Spencer Fullerton Baird Papers,
1833-1889

Summary
Collection ID:
Record Unit 7002
Creators:
Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887
Dates:
1833-1889
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
39.3 cu. ft. (74 document boxes) (3 half document boxes) (5 3x5 boxes) (oversize material)
Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Introduction
Introduction
The Spencer F. Baird Papers are the combination of several different deposits. One group was originally labeled "Private" by the Smithsonian Institution Archives at the time they were received. Another group came to the Smithsonian from Lucy Hunter Baird (Baird's daughter), or from her estate after her death.

Descriptive Entry
Descriptive Entry
The Spencer F. Baird Collection documents Baird's personal and professional life. Included are records from his career as administrator at the Smithsonian Institution (SI), the United States National Museum (USNM), the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries (USCFF), and to a lesser extent, Dickinson College. Some of the collection postdates Baird's life, including condolences to family members, the lobbying efforts to compensate Baird's widow and daughter for Baird's unpaid service at the USCFF, and correspondence between Baird's biographers and acquaintances. Also, there are documents which predate Baird's life, including mementos from Baird's wife's family.
Spencer F. Baird was a prolific letter writer. This collection includes a correspondence register which lists incoming and outgoing correspondence, 1850-1853; and Baird's private correspondence, incoming and outgoing, 1845-1888. Correspondents include family members, naturalists, personal acquaintances, politicians, field collectors, publishers, newspaper reporters, medical physicians, merchants, business associates, government officials, staff members, and scientific organizations.
Other materials relating to Baird's life include diaries and journals, newspaper and journal articles, photographs, drawings, personal miscellany, medical miscellany, and fiscal matters. Papers relating to Baird's family include correspondence, photographs, genealogical information, drawings, and mementos.
Papers relating to Baird's scientific interests, especially in the synonymy of North American fauna and flora, include specimen lists; a draft of the synopsis of North American birds; monograph drafts; extracts from scientific publications; bibliographical references; portions of Baird's translations of the Iconographic Encyclopedia; an unbound German version of the Bilder-Atlas; and lithographs.
Papers relating to Baird's career as a professor at Dickinson College include drafts of annual reports and lecture notes.
Materials concerning the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) include correspondence, member lists, meeting announcements, fiscal records, and circulars sent out to AAAS members in 1852.
Papers relating to SI and the USNM contain Baird's drafts of SI annual reports, including drafts of annual reports for the USCFF; diaries, mostly documenting library and visitor activities; lists and distribution records of SI publications and specimens; correspondence, mostly concerning specimens; memoranda; and circulars sent to SI correspondents, 1875.
Materials relating to explorations in which Baird distributed equipment and information to field collectors and collaborators include correspondence, reports, account books, lists, and receipts for equipment purchased.
Papers relating to the USCFF include documentation relating to the Chenowith Case of 1885; the lobbying efforts to compensate the Baird family for Baird's unpaid service as USCFF Commissioner; reports and expense receipts; newspaper articles; correspondence; and memoranda.
Papers relating to Baird's daughter, Lucy Hunter Baird, include typescripts of entries extracted from her father's journals and correspondence, including notations, and correspondence with family members and acquaintances.
Papers relating to the biographers (George Brown Goode, William H. Dall, and Lucy Hunter Baird) include correspondence with Baird acquaintances; and a photograph of the Baird family home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1914.
Oversize materials include certificates of membership to scientific organizations, diplomas, Baird drawings, a German lithograph portrait with Baird's handwriting, 1855, and a photograph of Baird, circa 1880.

