Arts and Industries Building, Room 2135
900 Jefferson Drive, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20560
Guide to the Smithsonian Archives (Washington,
D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983).
Cf. Victoria Agee, et. al., (compls.) National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the United States:-- Federal Records -- Index 1985 (Teaneck, NJ and Cambridge, England: Chadwyck-Healey, Inc., 1985). Of special interest are entries 1358 & 1422 [Canal Zone Biological Area/ Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Records, 1912-1965, 8.6 cu. ft., RU-135 & Records, 1918-1964, 4.6 cu. ft., RU-134]; entry 1508 [National Institute for the Promotion of Science, 1840-1862, Records, 1839-1963, 6.2 cu. ft., RU-7058, which includes materials on James P. Espy]; and entry 1542 [Leonhard Stejneger (1851-1943), Papers, 1753, 1867-1945, 14.3 cu. ft., RU-7074].
CHARLES G. ABBOT PAPERS, 1889-1973, and Records of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (RU-7005) (30 linear meters and oversize)
Charles G. Abbot (1872-1973), the fifth Secretary
of the Smithsonian Institution, came to the Institution in 1895
as an assistant to Secretary Samuel P. Langley in the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory. In 1906 he was named Director of the
Astrophysical Observatory, a position which he held until his
retirement in 1944. He became an Assistant Secretary of the Institution
in 1918, and served as Secretary from 1928 to 1944. Most of Abbot's
research centered around studies of solar radiation and attempts
to determine the relationship between solar variations and the
earth's weather. These papers consist mainly of records of the
Astrophysical Observatory under the directorship of Samuel P.
Langley, Charles G. Abbot, and Loyal B. Aldrich.
ARRANGEMENT: (1) Astrophysical Observatory
daybooks, 1889-1907; (2) energy spectrum books, circa 1882-1904;
(3) Astrophysical Observatory waste books, 1890-1948; (4) charts
of solar constant readings taken at Mt. Montezuma, Chile, and
Table Mountain, California, 1920-1948; (5) Astrophysical Observatory
correspondence, 1920-1955; (6) bolographic plates--energy spectrum
scans, circa 1927-1956; (7) reminiscences contributed to the Smithsonian
Archives, 1970; (8) miscellaneous personal correspondence; (9)
publications. FINDING AIDS: Preliminary inventory in control
file. SPECIAL CONDITIONS: (1) Much of this material consists
of records of the Astrophysical Observatory and will be removed
from this record unit as it is processed; (2) series 4 partially
ALEXANDER DALLAS BACHE PAPERS, 1821-1869 (RU-7053)
(0.9 linear meter and oversize).
The papers of Alexander Dallas Bache (1806-1867)
relate to his study of European education, his appointment as
Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey, his professional
intercourse with other scientists on a broad range of topics,
his own research, and his work on the Lighthouse Board. They
include diaries, 1836-1837, of his study of educational institutions
in Britain; correspondence, 1821-1866, documenting his European
trip, his work on education during the years 1839-1841, and his
contact with the American scientific community; small collections
of papers concerning the Coast Survey, the Lighthouse Board, and
the Smithsonian Institution; letters to his wife, Nancy Clarke
Fowler Bache; and a small collection of posthumous papers.
ARRANGEMENT: (1) Diaries, 1836-1837; (2) outgoing
correspondence, 1836-1841; (3) incoming correspondence, 1821-1866;
(4) incoming correspondence, 1849; (5) Coast Survey papers, 1849,
1853-1854; (6) Lighthouse Board papers, 1853-1864; (7) lectures,
reports, papers; (8) Smithsonian Institution notes, circa 1847-1855;
(9) letters of recommendation of Bache; (10) honors and appointments,
1821-1865; (11) correspondence of Nancy Bache, 1859-1869; (12)
posthumous; (13) magnetic and meteorological observations at Girard
College, 1840-1845. FINDING AIDS: Description in control file.
JEAN LOUIS BERLANDIER PAPERS, 1826-1851, and
related papers to 1886 (RU-7052) (2.5 linear meters).
