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Record Unit 55,  Smithsonian Institution, Assistant Secretary in charge of the United States National Museum,  Records, 1897-1918

Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, D.C. Contact us at osiaref@si.edu.
Creator: Smithsonian Institution, Assistant Secretary in charge of the United States National Museum
Title: Records
Dates: 1897-1918
Quantity: 2.9 linear meters.
Collection: Record Unit 55
Language of Materials: English
Summary:

Historical Note

The history of the office of Assistant Secretary can be traced to January 26, 1847 when the Smithsonian Board of Regents approved the nomination of Charles C. Jewett, of Brown University, for the position of Assistant Secretary, acting as Librarian. On July 5, 1850 the Board resolved "...that the Secretary be authorized to appoint an assistant secretary in the department of natural history, to take charge of the museum, and to render such other assistance as the Secretary may require...." Shortly thereafter, Spencer F. Baird was appointed to the position. During various periods of time, the Assistant Secretary was also in charge of publications, exchanges, and other areas. Incumbents included: (1) Spencer F. Baird, 1850-1878; (2) George Brown Goode, 1881-1896, including the years 1881-1887 when he served as assistant director of the museum without the title of Assistant Secretary; (3) Charles D. Walcott, Acting Assistant Secretary, 1897-1898; (4) Richard Rathbun, 1897-1918. During certain periods of time, the business of the office was administered by the Executive Curator, Frederick William True.

Richard Rathbun's (1852-1918) association with the Smithsonian Institution began in 1873 when Spencer F. Baird appointed him volunteer assistant in the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries (USCFF). In 1878, Rathbun was appointed scientific assistant in the USCFF and detailed to New Haven, Connecticut to work on the collection of marine invertebrates in the custody of Addison Emery Verrill. He was transferred to Washington in 1880 and the following year was appointed honorary curator of the Department of Marine Invertebrates in the U. S. National Museum (USNM), a position he continued to hold until 1914. He continued his concurrent duties with the USCFF and USNM until 1896, when he accepted appointment to the position of Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, in charge of Office and Exchanges. After the resignation of Charles D. Walcott as Assistant Secretary, in charge of the National Museum in 1898, Rathbun's duties were revised to include certain aspects of museum administration. During this time the Executive Curator, Frederick William True was the officer in immediate charge of the museum. In January, 1901, Rathbun was made Assistant Secretary, in charge of the National Museum, in which capacity he remained until his death in 1918. On the death of Secretary Samuel P. Langley in February, 1906, Rathbun assumed the duties of Acting Secretary until the election of Charles D. Walcott in 1907. Major accomplishments of Rathbun's Assistant Secretarial years included the completion of the Children's Room of the Smithsonian Institution, 1901; the development of the National Gallery of Art, 1904-1910 (after 1937 known as the National Collection of Fine Arts); and the construction of the new National Museum building completed in 1911.

Descriptive Entry

This record unit consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence and various other records compiled during Rathbun's career as Assistant Secretary. Descriptions of the records are included as part of the series descriptions.

For other records of Richard Rathbun see record units 79, 80, 189, 192, 201, and 7078.

Preferred Citation

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 55, Smithsonian Institution, Assistant Secretary in charge of the United States National Museum, Records

Container List

Series 1

GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, 1897-1918.

This series consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence (mostly copies) compiled by Richard Rathbun while serving as Assistant Secretary, in charge of Office and Exchanges (1897-1900) and Assistant Secretary, in charge of the United States National Museum (1901-1918). Most of the correspondence is routine, and deals with administrative policy, appropriations, USNM staff, museum publications, and exhibits. The correspondence is directed mostly to USNM administrative officers, with lesser amounts to scientific staff members and other correspondents. Subjects of special interest include the construction of the new National Museum building completed in 1911; the development of the National Gallery of Art; Samuel P. Langley's aerodrome experiments; Gerrit Smith Miller's investigation of European museums; Charles D. Walcott's paleontological field work in the Canadian Rockies, and the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition of 1909. A smaller amount of confidential correspondence with museum officials, scientific associates, and personal friends is also contained in this series. The records in this series are arranged alphabetically, and chronologically thereunder.

