• Smithsonian Institute First Secretary Henry Offers Catalog Of Fossils; Refused To Allow Frederick Douglass To Speak

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    JOSEPH HENRY (December 17, 1797 – May 13, 1878) was a scientist who served as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Henry developed the electromagnet into a practical device. He invented a precursor to the electric doorbell. Henry’s work on the electromagnetic relay was the basis of the practical electrical telegraph, invented by Samuel F.B. Morse and Sir Charles Wheatstone, separately. During the Civil War, Henry oversaw a series of lectures by prominent (white) abolitionists. However, he refused to allow Frederick Douglass to speak, saying, “I would not let the lecture of the colored man be given in the rooms of the Smithsonian.”

    One-page, LS, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, June 26, 1862, [no salutation], “I beg leave herewith to enclose a catalogue of the fossils sent some time ago by express to the University of Rochester...”


    Light toning, mailing folds. Light inoffensive ghosting of signature at the very top.


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