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

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact
Request permissions Download image Print

Narrow Your Results


Filter Your Results

Smithsonian Secretaries Information

Close Browse records and papers of the Smithsonian Secretaries, from 1846 until today. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by individuals who have held that office.

Expeditions Information

Close Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian, or with which Smithsonian researchers participated. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by geographic regions predominantly represented in expedition records.

Professional Societies Information

Close Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by major topics and disciplines.


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

Full Record

View Full Record