Joseph Henry's Letter to George Bancroft (November 21, 1867)

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Letter from Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, to George Bancroft, United States Minister to Prussia, November 21, 1867. In the letter, Henry discusses the affairs of the Smithsonian Institution. He states his belief that the funds of the Smithsonian should not be devoted to the diffusion of knowledge through museums, libraries, and galleries of art, but instead to the increase of knowledge through the facilitation of research. Henry also discusses the United States government's purchase of Ford's Theatre and the Army Medical Museum, which was established there. He notes that it would have been better served to take on the Smithsonian name and become a place to deposit the collection of nature specimens that the Institution has.


  • Bancroft, George 1800-1891
  • Army Medical Museum (U.S.)
  • National Collections


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


3 pages scanned from the edited transcript of the original version and notes in the Joseph Henry Papers Volume 11, pages 158-161 (Document 73).

Contained within

Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds., The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 11, The Smithsonian Years: January 1866-May 1878 (Smithsonian Institution in association with Science History Publications/USA, 2007), 158-161

Contact information

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


November 21, 1867

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


  • Nature
  • Theater
  • Art museums
  • Diplomacy
  • Letters
  • Secretaries
  • Specimens
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Diplomats
  • Funds
  • Theaters
  • Research


  • Document
  • Paper

ID Number

SIA2012-3066 and SIA2012-3067 and SIA2012-3068 and SIA2012-3069

Physical description

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

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