Agency history, 1880-

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact


  • Bean, Tarleton H (Tarleton Hoffman) 1846-1916
  • Bean, Barton A (Barton Appler) 1860-1947
  • Evermann, Barton Warren 1853-1932
  • Myers, George S (George Sprague) 1905-1985
  • Schultz, Leonard P (Leonard Peter) 1901-1986
  • Miller, Robert Rush 1916-2003
  • Lachner, Ernest A
  • Taylor, William Ralph 1919-2004
  • Springer, Victor Gruschka 1928-
  • Weitzman, Stanley H
  • Vari, Richard P
  • Johnson, G. David
  • Parenti, Lynne R
  • Woods, Loren P
  • Girard, Charles Frederic
  • Gill, Theodore 1837-1914
  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • Gibbs, Robert H. Jr
  • Baldwin, Carole C
  • United States National Museum
  • United States National Museum Department of Ichthyology
  • United States Fish Commission
  • United States National Museum Department of Fishes
  • United States National Museum Division of Fishes
  • United States National Museum Department of Biology
  • United States National Museum Department of Zoology
  • Museum of Natural History (U.S.) Department of Vertebrate Zoology


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
  • Smithsonian Year
  • Backbone: Newsletter of the Department of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
  • National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, "Vertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian."[], August 24, 1999
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7098, Biographical Information Files
  • Division of Fishes website,
  • The origins of the Division of Fishes, and ichthyological work at the Smithsonian, can be traced to the arrival of Spencer F. Baird as Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian in 1850. He brought with him extensive natural history collections including many specimens of fishes. Baird brought Charles Frederic Girard to the Smithsonian the same year and Girard remained until 1860, publishing a number of papers describing the Institution's fish collections. Theodore Gill joined the Smithsonian in 1859 to help prepare the reports of the Northwest Boundary Survey and spent much of his time working on the museum collections, although he was never an official staff member.
  • Ichthyological work at the Smithsonian was closely associated with that of the United States Fish Commission (USFC) which was established in 1871. In addition to his duties as Assistant Secretary, Baird was also Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries from the Commission's founding until his death in 1887. He often assigned Smithsonian staff members to Fish Commission duties, and specimens deposited by the USFC and its successor agencies have contributed importantly to the collection.
  • The Department of Ichthyology was established in the United States National Museum (USNM) in 1880. Its name was changed to the Department of Fishes in 1881. In 1897, as a result of a reorganization of the USNM, it became the Division of Fishes of the newly created Department of Biology. In 1947, the Division came under the administrative control of the Department of Zoology, and in 1964 became a division of the newly established Department of Vertebrate Zoology.
  • The fish collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History today contains more than 388,000 catalogued lots (a lot being all the specimens of a particular species collected at a particular place at a particular time). Approximately 19,000 lots are type specimens, that is, those specimens that form the basis for species descriptions. With an estimated number of about 4 million specimens, the Smithsonian collection is the largest of its kind in the world, both in terms of quantity and diversity of coverage.
  • Tarleton H. Bean joined the Smithsonian as Assistant Ichthyologist in 1877 and became Curator in 1880. In 1888, he assumed full-time duties with the USFC, while retaining the title Honorary Curator until 1905.
  • Other curators of the Division of Fishes have included Barton A. Bean, Assistant, Aid, and Curator, 1882-1932; Barton Warren Evermann, Curator, 1906-1913; George S. Myers, Assistant Curator, 1933-1936; Leonard P. Schultz, Assistant Curator, Curator, Senior Zoologist, and Zoologist Emeritus, 1936-1986; Robert Rush Miller, Associate Curator, 1944-1948; Loren P. Woods, Associate Curator, 1948-1949; Ernest A. Lachner, Associate Curator and Curator, 1949-1981; William Ralph Taylor, Associate Curator, and Curator Emeritus, 1956-1990; Robert H. Gibbs, Jr., Associate Curator and Curator, 1963-1988; Victor Gruschka Springer, Associate Curator, Curator, and Senior Scientist Emeritus, 1963- ; Stanley H. Weitzman, Associate Curator and Curator, 1963- ; Richard P. Vari, Assistant Curator, Associate Curator, and Curator, 1980- ; G. David Johnson, Associate Curator and Curator, 1983- ; Lynne R. Parenti, Associate Curator and Curator, 1990- ; and Carole C. Baldwin, Research Zoologist, 1992- .
  • 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


  • 1880
  • 1880-


  • Vertebrates
  • Fishes
  • Ichthyology
  • Vertebrate zoology


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00032

Full Record

View Full Record