As a teen, I had the chance to go through this magical place...or at least a small part of it!
The museum is such a large complex I really don't think you could see it all in a week! I would love to see it again someday! I never thought much about the origin of this wonder, and when I looked it up I was totally surprised!
This story, compliments of History.com, is a long one but I think it's worth the time it takes to read it! See if you don't agree!
Jun 27, 1829:
Smithson's curious bequest
Smithson's curious bequest
In Genoa, Italy, English scientist James Smithson dies after a long illness, leaving behind a will with a peculiar footnote. In the event that his only nephew died without any heirs, Smithson decreed that the whole of his estate would go to "the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge." Smithson's curious bequest to a country that he had never visited aroused significant attention on both sides of the Atlantic.
Smithson had been a fellow of the venerable Royal Society of London from the age of 22, publishing numerous scientific papers on mineral composition, geology, and chemistry. In 1802, he overturned popular scientific opinion by proving that zinc carbonates were true carbonate minerals, and one type of zinc carbonate was later named smithsonite in his honor.
Six years after his death, his nephew, Henry James Hungerford, indeed died without children, and on July 1, 1836, the U.S. Congress authorized acceptance of Smithson's gift. President Andrew Jackson sent diplomat Richard Rush to England to negotiate for transfer of the funds, and two years later Rush set sail for home with 11 boxes containing a total of 104,960 gold sovereigns, eight shillings, and seven pence, as well as Smithson's mineral collection, library, scientific notes, and personal effects. After the gold was melted down, it amounted to a fortune worth well over $500,000. After considering a series of recommendations, including the creation of a national university, a public library, or an astronomical observatory, Congress agreed that the bequest would support the creation of a museum, a library, and a program of research, publication, and collection in the sciences, arts, and history. On August 10, 1846, the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution was signed into law by President James K. Polk.
Today, the Smithsonian is composed of 19 museums including the recently announced National Museum of African American History and Culture, nine research centers throughout the United States and the world and the national zoo. Besides the original Smithsonian Institution Building, popularly known as the "Castle," visitors to Washington, D.C., tour the National Museum of Natural History, which houses the natural science collections, the National Zoological Park, and the National Portrait Gallery. The National Museum of American History houses the original Star-Spangled Banner and other artifacts of U.S. history. The National Air and Space Museum has the distinction of being the most visited museum in the world, exhibiting marvels of aviation and space history such as the Wright brothers' plane and Freedom 7, the space capsule that took the first American into space. John Smithson, the Smithsonian Institution's great benefactor, is interred in a tomb in the Smithsonian Building.
I have to admit, some of the images from that visit are still with me! Such as seeing the "Spirit of St. Louis" and so much more! Guess I have one more thing to add to my bucket list, right?
Why don't we get some fresh coffee and go out to the patio? It's hot, but we are in Texas!