Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Smithsonian 175

It would be a shame to leave 2021 without acknowledging the 175th anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution, one of America’s great cultural institutions.  On August 10, 1846, the U.S. Senate passed the act organizing the Smithsonian Institution, which was signed into law by President James K. Polk. I wrote a previous post about Charles Coffin Jewett who was the first librarian of the Smithsonian. Jewett thought the Smithsonian should be a national library, but the Smithsonian’s secretary disagreed.  This led to Jewett’s dismissal in 1855.  The iconic Smithsonian building known as the “Castle” was actually designed to include a library and reading room. In 1866 the Smithsonian’s library collection was moved to the Library of Congress and became known as the “Smithsonian Deposit”.  The Smithsonian eventually reestablished a library of its own which is now the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives. The Smithsonian presents multiple opportunities to the collector of postal artifacts. These include items related to the postal history of the Smithsonian, items related to the three postage stamps issued by the United States Postal System, and postcards.  I have examples of all of these in my personal collection. Some are shown below.  For postcard collectors, there is an exceptional section of the Smithsonian website titled “Greetings from the Smithsonian” which combines the history of the Smithsonian with the history of postcards. You will need to click on the Menu at the bottom of the introductory page to see the full expanse of the history.

Cover circa 1870s mailed by Smithsonian to Chicago

First Day Cover for 1996 stamp combined with 1946 stamp

First Day Cover for 1980 stamp

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