Record Unit 165, Smithsonian Institution, Disbursement Clerk, Records, 1882-1907
Records of the disbursement clerk consist entirely of 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 force as a clerk, November 1880, although he was also called bookkeeper, assistant, and cashier. In 1884 he became the 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 funds and museum federal funds. In 1905 Karr was discharged from his duties on charges of embezzlement.
Prior to 1873, all accounts for the National Museum were paid by the Smithsonian and audited by the Executive Committee. From 1873 until 1888, bills for the USNM were approved by the Secretary and disbursed by the disbursing agent at the Department of 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.