Joseph Henry and Spencer Fullerton Baird Aid Pacific Railroad Surveys




Date: April 1853


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Smithsonian Secretary Henry and Assistant Secretary Spencer Fullerton Baird provide detailed scientific instructions and equipment for the Pacific Railroad surveys, conducted from 1853 to 1855. These surveys consist of six major expeditions extending from the Great Plains to the west coast with the purpose of determining a transcontinental railroad route. The specimens collected during these surveys became a significant part of the Smithsonian's collections and contained many new species.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • Pacific Railroad Surveys
  • National Collections
  • Pacific Railroad Expeditions


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Portrait of Caleb Burwell Rowan Kennerly shows him in expedition gear. He participated in the Pacific Railroad Survey in 1853-1854. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number 78-10093.
  • For more information, see
  • Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian for the year 1854, pp. 80-83; 1855, p. 43; 1856, p. 51.

Contact information

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


April 1853


  • Surveys
  • Railroads
  • Scientific expeditions
  • Scientific apparatus and instruments
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Specimens
  • Expeditions
  • Great Plains


Great Plains

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