Agency history, 1885-1957

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  • Mitman, Carl Weaver 1889-
  • Taylor, Frank A (Frank Augustus) 1903-2007
  • Frank, Paul M
  • Pogue, Joseph E (Joseph Ezekiel) 1887-1971
  • Gilbert, Chester Garfield
  • Walcott, Charles D (Charles Doolittle) 1850-1927
  • Maynard, George
  • Winlock, William Crawford
  • Battison, Edwin A
  • Garber, Paul Edward 1899-1992
  • Multhauf, Robert P
  • Oliver, Smith Hempstone
  • Perry, Kenneth M
  • King, W. James (William James) 1915-
  • Watkins, J. Elfreth (John Elfreth) 1852-1903
  • Woodbury, Robert S
  • United States National Museum Division of Mineral Technology
  • United States National Museum Division of Mechanical Technology
  • United States National Museum Section of Transportation and Civil Engineering
  • United States National Museum Department of Arts and Industries


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
  • Although the Division of Engineering was not established until 1931, its origins date back to 1885, when the Section of Steam Transportation was created in the Department of Arts and Industries, United States National Museum (USNM). The divisions and sections dealing with physical apparatus, physical science, technology, electricity, engineering, transportation and their modern counterparts all share a common derivation from this Section, and curators often served in several positions at the same time.
  • In 1885 J. Elfreth Watkins was appointed Curator of the Section of Steam Transportation, which was successively known as Transportation and Engineering, and Technological Collections. During his absence from 1892 to 1895, William Crawford Winlock served in that capacity.
  • When the USNM was reorganized in 1897, the Section became the Division of Technology of the Department of Anthropology, renamed the Division of Mechanical Technology in 1912. Watkins served as Curator until 1903, with George C. Maynard as Assistant Curator, 1901-1912, and Curator, 1912-1918.
  • The Museum also established an independent Department of Mineral Technology in 1904, responsible for mining apparatus, with Charles D. Walcott as Honorary Curator, 1904-1912. The Department became a Division in 1913, under Chester Garfield Gilbert, Curator until 1919. The Division also included Carl Weaver Mitman, Aide, 1914-1915, Assistant Curator, 1915-1919; and Joseph E. Pogue, Assistant Curator, 1917-1918, Curator, 1918-1919.
  • In 1919 both Divisions were placed in the newly revived Department of Arts and Industries, with Mitman as Curator of Mechanical Technology and Gilbert continuing as Honorary Curator of Mineral Technology, a position he held until 1935. In 1921 Mitman took the title of Curator of the Divisions of Mineral and Mechanical Technology, serving in this capacity until 1931. Other staff included Paul M. Frank, Assistant Curator of Mineral Technology, 1921-1923; Paul Edward Garber, Assistant Curator of Mineral and Mechanical Technology, 1924-1931; and Frank A. Taylor, Assistant Curator, 1928-1931.
  • In 1931 the Division of Engineering was established, with the Divisions of Mineral and Mechanical Technology becoming two of its three sections; the third was the Section of Aeronautics. The Division continued through 1957, although the Section of Aeronautics left in 1942, gaining divisional status. After 1938 the Division of Engineering reported to the Department of Engineering and Industries, successor to Arts and Industries.
  • The Division held collections relating to engineering, transportation, physical sciences, tools, horology, and until 1942, aeronautics. Staff of the Division included: Mitman, Curator of the Division and in charge of Mineral Technology, 1931-1938, Head Curator of the Department of Arts and Industries, 1932-1938, Head Curator of the Department of Engineering and Industries, 1938-1948; Taylor, Assistant Curator of Mechanical Technology, 1932, Curator of the Division and in charge of Mechanical Technology, 1932-1948, Head Curator of the Department of Engineering and Industries, 1948-1957; Garber, Assistant Curator of Aeronautics, 1931-1942; Smith Hempstone Oliver, Associate Curator of Land Transportation, 1946-1956, and of Horology, 1955-1956; Kenneth M. Perry, Associate Curator of Electricity, 1948-1956, and of Marine Transportation, from 1955; Robert P. Multhauf, Associate Curator of Engineering, 1954-1955, and Curator of the Division, 1955-1956; W. James King, Jr., Associate Curator of Electricity, from 1956; Robert S. Woodbury, Curator of the Division, from 1956; and Edwin A. Battison, Associate Curator of Light Machinery, from 1956.
  • 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


  • 1886
  • 1886-1956
  • 1885-1957


  • Engineering
  • History
  • Engineering--History


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00083

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