Box 1

Folder 1 Abbot - Adee

Box 1 of 22

Folders 2-3 Adler, Cyrus, 1897-1917

Box 1 of 22

Folder 4 Aero - American

Box 1 of 22

Folder 5 Andrews - Ayres

Box 1 of 22

Folder 6 Bain - Beeson

Box 1 of 22

Folder 7 Belot - Benedict

Box 1 of 22

Folder 8 Benjamin, Marcus, 1901-1917

Box 1 of 22

Box 2

Folder 1 Berg - Brinker

Box 2 of 22

Folder 2 Brockett, Paul, 1902-1917

Box 2 of 22

Folder 3 Brown - Bryan

Box 2 of 22

Folder 4 Bryant, Harry S.

Box 2 of 22

Folder 5 Bryant, Thomas - Bushnell

Box 2 of 22

Folder 6 Caffey - Church

Box 2 of 22

Folder 7 Clark, A. Howard, 1897-1911

Box 2 of 22

Folder 8 Clark, Austin H. - Comparette

Box 2 of 22

Folder 9 Concklin - Cowles

Box 2 of 22

Box 3

Folder 1 Cox - Curran

Box 3 of 22

Folder 2 Dabney - Desbarats

Box 3 of 22

Folder 3 Dibrell - Dyer

Box 3 of 22

Folder 4 Eastman - Eynon

Box 3 of 22

Folder 5 Fagan - Frye

Box 3 of 22

Folder 6 Gallagher - Geare, Randolph Iltyd, 1897-1910

Box 3 of 22

Folders 7-8 Geare, Randolph Iltyd, 1911-1916

Box 3 of 22

Box 4

Folder 1 Giglioli - Guggenheim

Box 4 of 22

Folder 2 Hackett - Hitchcock

Box 4 of 22

Folder 3 Hodge - Holm

Box 4 of 22

Folders 4-7 Holmes, William Henry, 1897-1917

Box 4 of 22

Folder 8 Hooper - Houghton

Box 4 of 22

Folder 9 Howard - Hyatt

Box 4 of 22

Box 5

Folder 1 Indiana - Julian-James

Box 5 of 22

Folder 2 Karr - Langley, John W.

Box 5 of 22

Folders 3-8 Langley, Samuel P., 1897-1898

Box 5 of 22

Box 6

Folders 1-7 Langley, Samuel P., 1899-1900

Box 6 of 22

Box 7

Folders 1-6 Langley, Samuel P., 1901-1905

Box 7 of 22

Folder 7 Latham - Lewton

Box 7 of 22

Folder 8 Leyon - Lyon

Box 7 of 22

Folder 9 McCreary - Marvin

Box 7 of 22

Folder 10 Mason, Otis Tufton, 1899-1908

Box 7 of 22

Box 8

Folder 1 Mason, William E. - Maynard

Box 8 of 22

Folder 2 Mearns - Merriam

Box 8 of 22

Folders 3-4 Merrill, George P., 1898-1917

Box 8 of 22

Folder 5 Meyer, A. B. - Meyer, H. H. B.

