Page Links

Narrow Your Results

Filter Your Results

Expeditions Information

Close Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian, or with which Smithsonian researchers participated. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by geographic regions predominantly represented in expedition records.

Smithsonian Secretaries Information

Close Browse records and papers of the Smithsonian Secretaries, from 1846 until today. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by individuals who have held that office.

Professional Societies Information

Close Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by major topics and disciplines.

Draft of the Will of James Smithson

Smithson, James 1765-1829
Draft of the Will of James Smithson
Hungerford, Henry James
Data Source:
Smithsonian Archives - History Div
1826, 10/23/1826
See "Plain Advice to the Public to Facilitate the Making of Their Own Wills," which Smithson used as a reference when writing his will.
To view a digital facsimile of the Court's version of the final three-page will of James Smithson that was submitted to the Chancery Court after his death in 1829, visit The National Archives of Great Britain web site at
The last will and testament of James Smithson, which he wrote on 23 October 1826 while living in London. Smithson wrote his own will, apparently without professional legal help, which was very unusual for an individual of his economic stature. This image is of a draft copy and contains the same language as that registered with the Public Record Office in England. Smithson left his estate to his nephew, Henry James Hungerford. If that nephew died without heir, legitimate or illegitimate, then Smithson's estate was to go to the United States to found in the city of Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men. This bequest of c. $515,000 was the basis for the founding of the Smithsonian Institution in 1846.
Contained in:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7000, James Smithson Collection, Box 2 (Documents)
Smithson Bequest, SI, Early History, Endowments, Benefactors, Wills--Great Britain, Philanthropists, Holographic wills, Bequest
Smithson, James 1765-1829, Hungerford, Henry James c. 1808-1835
Smithsonian Legal Documents
Will, Document
Physical Description:
Number of pages: 4; Page Numbers: 1-4
Full Record:!sichronology&uri=full=3100001~!4589~!0#focus
Draft of the Will of James Smithson

Using the Archives' Collections

The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. Please cite the Smithsonian Institution Archives as the source of the content, and when possible, link to the Smithsonian Archives website ( Please let us know how you are using our collections for your projects. If you would like to see a collection in person, please note that most records and special collections are stored off-site, so researchers should contact the Reference Team at least one week prior to visiting to ensure that records can be made available in the Archives Reading Room. For information on commercial licensing or other uses, visit Rights and Reproductions. More information available within the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use policy.

Note: In order to access PDFs, you must have the Adobe Acrobat Reader software which is available free of charge.