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James Smithson

National Portrait Gallery

James Smithson

Smithsonian American Art Museum

James Smithson

National Portrait Gallery
Probably born in France

Englishman James Smithson commissioned this forthright portrait from a Belgian artist working in present-day Aachen, possibly as a gift for a family member. Always painfully aware of his uncertain status as an illegitimate child of the Duke of Northumberland, he focused on his scientific publishing in chemistry and mineralogy. In 1826 he penned his most unusual will, providing for the establishment of the “Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men.”

James Smithson

National Portrait Gallery

James Smithson

National Portrait Gallery

James Smithson

National Portrait Gallery

James Smithson Quotation

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Reproduced in Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Volume 21. Original appears to have been destroyed in fire of 1865.

'Everyman is a valuable member of society who by his observations, researches and experiments procures knowledge for men.' Written by James Smithson, founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution, date unknown.

James Smithson Bicentennial Celebration

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
A black and white, 10w x 8h print is located in Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 59, Folder: 5.

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of James Smithson, founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution, a three day celebration was held September 16, 17, 18, 1965. The event included an academic procession in front of the Smithsonian Institution Building.

James Smithson's Scientific Notes

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Handwritten scientific notes by James Smithson (1765-1829), chemist, mineralogist, and founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution, concerning his mineral collection of some 10,000 specimens.

James Smithson's Scientific Notes

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Handwritten scientific notes by James Smithson (1765-1829), chemist, mineralogist, and founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution, concerning his mineral collection of some 10,000 specimens.

James Smithson Bicentennial Celebration

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
A black and white, 10w x 8h print is located in Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 59, Folder: 5.

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of James Smithson, founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution, a three day celebration was held September 16, 17, 18, 1965. The event included an academic procession shown proceeding down the paths in front of the Smithsonian Institution Building. An honor guard stands on the Mall in front of the statue of Joseph Henry. The roof of the Arts and Industries Building is visible behind trees on the left.

James Smithson Bicentennial Celebration

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
A black and white, 10w x 8h print is located in Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 59, Folder: 5.

From left to right: Philip C. Ritterbush, Special Assistant for Scientific Matters, Office of Secretary Smithsonian Institution; Arthur Koestler; and T. Dale Stewart, Director, National Museum of Natural History, at a reception in the Smithsonian Institution Building on the occasion of a three day celebration held September 16, 17, 18, 1965, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of James Smithson, the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution.

James Smithson Memorial Tablet

Smithsonian American Art Museum

James Smithson Bicentennial Celebration

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of James Smithson, founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution, a three day celebration was held September 16, 17, 18, 1965. The event included an academic procession. From left to right: Theodore W. Taylor, Assistant to the Secretary, Smithsonian Institution; Chief Justice Earl Warren, Chancellor, Smithsonian Institution; and S. Dillon Ripley, Secretary, Smithsonian Institution. An honor guard marches behind the three gentlemen. A portion of the Smithsonian Institution Building is visible in the background.

Crypt of James Smithson

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
See Field, Ewing and Stamm, "The Castle," pp. 154-57; Smithsonian Institution Annual Report for 1905, pp. 6-7. Rick Stamm's unpublished ms. "The History of Smithson's Crypt" details each of the proposals made for a Smithson memorial, copy in Office of Architectural History. The proposals are located in Smithsonian Institution Archives, RU7000, B4.

Crypt containing the body of founder James Smithson in the North Tower entrance of the Smithsonian Institution Building or "Castle." Smithson's remains were brought to the United States by Smithsonian Regent Alexander Graham Bell in 1904, when the Protestant Cemetery in Genoa, Italy, where Smithson was buried, was to be moved. Many plans were made for an elaborate memorial to the Institution's benefactor, but the lack of an appropriation dictated a more modest course. Smithson's marker from the Italian gravesite was incorporated into the room, and a gate was fashioned from pieces of the fence that had surrounded the site. Architects Hornblower and Marshall redesigned the room to give it a more somber classical feeling, replacing the ceiling, windows, and the floor.

James Smithson Bicentennial Celebration

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
A black and white, 10w x 8h print is located in Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 59, Folder: 5.

From left to right: J. Robert Oppenheimer; Caryl P. Haskins, Regent, Smithsonian Institution; Jerome S. Bruner, and John F. Jameson, Management Analyst, Organizations and Methods Division, Office of Assistant Secretary, Smithsonian Institution, at a reception in the Smithsonian Institution Building on the occasion of a three day celebration held September 16, 17, 18, 1965, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of James Smithson, the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution.

James Smithson Bicentennial Celebration

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
In a room in the Smithsonian Institution Building, from Left to Right: Frank T. Bow, Regent, Smithsonian Institution; Chief Justice Earl Warren, Chancellor of the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents; and S. Dillon Ripley, Secretary, Smithsonian Institution, dressed in their academic robes on the occasion of a three day celebration held September 16, 17, 18, 1965, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of James Smithson, the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution.

James Smithson Engraving

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
For additional information, see Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, volume 21, pp. viii, 1 and 16. See also neg. #82-3206.

