Relations with Government Exploring Parties

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During 1853, the Smithsonian supplies the means and full instructions for natural history research to all the various government parties organized for the survey of the boundary line between the United States and Mexico and of the several routes for a Pacific railroad. Large numbers of specimens result, much to the dismay of Secretary Joseph Henry who writes to Secretary of the Navy J. C. Dobbin that the Smithsonian does not wish to retain these specimens for itself. The collections are scattered over the building in various rooms, and he believes the Institution cannot care for them. Seventy-three donors to the museum are listed in the 1853 Annual Report.


  • Pacific Railroad Expeditions
  • United States and Mexican Boundary Survey
  • United States National Museum


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1853, p. 50, 52, 55-57.
  • Joseph Henry Letter to J. C. Dobbin, December 28, 1853, document 304 in The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 8, The Smithsonian Years: January 1850-December 1853, Marc Rothenberg, et al, eds. (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1998), pp. 505-507.

Contact information

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




  • Scientific expeditions
  • Natural History
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Interagency Relations
  • Museums
  • Gifts
  • Museum exhibits
  • Natural history
  • Research

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