Joseph Henry Letter to Mary Henry (May 30, 1863)

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Letter from Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, to Mary Henry, his eldest daughter, May 30, 1863. In the letter, Henry describes signalling tests that were carried out from a tower of the Smithsonian Institution Building, or "Castle." Different colored lights were tested for communication with Fort Washington during the Civil War. Henry served as a scientific advisor to President Abraham Lincoln during the war.


  • Henry, Mary Anna 1834-1903
  • Lincoln, Abraham 1809-1865
  • Smithsonian Institution Building Towers
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


2 pages scanned from the edited transcript of the original version and notes in the Joseph Henry Papers Volume 10, pages 314-315 (Document 177).

Contained within

Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds., The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 10, The Smithsonian Years: January 1858-December 1865 (Smithsonian Institution in association with Science History Publications/USA, 2004), 314-315

Contact information

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


  • May 30, 1863
  • Civil War, 1861-1865

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


  • Signals and signaling
  • Secretaries
  • Letters
  • History


United States


  • Document
  • Paper

ID Number

SIA2012-0017 and SIA2012-0018

Physical description

Number of Images: 2 ; Color: Black and White ; Size: 7w x 10h ; Type of Image: Document ; Medium: Paper

Full Record

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