United States Exploring Expedition Collection,
1838-1885
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
Record Unit 7186
Creators:
United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842)
Dates:
1838-1885
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
4.37 cu. ft. (6 document boxes) (1 half document box) (1 12x17 box) (1 16x20 box)
Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Descriptive Entry
Descriptive Entry
Several reports covering the scientific work of the expedition were made, and most were published. One of the exceptions was the ichthyology report, which Charles Pickering was originally assigned to prepare. It was delayed, however; and by the middle of 1849, Jean Louis Agassiz had been placed in charge of the work. Due to the pressures of his many other commitments, and to the growing reluctance of Congress to appropriate additional funds after 1862, Agassiz never completed the project. In 1885, twelve years after Agassiz's death, the fish specimens, his manuscript, and its illustrations were sent to the United States National Museum.
The two illustrators, Joseph Drayton and Alfred T. Agate, produced numerous drawings of fishes during the expedition, many of which are in this collection. Drayton also helped supervise the illustrations and engraving work for a number of the scientific reports which were published.
A number of the items covering the ichthyology of the United States Exploring Expedition have been held, along with the specimens, by the Division of Fishes of the United States National Museum of Natural History. This record unit includes an unsigned manuscript on the fishes of the expedition, apparently the work of Jean Louis Agassiz which was sent to the United States National Museum in 1885; notes on the fishes and echinoderms collected by the expedition, either by Charles Pickering or based on his notes; a number of items concerning the drawings, specimens and the itinerary of the expedition; and drawings and illustrations of fishes done during the voyage or as illustrations for the ichthyology report. An unpublished manuscript on the fishes of the United States Exploring Expedition by Henry Ward Fowler has been placed in Record Unit 7180.
In addition to the ichthyological materials some items in this collection were held by the Smithsonian Library. These items consist of a letter from R. R. Waldron to Mrs. Sarah Jane Hale concerning her son Horatio Hale's travel plan, 1841; a manuscript on the expedition by Titian Ramsay Peale, which was published by the American Historical Records, 1874; notebooks on botany, mostly by William Dunlop Brackenridge; catalogues and annotated lists of ethnological, geological, mineralogical, and natural history specimens collected by the expedition; drawings of echinoderms by Drayton; original invoices and other official papers of the expedition, mostly shipping lists of specimens sent to the United States; and some loose sheets from the purser's account book, 1838-1842.

Historical Note
Historical Note
The United States Exploring Expedition, also known as the Wilkes Expedition, was authorized by an act of Congress in 1836 as "a surveying and exploring expedition to the Pacific Ocean and South Seas." It was prompted by a desire to obtain information concerning an area which was rapidly becoming of interest to American traders and whalers. A contingent of scientists accompanied the expedition, commanded by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes of the United States Navy, including Charles Pickering, Titian Ramsay Peale, Joseph P. Couthouy, James Dwight Dana, William Rich, William Dunlop Brackenridge, and Horatio Hale. In addition to the scientists, two illustrators, Joseph Drayton and Alfred T. Agate, also accompanied the expedition.
The expedition, which consisted of five ships and crews provided by the United States Navy, sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, in August 1838. By the time it returned to New York in June 1842, it had visited and explored Madeira, both coasts of South America, Tierra del Fuego, the South Pacific islands, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, the Hawaiian Islands, Oregon, California, the Philippine Islands, Singapore, the Cape of Good Hope, and St. Helena. Wilkes' voyage along the Antarctic coast during the expedition established the existence of that continent.
During the voyage, the scientists gathered specimens and studied the flora and fauna of each place visited. At various points along the route specimens were packed and sent back to the United States. Eventually, the specimens were placed in the custody of the National Institute in Washington, D.C., and installed in the Great Hall of the Patent Office. They remained there until their removal to the Smithsonian Institution in 1858.

Notes
Personal Papers

Using the Collection
Prefered Citation
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7186, United States Exploring Expedition Collection

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Peale, Titian Ramsay, 1799-1885 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pickering, Charles, 1805-1878 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wilkes, Charles, 1798-1877 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Couthouy, Joseph Pitty, 1808-1864 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Dana, James Dwight, 1813-1895 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rich, William Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Brackenridge, William D. (William Dunlop), 1810-1893 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hale, Horatio, 1817-1896 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drayton, Joseph Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Agate, Alfred T., 1812-1846 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Institute Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Patent Office Building (Washington, D.C.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Geology Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Anthropology Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Botany Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ichthyology Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Invertebrate zoology Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Natural history Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scientific expeditions Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Invertebrates Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Zoologists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Geologists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Anthropologists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Botanists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ichthyologists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Naturalists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scientific illustrations Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuscripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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