Table in United States National Museum exhibit hall, 1880s, by United States National Museum Photographic Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 11-006, Image No. MAH-4479.

Spotlight: Carl William Schuermann, Jr., Property Clerk

We're taking a closer look at Carl William Schuermann, Jr., a Smithsonian property clerk with an interest in ornithology.

At the Smithsonian, we're not just in the business of cataloging specimens, artifacts, and records. We also keep detailed catalogs of office supplies, equipment, and furniture required to perform day-to-day activities. The title of property clerk was first given to Carl W. Schuermann in 1882, a role he fulfilled until 1900. As staff of the Department of Property and Supplies, his duties included keeping detailed inventories of office and museum furniture, inspecting and reporting upon the condition of all supplies and furniture purchased for the United States National Museum, and distribution tracking of said articles.

 Portrait of Carl William Schuermann, Jr.

Schuermann started his Smithsonian career in 1877 as an assistant to Spencer Fullerton Baird and clerk for the United States Fish Commission. Once described as an enthusiastic naturalist, he also had an interest in ornithology, and contributed several specimens to the Department of Birds. He even named his son Elliott Coues Schuermann, after renowned ornithologist Elliot Coues.

Fun fact: His father, Carl William Schuermann, Sr., was an accomplished musician and composer who studied under famed German violinist Louis Spohr before emigrating to the United States in 1843. As a music teacher, his clients included family members of Presidents James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln.

Related Collections:

  • United States National Museum Property Clerk Property Records, 1882-1930, Record Unit 78, Smithsonian Institution Archives
  • Smithsonian Institution, Photograph Collection, Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives
  • United States National Museum Curators' Annual Reports, 1881-1964, Record Unit 158, Smithsonian Institution Archives

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