First Volume of Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge Published




Date: December 1, 1848


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The first volume of Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge is published and distributed. It consists of the study "Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley," comprising the results of Extensive Original Surveys and Explorations," by E. G. Squier and E. H. Davis. It is illustrated by 48 lithographic plates and 207 wood engravings. The manuscript was submitted to Secretary Joseph Henry on May 15, 1847, who then requested that members of the American Ethnological Society review it. They quickly sent favorable reviews. Henry reports that the publication quality of the volume compares with any publication ever issued from the American press and decides against copyrighting this or any Smithsonian publications. The first volume of Contributions would be distributed to learned societies in approximately 25 foreign countries.


  • Davis, E. H (Edwin Hamilton) 1811-1888
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Squier, E. G (Ephraim George) 1821-1888
  • American Ethnological Society
  • International Exchange Service (IES)
  • Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge (Publication)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Image is cover of Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, volume 1, Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number SIA2011-0512.
  • This publication can be found at For correspondence from members of the American Ethnological Society who reviewed the work, see For a list of countries and the number of learned societies in each to which the volume was distributed, see The Smithsonian's annual report for 1878 (page 24) states that the wood cuts used in printing this volume were destroyed in the Smithsonian Institution Building fire of 1865.
  • Moyer, Albert. Joseph Henry: The Rise of an American Scientist. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997, p. 270.
  • Goode, George Brown, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897, p. 834.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1848. Washington, D.C.: Tippin and Streeper, 1849, p. 11.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1878. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1879, p. 23-24.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1881. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1883, p. 711-712.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution, showing the operations, expenditures, and condition of the Institution. 30th Cong., 1st Sess., January 6, 1848. S. Rept. 23, p. 185-188.
  • Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Vol. 1. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1848.

Contact information

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


December 1, 1848


  • Copyright
  • Professional associations
  • Archaeology
  • Serial publications
  • Inaugural Edition
  • Firsts
  • Fire
  • Anthropology
  • Museums
  • Exchanges, Literary and scientific
  • Scientific illustration
  • Major Events in Smithsonian History
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