United States National Museum Division of Mollusks Search this
United States National Museum Division of Echinoderms Search this
United States North Pacific Exploring Expedition (1853-1856) Search this
United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842) Search this
33.22 cu. ft. (56 document boxes) (9 tall document boxes)
Mixed archival materials
The origins of the collection of marine invertebrates under the care of the Smithsonian Institution can be traced to the collections made by William Stimpson while serving as zoologist on the North Pacific Exploring Expedition, 1853-1856, and the specimens collected by the United States Exploring Expedition which were transferred to the Smithsonian in 1858. Stimpson seems to have been, nominally at least, in charge of the Smithsonian marine invertebrate collections until 1865. By that date the Smithsonian collection of crustacea numbered more than 10,000 jars -- the largest in the world at that time. In 1867 Stimpson was authorized to take most of the collection of American invertebrates to the Chicago Academy of Sciences for study, where they were destroyed when the Academy was burned in the Chicago fire of 1871. Beginning in the 1870s, large collections of marine invertebrates came to the Smithsonian as a result of the various expeditions conducted by the United States Fish Commission. Many of these specimens were retained at Yale University by Addison Emery Verrill for study and identification and did not reach the United States National Museum until 1907.
The Department of Marine Invertebrates was created as an administrative unit of the United States National Museum in 1880. In 1897 the Department became the Division of Marine Invertebrates. In 1914 the Division of Marine Invertebrates was merged with the Division of Mollusks into a single division under the title of Marine Invertebrates. In 1920 the collection of Echinoderms was removed from Marine Invertebrates to form a new Division of Echinoderms. In 1921 Mollusks was again separated from Marine Invertebrates.
Richard Rathbun (1852-1918) served as Curator of Marine Invertebrates from 1880 to 1914. In 1897 Rathbun was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian, and responsibility for the administration of the Division fell largely to the two assistant curators, James E. Benedict (1854-1930) and Mary Jane Rathbun (1860-1943). Benedict served as Assistant Curator from 1890 to 1909. Mary Jane Rathbun served as Copyist, 1886-1893; Aid, 1893-1894; Assistant Curator, 1894-1914; and Associate in Zoology, 1914-1943. Clarence R. Shoemaker (1874-1958) served as Aid, Assistant Curator, Associate Curator, and Associate in Zoology from 1911 to 1958. Waldo LaSalle Schmitt (1887-1977) came to the Division in 1915 and served as Curator from 1921 to 1947. Fenner A. Chace, Jr. (1908- ) served as Curator from 1946 to 1963.
For a description of the record series of which these materials are a part, refer to "Forms part of" above.
(1) Outgoing correspondence, 1884-1920; (2) incoming correspondence, 1861, 1877, 1881-1902; (3) incoming correspondence, 1903-1920; (4) incoming and outgoing correspondence, 1921-1937, 1939, 1961-1962; (5) Clarence R. Shoemaker correspondence, 1919-1958; (6) monthly and annual reports, 1881-1936; (7) invoices of specimens received, 1854-1914; (8) invoices of specimens sent out, 1878-1921; (9) catalog of duplicate specimens, 1872-1881; (10) historical material and typescript, 1906 and 1932
These records consist mostly of correspondence of the members of the staff of the Division of Marine Invertebrates with naturalists, collectors, colleagues, scientists, and museum officials, concerning identification, exchange, and distribution of specimens; collecting work; museum publications; and museum administration. Some correspondence of Richard Rathbun, 1884-1887, pertains to United States Fish Commission business. Also included are monthly and annual reports of the Division, 1881-1936; invoices of specimens received, 1854-1914, which date back to the collections made by Stimpson; invoices of specimens sent out, 1878-1921; catalog of duplicate specimens, 1872-1881; and miscellaneous material.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520