Letter from Solomon Brown to Spencer Baird, 09/22/1856

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Letter from Solomon G. Brown to Assistant Secretary and Curator Spencer Fullerton Baird about Secretary Joseph Henry and problems with the Fish Room in the Smithsonian Institution Building, or Castle, especially the smells emanating from it. Brown states that he is dismayed that Baird will be late returning from summer field work at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, because Secretary Henry was making threats to remove parts of the natural history collections. Secretary Henry preferred the Smithsonian Institution to remain solely research-based and not house any collections.


  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Goode, G. Brown (George Brown) 1851-1896
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • United States National Museum
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


Solomon G. Brown was hired as the Smithsonian Institution's first African American employee, spending most of his career as a clerk to Spencer Fullerton Baird. Brown worked for 54 years at the Smithsonian (1850-1904), fulfilling many duties under secretaries Joseph Henry, Spencer Fullerton Baird, and Samuel P. Langley. Brown formed a very close bond with Baird, becoming his "eyes and ears" when Baird was out of town. He was also a naturalist, poet, illustrator, and lecturer. Although he had no formal education, Brown was known by many as Professor Brown.

Contained within

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7002, Box 16, Folder 11

Contact information

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


September 22, 1856

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


  • Fishes
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Personnel management
  • Employees
  • National Collections
  • African Americans
  • Smithsonian Institution--Employees


  • District of Columbia
  • United States
  • Washington


  • Document
  • Paper

ID Number

SIA2016-011424a and SIA2016-011424b

Physical description

Number of Images: 1; Color: Black and White; Size: 8w x10h; Type of Image: Document; Medium: Paper

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