Box 8 of 22

Folder 6 Michael - Mixter

Box 8 of 22

Folder 7 Moffat - Myers

Box 8 of 22

Folder 8 National Academy of Sciences - Nutting

Box 8 of 22

Folder 9 Olmsted - Ottawa

Box 8 of 22

Folder 10 Padgett - Philosophical Society of Washington

Box 8 of 22

Box 9

Folder 1 Picaco - Putnam

Box 9 of 22

Folder 2 Quesada - Ravenel, Gaillard

Box 9 of 22

Folders 3-9 Ravenel, William de C., 1902-1913

Box 9 of 22

Box 10

Folder 1 Ravenel, William de C., 1914-1917

Box 10 of 22

Folder 2 Rea - Riemer

Box 10 of 22

Folder 3 Robbins - Roosevelt

Box 10 of 22

Folder 4 Rose - Royal

Box 10 of 22

Folder 5 Salsbury - Scudder

Box 10 of 22

Folder 6 Shandelle - Stebbing

Box 10 of 22

Folder 7 Stejneger, Leonhard, 1904-1917

Box 10 of 22

Folder 8 Stephens - Sylvester

Box 10 of 22

Folder 9 Tassin - True, Alfred Charles

Box 10 of 22

Folder 10 True, Frederick William, 1897-1898

Box 10 of 22

Box 11

Folders 1-5 True, Frederick William, 1899-1914

Box 11 of 22

Folder 6 True, Mrs. Frederick William - Wagoner

Box 11 of 22

Folders 7-9 Walcott, Charles D., 1897-1909

Box 11 of 22

Box 12

Folders 1-6 Walcott, Charles D., 1910-1917

Box 12 of 22

Folder 7 Waldren - Watkins

Box 12 of 22

Folder 8 Weber - Willige

Box 12 of 22

Folder 9 Willis - Wolfe

Box 12 of 22

Folder 10 Wood - Zepin

Box 12 of 22

Series 2

OUTGOING CORRESPONDENCE, 1898-1907, 6 BOUND LETTERPRESS BOOKS.

This series consists of bound letterpress books containing copies of outgoing correspondence compiled by Richard Rathbun while serving as Assistant Secretary, in charge of Office and Exchanges (1898- 1900) and Assistant Secretary, in charge of the United States National Museum (1901-1907). The correspondence is both personal and official in nature. Two distinct types of personal correspondence are found in this series: (1) genuinely personal material concerning business transactions, family matters, and the like; (2) correspondence which to the reader may seem like official museum business, but to Richard Rathbun held a place of confidential importance. A good example is the voluminous quantity of correspondence regarding Samuel P. Langley's aerodrome experiments that is found in the personal letterpress books. There also exists a large number of letters of introduction, acknowledgments of publications received, and other routine correspondence. The official correspondence is mostly routine and deals with administrative policy, USNM staff, museum publications, and exhibits. Of special interest is correspondence with foreign and domestic museum directors concerning museum planning and construction. Pages 1-83 of volume 4 contain correspondence entitled "Personal - Official" and consists mostly of correspondence directed to Samuel P. Langley. The letterpress books in this series are arranged according to nature of correspondence (personal or official), and chronologically thereunder. Each volume (except No. 1) is alphabetically indexed.

Box 13

Volume 1 Personal Correspondence, July 28, 1898 - May 21, 1901

Box 13 of 22

Volume 2 Personal Correspondence, May 23, 1901 - January 4, 1904

Box 13 of 22

Volume 3 Personal Correspondence, December 3, 1903 -November 21, 1905

Box 13 of 22

Box 14

Volume 4 Pages 1-83. Personal - Official Correspondence, June 25, 1900 - October 2, 1902

Box 14 of 22

Pages 84-493. Personal Correspondence, November 22, 1905 - December 25, 1907

Box 14 of 22

Volume 5 Official Correspondence, September 24, 1900 -June 22, 1904

Box 14 of 22

Volume 6 Official Correspondence, June 7, 1904 - February 15, 1907

Box 14 of 22

Series 3

REPORTS ON EUROPEAN MUSEUMS, 1904 & 1907.

In 1903, Congress authorized the Board of Regents to begin construction of a new National Museum building. Shortly thereafter, Assistant Secretary Richard Rathbun instructed certain USNM staff members (who were in Europe on prior business) to visit museums and make studies which might help in the construction and installation of the new National Museum. This series consists of reports on European museums submitted by William Henry Holmes (1904) and Gerrit Smith Miller, Jr. (1904 & 1907) and various publications concerning European museum collected by Holmes.

Box 15

Folders 1-4 "Report of Studies of European Museums Made During the Summer of 1904," by William Henry Holmes. 198 pages.

