The First Smithsonian Collection: The European Engravings of George Perkins Marsh and the Role of Prints in the U.S. National Museum


Creator: Wright, Helena E


Date: 2015


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Wright uses the first collection purchased by the Smithsonian, the print collection of George Perkins Marsh (1801-1882), to explore the cultural values ascribed to prints in nineteenth century America, especially their role in expositions and their importance to the visual culture of the era. The volume addresses both the development of American cultural identity and of the Smithsonian's museum as the National Museum of the United States. Marsh, a U.S. Congressman from Vermont, served as a Smithsonian Regent and as ambassador to Turkey, and was a passionate collector of books and prints. His print collection was the first collection of any kind, purchased in 1849 by the new Smithsonian Institution and is a valuable tool to explore the history of the Smithsonian, as well as American culture.


  • Marsh, George Perkins 1801-1882
  • National Collections
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) Division of Graphic Arts
  • United States National Museum
  • Regents Smithsonian Institution


Smithsonian History Bibliography

Citation information

Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge


Wright is Curator of Graphic Arts at the National Museum of American History

Contact information

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




  • Graphic arts
  • Legislators
  • Engraving
  • Prints and Drawings
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Prints


United States


First edition

Physical description

Number of pages: 313 Page numbers: i-xxiv, 1-289

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