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Happy Birthday Smithsonian Institution!

Royal armoury, Haymarket, (adjoining the theatre.), [18--]

Royal armoury, Haymarket, (adjoining the theatre.), [18–], Formerly owned by James Smithson.

On August 10, 1846, Congress passed an act establishing the Smithsonian Institution, named in honor of James Smithson, a British mineralogist and chemist who unexpectedly bequeathed a fortune to the United States government for "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge."

Though Smithson died in 1827, it took nearly twenty years for the terms of his will to take effect and to be accepted by the United States.

In addition to the money, Smithson's estate also contained:

"A large trunk; a box containing sundry specimens of minerals; a
brass instrument; a box of minerals; a box of chemical glasses; a packet of minerals; a glass vinegar-cruet; a stone mortar; a pair of silver-plated candlesticks and branches; a pair of silver-plated candlesticks without branches; a hone, in a mahogany case; a plated-wire flower-basket; a plated coffee-pot; a small plated coffee-pot; a pair of wine-coolers; a pair of small candlesticks; two pair salt-cellars; a bread-basket; two pair vegetable dishes and covers; a large round waiter; a large oval waiter; two small oval waiters; two plate-warmers; a reading shade; a gun; a mahogany cabinet; two portraits in oval frames; a china tea-service, consisting of twelve cups and saucers; six coffee-cups; a tea-pot; a slop-basin; a sugar-basin and lid; two plates; a milk-jug; a tea-canister; two dishes; a landscape in a gilt frame; a Derby-spar vase; a China tub; a piece of fluor-spar; a pair of glass candlesticks; a marble bust; sundry books and pamphlets; two large boxes filled with specimens of minerals and manuscript treatises, apparently in the testator's handwriting, on various philosophical subjects, particularly chemistry and mineralogy. Eight cases and one trunk filled with the like."

From James Smithson and his Bequest by William J. Rhees. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 21 (1881).

Also included was his personal library. The collection consists of 122 titles, primarily scientific monographs and journal articles, but also history and memoirs, political pamphlets, travel books and museum guides, and a few household items like cookbooks.

Martin Kalfatovic


Learn more about Smithson's Library.

LibraryThing: James Smithson Collection

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