Joseph Henry Dismisses Smithsonian Librarian Charles Coffin Jewett




Date: July 10, 1854


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Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry discharges Charles Coffin Jewett, the assistant secretary responsible for the Smithsonian's library. Jewett's dismissal marks the culmination of a protracted and public battle over the Smithsonian's budget priorities. Jewett had advocated for the Smithsonian serving as a national library and saw this as the Institution's primary mission. He had also attacked Henry in the press as a self-serving leader. Henry saw the equal division of funds between the Smithsonian's library and collections and its research and publications, as mandated by an 1847 agreement with Congress, as untenable and not in keeping with either Smithson's intent or Henry's own vision for the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian's Board of Regents sided with Henry by agreeing to rescind the 1847 decision on the distribution of the Institution's funds and supporting his decision to dismiss Jewett.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Jewett, Charles C (Charles Coffin) 1816-1868
  • Smithsonian Institution General History
  • Board of Regents


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Portrait of Charles Coffin Jewett is available on the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' Flickr site.
  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 9. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2002, pp. xiii-xxii, 104, 481-83, 502-03 (index)
  • Moyer, Albert. Joseph Henry: The Rise of an American Scientist. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997, pp. 271-72.

Contact information

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


July 10, 1854


  • Smithson Bequest
  • Assistant Secretaries
  • Controversies
  • Budget

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