Summary
Collection ID:
Record Unit 45
Creators:
Smithsonian Institution. Office of the Secretary
Dates:
1890-1929
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
57.93 cu. ft. (5 record storage boxes) (104 document boxes) (2 half document boxes) (1 12x17 box) (oversize materials)
Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Descriptive Entry
Descriptive Entry
This record unit documents the growth and management of the Smithsonian from 1890 to 1929. Of special interest is the Institution's entry into the field of the fine arts through the creation of the National Gallery of Art and the Freer Gallery of Art. The Smithsonian continued to pursue a wide variety of other interests as well. Thus, the records deal with the following topics, among others: aviation; the American School of Archaeology in China; the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C.; the Cinchona Botanical Station, Jamaica; many international congresses; numerous national and international expositions, especially the Panama-California Exposition, 1912-1916, and the Panama-Pacific Exposition at San Francisco, 1914-1915; the George Washington Memorial Association; the Harriman Alaska series; the Kahn Foundation for Foreign Travel of American Teachers; the Koren Expedition to Siberia; the Langley-Wright aerodrome controversy; the Montezuma solar observatory at Calama, Chile; solar observations at Mount Harqua Hala, Arizona, and Mount Wilson, California; the Naples Zoological Station; the National Academy of Sciences; the National Research Council; publication of Mary Vaux Walcott's North American Wildflowers; the Biological Survey of the Panama Canal Zone; the Alfred Duane Pell Collection; the Research Corporation; the Roosevelt African Expedition; seismological studies; the Charles D. and Mary Vaux Walcott Research Fund; the Smithsonian Scientific Series; grants from the Hodgkins Fund; the Langley Aerodynamical Laboratory; and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The records include correspondence, minutes, announcements, publications, fiscal records, photographs, manuscripts, and news clippings.

Historical Note
Historical Note
These records document the administration of the Smithsonian Institution during the tenure of Charles D. Walcott, its fourth Secretary, who served from 1907 to 1927. This period gave a deceptive appearance of strength to the Institution's life. Walcott himself, perhaps the last of the nineteenth-century scientist-politicians to combine a distinguished scientific reputation and polished ease in the world of political Washington, lent the Institution considerable support from his wide experience and many friends among the powerful of the day. The Institution's staff also boasted an able corps of scientists and senior administrators. Several new programs were developed during these years--the National Gallery of Art (now the National Museum of American Art) and the Freer Gallery of Art, in particular. These two galleries gave the Smithsonian its first real grounding in fine arts and rounded out the vision of the Institution as a place hospitable to all fields of learning.
Yet with the benefit of hindsight, these accomplishments can be seen to have masked real weakness, described either as the Smithsonian's failure to adapt its perception of itself to the changing world or as a lack of money.
When the Smithsonian was created in 1846 the corpus of its endowment was somewhat more than $500,000.00. It had few rivals elsewhere in the country. However, with the growth of large-scale private philanthropy after the Civil War, the Smithsonian's means shrank steadily in comparison to the endowments of leading institutions like the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale or new entrants like Stanford and the University of Chicago. No doubt this situation developed in part because the Smithsonian had no real alumni. It received a few small gifts from well-to-do members of its own staff and one moderate gift from Thomas George Hodgkins, a naturalized English eccentric. For all else it relied on small appropriations from the federal government, for which it performed certain services such as curating the collections of the National Museum. Coupled with meager financial resources was the Regents' suspicion of new and nonscientific endeavors. It is likely, for instance, that the Regents would have refused Charles Lang Freer's gift of a gallery of oriental art in 1906, had Theodore Roosevelt not obliged them to accept it. In the same way, the gift of certain patents on electrostatic precipitators by Frederic G. Cottrell in 1911 was politely shunted onto other shoulders, leaving the Smithsonian a remote beneficiary of the income. The Smithsonian's aloofness was in sharp contrast to the willingness of other institutions to accept such gifts. How this attitude arose is not clear. Perhaps it was an unconscious extension of Joseph Henry's early determination to associate the Smithsonian's name only with "worthy" purposes. However that may be, the Smithsonian was very late in the field in trying to augment its endowment. Walcott had begun to plan a campaign to raise $10,000,000.00--documented in record unit 46--which collapsed with his untimely death in 1927. Thus the Institution was to enter the era of the Depression in very straitened circumstances.

Notes
SI Records

Using the Collection
Prefered Citation
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 45, Smithsonian Institution, Office of the Secretary, Records

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Walcott, Charles D. (Charles Doolittle), 1850-1927 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Langley, S. P. (Samuel Pierpont), 1834-1906 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wright, Wilbur, 1867-1912 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wright, Orville, 1871-1948 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Walcott, Mary Vaux, 1860-1940 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian American Art Museum Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Freer Gallery of Art Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian Institution -- Administration Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
American School of Archaeology in China Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Carnegie Institution of Washington Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Collection of Fine Arts (U.S.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cinchona Botanical Station (Jamaica) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
George Washington Memorial Association Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kahn Foundation for the Foreign Travel of American Teachers Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Montezuma Solar Observatory (Calama, Chile) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mount Montezuma Station (Calama, Chile) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mount Harqua Hala Station (Arizona) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mount Wilson Observatory Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Naples Zoological Station Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Research Council (U.S.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Biological Survey of the Panama Canal Zone (1911-1912) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Alfred Duane Pell Collection Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Research Corporation Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Charles D. and Mary Vaux Walcott Research Fund Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hodgkins Fund Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Langley Aerodynamical Laboratory Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Bureau of Biological Survey Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Department of Agriculture Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915 : San Francisco, Calif.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Harriman Alaska Expedition (1899) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Koren Expedition to Siberia (1914) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Panama-California Exposition (1915-1916 : San Diego, Calif.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian African Expedition (1909-1910) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian scientific series Title Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
North American Wildflowers Title Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aeronautics Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museums -- Administration Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Seismology Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Paleontology Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuscripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Clippings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Black-and-white photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Washington, D.C.
Contact us at osiaref@si.edu