Memorial Tablet Placed at Smithson Tomb




Date: November 18, 1896


Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact
Download IIIF Manifest Request permissions Download image Print

Narrow Your Results


Filter Your Results

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.

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.

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.


  • The Smithsonian Board of Regents directs that a bronze memorial tablet is to be placed at James Smithson's tomb by the Smithsonian Institution, and a replica in the nearby English Church of the Holy Ghost, in Genoa, Italy.
  • Three copies of the Smithson Tablet or memorial plaque were made in bronze and two copies were made in Carrara marble (plaque is 994mm x 775 mm, and relief is 419mm x 269 mm). The artist for the plaque design was William Ordway Partridge of New York City. The plaque features a carved profile of James Smithson with the inscription, "James Smithson -- FRS -- Founder of the Smithsonian Institution -- Washington. Erected by the Regents of the Institution 1896." Initially, two bronze copies were cast in 1896 for a price of $250 each to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Smithsonian Institution. One was placed at the Smithson grave site outside Genoa and one was installed in the nearby Church of the Holy Ghost.
  • The memorial plaque at the grave site was later stolen and replaced with a facsimile of Carrara marble in 1900. That plaque was brought to Washington, D.C., in 1904, when Smithson's remains were moved to the Smithsonian and remains in the Crypt Room of the Smithsonian Castle today. The bronze in the Church of the Holy Ghost was lost during World War II; the church was gutted by fire and many artifacts were lost. A replacement marble facsimile was carved by Rafaello Romanelli of Florence and installed in 1963. A third bronze copy of the memorial plaque was cast at a cost of $150 and sent to Bartholomew Price, Master of Pembroke College, Oxford University, where Smithson attended school, in 1898, where it remains today. It is fixed to the north wall of the Old Quad of the College.


  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • Romanelli, Rafaello
  • Partridge, William Ordway 1861-1930
  • Anglo-American Church of the Holy Ghost
  • Smithson Memorial Tablet


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Tomb of James Smithson with Memorial Tablet, negative 82-3195, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 21, Folder 5
  • Goode, George Brown, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897., p. 22-23, 841
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives, James Smithson Collection, Record Unit 7000, Box 6, Folder 3.
  • Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for the Year 1898, p. 19.
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 31, Box 52, Folder 13.

Contact information

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


November 18, 1896


  • Honor
  • Art
  • Memorials
  • Benefactors
  • Anglican church buildings
  • Smithson tomb
  • Church buildings
  • Art objects


Genoa (Italy)

Full Record

View Full Record