Historical Note
Historical Note
Spencer Fullerton Baird, a zoologist and administrator, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania on February 3, 1823. After his father's death in 1833, Baird's family moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where other family members resided. Baird attended Nottingham Academy in Port Deposit, Maryland, during 1834, and Carlisle public school from 1835 to 1836. Baird then attended Dickinson College where he received an A.B. degree in 1840. During the fall of 1841, Baird was a medical apprentice under Dr. Middleton Goldsmith in New York City, but by January 1842, he decided not to pursue further studies in the medical field. He continued his education at Dickinson College and received an M.A. in 1843.
As a child in Carlisle, Baird developed an interest in natural history nurtured by long treks through the countryside in the company of his oldest brother, William, an accomplished amateur ornithologist. By 1840, Baird began a period of intensive studies and specimen collecting of natural history in the New England and mid-Atlantic states.
Baird was given an honorary professorship at Dickinson College in 1845. A year later, he received a permanent position at Dickinson in which he served as librarian and curator of the college's natural history collections, as well as professor of natural history.
In 1850, Baird left Dickinson College to become an Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (SI). He served in this capacity from 1850 to 1878. In May 1878, Baird was elected the Smithsonian's second Secretary. Baird served as Secretary until his death on August 17, 1887.
During his long career at the SI, Baird oversaw the development of the United States National Museum (USNM), the holdings of which increased from some 6,000 specimens in 1850 to over two and one half million at the time of his death. In addition, Baird oversaw a vast network of natural history collectors, administered the USNM, served as mentor and friend to a generation of young naturalists such as Robert Ridgway, William H. Dall, Robert Kennicott, and William Stimpson, and continued to produce scientific work of real distinction.
From 1871 to 1887, Baird served as the first Commissioner of the Commission of Fish and Fisheries, an unpaid position he held concurrently with his Smithsonian post. As Fish Commissioner, Baird pioneered in the development of economic ichthyology in North America; established the Marine Biological Station at Woods Hole, Massachusetts; organized the expeditions of the Fish Commission's research ship, Albatross; and coordinated the state fish hatcheries.
Baird's main scientific work was in ornithology, herpetology, and ichthyology, and several of his publications remained definitive works for decades. His meticulous description and technique influenced the American ornithological community to such degrees that he was credited with founding the so-called Bairdian school of ornithology. Baird also edited and translated the Bilder-Atlas zum Converzation Lexicon from German to English. The American version, Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature and Art, was published in 1852.

