The collection documents Hall's Arctic exploration.
Scope and Contents:
Diaries, journals, notebooks, scrapbooks, business cards, correspondence, ships' logs, navigation charts and documents on Hall's Arctic exploration. The correspondence includes letters to and from Henry Grimmell, William Grimmell, J. Carson Brevoont, John Barrow, Cyrus Field, Edward Everett, Clement Markham, Joseph Henry, and the Royal Geographic Society.
The collection is arranged into one series.
Biographical / Historical:
The Arctic explorer Charles Francis Hall was born about 1821, either Vermont or New Hampshire; there are very few details about his early life. He is most notable for spending over ten years in the Arctic among the Inuit, initially focused on locating evidence of the lost British Expedition under Sir John Franklin, and then, in two later expeditions, searching for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole.
Before becoming a polar explorer, Hall began as a blacksmith's apprentice at a young age in Rochester, NH. Sometime in the 1840's he married and moved westward eventually coming to Cincinnati, where Charles opened a business making engraving plates and seals, in 1849. Later he published a small newspaper in Cincinnati, The Cincinnati Occasional.
While publishing news stories of arctic expeditions related to the Franklin expedition, Hall became enamored with the idea of polar exploration. In 1857 he began collecting any material he could gather on the landscape and survival in the Arctic, previous expeditions, and John Franklin's expedition itself, while at the same time seeking financial support for his expedition.
After detailed preparation and a small amount of financial backing, Hall boarded a ship for Greenland, and then on to the "Terra Incognita" of the Arctic. Despite being an amateur explorer with very little support for his first expedition, Hall believed that by living amongst the indigenous Inuit people, a non-native could survive long periods living in the arctic. In May 1860, Hall arrived in Frobisher Bay, Canada and with not much more than a small boat and basic supplies, Hall met befriended local Inuit who took him in for the next two years.
Over those two years, Hall found little evidence of the Franklin expedition, but what he did find proved to be more valuable. While an avid and writer, Hall lived, learned and daily documented in his journals more about the Inuit people that any visitor before him. His journals describe Inuit society, traditions, oral histories, language and culture, as well as the skills necessary to survive in such an unforgiving climate. He also travelled and mapped much of the unknown Frobisher Bay area, correcting many previously incorrect maps that depicted area as an open strait, rather than a closed bay.
Once Hall returned to the United States, he began working on publishing his writings and preparing for a second expedition to Frobisher Bay. In 1864, he left for his second trip spending almost five years living amongst the Inuit, searching for the Franklin expedition and mapping unknown portions of the Arctic.
As soon as he arrived home in 1869, Hall began again planning his next and bigger expedition, but times had changed in the U.S. The Civil War was over and the United States government was now interested in polar exploration and the race to the North Pole. Gaining the attention of President Grant, Hall was appointed as joint commander of the Polaris Expedition.
Departing in 1871, the expedition began with critical problems. The "joint-command" of the expedition put Hall in direct conflict with the other two expedition commanders, each one believing they should have been appointed as sole commander. This eventually led to incredible disasters throughout the expedition, resulting in the total failure of the mission, loss of the ship, as well as the death of Charles Francis Hall. Hall died on the expedition in November 1871, possibly from poisoning by one of his co-commanders. His body was exhumed in 1969 and tested, revealing the presence of arsenic. While Hall claimed on his deathbed he had been poisoned by a crew member, many 19th century medicines contained arsenic.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Higgins to Joseph Henry. New York City, April 21, 1866. Ethnographic notes and vocabulary (pages 23-29) of Apache tribes of Arizona Territory ...collected from captives belonging to the Chiricahua, Sierra Blanca, Pinal and Coyotero tribes... (according to letter to Gibbs, May 2, 1866 -- see Manuscript No. 171). 30 pages.
Henry to Gibbs. April 24, 1866. Transmitting Higgins Manuscript for comment. 1 page.
Gibbs to Henry. April 25, 1866. Rough draft of letter commenting on Higgins Manuscript 2 pages.
Gibbs to Higgins. April 25, 1866. Rough draft of letter about Manuscript and Higginsʹ future work. 3 pages.
