The Papers of Joseph Henry


My dear H

The board of Regents meet for the last time during their pressent session on Friday morning[1] and after the meeting at 4 o'clock PM I intend to start for the north and hope to be with you at [?least] on saturday night.
This is a blustering day at Washington but quite warm. The wind is very high and has been so all night— I have been much engaged in superintending the affairs of the Institution and looking after the effects of Smithson. There is in the Patent office a number of boxes contaning many of his articles and a cupboard filled with manuscript papers belonging to him.[2]
Among the articles is a bronze metalion likeness of Smithson which is to be engraved for the frontis piece of the transactions. We are now looking out for a room which may serve as an office and depository for the books which are constantly coming in from the different publishers who according to law are required to send a copy to the Library of the smithsonian.[3]
I hope the children have received the package of letters I sent and that they were amused with the contents.[4]
I am beginning to feel a little more used to Washington and were we once settled here with the children around us I think I should be well pleased.
I have seen a number of students starting on their return to Princeton and have requested some of them to say that I would be on towards the latter part of the week.
Charles Abert[5] took me in his little waggon to see Mr Stone[6] who lives about 2 miles from the capital. He has a very beautiful situation and is now devoting himself to the art of sculpture and is suceeding most admirably. He was working on a bust of Prof. Dod[7] and has succeeded admirably. It is incomparably better than the one[8] made in Phild I did not see his wife and daughter they were out at the time. On my return from Mr Stones I spent the remainder of the evening at Mrs Green's[9] brothers[10] and was much pleased with my visit. Mr Mc Culloh is a very intelligent man and is highly esteemed by all parties in Washington. He thinks that after the Institution is once organized it will go on without molestation and that I will have pretty much my own way in the management. I have been variously affected with the prospect of the success of the establishment. I have sometimes high hopes of its usefulness and then again the future is dark but every think in life is uncertain, and when we think we are standing on the firmest earth the hiden fire may be burning beneath us. The sailor boy on the bending mast often lives through the storm while the [?secure] landsman in fancied security is crushd with his falling house.
When you come to washington you will not want for the new books of the day they all come for the library of the Institution.[11]
Though I am in the focus of Political events I know but little of what is going on—my head quarters for the present during[A] the day is in the vice Presidents Room in the Capital. It is a beautiful room finely carpeted, with armed chairs damask curtains &c. &c. With a servant in attendance.
The city is full to overflowing with strangers—hundreds of young men are flocking to Washington to get commissions. Young Webster the clergyman's son has been appointed comissary—with which I am well pleased.[12]


Family Correspondence, Henry Papers, Smithsonian Archives.
    [1] February 5.
    [2] The previous day, Henry had visited the Patent Office Building and met with John Varden, whose duties as custodian of the collections housed in the "National Gallery" included caring for Smithson's personal effects. Entry for February 2, 1847, in William Q. Force, "Extracts from a Diary Kept by John Varden, at the U.S. Patent Office Building, and Placed by Him in My Hands," n.d., Folder "Telegraph Notes, Etc., 1846–1881," Box 23, Henry Papers, Smithsonian Archives; Douglas E. Evelyn, "The National Galley at the Patent Office," in Magnificent Voyagers: The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838–1842, ed. Herman J. Viola and Carolyn Margolis (Washington, 1985), pp. 226–241, especially pp. 236, 237.
    [3] Section 10 of the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution designated its library as a copyright depository; see Henry Papers, 6:466, 594.
    [4] Henry to Helen Henry, January 30, 1847; Henry to Mary Henry, January 31, 1847, Family Correspondence, Henry Papers, Smithsonian Archives. According to Harriet, Henry's letters produced "delight" and a "burst of laughter." Harriet Henry to Henry, February 2, 1847, in same location.
    [5] A Princeton graduate (1842), Abert was a brother-in-law of Alexander Dallas Bache. Henry Papers, 4:220n. His father, John J. Abert (Henry Papers, 3:69n), was chief of the Army's Topographical Bureau.
    [6] Horatio Stone (1808–1875), a New York physician, had moved recently to Washington and taken up sculpture. His work included busts of several American statesmen. DAB.
    [7] Albert Baldwin Dod, professor of mathematics at Princeton, had died on November 20, 1845. Henry Papers, 1:434; 6:337n.
    [8] In 1846, Henry had arranged with Augustus Lenci, a Philadelphia sculptor, to make a portrait bust of Dod. Lenci also furnished twenty-five plaster casts for subscription sale to Dod's friends and Princeton alumni. Donald Drew Egbert, Princeton Portraits (Princeton, 1947), p. 99. Philadelphia City Directory, 1846; Lenci's bill to Henry, April 6, 1846, College Finances, 1840–1849, John Maclean Papers, Princeton University Archives, Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University; Samuel H. Pennington to Henry, December 30, 1846, Henry Papers, Smithsonian Archives.
    [9] Isabella McCulloch Green; see Doc. 4.
    [10] James W. B. F. McCulloch, the first comptroller of the treasury, whom Henry first met at Washington in December 1846, was the son of John McCulloch by his first wife, Anne Todd (d. 1789). Isabella Green was John McCulloch's daughter by his second wife, Elizabeth McBlair. Henry Papers, 6:593, 599; Alice Norris Parran, Series II of "Register of Maryland's Heraldic Families": Tercentenary of the Founding of Maryland (Baltimore, 1938), p. 238.
    [11] On the contrary, Charles C. Jewett in 1850 complained that because of the cost of shipping books to the Smithsonian for copyright deposit, "few publishers complied with the requirement of the act of Congress." Smithsonian Report for 1849, p. 35.
[12] Charles R. Webster, a Princeton graduate (1840), on January 18 was appointed an assistant quartermaster. Webster had sought Henry's recommendation, but it is not known if he provided one. Princeton Catalogue, p. 160; Charles K. Gardner, A Dictionary of . . . the Army of the United States, 2d ed. (New York, 1860), p. 475; Webster to Henry, December 4, 1846, Henry Papers, Smithsonian Archives.
Webster's father, Charles Webster, was pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Monmouth County, New Jersey; his grandfather, long a prominent Albany publisher, had been a trustee of the Albany Academy when Henry was hired in 1826. George Rogers Howell and Jonathan Tenney, eds., History of the County of Albany, N.Y., from 1609 to 1886 (New York, 1886), p. 371; Henry Papers, 1:27n, 132–133.
    [A] Altered from ar