Agency history, 1885-1995

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  • Withuhn, William L
  • Hilton, George Woodman
  • Perry, Kenneth M
  • Oliver, Smith Hempstone
  • Chapelle, Howard Irving
  • White, John H. 1933-
  • Jackson, Melvin H
  • Berkebile, Donald H
  • Post, Robert C
  • Taylor, Frank A (Frank Augustus) 1903-2007
  • Johnston, Paul Forsythe 1950-
  • United States National Museum Section of Steam Transportation
  • United States National Museum Section of Transportation and Civil Engineering


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
  • The Division of Transportation traces its origins back to the Section of Steam Transportation, Department of Arts and Industries, United States National Museum (USNM), in 1885. Steam Transportation was subsequently known as Transportation and Engineering and as Technological Collections. During an 1897 reorganization the Section became the Division of Technology, Department of Anthropology, but was renamed the Division of Mechanical Technology in 1912. After several additional organizational changes, in 1938 the Section of Transportation and Civil Engineering was established in the Division of Engineering. Frank A. Taylor served as Curator of the Division of Engineering, 1932-1948, and had direct responsibility for the Museum's transportation collections.
  • In 1947 the Section was divided into two units: the Section of Marine Transportation and the Section of Land Transportation. Taylor served as Department Head and had specific curatorial responsibility for the Section of Marine Transportation until 1954, when Kenneth M. Perry was named an Associate Curator of the Department and was assigned the Marine Section until 1965. Smith Hempstone Oliver directed the Section of Land Transportation as Associate Curator, 1946-1956.
  • In 1957 a new Division of Transportation was created as one of several divisions in the Department of Science and Technology of the Museum of History and Technology, successor to the United States National Museum. In 1969 Transportation was assigned to the Department of Industries in the National Museum of History and Technology. A 1978 reorganization led to the Department's being placed under a new Department of History of Technology. In 1980, on the creation of the National Museum of American History, Transportation became a division under the Department of the History of Science and Technology and subsequently became an element of the Department of History in a reorganization during 1995.
  • The Division of Transportation documents the evolution of rail, marine, and road transportation in the United States from the eighteenth century to the present. Its collections include locomotives, streetcars, motor vehicles, bicycles, carriages, motorcycles, and various vessels and vehicles which capture three centuries of transportation history. Curators of the Division have included Smith Hempstone Oliver, Associate Curator, 1946-1956; Howard Irving Chapelle, Curator, 1957-1967; John H. White, Assistant Curator, 1958-1961, Associate Curator, 1961-1966, Curator, 1966-1985, Senior Historian, 1986-1995; Melvin H. Jackson, Associate Curator, 1966-1968, Curator, 1969-1977, Honorary Curator, 1978-1979; George Woodman Hilton, Associate Curator, 1966-1968, Curator, 1968-1995; Donald H. Berkebile, Assistant Curator, 1973-1975, Associate Curator, 1975-1980; Robert C. Post, Curator, 1980-1981; William L. Withuhn, Curator, 1983-1995; and Paul Forsythe Johnston, Curator, 1989-1995.
  • 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


  • 1927
  • 1927-1995
  • 1885-1995


  • Transportation
  • History
  • Transportation--History


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00112

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