The People's Museum: George Brown Goode's Collection of Sporting Goods for the Smithsonian Institution in Victorian America

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact


  • Hughes' article examines the vision of George Brown Goode (1851-1896), the director of the United States National Museum collections from 1878 to 1896, to transform the Smithsonian from an elite scientific institution into a museum that would enthrall and educate the common man. After Spencer Fullerton Baird was named Secretary in 1878, he appointed Goode Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian and as director of the museum's collections, Goode was in charge of the Smithsonian's new museum, the Arts and Industries Building. It opened in 1881 and was solely devoted to the national collections and exhibitions. Goode called it "the people's museum," and proceeded to systematically make acquisitions of objects for the museum collections, especially objects of everyday life; in doing so, he began to incorporate popular ideas into the displays and collections at the Smithsonian.
  • Among the first artifacts he brought into the museum were a collection of patented sporting goods from the Peck & Snyder Company which arrived at the Smithsonian in May of 1882. Hughes utilizes Goode's inclusion of the sporting goods in national collections as a case study for material culture analysis. Hughes begins her examination with the meaning of the sports objects to the collector and his contemporaries, the connection between development of emerging museums, consumerism, and sport in the late nineteenth century America, and concludes with an analysis of the sports artifacts themselves and their historical significance.


  • Goode, G. Brown (George Brown) 1851-1896
  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • United States National Museum
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) (NMAH)
  • Arts and Industries Building
  • Centennial Exhibition (1876 : Philadelphia, Pa.)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography

Contained within

The Historian Vol. 64, No. 2 (Journal)

Contact information

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


Winter 2002


  • Sporting goods
  • Education
  • Secretaries
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Museums
  • History
  • Sociological aspects
  • Collectibles
  • Peck & Snyder, New York
  • Sports
  • Museum exhibits
  • Biography
  • Sports--History
  • Museums--Educational aspects
  • Material culture
  • Museum curators
  • Sports--Collectibles
  • Sports--Sociological aspects


United States

Physical description

pp. 295-315

Full Record

View Full Record