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Collection of Remainder of Smithson Bequest

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Silhouette of Henry James Hungerford, 1830. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number 2002-12209.

Rhees, William Jones. The Smithsonian Institution: Documents Relative to Its Origin and History: 1835-1899, Vol. 1, 1835-1887. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901, p. 113-114.

Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1862. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1863, p. 15.

Secretary Joseph Henry reports to the Board of Regents that the President of the United States has forwarded a power of attorney to Messrs. Fladgate, Clarke & Finch, of London, authorizing them to collect the remainder of the Smithsonian fund, which was left as the principal of an annuity to the mother, Marie de la Batut, a.k.a. Mary Ann Coates of the nephew of Smithson, Henry James Hungerford. The power of attorney was forwarded to the care of Honorable Charles F. Adams, American minister to England.

Andrew Jackson's Letter to Congress Regarding the Smithson Bequest

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Letter by President Andrew Jackson to the United States Congress informs them that as president he has no authority to take any steps for accepting James Smithson's bequest but instructs Congress to take such measures as they deem necessary to accept the funds.

James Smithson and his bequest

Smithsonian Libraries

A Bill to authorize the President of the United States to assert and prosecute the right to the Smithson bequest

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
See also Senate Resolution 4

Mr. Adams from the Select Committee reported the bill which was read twice and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union. The bill authorizes the President to appoint an agent to assert the claim of the United States to Smithson's money in the court of chancery in England. It pledges that all funds from Smithson will be put toward the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.

Resolution to authorize and enable the President to assert and prosecute the claim of the United States to the Smithson bequest

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
See also H.R. 187.

The resolution authorizes the President to appoint an agent to assert the claim of the United States to the Smithson bequest in the court of chancery and empowers the agent to receive the money. It authorizes up to five thousand dollars for this purpose. The resolution pledges that all money received from the bequest will be applied toward establishing the Smithsonian Institution.

Smithson’s Bequest to London’s East End

Smithsonian Institution Archives

On October 23, 1826, James Smithson, a wealthy Englishman, sat down and wrote the final version of his will.  Smithson, who was 61 years old and had suffered various ailments, was clearly thinking about his legacy. After establishing his pedigree and naming his executors, his first bequest was:

To John Fitall, formerly my Servant, but now employed in the London Docks, and residing at No. 27, Jubilee Place, North Mile End, old town, in consideration of his attachment & fidelity to me, & the long & great care he has taken of my effects, & my having done but very little for him, I give and bequeath the Annuity or annual sum of one hundred pounds sterling for his life, to be paid to him quarterly, free of legacy duty & all other deductions, the first payment to be made to him at the expiration of three months after my death.

James Smithson, by James Roberts, 1786, Oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, NPG.96.28.Fitall had been his servant for a number of years, and Smithson seems to have held him in high esteem. There is no indication of the circumstances under which Fitall left Smithson’s employ, but it does seem that a job at the London Docks must have been a step down from his role as a man-servant to a wealthy gentleman. Fitall’s home on Jubilee Place, North Mile End, old town, was part of what is known as the East End of London. The area was not yet as notorious as during the Victorian era, when street gangs, prostitutes and Jack the Ripper kept the penny press headlines focused on the docklands area, but it was already a crowded, gritty neighborhood rife with crime. The East End was the section east of the Roman and medieval walled city of London, north of the River Thames, and bordered by the the River Lea. Many residents worked at the nearby docks, which were growing rapidly, with the St. Katharine Docks opening in 1827. Overcrowded and unsanitary, with transients arriving at the docks daily, cholera and other epidemics were a regular occurrence. This was also the home of the Cockney barrow boys and flower girls, competing for sales with their patter of rhyming slang.

