The 'Mandarin Missionary' Strategy: Robert Kennicott, Spencer Fullerton Baird, and specimen collection in the Hudson's Bay Territory

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In 1859, Robert Kennicott, one of the most promising specimen collectors and young naturalists in the United States, was dispatched to Hudson's Bay Territory by Spencer Fullerton Baird, the Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian. Kennicott was chosen because of previous experience in Canada, his familiarity with biota of the American Midwest, and because he had a boundless, infectious enthusiasm for natural history that was typical among Baird's closest protégées. Kennicott was a natural scientific envoy - or missionary - to the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company, and many officers were enthusiastically 'converted' to the cause of collecting and/or overseeing the collection of natural history specimens. Due to this collaboration between Baird, Kennicott and the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company, the Smithsonian became a leading center of Canadian natural history in the Western hemisphere.


  • Kennicott, Robert
  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • Hudson's Bay Company
  • Assistant Secretary in charge of the United States National Museum
  • United States National Museum


Smithsonian History Bibliography


Dr. Laubacher was a predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution Archives in 2009.

Contained within

Endeavour Vol. 36, No. 2 (Journal)

Contact information

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




  • Scientific expeditions
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Field Work
  • National Collections
  • Kennicott Expeditions


  • Canada
  • Arctic
  • Hudson Bay

Physical description

Number of pages: 9; Page numbers: 46-54

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