Jean Louis Berlandier (circa 1805-1851), anthropologist,
geographer, historian, meteorologist and naturalist, was one of
the earliest scientists to explore northeastern Mexico and southeastern
Texas. A native of France, Berlandier studied pharmacy in Geneva,
and later studied botany under Auguste-Pyrame de Candolle at the
Academy of Geneva. In November, 1826, Berlandier was assigned
by de Candolle to collect natural history specimens in the northeastern
part of Mexico, including Texas. Berlandier maintained an extensive
record of meteorological observations begun when he left France
in 1826. In May 1851, Berlandier drowned while crossing a river
south of Matamoros.
Between 1855 and 1886, various persons connected
with the Smithsonian used these papers, particularly Berlandier's
zoological and meteorological data, for research and editing.
Their notations, abstracts, and other materials are part of this
record unit. James Henry Coffin, who reduced the meteorological
observation data, which Joseph Henry intended to publish; and
Walter L. Nicholson and Cleveland Abbe, both of whom attempted
to edit the works of Berlandier and Coffin, but were unable to
complete the project.
HENRY HELM CLAYTON PAPERS, 1877-1949, and undated
(1.6 linear meters and oversize).
Henry Helm Clayton (1861-1946) was a meteorologist
and weather forecaster. He began his career in 1884 as an assistant
at the University of Michigan's Astronomical Observatory. In
1885 he was appointed assistant at Harvard University's Astronomical
Observatory, and from 1886 to 1891 served as an observer at Harvard's
Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory. From 1891 to 1893 he worked
as a local forecast official with the United States Weather Bureau.
In 1894 Clayton returned to the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory,
where he served as a meteorologist until 1909. Clayton became
Chief of Argentina, Clayton pursued research on a system of weather
forecasting based on solar heat changes and began corresponding
with Charles G. Abbot of the Smithsonian Institution, who was
also conducting research on solar variation. From 1923 to 1926
he conducted research, in cooperation with the Smithsonian, on
the effect of solar variation on world weather patterns. Clayton
directed a private weather forecasting service and served as a
consulting meteorologist for business organizations from 1920
until his death.
The papers of Henry Helm Clayton document his
career as a meteorologist and weather forecaster and his research
on solar variation. They consist mainly of professional and personal
correspondence, including a large amount with Charles G. Abbot
concerning solar research. Also included are weather forecasts,
meteorological data, photographs, newspaper clippings, manuscripts,
and related materials on meteorology. The small amount of correspondence
and meteorological data that post-dates Clayton's death in 1946
was compiled by his daughter, Frances Lindley Clayton.
ARRANGEMENT: (1) General correspondence, 1886-1949,
and undated; (2) weather forecasts, meteorological data, photographs,
newspaper clippings, manuscripts, and related materials on meteorology,
1877-1949, and undated. FINDING AIDS: Description in control file.
JAMES HENRY COFFIN PAPERS, 1848-1884 (RU-7060)
(0.1 linear meter).
James Henry Coffin (1806-1873) was a mathematician and meteorologist, who specialized in the study of wind velocity. Coffin graduated from Amherst College in 1828, and taught at various schools and colleges. Coffin began his meteorological studies in 1838. While at Williams College, 1840-1843, he installed an apparatus on Mt. Greylock, New York, for automatically recording the direction and the velocity of the wind. From 1846 until his death, Coffin held a chair of mathematics and natural philosophy at Lafayette in meteorology. Two of Coffin's studies, Winds of the Northern Hemisphere and Winds of the Globe were published by the Institution in 1853 and 1875, respectively. Cf. Arnold Guyot, "Memoir of James H. Coffin," Biog. Mem. Natl. Ac. Sci. 1 (1877): 257-64; John C. Clyde, The Life of James H. Coffin, LL.D. (Easton, PA, 1881).
These papers consist of correspondence concerning
temperature, wind, and weather reports of the Hudson Bay region,
1848; resolutions of condolence to Coffin's son, Seldon J. Coffin,
from students and alumni of Lafayette College after Coffin' death,
1873; newspaper articles; an illustration of James H. Coffin;
and the original manuscript of Winds of the Northern Hemisphere.