Smithson seems to express regret that he has not done more for Mr. Fitall in the past and thus wishes to provide for him for the remainder of his life. His bequest of £100 sterling annually is not a paltry sum. It is difficult to really calculate what that would mean in today's dollars, but the Old Bailey Online website suggests:

By the middle of the nineteenth century, a skilled engineer could command 7s. 6d. a day, or around £110 per year, if fully employed, but this was not significantly more than their eighteenth-century predecessors. In the last decades of the nineteenth century William Booth estimated that a working family needed an income of at least 18s. to 21s. a week, or around £50 a year, just to get by, and 22s. to 30s. a week (£57-£78 per annum) to be "comfortable".

'Regents' So it would seem that Smithson provided a decent income for his faithful servant for the remainder of his life. I don't know if Mr. Fitall and his wife remained in the East End or if he continued to work at the London docks, but the Fitalls would have had a comfortable life. Life in the East End continued to deteriorate through the remainder of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century – the era portrayed in the current BBC series Call the Midwife. Many residents lived in extreme poverty and deprivation, often consigned to work houses for the indigent. Smithson's first bequest ensured that his faithful servant lived out his days in far greater comfort than his neighbors.

The annuity ceased when Mr. Fitall died with the principal reverting to the bequest to the people of the United States. The Minutes of the Smithsonian Board of Regents for January 11, 1850, reported that Mrs. Fitall, the widow of a former servant of Mr. Smithson, through a Mr. H. P. Bohn, had offered for sale a small portrait of James Smithson which was in her possession for the price of thirty guineas. The portrait by James Roberts (1753-c. 1809) is of a young Smithson as a student at Pembroke College, Oxford University, in 1786, attired in his academic robes and already committed to a life devoted to scientific research. The board resolved that Secretary Joseph Henry be authorized to purchase the portrait of Mr. Smithson which Honorable Abbott Lawrence, United States Ambassador to Great Britain, spoke of in his letter of the 10th of December, 1849. The oil on canvas painting soon arrived at the Smithsonian and is in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery today, allowing the Fitalls to give back to the Institution founded by the man who held their service in the highest regard.

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In Search of Lulu Smithson

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
After receiving a request for information on a descendant of Smithsonian Institution founder James Smithson, who died childless, the author wrote this article which cites other obtuse requests for information she and other members of the Architectural History and Historic Preservation Office staff receive from the public.

Passage of Act to Establish the Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Image is of Act establishing the Smithsonian Institution, August 10, 1846, Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number 96-1652.

Marc Rothenberg, ed. The Papers of Joseph Henry, The Princeton Years, January 1844 - December 1846, vol. 6. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, p. 463.

Years of debate over the terms of James Smithson's 1826 bequest to the United States result in the passage of the "Act to Establish the 'Smithsonian Institution,' for the Increase and Diffusion of Knowledge among Men," Public Law 76, 29th Congress, 1st Session.

Honorable John Davis of Massachusetts

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
The old negative number is SA-466, but that negative has been lost.

A portrait engraving of the Honorable John Davis (1787-1854), a Representative and a Senator from Massachusetts. Davis argued in Congress for the acceptance of the Smithson bequest.

George Perkins Marsh

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
The old negative number is SA-34, but that negative has been lost.

The Library of Congress has a Brady glass wet collodion plate of this image in its Brady-Handy Photograph Collection (Library of Congress). LC digital scan number is LC-DIG-cwpbh-02223. See http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/brh2003002686/PP/. The Library of Congress also has two other images, transferred from the U.S. War College in 1920. See http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004664024/ and http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004664023/. These were taken around the time when Marsh became a Regent of the Smithsonian.

Portrait of George Perkins Marsh, a Representative to the United States Congress from Vermont, an advocate for use of the James Smithson bequest to create a great national library, and member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents from 1847 to 1849. This image was probably taken shortly before he left the United States to serve as U.S. Minister to Italy. Marsh was a mentor to the second Smithsonian Secretary, Spencer Fullerton Baird.

Draft of the Will of James Smithson

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
See "Plain Advice to the Public to Facilitate the Making of Their Own Wills," which Smithson used as a reference when writing his will.

