The First Hundred Years of the Smithsonian Institution, 1846- 1946

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  • Work begins with a discussion of the origin of the Smithsonian Institution, including a biography of James Smithson. Discusses the Smithson will and bequest, and the Congressional debates. Explores the tenure of Joseph Henry and the career of Spencer F. Baird as Assistant Secretary and Secretary. Explains Baird's relationship with government-run expeditions. Explores the birth of the U.S. National Museum, and discusses the organization of the USNM and the responsibility of the scientific staff. Mentions several of the well-known exhibits in each building (Natural History Building, Arts and Industries, Aircraft Building). Discusses Smithsonian publications. One chapter, titled "Indians" is devoted to the history of the study of anthropology, including information on the Bureau of American Ethnology, John Wesley Powell and government-led expeditions and surveys.
  • Another, "Life Depends on the Sun," is devoted to the history of the Astrophysical Observatory, and includes a study of Langley's aeronautical experiments, as well as the work of Charles Greeley Abbot, Loyal B. Aldrich and the Smithsonian astrophysical observations at field stations and the Division of Radiation and Organisms. "Live animals" focuses on William T. Hornaday and the Department of Living Animals, expeditions led by William M. Mann, and the National Zoo. "Exploring for Science" gives a more detailed history of the explorations and Smithsonian-related expeditions, including the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition and explorations through the U.S. Fish Commission and the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • "A Gallery of Art" provides history on art at the Smithsonian and describes the holdings of the Freer, National Gallery of Art and National Collection of Fine Arts. The chapter titled "The Diffusion of Knowledge" is subdivided into discussions of the Smithsonian's publications, including the Contributions to Knowledge and the Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, and the appendices of the Annual Reports, the International Exchange Service, and "Other Methods" including radio programs. The last chapter is devoted to a discussion of the Smithsonian in wartime, which includes activities during both World Wars.


  • Mann, William M. 1886-1960
  • Hornaday, William Temple 1854-1937
  • Aldrich, Loyal Blaine 1884-1965
  • Powell, John Wesley 1834-1902
  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • Langley, S. P (Samuel Pierpont) 1834-1906
  • Walcott, Charles D (Charles Doolittle) 1850-1927
  • Abbot, C. G (Charles Greeley) b. 1872
  • Wetmore, Alexander 1886-
  • Arts and Industries Building
  • Division of Radiation and Organisms
  • United States National Museum Dept. of Living Animals
  • International Exchange Service (IES)
  • United States Geological Survey (USGS)
  • United States Fish Commission
  • Freer Gallery of Art
  • National Zoological Park (U.S.)
  • National Collection of Fine Arts
  • Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology
  • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • Board of Regents
  • Smithsonian Institution Establishment of
  • United States National Museum
  • Natural History Building
  • Smithsonian African Expedition (1909-1910)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Provides (in frontispiece) List of the Organization of the Smithsonian Institution in 1946, including List of Members of the Establishment, Board of Regents and directors of Smithsonian bureaus. Photos include portraits of Secretaries, James Smithson's crypt, the Herbert Ward African Collection, United States National Museum exhibits, Arts and Industries Building, the Bureau of American Ethnology, field work photographs, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory field stations, expedition photos, the National Zoological Park, National Collection of Fine Arts portraits, the Freer Gallery of Art and exhibits, the first ladies' gowns, and aircraft in the National Air Museum.

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Contact information

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




  • Scientific expeditions
  • Airplanes
  • Art
  • Architecture
  • Field Stations
  • Secretaries
  • Congressional Debates
  • SI, Early History
  • Ethnology
  • Anthropology
  • Museums
  • Herbert Ward African Collection
  • Wartime Activities
  • Smithsonian Institution Centennial (Event)
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Act to establish the "Smithsonian Institution," for the Increase and Diffusion of Knowledge Among Men
  • Exhibitions
  • Field Work
  • Aircraft Building
  • Buildings
  • Museum publications
  • Art objects
  • Biography


North America

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