Smithsonian Library Transfers to Library of Congress




Date: April 5, 1866


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The United States Congress passes an act transferring the custody of the library of the Smithsonian Institution to the Library of Congress (Stat., XIV, 19). The library turns over approximately 40,000 volumes of scientific works to form the basis of the "Smithsonian Deposit." By the law authorizing the transfer, the Institution is at liberty to draw any books it may require for its use either from its own collection or from those of Congress. Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry had used the January 1865 fire at the Smithsonian Building to strengthen his long standing contention that the Institution's library should be deposited in the Library of Congress, which had just finished constructing new fireproof quarters.


  • Library of Congress
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL)
  • Smithsonian Deposit (Library of Congress)
  • United States Congress


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • For Henry's discussion of the benefits of transferring the Smithsonian's library to the Library of Congress, see,, and
  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 11, January 1866-December 1878: The Smithsonian Years. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2007, p. 135.
  • Oehser, Paul H. The Smithsonian Institution. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970, p. 167.
  • Goode, George Brown, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897, p. 286, 287, 817, 823-825, 837.
  • 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. 661-2.
  • Smithsonian Annual Report for 1865, p. 70.
  • Smithsonian Annual Report for 1866, pp. 13-16.
  • Smithsonian Annual Report for 1867, p. 56-57.

Contact information

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


April 5, 1866


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