Joseph Henry's Letter to Benjamin Silliman, Sr. (December 2, 1850)

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Letter from Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, to Benjamin Silliman, Sr., a chemist and professor at Yale University, December 2, 1850. In the letter, Henry discusses the state of the young Smithsonian Institution and his thoughts about how the United States Congress has appropriated Smithson's bequest. Henry details his anger at the amount of money being spent on the construction of the Smithsonian Institution Building, or "Castle," rather than on active operations.


  • Silliman, Benjamin 1816-1885
  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • United States Congress
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • Yale University
  • Joseph Henry Papers Project


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


3 pages scanned from the edited transcript of the original version and notes in the Joseph Henry Papers Volume 8, pages 130-132 (Document 76).

Contained within

Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds., The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 8, The Smithsonian Years: January 1850-December 1853 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1998), 130-132

Contact information

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


December 2, 1850

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


  • Architecture
  • Letters
  • Secretaries
  • Chemists
  • Expenditures, Public
  • Bequest


  • Document
  • Paper

ID Number

SIA2012-2708 and SIA2012-2709 and SIA2012-2710

Physical description

Number of Images: 3 ; Color: Black and White ; Size: 6 3/4w x 10h ; Type of Image: Document ; Medium: Paper

Full Record

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