Box 15 of 22

Folders 5-8 "Report on the Museums of Leiden, Holland" by Gerrit Smith Miller, Jr., 1904. 62 pages. (Original manuscript and one typewritten copy)

Box 15 of 22

Folder 9 "Report of Mr. Gerrit Smith Miller, Jr. on the Museums of Spain visited by him in 1907." Includes photographs.

Box 15 of 22

Folder 10 Publications concerning European Museums collected by William Henry Holmes.

Box 15 of 22

REQUESTS FOR AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS OF RECEIPT OF UNITED STATES NATIONAL MUSEUM BULLETIN #70, THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART , BY RICHARD RATHBUN, 1909. JANUARY- APRIL, 1910.

In 1909 the USNM published bulletin #70, The National Gallery of Art , by Richard Rathbun. The work provided a historical sketch of the National Museum's role in the field of fine arts and a description of the collections contained in the newly developed gallery. This series consists of incoming correspondence containing requests for and acknowledgments of receipt of bulletin #70. Correspondents include scientific associates, museums, art galleries, colleges and universities, congressmen, and personal friends. The records in this series are arranged alphabetically.

Box 16

Folder 1 Abel - Cullum

Box 16 of 22

Folder 2 Dall - Julian-James

Box 16 of 22

Folder 3 Kahn - Notre Dame University

Box 16 of 22

Folder 4 Oberlin College - Rylands

Box 16 of 22

Folder 5 St. Louis - Zurich

Box 16 of 22

Series 5

HISTORICAL RESEARCH FILE, 1897-1918.

This series consists of material, compiled by Richard Rathbun, documenting the history of the Smithsonian Institution and U. S. National Museum. The bulk of material consists of administrative, divisional, and general histories. Correspondence, newspaper clippings, publications, and typescripts exist in small quantities. In 1906, Rathbun instructed each curator and museum officer to prepare a historical sketch of his division or office. Several of these sketches are contained in this series. Other histories consist of excerpts from SI and USNM annual reports. Materials of special interest include correspondence, newspaper clippings, and various other records concerning the Children's Room of the Smithsonian and several histories prepared by the museum staff. The material in this series is arranged alphabetically, by subject.

Box 16

Folder 6 Administration - Historical sketch of administrative and scientific divisions, 1880-1912.

Box 16 of 22

Folder 7 Administration - Historical sketch of the administration of the USNM, undated.

Box 16 of 22

Folder 8 Administration - Historical sketch of the offices of Secretary, Assistant Secretary, and Acting Secretary, 1846-1906.

Box 16 of 22

Folder 9 Cataloging of Specimens - USNM regulations, undated.

Box 16 of 22

Folder 10 Chemistry, USNM - Historical sketch, undated.

Box 16 of 22

Box 17

Folders 1-13 Children's Room of the Smithsonian Institution. Includes correspondence (1898-1916), newspaper clippings, articles and publications, labels for ornithological exhibits, and excerpts from annual reports.

Box 17 of 22

Box 18

Folder 1 Department of Living Animals, USNM - Historical sketch compiled from annual reports, 1881-1889.

Box 18 of 22

Folder 2 Department of Recent Plants, USNM - Historical sketch, undated.

Box 18 of 22

Folder 3 Disbursing Agent, Office of - Historical sketch by Washington Irving Adams, 1906.

Box 18 of 22

Folder 4 Division of Comparative Anatomy, USNM - Historical sketch, 1906.

Box 18 of 22

Folder 5 Division of Correspondence and Documents, USNM -Historical sketch by Randolph Iltyd Geare, 1906.

Box 18 of 22

Folder 6 Division of History, USNM - Historical sketch by A. Howard Clark, 1906.

Box 18 of 22

Folder 7 Division of History, USNM - Report on the Glover Collection of Chinese Coins by Paul Edmund Beckwith, 1897.

Box 18 of 22

Folder 8 Division of Insects, USNM - Historical sketch, undated.