Additional correspondence of James Henry Coffin exists elsewhere
in the Smithsonian Archives, especially in the Joseph Henry Collection,
record unit 7001, and Meteorological Project Records, record unit
ARRANGEMENT: (1) Correspondence and newspaper
articles; (2) manuscripts. FINDING AIDS: Description in control
THOMAS COULTER JOURNAL, 1824-1827 (RU-7289)
(0.1 linear meter).
Thomas Coulter (1793-1843) was an Irish physician
and botanist who collected plants in Mexico and California, 1824-1834.
From 1824 to 1827 he traveled from London to Vera Cruz. This
journal consists of daily meteorological observations taken by
Coulter on this journey.
ARRANGEMENT: Chronologic. FINDING AIDS: None.
WILLIAM H. DALL PAPERS, circa 1839-1858, 1862-1927
(10 linear meters).
William Healy Dall (1845-1927), was a naturalist
who took meteorological observations in Alaska for the Smithsonian
Institution. Relevant entries include: (4) correspondence, 1865-1927;
(5) registers of letters received and written, 1865-1878, 1882-1927;
(6) diaries, 1865-1927; (7) Western Union Telegraph Expedition
notebooks, 1865-1868; (12) reports and other material on expeditions,
DIVISION OF PHYSICAL SCIENCES, 1956-1976 (RU-293)
(0.9 linear meter).
The Division of Physical Sciences was established
in the Department of Science and Technology in 1957 to be responsible
for collections in the history of astronomy, chemistry, astrophysics,
geology, meteorology, and classical physics.
These records consist of public inquiries concerning general scientific instruments; memoranda, layout plans, photographs, and scripts for exhibits, including plans for the proposed Hall of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy in the Museum of History and Technology; correspondence with foreign and domestic science museums, colleges and universities, professional scientific societies, and manufacturers and collectors of scientific instruments, administrative records consisting of annual reports, plans of operations, and memoranda; files documenting Cannon's role in the bicentennial celebration of James Smithson's birth; and files on interns' research in the Division.
ARRANGEMENT: (1) Administrative files, 1961-1976;
(2) exhibits, 1956-1976; (3) general correspondence, 1956-1976;
(4) public inquiries, 1962-1976; (5) bicentennial celebration
of James Smithson's birth, 1964-1967; (6) interns' research, 1962-1965.
FINDING AIDS: None. SPECIAL CONDITIONS: Restricted.
JOSEPH HENRY COLLECTION, 1808, 1825-1878, and
related papers to circa 1903 (RU-7001) (8.6 linear meters and
Joseph Henry (1797-1878) had careers as scientist,
teacher, promoter of research, and administrator, which are documented
in depositories throughout the world. The majority of the documentation
in the Smithsonian Archives consists of secretarial records dating
from 1865 to 1878 and his collection of personal and professional
This collection includes the full range of
Henry's activities from 1825 through 1878, although the years
after he became Secretary in 1846 are more fully represented than
those before. Henry carried on correspondence with many of the
great scientific men of his day, and the correspondence runs the
gamut from details of scientific research to the broadest questions
of scientific policy and the growth of professional scientific
organization. Henry's work in electromagnetism is documented,
as is his role in the development of the telegraph; and the many
papers and addresses he gave on scientific, educational, and other
topics are an important resource. His work in meteorology can
be studied here and in the Meteorological Project records. A
considerable segment of the papers deals with the Lighthouse Board,
to which Henry was appointed in 1852, and with the American Association
for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences,
and the Philosophical Society of Washington. One of Henry's daughters,
Mary A. Henry, compiled extensive information for a biography
of her father, which is also included in the Henry collection.
A letterpress edition of Henry's papers is
being produced by the Joseph Henry Papers, a cooperative editorial
project located at the Smithsonian Institution. The Joseph Henry
Papers holds no original documents, but it does have extensive
information on the location of Henry documents which is utilized
by the Smithsonian Archives in answering research inquiries.
