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The Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution in January, 1878, requested its Secretary to prepare and publish a history of its origin and progress, such as he was pre-eminently qualified to furnish. The materials necessary for this purpose had in part been brought together, when the death of Professor Henry, on the 13th of May, prevented the carrying out of the original plan. As the documents collected are necessary to any future historian of the Institution, Mr. Wm. J. Rhees, who had been entrusted by Professor Henry with their selection, was requested by the Chancellor, Chief Justice Waite, to continue the work, and the present volume is the result of his labors.
In this will be found the Will of Smithson, all the Congressional debates and legislation relative to the bequest, and many documents which could probably only have been brought to light by one perfectly familiar with the operations of the Institution, Mr. Rhees having been associated with Professor Henry, as its Chief Clerk, for more than twenty-five years.
The amount of labor in the preparation of this volume, was very great, as all the data were procured from original sources. Manuscripts and documents were consulted in the Department of State, Treasury Department, the Capitol, and elsewhere; and every page of the voluminous records of the proceedings of Congress for more than forty years was carefully examined so that an account of everything relating to the Institution could be presented.
SPENCER F. BAIRD,
Secretary Smithsonian Institution. WASHINGTON, April, 1879.