Patent Office Partners with Smithsonian on Meteorological Program




Date: July 3, 1855


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Commissioner of Patents Charles Mason agrees to Joseph Henry's request that the U.S. Patent Office contribute funding toward the collection, reduction, and publication of data from the Smithsonian's network of volunteer meteorological observers. Prior to the establishment of the Department of Agriculture, the Patent Office was responsible for compiling agricultural statistics. Its partnership with the Smithsonian would result in more farmers becoming meteorological correspondents. Over 500,000 separate weather observations would be received by the Smithsonian in 1856. In exchange for the Patent Office's annual provision of $700, the Smithsonian would provide summaries of its observations for the Patent Office's annual report. The Patent Office would also publish a massive two-volume compilation of observations made from 1854 to 1859 and distribute it for free to observers.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Mason, Charles 1804-1882
  • Meteorological Project
  • United States Patent Office


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Engraving of exterior and interior of Patent Office Building, 1891, by E. J. Meeker, negative # SIA2007-0134.
  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 9, January 1854-December 1857: The Smithsonian Years. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2002, pp. xxix, xxxi, 256-59, 374-76.
  • Fleming, James Rodgers. Meteorology in America, 1800-1870. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990, 125-28.

Contact information

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


July 3, 1855


  • Volunteers
  • Meteorology

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