Joseph Henry Visits Washington, D.C., for the First Time

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Joseph Henry visits Washington, D.C., where he observes John Quincy Adams participate in a debate on the floor of the House of Representatives, and meets Senator John C. Calhoun and President-elect Martin Van Buren. Van Buren provides Henry with letters of introduction to U.S. diplomatic ministers in London and Paris, where Henry planned to travel the following spring. Calhoun would later oppose the United States' acceptance of James Smithson's bequest, which resulted in the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution. Joseph Henry would become the Smithsonian's first Secretary in 1846.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Adams, John Quincy 1767-1848
  • Calhoun, John C (John Caldwell) 1782-1850
  • Van Buren, Martin 1782-1862


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Reingold, Nathan, ed. The Papers of Joseph Henry, The Princeton Years, January 1836 - December 1837, vol. 3. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979, p. 42.
  • Moyer, Albert. Joseph Henry: The Rise of an American Scientist. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997, p. 201

Contact information

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


December 27-28, 1836


  • Politicians
  • District of Columbia
  • Politicians--United States


  • District of Columbia
  • United States
  • Washington (D.C.)

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