Includes transmittal correspondence. 1865. 16 pages: f.2 Henry B. Bristol to Brig. Gen. James H. Carleton, Commanding Department of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico, enclosing Navaho vocabulary and letters to be forwarded to Joseph Henry. Fort Sumner, New Mexico. May 8, 1865. Autograph letter signed. 2 pages. Endorsement on reverse by Carleton to Henry. July 4, 1865. 1 page. Enclosures: f.3. Henry B. Bristol to Joseph Henry, Secretary, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C., transmitting Navajo vocabulary and remarks on Navaho customs. Fort Sumner, New Mexico May 7, 1865. Autograph letter signed. 10 pages. [Old Number 184] f.4 Joseph Henry to Brig Gen James H. Carleton, Commanding Dept of New Mexico. [Santa Fe, New Mexico], requesting vocabularies, "particularly of the Pueblo Indians," and others. Washington, D. C. March 10, 1865. Manuscript letter signed. 2 pages. Endorsement on reverse by Carleton to Bristol. April 23, 1865. 1 page. Enclosure: List in handwriting of George Gibbs of vocabularies already obtained and those needed. Manuscript Document. 1 page. f.5 Letter to Maj Gen James H. Carleton, Commanding [Department of] New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico, requesting Pueblo vocabularies. Washington [D. C.] August 23, 1866. A. draft of letter. 2 pages.
Included in Navaho Number 97 (f.5), where it has evidently been for many years: it bears the rubber-stamp "ATHAPASCAN" with the ink Number 111-a, and the other letters in this file are similarly stamped, with the added Numbers 111,111b and 111c. Similar in intent to the letter in Number 97 of Henry to Carleton (at Gibbs' request), March 10, 1865, but of later date. This draft appears to be a second try by Gibbs to obtain Pueblo vocabularies from Carleton. (Whether any Pueblo vocabularies now in the National Anthropological Archives were received in response to this letter has not been determined as of 12/1969.)
NAA MS 97
Informant: A "Mexican captive named Jesus who has been among the Navajoes scince a child."
Vocabulary recorded in Smithsonian Institution Comparative Vocabulary by Arny. Also J. Hammond Trumbull (and William Dwight Whitney). Letter to Joseph Henry, regarding the "phonetic notation" used in Arny's Navaho vocabulary. Hartford, Connecticut. December 26, 1874. Manuscript copy of letter signed. 2 pages.
NAA MS 95
"Assisted by Prof. Valentine Friese and Rev'd W. B. Truax"
Notations in pencil appear to be in J. Hammond Trumbull's handwriting.
Listed in Pilling, Bureau of American Ethnology-B 14, page 4.
Copies of correspondence between George J. Gibbs and others on a variety of topics, especially anthropological, ornithological, and geneological. Included is corresponsence with Spencer Baird and Joseph Henry of the Smithsonian Institution; John Evans; Joseph Hutchings; W.R. Inglis, "late" president of the Turks and Caicos Islands; J.H. Lefroy, "fomer" governor of Bermuda; Sir Anthony Musgrage, governor of Jamaica; and Joseph Hutchings. Also included are photographs of Baird, Evans, Hutchings, Inglis, Lefroy, and Musgrave; a copy of James Smithson's will; sketches of artifacts; geneological information regarding the original colonists of the Bermudas, and excerpts from other sources.
Biographical / Historical:
Virtually no biographical information is available. From the text, a birthdate for George J. Gibbs of ca. 1833 has been deduced. In the manuscript, Gibbs states that his father was the Honorable George Gibbs "of these islands" and that his uncle was William H. Gibbs who died ca. 1876. G.J. Gibbs lived on Grand Turk Island of the British West Indies, at that time a Jamaican dependency, was married, and had children (number unknown). According to the text, he became an invalid due to an illness ca. 1875.
Date of birth determined by extrapolation from text: on page 286, 1878, Gibbs says that for 42 years he knew no illness, but "three years ago"  he became ill from exposure on a hunting trip and has ever since been an invalid. [1875 - 42 years = 1833, hypothetical birth date.]
