Smithsonian Collections Lost in Chicago Fire

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact

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 Chicago fire destroys the Chicago Academy of Sciences. Smithsonian collections at the Academy are destroyed, including the best part of the material of the Department of Marine Invertebrates, United States National Museum, which were being worked on by William Stimpson. The loss includes most of the Smithsonian crustacean holdings from the U.S. Exploring Expedition which had been sent to the Academy for comparison with other collections. About fifty ethnographic pieces are also lost.


  • Stimpson, William 1832-1872
  • Chicago Academy of Sciences
  • United States Exploring Expedition (USEE)
  • United States National Museum
  • United States National Museum Dept. of Marine Invertebrates


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1882, p. 143
  • Viola, Herman J. and Carolyn Margolis, editors. Magnificent Voyagers, p. 79, 120

Contact information

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


October, 1871


  • Marine invertebrates
  • Losses
  • Antiquities
  • Natural History
  • Fire
  • Specimens
  • Anthropology
  • Museums
  • Invertebrates
  • National Collections
  • Accidents
  • Museum exhibits
  • Fires
  • Natural history


Chicago (Ill.)

Full Record

View Full Record