Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 7181
True, Frederick William, 1858-1914
Frederick William True Papers, circa 1886-1910
Frederick William True was born in Middletown, Connecticut, on July 8, 1858. His brother was Alfred Charles True, a leader in American agricultural education. True attended the University of the City of New York and received his B.S. degree in 1878. Later that year, he received a position as a clerk with the United States Fish Commission. While with the Fish Commission, he served as custodian of the agency's exhibits at the Berlin Fisheries Exposition of 1880.
In 1881, he joined the Smithsonian Institution and began an association that lasted until his death in 1914. During that period, he held a number of positions in the Smithsonian and in the United States National Museum (USNM). From 1881 to 1883, he was librarian of the Smithsonian and acting curator of Mammals. He became curator of Mammals in 1883 and remained in charge of the division until 1909. In addition to those duties, he was curator of the Division of Comparative Anatomy from 1885 to 1890, executive curator from 1894 to 1897, and head of the Department of Biology from 1897 to 1911. From 1911 to 1914, True was assistant secretary of the Smithsonian in charge of the library and International Exchange Service. During this period, the Smithsonian Institution was actively engaged in displaying exhibits at the many expositions that were being held. True was responsible for the preparation of the Smithsonian exhibits for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition at Nashville, 1897; the Omaha Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898; the Pan American Exposition at Buffalo, New York, 1901; the South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition at Charleston, 1902; the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 at St. Louis; and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition at Portland, Oregon.
True originally began his zoological studies with the lower groups of animals, but bad eyesight forced him to revise his plans and he turned to the study of mammals. His particular speciality was cetaceans and allied groups. Later, he took up the study of fossil cetaceans, and in addition to publishing many important works in the field, helped build up the USNM's collection in this area. True died on June 25, 1914.
This record unit contains correspondence of Frederick William True with zoologists, naturalists, museum officials, Smithsonian administrators, and friends concerning specimens, publication of manuscripts, exhibitions, his trip to the Pribilof Islands in 1895, and USNM affairs. Also included are files concerning the preparation of exhibits, material related to True's studies of fossil whales, and his trip to the Pribilof Islands in 1895, as well as a series on True's research on deer and moose antlers, a list of the genera of mammals, and a list True wrote of scientific periodicals held at the Smithsonian Institution.
Correspondents include Cyrus Adler, Glover Morrill Allen, Harrison Allen, Joel Asaph Allen, Outram Bangs, Tarleton Hoffman Bean, Arthur Erwin Brown, A. Howard Clark, William V. Cox, John J. Dalgleish, William H. Dall, George M. Dawson, Charles Rochester Eastman, James W. Flint, Randolph Iltyd Geare, Herbert A. Gill, George Brown Goode, Samuel Henshaw, Charles F. Holder, William Henry Holmes, Leland Ossian Howard, David Starr Jordan, Frederic Augustus Lucas, John Macoun, Otis Tufton Mason, William D. Matthew, Clinton Hart Merriam, George P. Merrill, Gerrit Smith Miller, Jr., Henry Fairfield Osborn, William Palmer, George Henry Perkins, John Robert Procter, Richard Rathbun, Samuel Nicholson Rhoads, Charles Wallace Richmond, Philip Lutley Sclater, William B. Scott, Joseph Stanley-Brown, Leonhard Stejneger, Witmer Stone, James G. Swan, Charles Haskins Townsend, Charles D. Walcott, Arthur Smith Woodward.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- True, Frederick William, 1858-1914
- Adler, Cyrus, 1863-1940
- Allen, Glover M.
- Allen, Harrison, 1841-1897
- Allen, J. A. (Joel Asaph), 1838-1921
- Bangs, Outram, 1862-1932
- Bean, Tarleton H. (Tarleton Hoffman), 1846-1916
- Brown, Arthur Erwin
- Clark, A. Howard
- Cox, William Van Zandt, 1852-1923
- Dalgleish, John J.
- Dall, William Healey, 1845-1927
- Dawson, George Mercer
- Eastman, Charles R.
- Flint, James W.
- Geare, Randolph Iltyd, 1854-
- Gill, Herbert A.
- Goode, G. Brown (George Brown), 1851-1896
- Henshaw, Samuel, 1852-1941
- Holder, Charles Frederick, 1851-1915
- Holmes, William Henry, 1846-1933
- Howard, L. O. (Leland Ossian), 1857-1950
- Jordan, David Starr, 1851-1931
- Lucas, Frederic A. (Frederic Augustus), 1852-1929
- Macoun, John, 1831-1920
- Mason, Otis Tufton, 1838-1908
- Matthew, William D.
- Merriam, C. Hart (Clinton Hart), 1855-1942
- Merrill, George P. (George Perkins), 1854-1929
- Miller, Gerrit S. (Gerrit Smith), 1869-1956
- Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 1857-1935
- Palmer, William, 1856-1921
- Perkins, George H. (George Henry), 1844-1933
- Procter, John Robert, 1844-1903
- Rathbun, Richard, 1852-1918
- Rhoads, Samuel N. (Samuel Nicholson), 1862-1952
- Richmond, Charles Wallace, 1868-1932
- Sclater, Philip Lutley, 1829-1913
- Scott, William B.
- Stanley-Brown, Joseph
- Stejneger, Leonhard, 1851-1943
- Stone, Witmer, 1866-1939
- Swan, James Gilchrist
- Townsend, Charles Haskins
- Walcott, Charles D. (Charles Doolittle), 1850-1927
- Woodward, Arthur Smith, 1864-1944
- United States National Museum. Executive Curator
- Smithsonian Institution. Committee on Publications
- United States Fish Commission
- United States National Museum. Division of Mammals
- United States National Museum. Division of Comparative Anatomy
- United States National Museum. Department of Botany
- Smithsonian Institution. International Exchange Service
- Berlin International Fisheries Exposition (1880: Berlin, Germany)
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7181, Frederick William True Papers