"A correspondence relative to Ancient Stone Implements etc., etc. between George J. Gibbs of Grand Turk and Caicos Islands, W.I. and John Evans Esquire F.R.S. & F.S.A., Honorary Secretary of the Geological and Numismatic Societies of London etc., etc. (the author of a work established in London in the year 1872 entitled ʻAncient Stone Implements, etc. of Great Britainʼ) also with Joseph Henry Esquire Secretary and Diretor of the Smithsonian Intitute and of the National Museum of the United States of America at Washington, D.C. and with other partners on various subjects."
B.G.E. St.Aubyn, Windsor House, Cayman Islands, British West Indies gift July, 1973 74-1
Materials from various persons used by O. T. Mason in Smithsonian Annual Reports, 1874 - 1879 & 1881 - 1883.
1) Most have been published (although not necessarily verbatim). unpublished letters and maps include: Mitchell, Augustus to Joseph Henry, August 24, 1873. "Crude Thoughts on American Indians." Discusses visit of P. Pitchlynn to author at Portland, Me., 1846. 2) Bruff. J. Goldsborough to Joseph Henry, February 10, 1873. concerning human face carved on rock near Chain Bridge, Potomac River. 3) Trowbridge, David, December 14, 1876 "Ancient Fort and Burial Ground". with map (area of Waterburgh, New York).
Includes notes; abstracts from letters of Commodore Jesse D. Elliott to the National Institute; Admiral A. Harwood to Joseph Henry; andH. D. Gregory to William J. Rhees; and a letter probably from Casanowicz to William Henry Holmes, March 27, 1916.
Biographical / Historical:
The sarcophagus was obtained in 1839 at Beirut by Commander J. D. Elliott (whose flag ship was the Constitution). It was the container for the remains of the Roman Emperor Alexander Severus. It was intended for the remains of Andrew Jackson, but he declined its use.
The Joseph Henry Collection documents Henry's personal, professional, and official life as well as some activities of his family members. Included are records from
his time teaching and doing research at the Albany Academy (1826-1832) and at the College of New Jersey now Princeton University (1832-1846). There are likewise many materials
from his years as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (1846-1878). Henry's records and materials from his time with various organizations are also included
in the collection. The three main organizations with materials to document his involvement are the Philosophical Society of Washington (1871-1878), the National Academy of
Science (1863-1878), and the Light-House Board (1852-1878). Some of the collection postdates Henry's life, including condolences to his family, memorial materials, newspaper
clippings, as well as letters of relatives.
Series 4 is the first that contains original Henry materials, letterpress books, which postdate the Smithsonian Institution fire of 1865. Correspondence, both incoming
and outgoing, is in the following two divisions. Many of the letters are science and academic related. Science correspondence is often concerned with the telegraph, electricity,
meteorology, light, and surveying. A portion of the letters are related to repairs of the Castle following the 1865 fire, to preparing to build what would be the Arts and
Industries Building, as well as to Smithsonian activities. The volume of letters drops off considerably for the years 1854-1864, most likely due to the Smithsonian fire of
There is a good deal of materials related to Henry's scientific papers; both his notes and published materials as well as experimental data and science records. Copies
of his lectures and lecture notes from his years at the Albany Academy and the College of New Jersey are also in the collection, as well as several student notebooks from
his Princeton classes. There are also many addresses and reports and a copy of volume one of Scientific Writings of Joseph Henry (1824-1846). In various places throughout
the collection are copies of Henry's memorials in the forms of eulogies and memoirs. One series contains many invitations and notices in addition to honors and awards received
by Henry. The invitations and notices are ordered alphabetically by sender. The honors and awards are in chronological order; none exist for the years 1853-1864.
Documenting Henry's scientific thoughts and ideas between the years 1835 and 1877 are his pocket notebooks, Series 7. The "Records of Experiments" (1834-1862) is the single
longest sustained account of his experimentation. Henry kept desk diaries during his Smithsonian years, although not all survived; those that are available are listed in the
contents of boxes 14 and 15. There is a three-volume set of notebooks documenting his 1837 trip to Europe; there is not such an extensive set of documentation for the 1870
European voyage. In two locations in the collection are extracts from the Locked Book, similar to a personal diary, for the years 1850-1876.
