Joseph Henry's Letter to Gideon Hawley (July 1, 1847)

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Letter from Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, to Gideon Hawley, a citizen Regent of the Smithsonian Insitution from New York, July 1, 1847. In the letter, Henry discusses the early activities of the Smithsonian. He discusses the debate surrounding the size of the building, the type of work the Institution would undertake, and the commitment to the collection of objects as opposed to the diffusion of knowledge, which Henry felt should be the focus of the Institution.


  • Hawley, Gideon 1785-1870
  • Regents Smithsonian Institution
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


The accompanying PDF contains SIA2012-3238, SIA2012-3239, and SIA2012-3240, which are pages scanned from the edited transcript of the original version and notes in the Joseph Henry Papers Volume 7, pages 134-136 (Document 72).

Contained within

  • Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7001, Box 8, Folder: 28 - June-July 1847
  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds., The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 7, The Smithsonian Years: January 1847-December 1849 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1996), 134-136

Contact information

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


July 1, 1847

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


  • Letters
  • Secretaries
  • Collecting and collections


New York


  • Document
  • Paper

ID Number

SIA2012-2913 and SIA2012-2914 and SIA2012-2915

Physical description

Number of Images: 3; Color: Color; Size: 8 1/4w x 10 1/2h; Type of Image: Document; Medium: Paper

Full Record

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