Cf. W.B. Taylor, "The Scientific Work of Joseph Henry," in A Memorial of Joseph Henry (Washington, 1880) and Philosophical Society of Washington Bull. 2 (1874-78): 230ff; Simon Newcomb, "Memoir of Joseph Henry," Biog. Mem. Natl. Ac. Sci. 5 (1905); Thomas Coulson, Joseph Henry: His Life and Work (Princeton, 1950); Nathan Reingold and Marc Rothenberg (eds.), The Papers of Joseph Henry 7 Vols. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1972-1996).
ARRANGEMENT: (1) Incoming and outgoing correspondence,
1808, 1825-1878; (2) outgoing correspondence, letterpress, 1865-1878;
(3) letters to and from James H. Coffin, 1842-1873; (4) diaries,
1835-1877; (5) research and lectures; (6) Lighthouse Board; (7)
honors, invitations, awards; (8) publications by Joseph Henry;
(9) oversize; (10) memorials; (11) Harriet Henry papers, 1825-1878;
(12) Mary A. Henry papers, including her work on the projected
biography of Joseph Henry; (13) family letters form other depositories.
FINDING AIDS: (1) Joseph Henry Papers computer index, providing
name and subject access to part of the Henry Collection; (2) card
index to letters in chronological series (Item 1 above); (3) shelf
list of Henry items, 1971; (4) Michele Aldrich, Calendar of the
Unknowns, a list of difficult-to-identify items; (5) pocket notebooks
of Joseph Henry, control file; (7) Joseph Henry, honors and awards,
control file; (8) Joseph Henry, invitations and notices, control
file; (9) Henryana Abstract and Index to Abstract, an obsolete
finding aid to the collection before present arrangement was imposed,
sometimes useful. SPECIAL CONDITIONS: Microfilm available for
most of the collection; other pieces may require special order
microfilming or photocopying. All requests for permission to
publish must be approved by the Joseph Henry Papers.
SAMUEL P. LANGLEY PAPERS, 1867-1906 (RU-7003)
(9.5 linear meters and oversize)
Samuel P. Langley (1834-1906) was the third Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Apparently many of Langley's papers were accidentally burned after his death. Langley papers in the Smithsonian are housed in the Smithsonian Archives and the National Air and Space Museum (NASM). The Allegheny Observatory holds papers from Langley's years there, from which copies of Langley's correspondence, 1867-1887, have been made for this collection. Cf. L. Obendorf, Samuel P. Langley: Solar Scientist, 1867-1891 (Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, 1969.)
ARRANGEMENT: (1) Publications, including a
bound collection of writings, and original manuscripts of many
of Langley's publications, 1869-1905; (2) diaries and shorthand
notebooks, mostly kept by Langley's secretary, 1889-1905; (3)
bolograph curve and line spectrum readings; (4) microfilm and
photocopies of Langley's outgoing correspondence from the Allegheny
Observatory, 1867-1887; (5) astrophysical research correspondence;
(6) scrapbooks, 1890-1903.
METEOROLOGICAL PROJECT, 1849-1875 (data from
1820) (RU-60) Records (2.5 linear meters).
Joseph Henry's first major project at the Smithsonian was his plan to obtain weather reports from a country-wide network of voluntary observers; his plan is detailed in the Institution's 1848 Annual Report. Voluminous reports, maps, tables, and charts were prepared and published on all phases of the work -- rainfall, snowfall, temperatures, barometric pressure, storms, meteors, auroras, and other phenomena. In 1874, after Congress had established a federal storm-warning service under the direction of the Chief Signal Officer, the Smithsonian system of meteorological reports was discontinued and the observers were instructed to report to the federal service. The Smithsonian continued to work on the material collected up to the time of transfer, however, and over the next few years issued reports,
tables, and maps. A part of this record unit
was published in the 1873 Annual Report, pages 84-131, "Classified
Record of Monthly Meteorological Reports Preserved in the Smithsonian
Institution;" and other segments of this unit were published
elsewhere. Incoming and outgoing meteorological correspondence
is completely unpublished, however. Correspondents include Lorin
Blodget, James Henry Coffin, James Pollard Espy, Arnold Henry
Guyot, Joseph Henry, Elias Loomis, and Charles Anthony Schott.
These records were created after 1850, but contain meteorological
information dating back to 1820.
