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Title: Letter from SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated March 8, 1853.


  • 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 March 8, 1853., Original located at the University of Vermont's Special Collections in the George Perkins Marsh Collection, filed by date., (accessed January 16, 2018)


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

Smithsonian Institution, March 8' 1853.

My Dear Father

I cry peccavi to part of your accusation, as I have had your letter of Jan. 4' in hand for several weeks without answering. But I was so desirous of writing you a long tiresome letter, and of telling all the news possible and impossible, that I resolved to take some quiet Sunday when Mary and the other baggage had cleared out, and left me to my quiet. Well--this quiet has not come. And so I sit down this Tuesday evening to the labor of exceeding love, determined to buckle to it like bricks. What can, however, have become of my long letter written you early in January: has it never reached, or is it perchance lying perdu in the State Department, or somewhere in Con-stan-ti-no-ple. It was a big letter, with not much in it, except love to dear Mrs. M. which it was expected you would resolutely skip.

Well, I have been rather hard at work. I cannot deny it but am now getting tolerably well through. I fear me I have much to answer for, in the way of deluding unsuspecting young (and even old) men to possible destruction from bite of snake, scorpion or centipede, engulfing in caverns while in search of fossil bone, embrace of Krakens, when catching Star fishes on the sea, or some other undescribed species of calamity--the genus, even, of which is not yet known. The string of scientific expeditions which I have succeeded in starting is perfectly preposterous. Have you any idea of the activity of our Navy and Army at present date? expeditions by field and flood? well, nearly all I have a finger, and in several, two hands. Let me recount:

Capt. Ringgold sails in a week or two for the North Pacific and Behrings Straits. In command of four vessels he expects to make great discoveries of all sorts of things. Thanks to our liberal past Secretary of the Navy, Mr. J. P. Kennedy, I had full authority to prepare at expense of the Appropriation -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- whatever apparatus was necessary to capture all sorts of Sea Devils and Water Kelpies. Getting two enterprising and able naturalists, appointed to the expedition, one as Zoologist (Mr. Stimpson) the other as Botanist (Charles Wright) we together ransacked our brains and made out tremendous lists of nets, kettles, dredges, camp;c. amounting to near $2000.00 dollars, all of which were authorized and paid for without flinching. They go much better prepared than the old expedition (Wilkes) although with few hands, yet will undoubtedly make good return for the trouble invested

Capt. Page sailed a month ago for the Parana River and its South American surroundings. Him, I fixed nicelly: with a small steamer, he could bear but a small Natural History outfit, but he got all necessary.

Dr. Kanes Second Grinnell exped. starts for Greenland the middle of April. He will have about 250. dollars worth of traps which I am now getting in train. The Dr. was applied to by a committee from the Phila. Academy of Natural Sciences, in regard to making collections: they suggested various articles of apparatus, the aggregate somewhat bulkier than his little vessels; many of them 'a little more complex than Babbage' calculating machine. In despair he came to me and I soon made out a list of available articles, which the Secretary approved.

Lt. Couch U. S. A. left in January for a trip in Northern Mexico. He expects to stay a year and to make a huge collections of all sorts of critters. He has already sent on to us some valuable things from New Orleans and Matamoras.

I lost my dinner to-day in giving Lieut. Trowbridge, U. S. A., lessons in bird stuffing. He goes out to the Pacific coast, in a week, to take charge of certain coast survey operations. His duties call him along the coast back and forwards between San Diego and the mouth of the Columbia River. He will have several permanent stations between these two points, where his men will have abundant -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- opportunities. Amply fortified with copper kettles of my patent, alcohol, arsenic, tartar emetic, camp;c. he will collect, and I will get the critters of the whole Pacific coast. By the way, I have heard of several instances in which my tartar emetic, has saved the alcohol from being consumed by the men.

Capt. Marcy goes out in the Summer to Salt Lake City. After spending the winter he crosses to the Colorado, which he will descend to its mouth, passing through the unknown region of the Great Central Basin. He goes armed with all appliances

Dr. Evans makes a geological tour through Oregon with nets camp;c. to catch fish and the like -- But I must stop this, or you will get tired, though I am scarcely half through. Of private expeditions, there are hosts, scattered all over the country, and engaged in collecting grist for my mill.

As to parties, already out and the results more or less received, we have in tow, 1" the Mexican Boundary Survey with hundreds of new species of vertebrated animals, 2" Lt. Gilliss's Chilian things; most valuable they are and with much more that is nondescript; 3" Lt. Herndon's Specimens from the Amazon; 4' Capt. Marcy's collections made up Red River: 5' Reptiles of the U. S. Exploring Expedition. 6' Woodhouses gatherings while under Capt. Sitgreaves on the Zuni & Colorado River.-- c. c. For all these I have to prepare and procure reports, and for many have funds wherewith to get drawings made in highest style.

All these and more too in addition to the regular operations in the same line, of the Institution. Dont you think there is a fair prospect of our having a collection soon? But I wont say any more about these things. I only commenced to give you an ideas of some of my extra- ordinary avocations.

We are getting along very well in the Smithsonian Institution, adding prodigiously to all departments. Our Library was increased by exchange alone last year, with over 6000 volumes. This year we shall have much more. Berlin -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- Academy alone sent 50 quartos and the same number of octavos Lepsius big book is daily expected. You know of our having published our 3' & 4' vols. last year. The 5' is now nearly ready, and the 6' not much behind hand. The plates are under way for the 7' and 8'. We have just received Laphams Mss. of the Wisconsin Antiquities. It has more pictures than Squier & Davis. Mr. Jewett must tell you his own movements, as I have not room on my paper; he has an appropriation of 8000.00 for cataguing the Library of Congress, with stereotyped separate titles. I have made every effort in my power to secure the Camel article. Frank Churchill has been about it several times. It does not appear to have been printed, and I have instructed Frank to demand it, emphatically. Dont you dare to lay violent hands on the other matter you have written. I have already contracted with a publisher for its issue in two quarto volumes, with plates. It is going to be the most readable book of the day. Shall I put your name down as a subscriber?

The Museo civico shall be remembered, and if possible received all our publications. We distribute next batch in June. Many thanks for the hints about Auerochs and Camel. I will bear them in mind. Please let me know whether the Tuscan Camels are Bactrian or Arabian. If the former, could any be got living from the Grand Duke?

Fourth of March has come and gone, without making much stir. Our new president is very popular with all parties, so far. He goes in for manifest destiny. The new cabinet was confimed yesterday: Marcy State, Jeff. Davis War, Guthrie Treasury; Dobbin Navy; Cushing Attorney General; Campbell, Postmaster; McClelland Interior. All good men. I hear some Vermonters are making stout effort to have you retained! What think you is the chance. Others appear to be at work to make you senator. For my part, I go in for the latter. I want to see more than any man on earth, except Mrs. M. so I shall support the Senatorship. But I must stop, as it is getting late, and my sleepy fit is coming on. . I hope you will be satisfied with the
[the following appears along left margin of the page]
amount of matter [page torn] 12 pages! Polly has given you all domestic news, I have no doubt. With warmest and truest love to Mrs. M. and yourself truly I am

Your affectionate son. Spencer

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