Joseph Henry's Letter to Gustavus Vasa Fox (February 7, 1863)

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  • Letter from Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, to Gustavus Vasa Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, February 7, 1863. In the letter, Henry discusses sending information that the government requested regarding a permanent commission of a scientific nature. Henry also expresses the desire to meet with Fox upon his return to Washington following his trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the annual assay at the US Mint.
  • In February 1863 Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, was appointed to the newly-established Permanent Commission of the Navy Department. This three-member board was charged with reviewing proposals sent to the Navy for warship designs, signalling systems, torpedoes, underwater guns, and other ordnance. The commission met more than 100 times and up to three times a week over the next two years, often at the Smithsonian Institution Building, or "Castle." They evaluated more than 300 inventions and proposals and issued more than 250 reports.


  • United States Office of Naval History
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


3 pages scanned from the edited transcript of the original version and notes in the Joseph Henry Papers Volume 10, pages 294-295 (Document 167).

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), 294-295

Contact information

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


February 7, 1863

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


  • Signals and signaling
  • Boats and boating
  • Letters
  • Secretaries
  • Inventions
  • Reports
  • Firearms
  • Ships


  • Philadelphia (Pa.)
  • Washington (D.C.)


  • Document
  • Paper

ID Number

SIA2012-2650 and SIA2012-2651

Physical description

Number of Images: 2 ; Color: Black and White ; Size: 6.75w x 10h ; Type of Image: Document ; Medium: Paper

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