Chronology
Chronology
February 23, 1823
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, third child and third son of Samuel Baird, II, and Lydia MacFunn Biddle; named after Spencer Fullerton, a distant relative who died a few months prior to Spencer F. Baird's birth.
1833
Samuel Baird, II (born 1786), died of cholera, Reading, Pennsylvania.
1834
Baird family moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania (Cumberland County), to live near mother's relatives. Spencer F. Baird attended Nottingham Academy near Port Deposit, Maryland, for six months.
1835-1836
Attended Carlisle day school.
1836
Entered Dickinson College in Carlisle.
1838
Began keeping meteorological record of the Carlisle vicinity; and began collecting birds with oldest brother, William McFunn Baird, who was also an amateur ornithologist.
1839
Began keeping journal of activities, and specimen collections.
1839
Visited the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia; and conducted surveying trip with an uncle along the Schuykill River, near Philadelphia.
June 4, 1840
First letter to John James Audubon regarding a new species of fly catchers.
June 9, 1840
Received A.B. degree from Dickinson College.
January 1841
Attended the Periodical Library Association meeting. Field trip, hiked 83 miles.
March-August, 1841
Hiked 565 miles.
Fall 1841
Medical apprentice under Dr. Middleton Goldsmith, New York City.
January 1842
Ill with flu, returned to Carlisle; decided not to pursue a career in medical sciences.
March 1842
Field trip, hiked 105 miles.
1842
Walked to Baltimore, then traveled by train to Washington; examined specimens collected by the Wilkes Expedition stored at the United States Patent Office.
1842
Declined to join John James Audubon's expedition to the Yellowstone River Valley (Montana) due to poor health and family anxieties.
July 13, 1843
Received M.A. degree from Dickinson College.
1844
"Birds of Cumberland County," co-authored with William M. Baird, published.
1845
"Trees and Shrubs of Cumberland County," co-authored with William M. Baird, published.
Fall 1845
Elected honorary professor of natural history without pay at Dickinson College, and curator of the college's natural history cabinet.
1846
First visit to Boston.
August 8, 1846
Married Mary Helen Churchill (born 1821).
Fall 1846
Elected full professor of natural history with pay at Dickinson College.
1847
Recommended for Curator of the Smithsonian Institution's natural history collections.
February 8, 1848
Birth of daughter, Lucy Hunter Baird.
1848-1851
Translated the Bilder-Atlas zum Conversation Lexicon from German to English; renamed the Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature and Art, published 1852.
1849
Field trip to western Virginia. Became seriously ill with dysentery; later recovered.
July 5, 1850
Appointed Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (SI).
October 5, 1850
Started as Assistant Secretary of the SI.
November 3, 1850
Transported two freight cars of personal natural history collection to SI.
1850-1854
Permanent Secretary of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS).
1851
Attended AAAS meeting at Cincinnati, Ohio. Field trip with J. K. Kirtland.
1853
"A Catalogue of North American Serpents," published.
1854
"A Catalogue of North American Mammals," published.
1856
Received Doctor of Physical Science degree, Dickinson College.
1857
"A Catalogue of North American Birds," and "Mammals of North America," volume 8, Pacific Railroad Report published.
1858
"Birds of North America," volume 9, Pacific Railroad Report published.
1859
"Reptiles and Amphibians of North America," volume 10, Pacific Railroad Report published.
Summer 1861
Field trip to New Jersey, New York, New England. Attended conference in Montreal, Canada.
Summer 1862
Field trip to New York and New England; first visit to Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
1864
"Review of North American Birds, 1864-1866," published.
January 24, 1865
Smithsonian Institution building fire.
1870-1878
Scientific editor for the Harper's Weekly.
1871-1887
Commissioner of the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries (USCFF); served without pay.
Summer 1871
Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Summer 1872
Eastport, Maine.
Summer 1873
Peake's Island, Maine.
Summer 1874
Noank, Connecticut.
1874
"A History of North American Birds," co-authored with Robert Ridgway and Thomas M. Brewer, published.
Summer 1875
Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
1875-1876
Member of the Board of Directors for the International Exposition of Philadelphia (United States Centennial). Coordinated SI, USCFF, and USNM exhibits.
March 1877
Visited Florida.
Summer 1877
Glouchester, Massachusetts. Delegate at the Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada), Fisheries Conference.
May 18, 1878
Death of Joseph Henry, SI's first Secretary.
May 19, 1878
Elected SI's second Secretary.
Summer 1878
Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Summer 1879
Provincetown, Massachusetts.
1879-1881
USNM building under construction; opened 1881.
Summers 1881-1887
Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
1884
USCFF's temporary buildings at Woods Hole burned; permanent structures built.
1885
James Chenowith, an examiner for the United States Department of the Treasury, accused the USCFF of misappropriation of funds for staff living quarters; USCFF acquitted.
1886
Doctorate of Law from Harvard University.
August 19, 1887
Died at Woods Hole, aged 64.
1888
Congress compensated Baird's widow and daughter for Baird's unpaid service as USCFF Commissioner, and for the USCFF's use of Baird's home for offices, $50,000.00.
1890
Death of Mary Helen Churchill Baird, aged 69.
1913
Death of Lucy Hunter Baird, aged 65.
1915
"Spencer Fullerton Baird," by William H. Dall, published.

Administration
Oversize
This collection contains oversize material.
Author
Finding aid prepared by Smithsonian Institution Archives

Notes
Personal Papers

Using the Collection
Prefered Citation
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7002, Spencer Fullerton Baird Papers
Access Restriction
(1) Some items cannot be reproduced because of legibility and bindings; (2) record unit partially microfilmed.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ringgold, Cadwalader, 1802-1867 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Baird, Lucy Hunter, 1848-1913 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States and Mexican Boundary Survey Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States Fish Commission Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian Institution. Assistant Secretary Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian Institution. Office of the Secretary Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian Institution Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States North Pacific Exploring Expedition (1853-1856) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hudson Bay Territory Expeditions Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Northern Pacific Railroad Route Expedition Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ichthyology Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Natural history Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ornithology Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuscripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Black-and-white photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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