To view a digital facsimile of the Court's version of the final three-page will of James Smithson that was submitted to the Chancery Court after his death in 1829, visit The National Archives of Great Britain web site at http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/image/Index/D168292?index=0&page=0.

The last will and testament of James Smithson, which he wrote on 23 October 1826 while living in London. Smithson wrote his own will, apparently without professional legal help, which was very unusual for an individual of his economic stature. This image is of a draft copy and contains the same language as that registered with the Public Record Office in England. Smithson left his estate to his nephew, Henry James Hungerford. If that nephew died without heir, legitimate or illegitimate, then Smithson's estate was to go to the United States to found in the city of Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men. This bequest of c. $515,000 was the basis for the founding of the Smithsonian Institution in 1846.

Gales and Seaton's Register if Debates in Congress - 12/21/1835

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Mr. Andrew Jackson Donelson reports President Andrew Jackson's letter to the U.S. Congress, informing them of James Smithson's bequest to the people of the United States to create an institution for the "increase and diffusion of knowledge."

Rufus P. Choate

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
The old negative number is SA-393, but that negative has been lost.

Rufus Choate (1799-1859), United States Congressman from Massachusetts 1831- 1834; United States Senator from Massachusetts 1841-1845; appointed Smithsonian Regent from 1846-1855, citizen of Massachusetts, advocate of using the Smithson Bequest for a library. Choate resigned from the Board of Regents in 1855 in a dispute with Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry over the amount of funds allocated to the library and the firing of Librarian Charles C. Jewett.

Robert Dale Owen

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Original negative number is 64747 also 60530-F, but that negative has been lost. Original daguerreotype in section of photography cat. #67-54.

Younger looking portrait of Robert Dale Owen, son of Utopian founder of New Harmony, from a daguerreotype. As a Congressman, he was active in debates over the creation of the Smithsonian Institution. Owen argued for an institution to train teachers for a nationwide system of free secondary education schools. He served on the first Smithsonian Board of Regents, and was influential in the design of the Smithsonian Institution Building, also known as the Castle.

John Quincy Adams Portrait

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Daguerreotype

Portrait of John Quincy Adams. John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), President of the United States and Member of the House of Representatives, strongly supported acceptance of Smithson bequest and urged creation of an astronomical observatory.

A Bill providing for the disposition and management of the Smithson fund

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
for other bills relating to the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution see S. 18, S. 259, S. 293, S. 292, H. R. 5, H.R. 863, H.R. 386, H.R. 418, H.R. 1, H.R. 1160, H.R. 1161

Mr. Robbins from the Joint Committee on the Smithson Bequest reported the bill which was read and passed to a second reading. The bill states that the Smithson fund should be managed by a board of nine trustees, subject to regulations imposed by Congress. Trustees shall hold office for one year. All expenditures made by the board are subject to approval by the President of the United States. Trustees are directed to prepare a charter of incorporation and plan for an institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.

A Bill to provide for the management of the Smithson fund

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
for other bills relating to the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution see S. 18, S. 259, S. 245, S. 292, H. R. 5, H.R. 863, H.R. 386, H.R. 418, H.R. 1, H.R. 1160, H.R. 1161

Mr. Robbins from the Joint Committee on the Smithson Bequest reported the bill which was read and passed to a second reading. The Vice President, Chief Justice, Secretaries of State and Treasury, the Attorney General, the mayor of Washington, three members of the Senate and four members of the House are the trustees of the Smithsonian Institution. The Trustees should appoint a secretary and a treasurer. No part of the fund should be applied to a school of any form. Congress will make appropriations for the Smithsonian institution from the interest on the fund but will retain the power to invest the principle. An astronomical observatory is to be established in Washington.

Bill to provide for the investment of the Smithson fund

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
States that all money received from Smithson should be invested by the Treasury at an annual interest rate of six percent. Certificates for the stock should be held by the President until the Smithsonian Institution is established by law

Engraving of John Quincy Adams

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Engraving of John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), President of the United States and Member of the House of Representatives, strongly supported acceptance of Smithson bequest and urged the creation of an astronomical observatory.