ARRANGEMENT: (1) Incoming correspondence, 1852-1861,
1868; (2) miscellaneous correspondence, notes, reports, 1853-1875;
(3) Lorin Blodget's outgoing correspondence, 1853-1854; (4) manuscript
copy for the "Classified Record of Monthly Meteorological
Reports Preserved in the Smithsonian Institution," Annual
Report, 1873, pp.84-140; (5) records relating to studies of monthly
and annual mean temperatures in the United States and elsewhere
in the Americas, data for years 1820-1875; (7) records relating
to atmospheric pressure, data for years 1850-1873; (8) records
of meteorological observers, 1856-1860, 1868-1873; records of
instrument distribution, 1850-1870; list of publications on meteorology;
(9) clippings on meteorology, 1853-1873 with gaps; (10) miscellaneous
meteorological records; (11) oversize, published meteorological
maps. FINDING AIDS: Description in control file. SPECIAL CONDITIONS:
Microfilm copies of incoming correspondence, 1852-1861, 1868,
For further information see James R. Fleming,
"Meteorology in America, 1814-1874: Theoretical, Observational,
and Institutional Horizons" (Princeton Univ.: Ph.D. Dissertation;
Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, #88-09302, 1988).
NEW ENGLAND FISHING SCHOONER LOGBOOKS, 1852-1862
(0.8 linear meter).
This collection consists of 112 logbooks maintained
by various New England fishing schooners during voyages conducted
from 1852 to 1862. The logbooks contain data regarding weather
conditions, number of fish caught, and, to a lesser degree, types
of fish caught.
ARRANGEMENT: Chronologic. FINDING AIDS: None.
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY, 1850-1852 (RU-42)
Correspondence Registers (0.1 linear meter).
These registers are for letters burned in the
1865 Smithsonian Building fire.
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY (JOSEPH HENRY, SPENCER
F. BAIRD), 1863-1879 (RU-26) Incoming Correspondence (12.7 linear
This series consists mostly of correspondence addressed to Joseph Henry, much of which received his personal attention; also included are some copies of Henry letters, occasional returned original Henry letters, and a considerable number of letters to Baird. Cf. William H. Dall, Spencer Fullerton Baird, A Biography (1915).
ARRANGEMENT: Numerous alphabetical series numbered
from volume 1 through volume 183; (1) volumes 1-75, 1863-1869,
unbound and rearranged in two-alphabetic series; (2) volumes 76-183,
1866-1879, alphabetic in several series, FINDING AIDS: (1) Card
indexes, providing mostly proper name access; references are to
volume and page numbers, although records for volumes 1-75 are
located alphabetically; (2) most volumes indexed individually;
(3) alphabetic arrangement of records serves as an additional
finding aid. SPECIAL CONDITIONS: (1) Many items are missing,
especially from the first 75 volumes; (2) record unit available
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY, 1864-1869 (RU-37)
Abstracts of Incoming and Outgoing Correspondence (0.5 linear meter).
The date of compilation this abstract is unknown,
although presumably it was done in part before the 1865 fire.
ARRANGEMENT: Chronologic with indications of
source of abstract in official records. (1) October 30, 1864-July
19,1869; (2) February 20, 1865-October 30, 1869. FINDING AIDS:
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY, 1865-1873, 1882 (RU-35)
Letters Written register (0.8 linear meter).
Letters entered in the register were also abstracted
briefly, and occasionally the abstract is the only version of
the letter available.
ARRANGEMENT: Chronologic. (1) January 1865-September
1868; (2) May 1871-December 1971; (3) January 1872-April 1873,
1882. FINDING AIDS: None.
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY, 1865-1873, 1883-1912
Letters Received Registers (2.7 linear meters).
Letters entered in the registers were also
abstracted briefly, and occasionally the abstract is the only
version of the letter available.
ARRANGEMENT: Chronologic. There are four series
of register numbers represented in existing register books: one
which is operation in 1865; a second which began and ended in
1873; a third which began in 1879, but which is first represented
in these register books in 1883 and ends in 1894; and a fourth
which began in 1895. FINDING AIDS: Bound indexes referring to
register numbers as follows: 1870, 1873, 1874-1876, 1883-1886,
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY, 1865-1879 (RU-32)
Incoming Correspondence (0.3 linear meter).
