James Smithson Makes His Will

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James Smithson makes his will while residing in Bentinck Street, Cavendish Square, London. The conditions for the bequest to the United States are: "In the case of the death of my said Nephew [Henry James Hungerford] without leaving a child or children, or the death of the child or children he may have had under the age of twenty-one years or intestate, I then bequeath the whole of my property, . . . to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men."


  • Hungerford, Henry James c. 1808-1835
  • Smithson, James 1765-1829


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Handwritten draft of will is located in the James Smithson Collection, Record Unit 7000, Box 2, in Smithsonian Institution Archives.
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7000, Box 2.
  • Goode, George Brown, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897, p. 19-21, 833.
  • Rhees, William Jones. "James Smithson and his bequest." Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1879. Washington,D.C., 1880,p. 159.
  • 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. 5-6.

Contact information

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


October 23, 1826


  • Smithson Bequest
  • Benefactors
  • Gifts
  • Inheritance and succession

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