Box 18 of 22

Folders 9-10 Division of Insects, USNM - Historical sketch compiled from annual reports, 1881-1913.

Box 18 of 22

Folder 11 Division of Insects, USNM - Historical sketch by Leland Ossian Howard, 1906, including "An Account of the Collection in the order Coleoptera" by Eugene Amandus Schwarz; "An Account of the Collection in the order Diptera" by Daniel William Coquillett; "An Account of the Collection in the order Hymenoptera" by William Harris Ashmead.

Box 18 of 22

Folder 12 Division of Insects, USNM - Retrospective by Charles Valentine Riley.

Box 18 of 22

Box 19

Folder 1 Division of Marine Invertebrates, USNM - Historical sketch compiled from annual reports, 1882-1898.

Box 19 of 22

Folder 2 Division of Medicine, USNM - Historical sketch compiled from annual reports, 1881-1911.

Box 19 of 22

Folder 3 Division of Medicine, USNM - Historical sketch by James M. Flint, undated.

Box 19 of 22

Folder 4 Division of Medicine, USNM - Historical sketch, undated.

Box 19 of 22

Folder 5 Division of Medicine, USNM - Digest of Correspondence, 1904-1916.

Box 19 of 22

Folder 6 Division of Mollusks, USNM - Historical sketch compiled from annual reports, 1881-1898.

Box 19 of 22

Folder 7 Division of Paleobotany, USNM - Historical sketch compiled from annual reports, 1881-1911.

Box 19 of 22

Folder 8 Department of Reptiles. Historical Report to 1866 by Henry C. Yarrow.

Box 19 of 22

Folder 9 Division of Reptiles and Batrachians, USNM- Historical Sketch, 1881-1906.

Box 19 of 22

Folder 10 "Expositions in which the National Museum has participated, 1876-1909."

Box 19 of 22

Folder 11 "Expositions in General." Historical sketch taken mostly from annual reports.

Box 19 of 22

Box 20

Folders 1-4 Expositions - Historical sketch compiled from annual reports, 1876-1896.

Box 20 of 22

Folder 5 Gifts and Bequest - USNM regulations.

Box 20 of 22

Folder 6 Identification of specimens - USNM regulations.

Box 20 of 22

Folder 7 Library of the USNM - Historical sketch, undated.

Box 20 of 22

Folder 8 National Gallery of Art - Miscellaneous material, including a description of collections.

Box 20 of 22

Folder 9 National Zoological Park - Miscellaneous material mostly concerning appropriations, 1902-1907.

Box 20 of 22

Folder 10 Photographic Laboratory of the USNM - Historical sketch by Thomas W. Smillie, 1868-1906. Included is biographical information on Smillie.

Box 20 of 22

Box 21

Folders 1-6 Publications and Printing, USNM - Historical sketch, undated.

Box 21 of 22

Folder 7 Registrar, USNM - Explanation of duties.

Box 21 of 22

Folder 8 Research conducted by the USNM - Historical sketch compiled from annual reports, 1881-1906.

Box 21 of 22

Folder 9 Staff - Historical sketch of the USNM scientific staff, 1913.

Box 21 of 22

Folder 10 Staff - Report on the employment and regulation of personnel.

Box 21 of 22

Folders 11-15 Typescript, with handwritten corrections of USNM Bulletin #80, "A Descriptive Account of the Building Recently Erected for the Departments of Natural History of the United States National Museum," by Richard Rathbun, 1913.

Box 21 of 22

Box 22

Folders 1-7 Typescript, with handwritten corrections of "Report on the Diatoms of the Albatross voyages in the Pacific Ocean, 1888-1904," by Albert Mann and Percy LeRoy Ricker. (Contributions From The U. S. National Herbarium, Vol. X, part 5, 1907).

Box 22 of 22

Folder 8 U. S. National Museum-Historical sketch, undated.

Box 22 of 22

Folder 9 U. S. National Museum Building - Newspaper clippings concerning and descriptions of the new USNM building, 1911.

Box 22 of 22