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 proceeded to consideration of the resolutions submitted by the Building Committee and, after debate, resolved that architect James Renwick's plans for the building "substantially amended and reduced agreeably to the suggestions of the committee, is approved by this Board"; that a building committee be appointed and authorized to "enter into contracts for the completion of the building" and to employ one or more persons "to superintend the erection of the building" who will have the power to "reject any of the material proposed" or "inferior or insufficient work" and to "direct its change"; that the building committee "give the contracts to the lowest bidder in good reputation," that no advance be made to them, and that fifteen percent of the price be "retained until the faithful performance of the work."
  • The board also resolved that the Building Committee, after conferring with the secretary, shall "carefully revise the specifications of the plan furnished to this Board by the architect" before entering a contract, and after this revision, if they believe modifications should be made, they may incorporate modifications only if they refer "to the safety, durability, and adaptation of the building," and do not exceed Renwick's original estimate of $202,000 plus 10 percent; that the Building Committee also be authorized to "contract for the warming and lighting" of the building for under $5,000 , for the "fitting up and furnishing of the building" for under $20,000 , for a "permanent fence around the ground belonging to the institution" for under $10,000 , that the Secretary be authorized to "contract for the necessary chemical and philosophical apparatus" for under the previously appropriated $1,000.
  • The board then resolved that the Building Committee be authorized "to contract for the grading, laying out, and planting of the grounds of the institution" for under $3,000 in addition to the one thousand dollars previously appropriated; that the erection of the Institution's building "be gradual and not too rapidly hastened forward"; that the Building committee be "instructed to arrange for the contracts for the buildings of the institution" so that the wings be completed within two years and the whole building within five; that the Executive Committee "certify" to the chancellor and secretary the "total amount of debts incurred, contracts entered into" and authorized by the board, and that after examination and approval, they "certify the same to the proper officer of the Treasury for payment."
  • The board also resolved that the Executive Committee be authorized to "receive said payment in Treasury notes payable to the order" of the chancellor in one year, bearing six percent interest; that the committee also be authorized to "exchange one hundred and fifty thousand dollars of said notes as soon as practicable" also for six percent stock of the U.S., "payable in twenty years" and made payable to the chancellor; that "said notes" be deposited only with the Treasurer of the U.S. or another person deemed appropriate by the committee, and may be taken out by the chancellor, secretary, or chairman of the Executive Committee; that it was the opinion of the board that any "surplus of accrued interest which may remain after the completion of the building" be divided in half equally between the library and museum and the research, publication, and lectures, and that any other funds accruing to the Institution be divided in the same way.
  • The board then resolved that the Building Committee be instructed to "extend the gallery of art through the western range," to arrange two lecture rooms, and to make temporary arrangements to receive in the west wing of the building until the library was completed; that the Building Committee, working with the secretary, be authorized for two thousand dollars to publish one thousand copies of all the architectural plans submitted to the board as well as an explanation of each and including an engraving of Renwick's plan; that each architect get twelve copies of this publication; that the Building Committee "invite proposals for the construction of the exterior walls of the building" in a material that combines the "requisites of cheapness, beauty, and durability." The chancellor presented a letter from Jeremiah Sullivan, offering his services as superintendent of masonry and a letter from William Struthers informing the board that D.O Hitman had sent him specimens of marble that he was anxious to use in the building's construction.
  • The board proceeded to consideration of resolutions submitted by the Building Committee on January 20th and resolved that architects Wells and Arnot, John Notman, John Haviland, and Owen G. Warren be awarded premiums of $250 each for the "scientific merit and skill displayed by their respective plans;" that the secretary of the board be instructed to write to each of the architects who were awarded premiums informing them of such, and to each of the architects whose plans were not chosen, informing them of such. The board then adjourned until the following Saturday at 10:00 AM.


  • Cass, Lewis
  • 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
  • Hilliard, Henry W (Henry Washington) 1808-1892
  • Owen, Robert Dale 1801-1877
  • Choate, Rufus, 1799-1859
  • Evans, George 1797-1867
  • Haviland, John 1792-1852
  • Notman, John 1810-1865
  • Arnot, D. H (David Henry)
  • Warren, Owen G
  • Hitman, D. O
  • Struthers, William
  • Sullivan, Jeremiah
  • Wells, Joseph Collins d. 1860
  • Renwick, James 1818-1895
  • Totten, Joseph Gilbert 1788-1864
  • Hawley, Gideon 1785-1870
  • Rush, Richard 1780-1859
  • Taney, Roger Brooke 1777-1864
  • Board of Regents
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL)
  • Board of Regents Committee on Buildings
  • Smithsonian Institution Building Early History
  • Board of Regents Executive Committee
  • Board of Regents Special Committee
  • Wells and Arnot
  • Smithsonian Institution Building Lecture Hall


Smithsonian Legal Documents

Legal document information

  • 1847/01/28 Regents Minutes
  • Board of Regents - Minutes of Meetings, 1846-


The Board of Regents chose the design of architect James Renwick, Jr., for the first building 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
  • January 28, 1847


  • Design
  • Architects
  • Architecture
  • Scientific apparatus and instruments
  • Investments
  • Stocks
  • Financial policies
  • Board of Regents
  • Regents
  • Architectural design
  • Board of Regents--Financial policies


Board of Regents

Physical description

Number of pages: 3; Page numbers: 29-31

Full Record

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