Smithsonian Institution, Board of Regents, Minutes, 1846

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

Narrow Your Results


Filter Your Results

Smithsonian Secretaries Information

Close Browse records and papers of the Smithsonian Secretaries, from 1846 until today. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by individuals who have held that office.

Expeditions Information

Close Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian, or with which Smithsonian researchers participated. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by geographic regions predominantly represented in expedition records.

Professional Societies Information

Close Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by major topics and disciplines.


  • Present: George M. Dallas, William W. Seaton, George Evans, Isaac S. Pennybacker, Sidney Breese, Robert Dale Owen, William J. Hough, Henry W. Hilliard, Richard Rush, Gideon Hawley, Alexander Dallas Bache, Joseph G. Totten, Rufus Choate. The members not present were Roger Brooke Taney and William C. Preston.
  • The chancellor presented the board with a letter from the Assistant Secretary, B. B. French, stating that he gathered various documents related to the Institution and had them bound along with the proceedings of the first Board of Regents meeting; he also had the documents relating to Smithson's bequest printed and bound. The letter also detailed the 27 books and 8 pamphlets that had come into French's possession for the Institution, his correspondence with all who had sent such literature, including O. Rich, Esq. of London, who offered his services in supplying books from Europe, as well as French's correspondence with those who had written letters inquiring about the Institution. The Chancellor also presented a letter from Alexander Jones requesting to be "appointed agent of the Institution in New York for receiving and forwarding books." Mr. Owen presented letters recommending various people for the position of secretary. From the Committee on Libraries, Mr. Choate made a report accompanied by resolutions.
  • On motion of Mr. Owen, the resolutions accompanying the report he made on behalf of the Committee on Organization were taken up for consideration, after which the board proceeded to consider resolution #13, regarding the qualifications for the position of secretary. The board resolved, "That it is essential, for the advancement of the proper interests of the trust, that the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution be a man possessing weight of character, and a high grade of talent; and that it is further desirable that he posses eminent scientific and general requirements; that he be a man capable of advancing science and promoting letters by original research and effort, well qualified to act as a respected channel of communication between the institution and scientific and literary individuals and societies in this and foreign countries; and, in a word, a man worthy to represent before the world of science and of letters the institution over which this Board presides."
  • The remainder of the resolutions accompanying the report were then postponed. The board proceeded to consider Mr. Breese's motion on the previous day regarding the election of a secretary. The regents then elected a secretary by ballot, and after Professor Joseph Henry received 7 of the 12 votes, the chancellor declared him the "duly elected Secretary of this institution." The Board then ordered that Mr. French continue his duties as Assistant Secretary until the Secretary assume office. On motion of Mr. Evans, the board proceeded to consider the motion made by Mr. Breese the previous day to reconsider the vote on the resolution regarding the selection of a building site; the regents decided in the negative to reconsider the vote. The board then ordered to adjourn until 10:00 AM the following morning.


  • Pennybacker, Isaac Samuels 1805-1847
  • Seaton, William Winston 1785-1866
  • Totten, Joseph Gilbert 1788-1864
  • Bache, A. D (Alexander Dallas) 1806-1867
  • Breese, Sidney 1800-1878
  • Dallas, George Mifflin 1792-1864
  • Hough, William Jervis 1795-1869
  • Hilliard, Henry W (Henry Washington) 1808-1892
  • Rush, Richard 1780-1859
  • Hawley, Gideon 1785-1870
  • French, Benjamin B (Benjamin Brown) 1800-1870
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Glossbrenner, Adam John 1810-1889
  • Jones, Alexander 1802-1863
  • Rich, O
  • Owen, Robert Dale 1801-1877
  • Evans, George 1797-1867
  • Choate, Rufus, 1799-1859
  • Taney, Roger Brooke 1777-1864
  • Preston, William C. 1794-1860
  • Board of Regents
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL)
  • Smithsonian Institution Building Early History
  • Board of Regents Executive Committee Committee on Organization
  • Board of Regents Committee on Libraries
  • Board of Regents Special Committee


Smithsonian Legal Documents

Legal document information

  • 1846/12/03 Regents Minutes
  • Board of Regents - Minutes of Meetings, 1846-


The Board of Regents chose Joseph Henry as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Contained within

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 1, Board of Regents Vol. 1 (Bound volume)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


  • 1879
  • December 3, 1846


  • Secretariats
  • Secretaries
  • Regents


Board of Regents

Physical description

Number of pages: 3; Page numbers: 10-12

Full Record

View Full Record