John Brooks Henderson (1826-1913), a lawyer and politician, served as United States senator from Missouri from 1862 to 1869. In 1869, he returned to St. Louis where he practiced law and remained active in both local and national politics. In 1889, he retired from practice and moved to Washington, D.C. From 1892-1911, he served as a citizen member of the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents.
Henderson's wife, Mary Foote Henderson (1841-1931), was involved in the suffrage and temperance movements. She was also a well-known socialite in Washington and a devotee of the arts, as well as an author of children's books and books on health.
John Brooks Henderson, Jr. (1870-1923), the son of John Brooks and Mary Foote Henderson, graduated from Harvard University in 1891 and Columbian Law School (now George Washington University) in 1893. From 1896-1897, Henderson was secretary to John W. Foster, a diplomatic advisor to the Chinese government. In 1897, he traveled with General Nelson A. Miles on a tour of Europe and the Ottoman Empire as a civilian observer of the armies of the great European powers. He was appointed a citizen member of the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents in 1911 and retained that post until his death. Interested in shell collecting as a youth, Henderson later concentrated on marine shell life of the West Indies and participated in several expeditions to the Caribbean. His collections were donated to the United States National Museum. He did volunteer work in the Division of Mollusks in his spare time, and wrote several articles for the Proceedings of the United States National Museum and Bulletin of the United States National Museum. He was the author of American Diplomatic Questions, 1901, and The Cruise of the Tomas Barrera, 1916, based on his expedition to Cuba in 1914.