A Bill providing for the disposition and management of the Smithson fund

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
This bill is identical to S. 292. For other bills relating to the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution see S. 18, S. 259, S. 293, S. 292, S. 245, H. R. 5, H.R. 863, H.R. 386, H.R. 418, H.R. 1, H.R. 1160,

Mr. Adams from the Joint Committee on the Smithsonian Bequest reported the bill which was read twice and committed to the Whole House on the state of the Union. The fund shall be managed by nine trustees. Three trustees shall be appointed by the House, three by the Senate and three by the President and each trustee shall hold office for one year. All expenditures are subject to approval by the President. The trustees are directed to prepare a charter of incorporation and plan for an institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.

A bill to provide for the disposal and management of the Smithson fund

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
This bill is identical to S. 293. For other bills relating to the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution see S. 18, S. 259, S. 293, S. 292, S. 245, H. R. 5, H.R. 863, H.R. 386, H.R. 418, H.R. 1, H.R. 1160,

Mr. Adams from the Joint Committee on the Smithsonian Fund reported the bill, which was read twice and committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union. The Vice President, Chief Justice, Secretaries of State and Treasury, the Attorney General, the mayor of Washington, three members of the Senate and four members of the House are the trustees of the Smithsonian Institution. The Trustees should appoint a secretary and a treasurer. No part of the fund should be applied to a school of any form. Congress will make appropriations for the Smithsonian institution from the interest on the fund but will retain the power to invest the principle. An astronomical observatory is to be established in Washington.

Joseph Henry Dismisses Smithsonian Librarian Charles Coffin Jewett

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Portrait of Charles Coffin Jewett is available on the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' Flickr site. http://www.flickr.com/photos/smithsonianlibraries/2313472282/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 9. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2002, pp. xiii-xxii, 104, 481-83, 502-03 (index)

Moyer, Albert. Joseph Henry: The Rise of an American Scientist. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997, pp. 271-72.

Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry discharges Charles Coffin Jewett, the assistant secretary responsible for the Smithsonian's library. Jewett's dismissal marks the culmination of a protracted and public battle over the Smithsonian's budget priorities. Jewett had advocated for the Smithsonian serving as a national library and saw this as the Institution's primary mission. He had also attacked Henry in the press as a self-serving leader. Henry saw the equal division of funds between the Smithsonian's library and collections and its research and publications, as mandated by an 1847 agreement with Congress, as untenable and not in keeping with either Smithson's intent or Henry's own vision for the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian's Board of Regents sided with Henry by agreeing to rescind the 1847 decision on the distribution of the Institution's funds and supporting his decision to dismiss Jewett.

George Perkins Marsh Dies

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Who Was Who in America. A component volume of "Who's Who in American History." Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Revised Edition. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1967.

George Perkins Marsh dies. Marsh was a strong supporter of the Smithsonian in its early years, arguing for a great national library as part of the Institution. He served on the Board of Regents from 1847 to 1849 as a Congressman from Vermont. He encouraged first Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry to hire his protégé, Spencer Fullerton Baird, as the first curator of the Smithsonian's National Museum. His art collection was purchased for the museum in 1849, the first art collection acquired for the museum.

William Jervis Hough

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
The old negative number is SA-695, but that negative has been lost.

Portrait of William Jervis Hough, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (1845-1847). Hough was the congressman who authored the final draft of the bill establishing the Smithsonian Institution in 1846. Hough introduced the term 'regents' in relation to the governing of the Smithsonian. The document also provided that land west of Seventh Street to the Potomac be set aside for the building of the Smithsonian. He served on the Smithsonian Board of Regents and at its first Meeting on Sept. 9, 1846, was elected interim secretary of the institution and served until Henry was appointed in December of that year. Hough served on the committee that directed the construction of the Smithsonian Castle and was a leading force in the shaping of the fledgling institution.
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