a draftsman who accompanied the expedition. A number of his drawings, done during the voyage, are dated and locations are given. Richard was hired after the return of the expedition to prepare drawings for the plates that were to illustrate the work on ichthyology. Other artists identified include W. Dougel; Alfred T. Agate, who was also on the voyage; and Alexander Agassiz.

The works in this series were found in envelopes which were marked as "rejected" or "rejected for publication." There is no hint as to the proposed work for which these drawings were rejected. Other drawings found in envelopes marked "selected for publication" are in Series 7.

The arrangement of the drawings is alphabetical by the scientific name of the fishes given on the envelope or drawing. Each folder corresponds to one envelope. In a case where more than one scientific name was represented by the drawings in an envelope, the envelope was alphabetized by the name which appeared first. An alphabetical index to the other names follows.

Acanthuras - See Folders 17 and 24

Amphacanthus - See Folders 6 and 17

Arripris - See Folder 11

Blenniods - See Folder 19

Catostomus - See Folder 17

Chaetodon - See Folders 9 and 17

Diodons - See Folder 32

Ephippus - See Folder 17

Gobius - See Folders 15 and 19

Hemisamplius - See Folder 8

Holocanthus - See Folder 17

Isacia - See Folder 11

Leucisceus - See Folder 17

Mylachilus - See Folder 17

Pentapus - See Folder 11

Pharopteryx - See Folder 11

Priacanthus - See Folder 11

Priodon - See Folder 24

Pseudolabrus - See Folder 33

Salmonidae - See Folders 9 and 30

Sicyopteris - See Folder 15

Zanelus - See Folder 17

Box 6

Folder 6 Drawings of Amphacanthus

Box 6 of 9

Folder 7 Drawings of Balistoids

Box 6 of 9

Folder 8 Drawings of Belone, Hemisamphius and other unidentified fishes (two drawings removed to Box 8)

Box 6 of 9

Folder 9 Drawings of Chaetodon

Box 6 of 9

Folder 10 Drawings of Characini and Salmonidae

Box 6 of 9

Folder 11 Drawings of Cheilodactylus, Pentapus, Arripris, Isacia Pharopteryx, Priacanthus and other unidentified fishes

Box 6 of 9

Folder 12 Drawings of duplicate Clupoids

Box 6 of 9

Folder 13 Drawings of Cottoids (two drawings removed to Box 8)

Box 6 of 9

Folder 14 Drawings of Cyprinoids

Box 6 of 9

Folder 15 Drawings of Eleotris, Gobius, Sicyoperus and other unidentified fishes

Box 6 of 9

Folder 16 Drawings of Galaxia

Box 6 of 9

Folder 17 Drawings of Galaxia, Catostomus, Leuciseus, Mylachilus, Zanelus, Ephippus, Holocanthus, Amphacanthus, Acanthurus and Chaetodon

Box 6 of 9

Folder 18 Drawings of Germo (drawing removed to Box 8)

Box 6 of 9

Folder 19 Drawings of Gobiods and Blenniods

Box 6 of 9

Folder 20 Drawings of Lophobranch

Box 6 of 9

Folder 21 Drawings of Lophobranchii

Box 6 of 9

Folder 22 Drawings of Muraenoids (two drawings removed to Box 8)

Box 6 of 9

Folder 23 Drawings of Myzontes

Box 6 of 9

Folder 24 Drawings of Nasius, Priodon and Acanthurus (drawing removed to Box 8)

Box 6 of 9

Folder 25 Drawings of Notothenia

Box 6 of 9

Folder 26 Drawings of Ostracionidae

Box 6 of 9

Folder 27 Drawings of Pennujta (?)

Box 6 of 9

Folder 28 Drawings of Pomocentroids

Box 6 of 9

Folder 29 Drawings of Rhinoscopelus

Box 6 of 9

Folder 30 Drawings of Salmonidae

Box 6 of 9

Folder 31 Drawings of Serranus

Box 6 of 9

Folder 32 Drawings of Tetradons and Diodons

Box 6 of 9

Folder 33 Drawings of Thalassoma, Pseudolabrus and other unidentified fishes

Box 6 of 9

Folder 34 Drawings of unidentified fishes

Box 6 of 9

Series 7

DRAWINGS AND TRACINGS OF FISHES, MARKED "SELECTED."

This series contains drawings and tracings of fishes seen and/or taken by the United States Exploring Expedition. Like the "rejected" drawings of Series 6, the majority of these works are by either Joseph Drayton or John H. Richard. Further information on these two artists is given in the introduction to Series 6. Other artists identified include Alfred T. Agate, W. Dougel, and Ts. (or Js.) Burkhardt.

The works in this series were found in envelopes marked "selected for publication." There is no hint as to the proposed work for which these drawings were selected. Other drawings, found in envelopes marked "rejected" are found in Series 6.

This arrangement of the drawings is alphabetical by the scientific name of the fishes given on the envelope or drawings. Each folder corresponds to one envelope. In a case where the drawings in one envelope represent more than one scientific name, the folder was alphabetized by the name which appears first and the other(s) is included in the following list.

Kubliidae - See Folder 7

Monacanthids - See Folder 1

Serranidae - See Folder 7

Box 7

Folder 1 Drawings of Balistids and Monacanthids

Box 7 of 9

Folder 2 Drawings of Clupeoids (two drawings removed to Box 8)

Box 7 of 9

Folder 3 Drawings of Eels

Box 7 of 9

Folder 4 Drawings of Eptatretus

Box 7 of 9

Folder 5 Drawings of Exocoetus Brachypterus (two drawings removed to Box 8)

Box 7 of 9

Folder 6 Drawings of Ostracions

Box 7 of 9

Folder 7 Drawings of Pempherids, Kubliidae, and Serranidae (drawing removed to Box 8)

Box 7 of 9

Folder 8 Drawings of Pleurnectids (drawing removed to Box 8)

Box 7 of 9

Folder 9 Drawings of Scombroids (drawing removed to Box 8)

Box 7 of 9

Folder 10 Drawings of Synentognathi (two drawings removed to Box 8)

Box 7 of 9

Folder 11 Miscellaneous drawings (12 drawings removed to Box 9)

Box 7 of 9

Box 8

Drawings relocated from Boxes 6 and 7

Box 8 of 9

Box 9

Drawings pulled from Box 7, Folder 11 for display in America's Smithsonian exhibit (drawings are mounted in archival enclosures), figures: 40, 43, 44, 44a, 47, 48, 50, 51, 53, 56, 58, 59

Box 9 of 9

Using the Archives' Collections

The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. Please cite the Smithsonian Institution Archives as the source of the content, and when possible, link to the Smithsonian Archives website (siarchives.si.edu). Please let us know how you are using our collections for your projects. For information on commercial licensing or other uses, visit Rights and Reproductions. More information available within the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use policy.