There are many papers and materials that postdate Henry's life, including copies of memorials from clubs and organizations to which he belonged, and one given during a
session of the House of Representatives. There is a set of two bound scrapbooks titled Henry Memorial. The collection contains letters of condolence to the Henry family
and materials related to the erection of a memorial statue and the naming of the standard unit of induction as the 'henry.'
In the same category as the postdated materials are those having to do with Joseph Henry's daughter Mary and are contained in Series 18 and 19. The "Mary A. Henry Memoir"
division contains copies of letters, notes, and other Henry materials as well as her work at composing a memoir of her father. The last series of the collection is called
"Family Papers" and contains the letters between Joseph and his wife Harriet, other family members and letters between family members after Henry's death.
Joseph Henry (1797-1878), educator, investigator in physics, and first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, was born in Albany, New York, on December 17, 1797,
to William and Ann Alexander Henry. He obtained a minimal education in Galway, where he lived for a time with his mother's brother, and in Albany. While in Galway Henry discovered
the joy of reading and thus began his love of learning. After his father's death in 1811, Joseph returned to Albany and was apprenticed to John F. Doty, watchmaker and silversmith,
where he worked until his master's business went under. During this time Henry also developed a strong interest in the theater and joined a group of young people who felt
a similar calling. Until his chance encounter with Popular Lectures on Experimental Philosophy, Astronomy, and Chemistry by George Gregory turned him to science, Henry
had planned a career in the theater.
As a result of his newly found interest in science, Henry set out to prepare himself for admittance into the advanced curriculum at the Albany Academy, an academic high
school. He attended the Academy from 1819 until 1822, first passing the examination of the Academy with honors after seven months of preparation and then continuing on to
more advanced studies. He took one year off during this time to teach in a rural school to earn money. This position was the only one for which he ever applied; thereafter
employers would come to him.
For the ten years after Henry completed his education at the Albany Academy he was employed there in a variety of capacities ranging from lab assistant to teacher. During
this time he was also a tutor of Henry James and of the children of General Stephen van Rensselaer. In 1825, Henry headed a leveling party that was engaged by New York State
to assist in the preparation of new road sites from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. In the spring of 1826 he was elected to the professorship of mathematics and natural philosophy
at the Academy. While in this position he began research in a comparatively new field dealing with the relation of electric currents to magnetism. His first notable scientific
accomplishment was his improvement of William Sturgeon's electromagnet, which he achieved by both insulating individual coils and developing multi-layer coils. During this
time he also developed an electromagnet with the capacity to lift 750 pounds.
In 1830 Henry married his cousin, Harriet Alexander, a daughter of his mother's brother. All told they had six children. Four lived through infancy, although the only son,
William Alexander, died in 1862. Their three surviving daughters were Helen, Mary, and Caroline.
In 1831 Henry developed the "little machine," or the electromagnetic engine. During this year he constructed the first electromagnetic telegraph. He was also responsible
for the completion of an electromagnet for Yale University with the capacity to lift 2,300 pounds. The following year Henry published the results from his experiments that
proved magnetism could produce electricity. The article was published in the American Journal of Science and was titled "On the Production of Currents and Sparks of
Electricity and Magnetism." His article also described his discovery of electromagnetic self-induction.
Henry received an appointment to the chair of natural philosophy at the College of New Jersey, (Princeton University) in October of 1832. That same year he constructed
for Princeton a magnet with the capacity to lift 3,500 pounds. At Princeton Henry continued his scientific experiments in electricity and magnetism as well as conducting research
in terrestrial magnetism, meteorology, and other geophysical topics. Henry continued to be interested in these fields the rest of his life. He was elected to the American
Philosophical Society in 1835, and often served as an officer.
In 1837 Henry took his first voyage to Europe. While on his six-month trip he visited England, France, Scotland, and Belgium and had the opportunity to meet a number of
scientists including Michael Faraday. It was this experience that caused Henry to resume his former level of scientific research, which had significantly diminished between
1832 and 1837. Between the years 1838 and 1842 Henry did a good deal of research into the induction of one current by another. He also participated in the investigation of
solar radiation and the heat of sunspots as well as becoming interested in the cohesion of liquids and capillarity. On November 2, 1838, Henry made a presentation before the
Philosophical Society in which he delivered a paper that described his discoveries of inducing currents of the third, fourth, and fifth orders.
