Agency history, 1885-1904

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  • True, Frederick William 1858-1914
  • Lucas, Frederic A (Frederic Augustus) 1852-1929
  • Baker, Frank Collins 1867-1942
  • United States National Museum Department of Biology


Agency History


  • This is an agency history. It does not describe actual records. The Smithsonian Institution Archives uses these histories as brief accounts of the origin, development, and functions of an office or administrative unit to set that unit in its historical context. To find information on record holdings, please double-click the highlighted field "Creator/Author", which will open on a brief view of relevant records.
  • Guide to the Smithsonian Archives
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution
  • Annual Report of the United States National Museum
  • The Department of Comparative Anatomy was created in the United States National Museum (USNM) in 1885. The Department (after 1897 a division in the Department of Biology) was responsible for the preparation and care of the osteological specimens of the Museum. From the early days of the museum collections, separate bone catalogs were kept, distinct from the other specimen catalogs. In addition, a series of vertebrate skulls and skeletons was exhibited in the main hall of the Smithsonian Institution Building, and much material was in storage.
  • When the collections were moved from the Smithsonian Institution Building to the USNM in 1883, a proposal was made that a Department of Comparative Anatomy be set up. Although Frederick William True and Frederic A. Lucas were listed as Curator and Assistant in such a Department as early as 1883, formal organization of the Department first came in 1885.
  • Lucas joined the Smithsonian Institution in 1882 as an osteological preparator and became Assistant Curator in 1887. True was the first full Curator and served from 1885 to 1890, when Frank Collins Baker became Honorary Curator. In 1893, Lucas became Curator and remained in that capacity until he left the Smithsonian in 1904. Following Lucas's departure, the Division remained without a curator until it was gradually incorporated into other zoological divisions.
  • For a history of the larger creating unit, refer to "Forms part of" above.

Repository Loc.

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520


  • 1885
  • 1885-1904


  • Anatomy, Comparative
  • Bones


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00070

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