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The Smithsonian Institution Is Established

Historical Events

James Smithson, a British scientist, became the benefactor of the Smithsonian Institute when he willed his estate “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”

Smithson had willed his estate to his nephew, but when he died in 1835 (six years after his uncle) without an heir, the estate defaulted to the United States.

His motives for the endowment were a mystery, as Smithson had never visited the United States nor did he correspond with anyone in the States.

On July 1, 1836, Congress accepted the legacy, which amounted to more than 100,000 gold sovereigns, bequeathed the United States. In September 1838, Smithson’s legacy, was delivered to the mint at Philadelphia. Recoined in U.S. currency, the gift amounted to more than $500,000.

After eight years of debate, an Act of Congress signed by President James K. Polk on August 10, 1846, established the Smithsonian Institution.

Source: Smithsonian Institution

Posted:  2004-08-10  3:14:42 PM

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