The Papers of Joseph Henry: January 1858-December 1865, The Smithsonian Years

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The documents in Volume 10 of The Papers of Joseph Henry trace a period of great difficulty for the Smithsonian's first Secretary, Joseph Henry (1797-1878). During these years, the United States was torn apart by civil war, placing the Smithsonian in jeopardy. Henry's wife suffered from depression and his only son, William, died in 1862. The mental and physical decline of Alexander Dallas Bache, Henry's closest friend and colleague, also took its toll. In January 1865, a fire destroyed part of the Smithsonian Building, taking with it a major collection of paintings, laboratory equipment, scientific notes, and the effects of James Smithson. Other topics covered include control of the Dudley Observatory in Albany, New York, the founding of the National Academy of Sciences, and Henry's membership on the Permanent Commission of the Navy, which evaluated inventions offered to the government for the war. These letters also trace the continued conflict over whether the Smithsonian would serve primarily as a research institution or a museum.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • Bache, A. D (Alexander Dallas) 1806-1867
  • Gould, Benjamin Apthorp
  • Lincoln, Abraham 1809-1865
  • Henry, Harriet A. 1808-1882
  • Henry, William Alexander 1831-1862
  • Board of Regents
  • United States National Museum
  • United States Congress
  • United States Navy
  • National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)
  • Dudley Observatory


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Includes photographs, notes on style and appendices. Work is extensively footnoted.

Contained within

The Papers of Joseph Henry 10 (Book)

Contact information

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




  • Secretariats
  • Controversies
  • Secretaries
  • Letters
  • United States Congress, Relations with SI
  • SI, Early History
  • Museums
  • Scientists
  • National Collections
  • Major Events in Smithsonian History
  • Museum publications


Volume 10

Physical description

Number of pages: 670; Page numbers: i-lvii; 1-613

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