William Wesley Karr, Disbursing Clerk and Accountant, 1879-1905, is dismissed from the Smithsonian and prosecuted for embezzling. Assistant Secretary Richard Rathbun was appointed Acting Secretary in 1905, after Langley had a stroke. Rathbun immediately checked the books and found that Karr had embezzled at least $60,000 in trust funds and $7,000 in federal funds. The situation highlighted the need for checks and balances, since Karr had consolidated disbursing and reviewing the books into a single person. Karr was Secretary Samuel P. Langley's trusted assistant and had accompanied him from the Allegheny Observatory. Karr had used the funds to purchase property in Memphis, Tennessee.
Chronology of Smithsonian History
Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu