National Herbarium Transferred from Smithsonian to the Agriculture Department

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At the direction of Secretary Joseph Henry, the National Herbarium, containing 15,000 to 20,000 specimens, is transferred to the Department of Agriculture. The terms of transfer include approval of the botanist in charge by the Smithsonian Institution, accessibility to the collection by the Institution for scientific investigation, and the transfer of specimens by the Department of Agriculture to the Smithsonian Institution that "are not necessary to illustrate agricultural economy." Duplicate specimens are distributed to researchers worldwide, subject to recall by the Smithsonian. It is Joseph Henry's goal to remove from the Smithsonian what he feels is the burden and expense of caring for the national collections, particularly when there are other federal entities devoted to the research and preservation of such items.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • United States National Herbarium
  • United States Dept. of Agriculture
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.) Dept. of the History of Science and Medicine
  • National Entomological Collection
  • United States Army Surgeon General


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • For text of the formal agreement between the Smithsonian and the Department of Agriculture, see
  • Marc Rothenberg, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 11, January 1866-December 1878: The Smithsonian Years (Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2007), xxvii-xxviii, 227-28.
  • "Report of the Secretary," Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1868 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1869), 14-16.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1870 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1871), 39-40.
  • George Brown Goode, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century (Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897), 707-708, 837.

Contact information

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


January 1, 1868


  • Artifacts
  • Deaccessions
  • Secretaries
  • Botany
  • Specimens
  • Interagency Transfers
  • Plants
  • National Collections

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