How James Smithson Came To Rest in the Institution He Never Knew

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Author writes the story of the successful efforts made in the early 1900's by his grandfather, Smithsonian Regent Alexander Graham Bell, and his father, Gilbert H. Grosvenor (his own predecessor at the National Geographic Society), to bring the remains of Smithsonian Institution founder James Smithson to Washington, D.C., from Genoa, Italy, where Smithson was buried after his death in 1829. This action was taken after it was learned that Genoa planned city improvements which would eventually necessitate removing bodies from the cemetery where Smithson was interred. His remains were exhumed and transported to the United States in January 1904, and now rest in the Smithsonian Institution's Castle Building.


  • Grosvenor, Gilbert H
  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • Bell, Alexander Graham 1847-1922
  • National Geographic Society
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • Board of Regents


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Photographs, including two taken by Mrs. Alexander Graham Bell and one of the Smithsonian mace, accompany the article.

Contained within

Smithsonian Vol. 6, No. 10 (Journal)

Contact information

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


January 1976


  • Burial
  • Smithson Bequest
  • Smithson, James
  • Ceremonial maces
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Exhumation
  • Smithson tomb
  • SI, Early History
  • Death and burial
  • Smithson, James--Death and burial
  • Biography


Genoa (Italy)

Physical description

p. 30-37

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