These secretarial records apparently were separated
from the main series before the latter were bound; they may be
integrated in to the main series later.
ARRANGEMENT: Alphabetic and chronologic. FINDING
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY (JOSEPH HENRY, SPENCER
F. BAIRD, SAMUEL P. LANGLEY), 1865-1891 (RU-33)
Outgoing Correspondence (8.2 linear meters).
ARRANGEMENT: Chronologic. FINDING AIDS: (1)
Card index providing mostly proper name access; unreliable after
1889; (2) an index in each volume also provides mostly proper
name access. SPECIAL CONDITIONS: (1) Deteriorating letterpress
affects legibility; (2) record unit available on microfilm.
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY (JOSEPH HENRY, SPENCER
F. BAIRD), 1870-1876, 1883-circa 1894 (RU-38)
Miscellaneous Indexes and Abstracts (0.9 linear meter).
ARRANGEMENT: Alphabetic and chronologic; (1)
index of letters received, 1870; (2) index to letters attended
to, 1873; (3) synopsis of letters received, 1874-1875; (4) synopsis
of letters received, 1875-1876; (5) subjects of letters written,
undated; (6) index of letters received, January 1-April 30, 1883;
(7) index of correspondence, April 30, 1883-December 31, 1886,
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY (JOSEPH HENRY), 1873-1878
Incoming Correspondence, Requests for Publications and Assistance (2.7 linear meters).
Mostly ephemeral; contains records of the Chief
ARRANGEMENT: Alphabetic. FINDING AIDS: Each
volume indexed individually. SPECIAL CONDITIONS: Record unit
available on microfilm.
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY (SAMUEL P. LANGLEY),
Outgoing Correspondence (5.7 linear meters).
Shortly after Samuel P. Langley became Secretary,
a new system of organizing outgoing correspondence was devised.
Some of the records have not survived to the present; hence,
there are gaps in series numbers.
ARRANGEMENT: (1) General, 59 volumes, 1892-1907;
(6) Astrophysical Observatory, 14 volumes, 1892-1907; (20) Aerodromics,
10 volumes, 1891-1907. FINDING AIDS: (1) Card index, combing
index for incoming and outgoing; provides access mostly by proper
name, usually with the letter abstracted on the card; (2) indexes
in bound volumes; (3) volume list in control file. SPECIAL CONDITIONS:
(1) Deteriorating letterpress affects legibility; (2) record unit
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY (SAMUEL P. LANGLEY),
1891-1906 and related records to 1908 (RU-31)
Incoming Correspondence (18.5 linear meters).
These records document the administration of
the Smithsonian during most of the tenure of Samuel P. Langley,
its third Secretary. Langley's own papers were destroyed by fire
soon after his death; but a significant amount of his research
in astrophysics and aerodynamics ("aerodromics," as
he called it) is preserved the records of the Secretary's office.
ARRANGEMENT: (1) General correspondence, arranged
alphabetically; (2) Smithsonian bureaus; (3) Hodgkins Fund documents
and correspondence; (4) Government departments. FINDING AIDS:
(1) Description in control file; (2) card index providing mostly
proper name access, usually with letter abstracted on the card;
(3) special bound index to Hodgkins Fund correspondence.
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY (CHARLES D. WALCOTT,
CHARLES G. ABBOT, ALEXANDER WETMORE), 1925-1949 (RU-46)
Records (29.1 linear meters).
These records chiefly document the policy and
administration of the Smithsonian under Charles G. Abbot, 1928-1944,
though they overlap parts of the administrations of Secretaries
Walcott and Wetmore. Contains records of Abbot's research in solar
radiation and climatic studies. ARRANGEMENT: Alphabetic including
two subunits for government, one for Smithsonian administration
and budgets, and one for international congresses. FINDING AIDS:
(1) Card Index, prepared when records were created or received,
providing mostly proper name access and usually abstracting the
letter; (2) folder list in control file. SPECIAL CONDITIONS:
Arrangement will be changed.