Spencer Baird Becomes Head of U.S. National Museum

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Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry issues a memo stating "the Assistant Secretary shall have special charge of the collections of the Institution, and of the National Museum, and shall direct the operations connected with them subject to the approval of the Secretary." One of the foremost naturalists in the United States, Baird would devote his career to the creation of a great national museum at the Smithsonian. Baird would succeed Henry as Secretary of the Smithsonian after Henry's death in 1878.


  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Smithsonian Institution General History
  • United States National Museum
  • National Collections


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Image of Baird, by William Bell, 1867. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number 2004-60739.
  • Baird's title was not changed from Assistant Secretary until he was also named Curator of the National Museum in the Smithsonian's annual report for 1875.
  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 11, January 1866-December 1878: The Smithsonian Years. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2007, pp. 378-79.

Contact information

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


January 1, 1872


  • Assistant Secretaries
  • Secretaries

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