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Letter from SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated February 9, 1851.

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Title: Letter from SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated February 9, 1851.


  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887


  • Marsh, George Perkins, 1801-1882

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Extent: 1 letter

Genre(s): letter


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Letter from SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated February 9, 1851., Original located at the University of Vermont's Special Collections in the George Perkins Marsh Collection, filed by date., (accessed December 16, 2017)

Letter from SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated February 9, 1851.

Transcribed by : John Thomas, Ralph H. Orth and Ellen Thomson

TEI mark-up by : James P. Tranowski andEllen Thomson

Published by: University of Vermont. All rights reserved.

Publication Information

Washington Feb. 9" 1851

My dear Mr. Marsh,

Dont accuse me of intentional neglect in not answering yours two letters. (Aug. 23. and Oct. 19) at an earlier date. Hoping from day to day to hear of the keg, and next to report its arrival, I delayed writing, until I got out of all patience. In this unhappy frame of mind, I wrote to Yasigi and Goddard, and lo! the keg came on by return of Express. This was late last night, and as to-day is Sunday, I must defer the aperture (with this [...]) until tomorrow; after which operation I will report further. A thousand thanks however for your kindness and consideration, whether the fishes be in good or bad odor.

We are now fairly settled down at Smithsonian and have got the hang of the thing pretty well. Gen. & Mrs. Churchill board along with Mary, Lucy & myself at Mrs. Wise's. There is some murmur of conversation respecting the erection of mansions on the Smithsonian grounds, which I hope may be realised. If these are not built next spring, we shall probably take a small house, as boarding does not suit exactly.

I find my post to suit me exactly in all particulars, excepting that I could wish the salary (1500.00) were somewhat higher. An increase will I hope be ordered before long. I have enough to do, but you know I never feared work. In addition to any Natural History operations, I have entire superintendence of the Publishing department, revising memoirs, fighting printers and engravers, correcting proofs, distributing copies c. I also have charge of the whole exchange, domestic and foreign. The second volume is nearly ready for distribution. We have a large number of papers on hand, some of them very important ones--monographs in Natural History c. Prof. Henry and I get on exceedingly well; he gives me every facility I can ask in regard to any of my operations.

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The report for 1849. was only printed a few months ago. I sent you a copy which I hope was received. To be certain of your getting it, I send another. That for 1850. will be printed in about two months more. The Board of Regents have had five or six meetings; all well attended. Mr. Taney was elected Chancellor. There is now a proposition before Congress to receive $150,000.00 and vest with the original $500,000.00, but its success is not certain.

Very little has been done to the building since last Summer. Owing to a break in the canal, no stone could be procured. It is expected that the towers will all be finished by next summer. It will then be a question whether to occupy a long or a short period of time in finishing the rest of the building.

We have had numerous lectures this winter, none of them worth much. This week we have Dr. Goadby on the Structure of Insects, illustrated by specimens shown with the oxy-hydrogen microscope. He is an excellent anatomist and will no doubt give great satisfaction.

What do you think of this, the last notion we have for the diffusion of knowledge? It consists in undertaking the business of international exchange as regards Scientific institutions in Europe and America. As you well know, our list of foreign exchanges exceeds that of all other societies in this country put together. With an agent, (Dr. Flügel) in Leipzig, one in Paris and one in London, it is an easy matter for us to distribute all our publications to any point, and it will involve little additional cost and trouble to do this for the other societies. All of those to whom it has been presented, have jumped at the plan with the greatest eagerness. In the same way we shall receive from abroad all translations intended for this country in our packages, and distribute from Washington. I flatter myself that I can superintend a large business of this kind with accuracy and despatch.

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I have already mentioned my having enough to do. You will believe me when I mention some more items of business. The American Association at the New Haven meeting made me permanent, quasi perpetual, Secretary: the duties to consist mainly in making up and publishing the semi-annual transactions. This has taken much of my time. The forthcoming volume, now in press will occupy some 600, 8 vo. pp. I am also obliged to attend the meetings, which take place, the Spring one, in Cincinnati, (May) and the Summer, at Albany, (Aug.) The association perpetrated an excellent joke in voting me $300.00 per annum for my services. The reality of the thing is that there are not funds enough to pay for half of the volume, much less 300 dollars additional.

Item--I have undertaken the reptiles of the Exploring Expedition, to be completed in 2 years at 500 dollars per annum. The work and pay I shall however turn over to my assistant, Charles Girard formerly with Agassiz, who is more competent for the labor than I am. It will however require a good deal of my time, at the most favorable view.

Item--the Iconographic. You would not expect me to do much translating, nor do I. I put out the different articles all round, revising some, and correcting the proof of others. Garrigue expects to have all out by September next. He is in excellent spirits having gone pretty well into the 2nd edition.

I say nothing of such trifles as making out zoological reports for Army officers, writing 8 or 10 letters every day, attending to dozens of diurnal and nocturnal visitors amp;c. These are thrown into the bargain.

And now to the Natural History part of my epistle. I am making every effort, in additon to the Reptiles and fishes, to procure the best collection in comparative Osteology, in the country. Please therefore to leave no practicable opportunity slip, of getting sculls, and if possible without too much trouble, skeletons of Mammalia. -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- Sculls at any rate procure wherever you may be. Thus you may meet with camels, Jackals, Hyenas, wild sheep and goats, Ibex, Antelopes, Felines of all kinds, Bears, and all else. We want wolves, foxes, and dogs, to settle the question of Unity of the human race. Get sculls of any and all well marked varieties of dog, especially if peculiar to the country in which they may occur. I will not particularise more, as every thing is wanted, domestic or ferine. Dont trouble yourself about birds, unless you can get them as well as not. Any insects you can procure will be acceptable to American Entomologists. Among reptiles, try hard for Salamanders. You may find new species, or if not, then some very rare ones. I have nearly all those of Northern & Middle Europe, and want the Meditterranean ones. Fresh water fishes are most important, and least known. I would like skins of the smaller & median mammalia: the more, diminutive of these may be put in spirits

I have had much pleasure in making acquaintances of Dr. Wislizenus He appears to be a man of true science, and one who is well worth knowing. Mrs. W. is blooming as a rose. I never saw her look half so well and so says Mary; but she dont come up to our dear Mrs. Marsh. Please give her my warmest love, filial and fraternal. How much we all wish to see her, and how earnestly we all hope for her restoration to health.

I have written to Yasigi and Goddard to know when they send out a vessel to Smyrna. I will forward the keg of alcohol, by the first opportunity. Do write soon and furnish me of your good long, instructive, and funny letters.

S F Baird.

Most affectionately Yours,
Hon. Geo. P. Marsh
Minister Resident.

Monday morning, Feb. 10". keg just opened. Everything in first rate order. And in charming variety. After I get my new bottles, and can put out the specimens, I will send you a list..

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