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Author writes of the absurdity which prompted efforts undertaken by the Smithsonian Institution after Secretary S. Dillon Ripley's 1964 directive to retrieve period furniture for the Castle, when four auctions held years earlier disposed of the same type of furniture items. Three auctions were held during the 1930's and one in 1955 to clear out Victorian furnishings which the Smithsonian then considered to be out of date. The outmoded furniture was being replaced by modern items, and auctions were held to dispose of the unwanted objects. The furniture was considered the sole property of the Smithsonian, not the U. S. Government, and the auctions were open to Smithsonian employees. The author lists the sale prices of some of the items and states that at the 1955 sale, no object sold for more than $20.00 and that most went for an average of 75 cents each, considerably less than the present value of 19th century antiques.


  • Ripley, Sidney Dillon 1913-2001
  • Goode, James M
  • Howland, Richard H
  • Castle Collection
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Article includes photograph of Secretary Spencer F. Baird's office in the Smithsonian Institution Building c. 1878.

Contained within

Smithsonian Preservation Quarterly (Newsletter)

Contact information

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


Spring/Summer 1994


  • Secretaries
  • Auctions
  • Furnishings
  • Furniture

Physical description

p. 4

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