On December 3, 1846, Henry's appointment from the Board of Regents to the office of Secretary of the new Smithsonian Institution was announced. He left Princeton for Washington
on December 14, 1846, to assume his position as first Secretary of the Smithsonian. Henry intended to follow the letter of James Smithson's will, which had left the funds
to the United States to establish the Smithsonian Institution for "the increase and diffusion of knowledge." To Henry that meant supporting knowledgeable and skilled persons
doing original research and providing for the dissemination of the findings from those and other experiments through periodical publications. To encourage this Henry established
a system for the exchange of publications between nations. This plan was presented to the Board of Regents on December 8, 1847, with his first report as Secretary and was
titled Programme of Organization of the Smithsonian Institution.
The first major scientific undertaking of the Institution was the Smithsonian Meteorological Project, which directed the systematic collection of data from all over the
United States. It was proposed with Henry's Programme of Organization, built into the budget in 1848, and begun in 1849. Between the years 1853 and 1855 Henry consolidated
his position by dismissing assistant secretary Charles Jewett, the Institution's librarian. Initially the Regents had worked out a division of the Institution's funds between
research and collection. Jewett had become the Institution's advocate for development of a national library. Henry believed as much of the funds as possible should be used
for research, and that the library should be only for support. Henry was able to maintain control.
In 1858 the Institution began accepting the national collections from the United States government. Until this time Henry had resisted the assumption of the collections
because he was concerned about the Institution becoming too much a part of the government and because of the cost of their maintenance. The acceptance of these materials brought
with it the beginning of direct federal funding. Under Henry the Smithsonian gained its reputation as the nation's attic.
The cornerstone for the Smithsonian Castle was laid on May 1, 1847. The building was completed in 1858, although the Henry family began to inhabit the east wing in 1855.
A fire on January 24, 1865, destroyed the Upper Main Hall and primary towers including Henry's offices in the south tower, taking with it many of Henry's papers, both personal
The telegraph was a major point of contention in Henry's life. Samuel Morse was not the only individual who made discoveries along the lines of the electromagnetic telegraph;
Henry was also a contributor. However, Morse patented the electromagnetic telegraph in 1840. Henry did not oppose Morse by applying for his own patent because he believed
that patents prevented the sharing of scientific information. The telegraph controversy was finally settled in 1857 when an investigative board stated that Morse's claims
against Henry were "positively disproved." In 1849 Henry was elected to the post of president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an organization he
helped to found. Henry received an appointment to the Light-House Board at the time of its establishment in 1852. During the course of his capacities as a Light-House Board
member Henry devoted himself to research and experimentation in the fields of sound, light, fog, fog signals, and illuminating oils. In recognition of his efforts Henry was
appointed the board's chairman in 1871, a position he held to his death.
Henry was also an original member of the National Academy of Sciences, formed in 1863. In 1866 he became its vice-president and in 1868 its president. The Philosophical
Society of Washington was founded in 1871. Henry was involved in its establishment and served as its president. He held both these positions until his death in 1878.
Henry's second trip to Europe was in 1870. While on this four-and-one-half month voyage he visited England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, France, and Germany.
The main purpose of this expedition was to attend an international conference on the metric standard in Paris and to testify on the administration of science in London.
In 1871 the Institution supervised Professor John Wesley Powell's federal expedition of the Colorado River. The expedition not only surveyed the area but also collected
specimens of various kinds. The Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 also had a substantial impact on Henry's Institution. The display of specimens at the International
Exposition was the major activity of the Institution in 1876. Items from the Exhibition became permanent parts of the Smithsonian's holdings. These items so expanded the collections
that a new Material Museum Building was planned, which opened in 1879.
In December 1877 Joseph Henry became ill with nephritis, and on May 13, 1878 he
succumbed to his illness. Congress approved the erection of a memorial statue on June 1, 1880.
William W. Story's bronze likeness of Henry was unveiled on April 19, 1883. At the
International Congress of Electricians held in Chicago during the 1893 World's Fair the standard
unit of inductance was named the 'henry' in honor of Joseph Henry.