Engraving of James Smithson as an adult, based upon a miniature portrait of Smithson done in oil on ivory by Henri Johns on May 11, 1816 at Aix la Chapelle, France, and purchased in 1878 from George Henry de la Batut of France. The engraving was prepared by the Heliotype Printing Company, Boston, c. 1881, and published in sepia tone in Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, volume 21. The original portrait is located in the National Portrait Gallery.

James Smithson Memorial Plaque

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
See also negative #53254 and #53255

Plaster model for James Smithson memorial plaque commissioned by the Smithsonian Board of Regents in 1896. James Smithson (c.1765-1829), founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution, died in Genoa, Italy, in 1829. He was buried in the nearby English cemetery, and a memorial plaque was placed at his grave site in 1896 by the Regents. After the turn of the century, the Smithsonian was notified of plans to move the cemetery to allow quarrying at the site. In 1904, Smithsonian Regent Alexander Graham Bell brought Smithson's body to the United States.

Three copies of the Smithson Tablet or memorial plaque were made in bronze and two copies were made in Carrara marble. The artist for the plaque design was William Ordway Partridge of New York City. The plaque features a carved profile of James Smithson with the inscription, "James Smithson -- FRS -- Founder of the Smithsonian Institution -- Washington. Erected by the Regents of the Institution 1896." Initially, two bronze copies were cast in 1896. One was placed at the Smithson grave site outside Genoa and one was installed in the nearby Church of the Holy Spirit.

The memorial plaque at the grave site was later stolen and replaced with a facsimile of Carrara marble in 1900. That plaque was brought to Washington, D.C., in 1904, when Smithson's remains were moved to the Smithsonian and remains in the Crypt Room of the Smithsonian Castle today. The bronze in the Church of the Holy Spirit was lost during World War II; the church was gutted by fire and many artifacts were lost. A replacement marble facsimile was carved by Rafaello Romanelli of Florence and installed in 1963. A third bronze copy of the memorial plaque was cast and sent to Pembroke College, Oxford University, where Smithson attended school, in 1898, where it remains today.

James Smithson Memorial Tablet

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
See also negative # 11812, #53254 and #10226-A

Smithson Tablet erected by the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution to commemorate James Smithson, founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution, who died near Genoa, Italy on June 27, 1829. This memorial marker was hung in the Anglo-American (Anglican) Church of the Holy Ghost, Genoa, Italy, after the original one was destroyed when the church was bombed during World War II.

Three copies of the Smithson Tablet or memorial plaque were made in bronze and two copies were made in Carrara marble. The artist for the plaque design was William Ordway Partridge of New York City. The plaque features a carved profile of James Smithson with the inscription, "James Smithson -- FRS -- Founder of the Smithsonian Institution -- Washington. Erected by the Regents of the Institution 1896." Initially, two bronze copies were cast in 1896. One was placed at the Smithson grave site outside Genoa and one was installed in the nearby Church of the Holy Ghost.

The memorial plaque at the grave site was later stolen and replaced with a facsimile of Carrara marble in 1900. That plaque was brought to Washington, D.C., in 1904, when Smithson's remains were moved to the Smithsonian and remains in the Crypt Room of the Smithsonian Castle today. The bronze in the Church of the Holy Ghost was lost during World War II; the church was gutted by fire and many artifacts were lost. A replacement marble facsimile was carved by Rafaello Romanelli of Florence and installed in 1963. A third bronze copy of the memorial plaque was cast and sent to Pembroke College, Oxford University, where Smithson attended school, in 1898, where it remains today.

Removal of James Smithson's Coffin

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Original negative number is 71-57-4, but that negative has been lost.

The coffin containing the remains of James Smithson is being carried out of the Genoa, Italy cemetery where his body had been buried. Notified that the cemetery was to be destroyed, Smithsonian Regent Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel went to Italy to oversee the exhumation of Smithson's remains and their transfer to Washington, D.C. Smithson's grave was opened on December 31, 1903.

James Smithson's Calamines Paper

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
James Smithson (c.1765-1829) read this scientific paper, "A chemical analysis of some calamines," to the Royal Society of London on November 18, 1802. It was then published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. In honor of Smithson's proof in this paper that such compounds are true minerals, not merely calx of zinc, as was claimed by the renowned l'abbe Rene Just Hauy, the mineral was named Smithsonite by Francois S. Beaudant in "Traite Elementaire de Mineralogue" in 1832. A copy of the Philosophical Transactions is one of 213 books from James Smithson's personal library which came to the Smithsonian with his bequest.

Tomb of James Smithson in Italy

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Full view of the fenced plot with the monument of James Smithson in the Protestant or English cemetery on a hilltop about a mile west of Genoa, Italy. The base of the monument is of pale gray marble, 6 feet and a half long, 3 feet wide and 3 3/4 feet high. On the top of this is a white marble urn suitably proportioned to the base. In 1904 his remains were removed and brought to the Smithsonian.

Mineral Catalog owned by James Smithson

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
The author of the mineral catalog is unknown. The catalog was found with the possessions of James Smithson that came to the Smithsonian.

SIA2013-07890 through SIA2013-07933 is contained in folder 16. SIA2013-07934 through SIA2013-07979 is contained in folder 17.

Mineral Catalog owned by James Smithson. The catalog contains handwritten lists of minerals written in German.
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