Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 7050
Goode, G. Brown (George Brown), 1851-1896
George Brown Goode Collection, circa 1814-1897 and undated, with related materials to 1925
George Brown Goode (1851-1896), ichthyologist and museum administrator, was born in New Albany, Indiana. His childhood was spent in Anenia, New York, where he developed a strong interest in natural history. He entered Wesleyan University at Middletown, Connecticut, in 1866, and was graduated in 1870. In 1870, Goode was admitted to Harvard University for a year of post-graduate study under Louis Agassiz. The following year he received an invitation from Wesleyan to undertake the arrangement and direction of the newly established Judd Museum of Natural History. He retained his official connection with Wesleyan until 1877.
In 1872, Goode met Spencer F. Baird, Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and United States Fish Commissioner. Baird invited him to work as a volunteer collector for the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries (USCFF). Goode accepted and became Baird's chief pupil and assistant. For the next several years, Goode spent his summers collecting fishes off the Atlantic coasts of Long Island, Florida, and Bermuda. In 1873, he was appointed Assistant Curator in the United States National Museum (USNM), a position he retained until 1877 when his title was changed to Curator. In 1881, when the new USNM building was completed, Goode was promoted to Assistant Director. On January 12, 1887, Goode was appointed Assistant Secretary in charge of the USNM and he remained the chief administrative officer of the Museum until his death in 1896.
Goode's primary scientific interest was ichthyology, and he published both scientific and popular works on fish and fisheries. After receiving an appointment at the USNM, Goode continued to work for the USCFF in various capacities. He acted as statistical expert for the Halifax Fishery Arbitration Commission, 1877-1878; chief of the Fisheries Division of the Tenth Census, 1879-1880; and United States Commissioner at the Fisheries Exhibitions in Berlin,1880, and in London, 1883. After the death of Spencer F. Baird in 1887, Goode assumed the position of Fish Commissioner until January, 1888.
Goode has been described as the father of the modern American museum. Through his administration of the USNM and writings on the subject, Goode served as a strong advocate of the role of museums in the education of the general public. Shortly after he was appointed Assistant Director in 1881, Goode issued Circular No. 1 of the National Museum, which set forth a comprehensive scheme of organization for the museum. He oversaw a period of tremendous growth at the USNM. Under his direction museum staff grew from thirteen to over 200 and specimens increased from two hundred thousand to over three million. Goode published several articles geared toward the museum professional including "Museum History and Museums of History," 1888; "Museums of the Future," 1890; and "Principles of Museum Administration," 1895.
A logical extension of Goode's talents was his service at many of the international expositions held during the latter part of the nineteenth century. In fact, Goode's work designing the Smithsonian exhibits at the Centennial Exposition of 1876 helped to plant the ideas that would blossom in his organization of the USNM in the early 1880s. Goode is generally credited with applying museum theories to expositions and helping to " . . . widen their scope from the merely commercial and industrial to the educational and scientific."
Goode was also a historian, bibliographer, and genealogist. He studied the history of American science and produced several papers on the subject. These included "The Beginnings of Natural History in America," 1886; "The Beginnings of American Science: The Third Century," 1888; and "The Origin of the National Scientific and Educational Institutions of the United States," 1890. He also planned, edited, and wrote several chapters of the posthumously published "The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896: The History of Its First Half Century, 1897." He compiled bibliographies of several prominent naturalists, and his "Virginia Cousins," 1887, was considered a model genealogy.
In addition to the standard biographical memoirs, an excellent discussion of Goode and his work is found in Edward P. Alexander's "Museum Masters," 1984.
