Western Union Telegraph Expedition (1865-1867) Search this
0.75 cu. ft. (1 document box) (1 half document box)
This collection includes correspondence, mostly to Spencer F. Baird, from members of the Scientific Corps of the Western Union Telegraph Expedition, including Kennicott,
Dall, Bannister, and Elliott; copies of reports submitted to divisional chiefs from expedition staff members; newspaper clippings concerning the expedition; copies of notes
on natural history taken by Robert Kennicott; and a journal containing meteorological data recorded by Henry M. Bannister from March to August, 1866.
The Western Union Telegraph Expedition, 1865-1867, also known as the Russian-American Telegraph Expedition, was undertaken to study the possibility of setting up a
communications system with Europe by way of Alaska, the Bering Straits, and Asia. The expedition was organized in three divisions, working in Canada, Russian-America (Alaska),
and Asia. Robert Kennicott, the veteran Alaskan explorer, was placed in charge of the Russian-American division. Under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution and the
Chicago Academy of Sciences, a Scientific Corps was established, with Kennicott in command, to accompany the Russian-American division and make collections in natural history.
Naturalists William H. Dall, Henry M. Bannister, and Henry W. Elliott served as members of the Scientific Corps. On the death of Kennicott on May 13, 1866, Dall became chief
of the Scientific Corps until the expedition was terminated in July 1867 due to the successful laying of the Atlantic Cable.
It appears that some of the material in this collection was removed from the official correspondence files of the Smithsonian.
These records are the official minutes of the Board. They are compiled at the direction of the Secretary of the Smithsonian, who is also secretary to the Board, after
approval by the Regents' Executive Committee and by the Regents themselves. The minutes are edited, not a verbatim account of proceedings. For reasons unknown, there are no
manuscript minutes for the period from 1857 through 1890; and researchers must rely on printed minutes published in the Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution instead.
Minutes are transferred regularly from the Secretary's Office to the Archives. Minutes less than 15 years old are closed to researchers. Indexes exist for the period from
1907 to 1946 and can be useful.
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