Act to Maintain Collections at Patent Office

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  • The United States Congress passes an Act to provide for publishing an account of discoveries made by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, of the U.S. Navy while commanding the United States Exploring Expedition, which circumnavigated the globe from 1838 to 1842. The Act also establishes that until other arrangements are made, the objects of natural history in possession of the Government are to be deposited in the upper room of the United States Patent Office, under care of someone appointed by the Joint Committee on the Library. On August 4, Congress had appropriated $20,000 for transportation, arrangement and preservation of articles brought back by the exploring expedition.
  • After he is appointed the first Secretary of the newly founded Smithsonian Institution, Joseph Henry later refers to this in the Annual Report for 1875 as the establishment of the National Museum.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Wilkes, Charles 1798-1877
  • Patent Office Building (POB)
  • United States Exploring Expedition (USEE)
  • United States National Museum
  • United States Congress
  • United States. Congress. Joint Committee on the Library


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Rhees, William Jones. The Smithsonian Institution: Documents Relative to Its Origin and History: 1835-1899, Vol. 1, 1835-1887. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901, p. 239-241.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1875. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1876,p. 46.

Contact information

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


August 26, 1842


  • Law
  • Finance
  • Secretaries
  • New Museums
  • Expenditures, Public
  • National Collections
  • Legislation

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