James Smithson and His Bequest

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Work discusses the life and career of James Smithson (c.1765-1829), founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution. Includes a fairly extensive biography of Smithson, and details on his professional life. Explores his will and the bequest to the United States, including a biography of his nephew, Henry James Hungerford. Goes into detail about the United States' response to the bequest and the Congressional debates, as well as the appointment of the first Board of Regents. Appendix includes his obituary notice, biographies of his father and half brother, reviews of Smithson's papers, extracts of his writings, and a catalogue of his library. Of particular interest is a section titled "Notices of the city of Washington, found in books in Smithson's library."


  • Dickinson, Henry Louis 1771-1820
  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • Hungerford, Henry James c. 1808-1835
  • Smithson, Hugh, Sir 1715-1786
  • Board of Regents
  • United States Congress
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Footnoted. Also, with illustrations, in Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, no. 330, vol. 21, 1879 and published alone as Q143/S66R46. Rhees served as Chief Clerk of the Smithsonian Institution.

Contained within

Smithsonian Institution Annual Report for 1879 (Book)

Contact information

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




  • Smithson Bequest
  • Smithson, James
  • Benefactors
  • SI, Early History
  • Death and burial
  • Libraries
  • Wills
  • Gifts
  • Museums
  • Museum publications
  • Smithson, James--Death and burial
  • Biography

Physical description

pp. 143-210

Full Record

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