Smithsonian Institution, Board of Regents, Minutes, 1850

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  • Present: William W. Seaton, James A. Pearce, James M. Mason, Jefferson Davis, William F. Colcock, Graham N. Fitch, Henry W. Hilliard, Alexander D. Bache. Also Present: Joseph Henry. The members not present were Millard Fillmore, Roger B. Taney, Joseph G. Totten, Rufus Choate, Gideon Hawley, Richard Rush, and William C. Preston.
  • The chancellor was absent and Mr. Seaton took the chair. The proceedings of the last meeting were read. The committee on Mr. Harmon's plans for architectural drawings made a report, which was read and adopted. A motion was made to indefinitely postpone consideration of the fourth section of the summary of Mr. Harmon's plan, which was carried. The board resolved that although they didn't deem it expedient to adopt Mr. Harmon's plan of executing architectural drawings, "for the purpose of placing in the institution, a specimen of a peculiar art of drawing architectural designs, the Executive Committee be authorized to engage Mr. Harmon to execute the elevation of the Smithsonian Institution in his peculiar style, with a view of placing it in the Institution, if the Regents shall, upon examination, approve of doing so."
  • The Secretary presented the board with the facts of an accident that occurred since the last meeting in the unfinished part of the institution's building; he stated that at around 6:00 PM on Tuesday, the 26th of February, 1850, "a portion of the interior framing and floors of part of the main building, intended to contain the museum of apparatus, fell down into the basement." The Secretary stated that he had sent a letter to the architect, James Renwick, Jr. in New York "requiring his immediate attendance," and that he had given directions that the part of the building where the accident occurred should be closed and that everything should remain in the same condition until Mr. Renwick arrived. The Secretary went on to explain Mr. Renwick had arrived the morning of Thursday, February 28th, and an emergency meeting of the Building Committee was called, at which the "state of the work was examined," and a request was made that the architect, superintendent, and contractor each report on the cause of the accident.
  • The reports were presented to the board, which then resolved that the Building Committee consider them; that they be discussed with Alexander D. Bache, Joseph G. Totten, the Secretary, and "some competent and entirely impartial architect or architects"; that these people "make a survey of the whole building, report the manner, faithfulness, and security in which the building contract has hitherto been executed," and report on the plan "most proper in their estimation to repair the damages and finish the portion of the building in which the accident happened," as well as other unfinished portions. The board then adjourned to meet again "at the call of the Secretary."


  • Colcock, William Ferguson
  • Fitch, Graham Newell
  • Mason, James Murray
  • Seaton, William Winston 1785-1866
  • Bache, A. D (Alexander Dallas) 1806-1867
  • Davis, Jefferson 1808-1889
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Hilliard, Henry W (Henry Washington) 1808-1892
  • Pearce, James Alfred
  • Totten, Joseph Gilbert 1788-1864
  • Renwick, James 1818-1895
  • Harmon, Mr
  • Hawley, Gideon 1785-1870
  • Fillmore, Millard 1800-1874
  • Rush, Richard 1780-1859
  • Taney, Roger Brooke 1777-1864
  • Preston, William C. 1794-1860
  • Choate, Rufus, 1799-1859
  • Board of Regents Committee on Buildings
  • Smithsonian Institution Building Early History
  • Board of Regents Executive Committee
  • Board of Regents
  • Regents Smithsonian Institution


Smithsonian Legal Documents

Legal document information

  • 1850/03/02 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
  • March 2, 1850


  • Architecture
  • Construction (Buildings)
  • Accidents


Board of Regents

Physical description

Number of pages: 3; Page numbers: 60-62

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