- February 13, 1851
- Born in New Albany, Indiana
- Graduated, Wesleyan University
- Graduate work, Harvard University under Louis Agassiz
- Curator of the Orange Judd Museum of Natural History, Wesleyan University
- Met Spencer F. Baird in Eastport, Maine
- Made collections of Atlantic Coast fishes for U.S. Fish Commission
- Elected member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Assistant Curator, U.S. National Museum
- Installed Smithsonian exhibits at the Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia
- Published "Catalogue of the Fishes of the Bermudas"
- Employed by Department of State on statistical work for Halifax Commission
- Curator, U.S. National Museum
- Published "Catalogue of the Collection to illustrate the Animal Resources and the Fisheries of the United States"
- Directed U.S. Fish Commission survey of American fisheries for 10th census
- U.S. Commissioner, Berlin International Fisheries Exposition
- Issued Circular No. 1 of the U.S. National Museum
- Assistant Director, U.S. National Museum
- U.S. Commissioner, Great International Fisheries Exposition, London
- Smithsonian representative, Southern Exposition, Louisville
- Published bibliography of Spencer F. Baird
- Smithsonian representative, Cincinnati Industrial Exposition
- Smithsonian representative, World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, New Orleans
- President, Biological Society of Washington
- Published "The Beginnings of Natural History in America"
- United States Fish Commissioner
- Assistant Secretary, in charge of the U.S. National Museum
- Published "The Beginnings of American Science: The Third Century"
- Published "Museum History and Museums of History"
- Published "American Fishes. A Popular Treatise upon the Game and Food Fishes of North America"
- Member, National Academy of Sciences
- LL.D. degree, Wesleyan University
- Published "Museums of the Future"
- Published "The Origin of the National Scientific and Educational Institutions of the United States"
- Published bibliography of Charles Girard
- Published "Virginia Cousins," a genealogy of the Goode family
- Commissioner General, Columbian Historical Exposition, Madrid
- President, Philosophical Society of Washington
- Smithsonian representative, World's Columbian Exposition
- President, District of Columbia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
- Smithsonian representative, Cotton States and International Exposition, Atlanta
- Published "Principles of Museum Administration"
- Published "Oceanic Ichthyology" (with T.H. Bean)
- Published bibliography of Philip Lutley Sclater
- September 6, 1896
- Death at Washington, D.C.
The bulk of the George Brown Goode Collection (Record Unit 7050) predates the establishment of the present-day Smithsonian Institution Archives. A small addition of autograph letters was received from the Division of Political History, National Museum of American History in 1983 under accession number 83-081.
The George Brown Goode Collection provides partial documentation of his professional career and personal life. The collection is strongest in documenting his research on fishes and fisheries. His administrative career at the United States National Museum, his theories on museums, and his historical research are documented to a lesser extent.
Goode's correspondence is found in three separate series. He assembled a large collection of autograph letters and signatures of scientists, government officials, diplomats, artists, literary figures, and socialites. The autograph collection represents a good part of Goode's official and professional correspondence since most of the letters were removed from his files. He also acquired letters and signatures of many historical figures. Series 2 consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence relating to Goode's professional career. Included are letters documenting his activities in professional societies; his career at Wesleyan University; and his research on the history of science.
Incoming correspondence with several of the leading ichthyologists of the 19th century is a part of a large group of collected materials on fish and fisheries. Also included are voluminous notes, lists, manuscripts, statistics, news clippings, maps, and drawings relating to Goode's ichthyological research. Other records documenting Goode's work on fish and fisheries include publications, news clippings, memorabilia, and related materials collected during his service at the Great International Fisheries Exhibition in London in 1883; and manuscripts, drafts, and research data from his unpublished ichthyological bibliography.
The remainder of the collection consists of assembled materials relating to Goode's professional career and his personal life. Included are scrapbooks and notebooks maintained during his childhood, college days, and early career; biographical materials on Goode including obituaries, memorials, and news clippings; collected manuscripts, notes, photographs, and drawings relating to most aspects of his professional work; and an unpublished manuscript on the history of American science.
Goode's career at the USNM is thoroughly documented in several record units in the Smithsonian Archives. Researchers interested in his work as Assistant Director and Assistant Secretary in charge of the United States National Museum should consult Record Units 54, 112, and 189. Record Unit 54 also contains records concerning his work for the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries. Goode's role in international expositions can be examined in record unit 70.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Goode, G. Brown (George Brown), 1851-1896
- Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873
- Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887
- Wesleyan University (Middletown, Conn.)
- Judd Museum of Natural History
- United States National Museum. Assistant Director
- Smithsonian Institution. Assistant Secretary in charge of the United States National Museum
- United States Fish Commission
- London International Fisheries Exposition (1883)
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7050, George Brown Goode Collection