Finding Aids to Official Records of the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 165
Smithsonian Institution. Disbursement Clerk
Prior to 1873 all accounts for the National Museum were paid by the Smithsonian Institution and audited by the Executive Committee. From 1873 until 1888, bills for the United States National Museum (USNM) were approved by the Secretary and disbursed by the disbursing agent at the Department of the Interior. In a similar fashion, beginning in 1874, the Secretary of the Treasury disbursed Smithsonian funds and made payment on checks signed by the Secretary. In 1888, funds for the Museum and International Exchange Service as well as those from the Treasury Department were turned over to the Disbursement Clerk for the Smithsonian. Funds appropriated for North American Ethnology were transferred to the Smithsonian Disbursement Clerk in 1892.
Records of the Disbursement Clerk include outgoing letterpress financial statements, most of which were signed by William W. Karr. Karr was appointed to the position of "factotum" in 1879. His assignment included time-keeping, keeping accounts of expenditures, and making out bills for payment for the contractors during the construction of the Arts and Industries Building. As a result of his efficiency, Karr was appointed to the USNM staff as a clerk, November 1880, although he was also called bookkeeper, assistant, and cashier. In 1884 he became Accountant for the Smithsonian. Karr became Disbursement Clerk in 1888, and from 1888 to 1905 he held the joint position of Accountant and Disbursement Clerk, with his salary coming from both Smithsonian private and Museum federal funds. In 1905 Karr was discharged from his duties on charges of embezzlement, and W. I. Adams was appointed to fill Karr's position.
These records include copies of disbursement vouchers, statements, abstracts of disbursements, monthly disbursement statements, cash vouchers, and summary balance and debit statements; also correspondence regarding the history of the disbursement clerk position. Disbursement of funds included both the private and federal side of the Smithsonian, in particular, the operations of the USNM, National Zoological Park, and International Exchange Service. Form vouchers are also signed by Secretaries Spencer F. Baird and Samuel P. Langley. Most volumes are individually indexed. A volume list follows.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887
- Langley, S. P. (Samuel Pierpont), 1834-1906
- Karr, William W.
- Adams, W. I.
- United States National Museum
- National Zoological Park (U.S.)
- Smithsonian Institution. International Exchange Service
- United States. Department of the Interior
- United States. Department of the Treasury
- Arts and Industries Building (Washington, D.C.)
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 165, Smithsonian Institution, Disbursement Clerk, Records