Smithsonian Institution, Board of Regents, Minutes, 1847

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  • Present: George M. Dallas, William W. Seaton, George Evans, Lewis Cass, Sidney Breese, Robert Dale Owen, William J. Hough, Henry W. Hilliard, Alexander Dallas Bache, Rufus Choate. Also Present: Joseph Henry. The members not present were Roger B. Taney, Joseph G. Totten, Richard Rush, Gideon Hawley, and William C. Preston.
  • The board resolved that it was "inexpedient and hazardous to appropriate" more than one hundred thousand dollars for the erection of a building; that John Haviland be requested to state in writing whether he will "undertake to erect a building upon the model of the central structure he has already...furnished to this Board" for the sum of one hundred thousand dollars; that a committee of three be appointed and authorized to confer with Mr. Haviland, and upon receiving written confirmation from him, they be "authorized to engage his services as architect." The board proceeded to the consideration of the resolutions offered by Mr. Choate the previous day, and after debate, resolved that "It is expedient, and demanded by the will of the testator, that in our plan of organization the increase of knowledge by original research should form an essential feature" and that "premiums," when and and how much to be determined by the board, be offered for "original papers containing positive additions to the sum of human knowledge."
  • The board also resolved that these papers, along with suitable others, "be published in transactions of the institution, to be entitled 'Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge,'" to be published periodically; that it is "within the strict purpose of the trust" to make "specific appropriations to definite lines of research," the results of which were to be published as previously described; that "with a view to the diffusion of knowledge" there may be "issuing of publications, in brief and popular form, on subjects of general interest;" that "with a similar object" there may be included in the plan of the organization "the issuing of periodical reports containing records of the progress of knowledge in its different branches;" that there may also be included in the plan "free lectures to be delivered by competent persons, on useful subjects"; and that it may be "advantageously" made a part of the responsibilities of the Secretary and his assistants to "give in the lecture rooms of the institution...illustrations of new discoveries in science and important inventions in the arts."
  • The board also resolved that it is in accordance with the act of Congress establishing the Institution and the will of Mr. Smithson that "one of the principal modes of executing the act and the trust is the accumulation of collections of specimens and objects of natural history and of elegant art, and the gradual formation of a library of valuable works pertaining to all departments of human knowledge, to the end that a copious storehouse of materials of science, literature, and art may be provided, which shall excite and diffuse the love of learning among men;" that "for the purpose of carrying into effect the two principal modes of executing the act and trust" just mentioned, the accruing interest shall be appropriated in the following ways: fifteen thousand dollars for the formation of a library, the care and housing of the Institution's collections, including any salaries or other associated costs, and one half of the secretary's salary, with the remainder of the annually accruing interest to go to the "preparation and publication" of the Institution's transactions and publications, for all fees associated with lectures, and the other half of the secretary's salary
  • The board then resolved that the secretary of the Institution be instructed to present to the Committee on Organization a plan executing the resolutions relating to publications, annual reports, and research; that the Committee on Organization, working with the secretary, be authorized to publish a number of the "Smithsonian Contributions to Science" when the materials are available and collected, and be appropriated the sum of one thousand dollars for such to come from the 1847 budget; that the chancellor be requested to prepare a "biographical notice" of James Smithson for the first publications of "Smithsonian Contributions"; that the secretary be requested to continue his research and publish his findings in "Smithsonian Contributions"; that the secretary be authorized and requested to "communicate with men eminent in science and literature" in order to ask their advice on behalf of the institution.
  • The board also resolved that the Committee on Organization was to present to the board at the next meeting a plan "in pursuance of the foregoing, for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men"; that the salary of the assistant secretary be two thousand dollars annually; that the secretary be requested to nominate an assistant who will work as the librarian and whose salary shall start when the building is ready, and that for any service rendered before this time he will receive compensation to be determined by the Executive Committee. The secretary then nominated Charles C. Jewett of Brown University for Assistant Secretary, after which the board approved. The chancellor withdrew, Mr. Seaton took the chair and proceeded to present a letter from Richard Rush explaining his absence from the meeting and approving the architectural plans of James Renwick for the building.
  • The board proceeded to the consideration of the report of the Building Committee when Mr. Owen presented a proposition related to the cost estimates for the building. After debate, the subject was postponed until the next day. The board then adjourned to meet the following day at 9:30 AM.


  • Seaton, William Winston 1785-1866
  • Bache, A. D (Alexander Dallas) 1806-1867
  • Breese, Sidney 1800-1878
  • Dallas, George Mifflin 1792-1864
  • Hough, William Jervis 1795-1869
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Owen, Robert Dale 1801-1877
  • Evans, George 1797-1867
  • Renwick, James 1818-1895
  • Choate, Rufus, 1799-1859
  • Cass, Lewis
  • Hilliard, Henry W (Henry Washington) 1808-1892
  • Haviland, John 1792-1852
  • Totten, Joseph Gilbert 1788-1864
  • Hawley, Gideon 1785-1870
  • Rush, Richard 1780-1859
  • Taney, Roger Brooke 1777-1864
  • Preston, William C. 1794-1860
  • Board of Regents
  • Board of Regents Special Committee
  • Board of Regents Executive Committee Committee on Organization
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL)
  • Smithsonian Institution Building Early History
  • United States Congress
  • Board of Regents Committee on Buildings
  • Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge (Publication)
  • National Collections
  • Smithsonian Institution Building Lecture Hall


Smithsonian Legal Documents

Legal document information

  • 1847/01/26 Regents Minutes
  • Board of Regents - Minutes of Meetings, 1846-

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
  • January 26, 1847


  • Design
  • Smithson Bequest
  • Publishers and publishing
  • Architects
  • Architecture
  • Publications
  • Act to establish the "Smithsonian Institution," for the Increase and Diffusion of Knowledge Among Men
  • Regents
  • Architectural design


Board of Regents

Physical description

Number of pages: 3; Page numbers: 25-27

Full Record

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