The Megatherium Club

Learn about the Megatherium Club, named after a giant extinct sloth that once roamed South America, which consisted of an eccentric group of young naturalists aiming to understand the natural world, and build the Smithsonian’s collection in the mid to late 1800s. 

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Love Interests

During the time of the Megatherium Club, there were rumors among neighbors and friends that some of the members had special relationships with women visiting the Castle. Some indication of this occurring comes from Pamela M. Henson, Smithsonian Historian, “On occasion, they’d [the club’s members] had enough beer, they would go outside the windows of the Henry apartments, which were on the east end of the Castle, and they would serenade the Henry daughters.”

Joseph Henry's Daughters Caroline & Mary
Along with the Henry daughters, there is an account from Robert Kennicott where he speaks of a Mr.Gavit’s daughter and his affection towards her. “He [Mr. Gavit] rendered himself further agreeable to us by bringing his very pretty daughter to the S.I. several times when I’m afraid I didn’t refuse quite as decidedly as I might have done to spend some times showing her about the Institution. She is exceedingly young and natural though very clever and caused a sad interruption in the work room and kept me away from my working den also- by spending several hours in the work room this afternoon. She was by acclamation elected an Honorary Member of the Megatheria, at Prof. Baird’s suggestion.”

Additionally, in an undated and unaddressed letter from Robert Kennicott, he once again mentions Miss Gavit, “I was very much pleased with a Miss Gavit of New York that was was [sic] here last week. Somehow she seemed to unite more common sense with good taste and intelligence than I’ve often seen except in two recently married young ladies I wot of—I used to think a pretty face and pleasant manner the most agreeable qualifications in young ladies. But as I grow towards mans [sic] estate I leave many of my boyish notions, and I reckon I’m not getting ‘fooled’ as much as I was by pretty faces—not that I don’t admire beauty as much as ever—but I begin to appreciate better qualities more fully.”

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