For more extensive information on Joseph Henry's life, see Joseph Henry--His Life and Work by Thomas Coulson, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1950; Notes
on the Life and Character of Joseph Henry by James C. Welling, Collins Printer, Philadelphia, 1878; A Memorial of Joseph Henry, Government Printing Office, Washington,
1880; Joseph Henry's Lectures on Natural Philosophy: Teaching and Research in Physics, 1832-1847 by Charles I. Weiner, University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, 1965; A
Scientist in American Life: Essays and Lectures of Joseph Henry, edited by Arthur P. Molella, et.al., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C., 1980; and The
Papers of Joseph Henry, edited by Nathan Reingold, Maaet.al., eleven volumes, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C., and Science History Publications, Sagamore
Beach, MA, 1972-2006. For more detailed bibliographical information consult the articles on Joseph Henry by William F. Magie in the Dictionary of American Biography,
Volume 4, pages 550-553, and by Nathan Reingold in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Volume 6, pages 277-281.
December 17, 1797 -- Born in Albany, New York to William and Ann Alexander Henry
circa 1806 -- By this time residing in Galway, New York with relatives
circa 1811 -- Encounter with Fool of Quality by Henry Brooke
October 1811 -- William Henry dies
circa 1812 -- Returns to Albany
circa 1813 -- Apprenticed to John F. Doty, a watchmaker and silversmith
circa 1813-1816 -- Involved in the Green Street Theater of Albany
circa 1815 -- Encounter with Popular Lectures on Experimental Philosophy, Astronomy, and Chemistry by George Gregory, shifts interest to science
1819-1822 -- Attends the Albany Academy
1825 -- Heads a surveying party in New York State from the Hudson River to Lake Erie
1826 -- Elected to the professorship of mathematics and natural philosophy at the Albany Academy 28 April; inauguration to the professorship position, 11 September
September 1827 -- Starts work in electricity and magnetism
May 3, 1830 -- Married to Harriet Alexander
1831 -- Develops the "little machine," an electromagnetic engine; an electromagnetic telegraph; and an electromagnet with a 2,300 pound capacity
1832 -- "On the Production of Currents and Sparks of Electricity and Magnetism," published in the American Journal of Science
October 1832 -- Receives an appointment to the chair of natural philosophy at the College of New Jersey (Princeton University)
1835 -- Selected for membership in the America Philosophical Society
May 14-August 10, 1837 -- in Europe; Faraday and Henry meet
1838 -- Delivers paper on inducing currents of the third, fourth, and fifth orders before the Philosophical Society
1838-1842 -- Research done into the induction of a current by another current; solar radiation; heat of sunspots; cohesion of liquids and capillarity
December 3, 1846 -- Receives appointment from the Board of Regents to the position of Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
December 14, 1846 -- Leaves Princeton for Washington, D.C.
May 1, 1847 -- Cornerstone of Castle laid
December 8, 1847 -- Presentation of Programme of Organization of the Smithsonian Institution before the Board of Regents
1849 -- Smithsonian Meteorological Project begins
1849 -- Elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
1852 -- Receives appointment to Light House Board
1853-1855 -- Dispute with Charles Jewett over the nature of the Institution
1855 -- Castle building completed
1855 -- Henry family begins inhabiting the east wing of the Castle
1858 -- The Institution begins accepting the national collections from the United States Government
1863 -- An original member of the National Academy of Sciences
1866-1868 -- Vice-president of the National Academy of Sciences
1868-1878 -- President of the National Academy of Sciences
June 1-October, 1870 -- Voyage to Europe
1871 -- Becomes the first president of the Philosophical Society of Washington
1871 -- Appointed Light-House Board's chairman
1876 -- Institution displays specimens at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition
December 1877 -- Henry becomes ill with Nephritis
May 13, 1878 -- Joseph Henry dies
1880 -- Congress approves the erection of a memorial statue of Joseph Henry
April 19, 1883 -- Memorial statue by William W. Story unveiled
1893 -- Standard unit of inductance named the 'henry' in honor of Joseph Henry