A Popular Catalogue of the Extraordinary Curiosities in the National Institute, arranged in the building belonging to the Patent Office. Curiosities collected from all parts of the world, by the officers of the Army and Navy of the United States ..

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  • The author of this catalog's Preface begins by referring to man's natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge. In flowery language commonly used during the mid-19th century, he writes that while few humans ever get the opportunity to encounter specimens from the natural world in their original settings, visitors to the National Institute in the Patent Office Building can experience those wonders, as objects viewed there include materials gathered from explorations both near and far.
  • The writer particularly singles out the United States Exploring Expedition, under the command of Charles Wilkes, and others in government service, such as Howard Stansbury and John Fremont, as having made significant contributions to the collections of the National Institute. He states, however, that the catalog only attempts to point out exceptional examples of the artifacts in the collections, and comments that had the catalog been compiled by scientists, it may not have come into existence due to the time and expense that would be involved. The author points out the difficulty of his task and humbly asks for readers' tolerance with his own descriptions of certain exhibitions, but notes that the extensive catalogue of botanical specimens was prepared by a skillful botanist, who is later identified in the catalog as William R. Smith, Superintendent of The Botanical Gardens at the foot of the U. S. Capitol.
  • A one-page etching of the Patent Office Building precedes the body of the catalog, addressed to Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the United States Interior Department, which had jurisdiction over the Patent Office. The catalog begins with a brief note on architect Robert Mills' design for the building's entrance hall, and then guides the reader as though one were being escorted on a walking tour of the building, complete with locations, exhibit case numbers, and detailed descriptions of specimens ranging from varieties of beetles and mastodon teeth to patent models and the original Declaration of Independence.


  • Thompson, Jacob 1810-1885
  • Hunter, Alfred d. 1872
  • Mills, Robert 1781-1855
  • Wilkes, Charles 1798-1877
  • Stansbury, Howard 1806-1863
  • Smith, William R
  • Frémont, John Charles 1813-1890
  • Patent Office Early History
  • United States National Museum
  • Patent Office Building (POB)
  • United States Dept. of the Interior
  • United States Exploring Expedition (USEE)
  • National Institute


Smithsonian History Bibliography


Contains a 5-page Preface by the publisher (Pages [iii]-vii). "A Catalog of Plants in the National Conservatories" is on unnumbered pages 41-48

Contained within


Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu




  • Natural history museums
  • Patents
  • Exhibition catalogs
  • Architecture
  • Architects
  • Models (representations)
  • Natural History
  • Botanical gardens
  • SI, Early History
  • Guide books
  • Exhibition buildings
  • Interior architecture
  • Exhibitions
  • Patent Models
  • Natural history


Washington (D.C.)

Physical description

Number of pages: 41; Page numbers: [8]-38 [and unnumbered pages 39-48]

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