Letter from SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH and CAROLINE CRANE MARSH, dated May 2, 1852.
My dear Mr. and . Marsh
Your most welcome letter of March 3' & 14' arrived a day or two ago, and has been read and reread a dozen times. I had only to reject its extreme brevity, as a man in Constantinople who has nothing to do, might write more than four pages at a time, dont you think so? Still I fear I may not do much better, as I now write at night and shall probably finish the letter while asleep
I know you will rejoice to learn that the Board of Regents at their meeting yesterday, raised salaries of us assistants five hundred each; Jewett now has 2500. and I 2000. I hope next year they will bring mine up to his mark, and then I shall be satisfied. As to the occupation with clerical business, I fear we will never be able to get out of this. So much there is to be done, and so little money to do it with, that I fear we must ever be bearers of wood and drawers of water.
We are getting on well at the Smithsonian, although no commencement has yet been made upon
the interior of the main building. The tower rooms will all be done in a few days; after which
some plan of fire proofing will probably be adopted, and the whole rapidly hurried to
completion. The active operations are progressing finely. Mr.
Jewetts stereotyping promises well as he is commencing to work in earnest at the catalogue. I have ushered two new volumes of Contributions nearly through the press, besides some octavos. My
grand plan of international exchange is working like a charm. The german periodicals and the
letters of societies are filled with encomia upon
the "grossartigkeit" and all that sort of thing, of the Institution. I have accumulated a vast amount of matter to send off this spring, with our books, such as abstracts of census, maps of Railroads & canals, Congressional documents, Schoolcrafts book c. Last year you remember I made up 240 cubic feet, or 8000 pounds of books for Europe. This year the amount will probably be doubled. All the communication between scientific bodies throughout Europe and America, comes through us, and all concerned are loud in praise of the efficiency and dispatch of the system. Our scale of operations is on a vastly larger scale than Vattemares (the g's gentle Humbug), and is carried on in a strictly business like way.
Our returns from Europe even this year are already enormous. In the first quarter they considerably exceeded those for 1851. And the exchanges for vol. 2. have but just commenced. I wish I had you here to talk over the matter I send a printed list of our correspondents. You will rejoice to see Islands Stiftisbókasofn among them.
Natural History prospers likewise. No end to the accession of rich treasures: fish, flesh and
fowl. Oh for time enough to develop them. By all means send me lots of Salamandrosus Manbus. I
want him exceedingly. You must have several species of salamanders, some in water, some in land
under logs c. (N.B. See printed directions enclosed). I wont give much for a live ostrich, but
will give a bottle of first rate Scuppernong wine from N. Carolina, when you come back, for his
skeleton. It would be a prize indeed. But I have a camels head, at least, if not
skeleton. And what of Hyenas, Jackals, and the like, of which travelers speak. Are such fabulous? I fear me so; I want some dog skulls two; these I know abound. The fresh water fish you sent from old Nilus, was nice--and still nicerer, I have a book which tell me about them. , on Nilotic fish. Send any different species of U[..] or Freshwater mussels, in alcohol, too. Much sorry for the [...] of alcohol. Shall I send more? or has the Sultan yet introduced the Maine liquor law.
Yes--I am glad you like the idea of writing that book. Collect plenty specimens, and you shall have a grand Nat. Hist. . You can make a travel as is a travel. Have you seen or read Hucs Travels in Tartary? The most interesting one about, until yours. He too traveled on Camels, but on the bactrian critter, with two humps & carrying 700 to 1000 lbs. Climate awful,--cold, sleet c. Wild oxen frozen up while crossing rivers. These are the animals for our western plains, if the Syrian species will not do, of which I have many doubts. The camel article to which you refer, I have not yet seen. I regret you did not send it to me: I would have made it into an article for the Patent office report, adding facts concerning the northern species. I have written for Patent Rep. a long article on the ruminating animals of North America.
I am getting very sleepy.--dont you perceive it? and must stop and say good bye. When are you coming home; we miss you day & night. I shant be sorry when some new President turns you out of office. Give thousands of love to Mrs. Marsh. You say nothing of her condition as to health.
Very truly yoursSpencer F BairdHon. Geo. P. MarshConstantinople
Mary will write a long letter soon. She sends very much love.
References in this letter:
Charles Coffin Jewett (1816-1868), a distinguished librarian from Brown University, was appointed senior assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1848. He and Joseph Henry were continually in conflict over the importance of the library within the Institution's mandate and he was fired by the Board in 1855. He later became superintendent of the Boston Public Library.
Architect James Renwick, Jr. of New York designed the Smithsonian in Romanesque style. It was 447 feet long and 160 feet wide, with nine towers. By 1849 the east wing was habitable and the building was substantially completed in 1854; it was finished in 1857. In 1865, however, it was seriously damaged by fire and required extensive repairs.
In 1847 Joseph Henry proposed a publishing program for the Smithsonian Institution to honor Smithson's bequest for the increase and diffusion of knowledge. In 1849, the first volume, edited by Marsh, was published in a series called "Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge." This volume was distributed to 173 foreign institutions and marked the beginning of the Smithsonian's exchange network. Subsequent monographs were based on original scientific work sponsored by the Smithsonian and on Smithsonian collections. The series was apparently conceived as part of a larger series called "Transactions of the Institution."
German: courtesy, kindness.
Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, A bibliographical catalogue of publications in the Indian tongues. Washington, 1849. Memoirs of the Bavarian Academy Stiftisbokasafn at Reykjavik Iceland.
Alexandre Vattemare, Movement of the international litterary exchanges between France and North America, 1845-6; with instructions for collecting objects of natural history.... Paris, 1846.
Registr yfir Íslands Stiftisbókasafn, Kaupmannahüfn, 1828.
Wilhelm P. E. S. Rüppell, Reisen in Nubien, Kordofan und den peträischen Araben.... Frankfurt am Main, 1829.
Marsh published two works on the Camel: "The Camel," in Report of the Smithsonain Institution for 1854, 98-122. 33 Cong. 2 Sess., Sen. Misc. Doc. 24. Washington, 1855. The Camel: His Organization, Habits and Uses, considered with Reference to His Introduction into the United States. Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1856.
Erariste Regis Huc, Travels in Tartary, Tibet and China During the Years 1844-1845- 1846. 2 vols., translated from the French. London: Office of the National Illustrated Library, 1852.
The Patent Office was established in 1836 and in 1838, as required by law, issued the Annual Report of the Patent Office for 1837. The Annual Reports contained detailed accounts on a wide range of subjects as well as all patents issued and expired. In the 1870s they were replaced with the Official Gazette of the U.S. Patent Office.