1886 – The “father of the modern American museum,” G Brown Goode, thanks a man for donation an “Idol” to the Smithsonian’s “United States National Museum”
Washington, DC: 1886. Envelope or Cover.
This one-page letter to G. S. Faucher Esq. of West Winstead, Connecticut is written on letterhead that reads “United States National Museum / Under Direction Of / The Smithsonian Institution.” It is dated October 28, 1886 and signed by G. Brown Goode as the Smithsonian’s Assistant Director. The letter is enclosed in an official United State National Museum – Smithsonian Institution penalty envelope and has been canceled with a duplex Washington, DC postmark dated November 1, 1886. The envelope also bears a double-circle Smithsonian postmark-like handstamp also dated November 1. In nice shape with a little minor toning to the envelope.
Goode’s letter reads in part:
“I have cancelled the duplicate order for the report of the Smithsonian Institution of 1884. I also learn that in addition to the copy of the report for 1884, sent to you by Prof Baird, copies of the reports for 1875, 1881 and 1882 have now been forwarded to you. Trusting that you will consider these as fair equivalent for you the idol, and hoping that you will find them matters of interest. I am yours respectfully, G Brown Goode Assistant Director.”. Very good. Item #010047
Goode, an ichthyologist by training, was appointed to be the Assistant Curator of the National Museum in 1873 and served as such until 1877 when his title was changed to Curator. In 1881, he was promoted to become the Assistant Director of the Smithsonian Institution under the “Prof Baird” of this letter, Spencer Fullerton Baird, the Smithsonian’s Secretary. He simultaneously served as the Assistant Secretary of the National Museum. Today the U. S. National Museum is known as the Museum of Natural History, but then it was housed in what is now the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building.
Goode soon became the leading figure in American museum theory and display, revising the museum’s mission to educate visitors with its displays, not to simply entertain them. He organized the exhibits within standardized mahogany cases carefully and specifically placed with the museums large open halls lit with natural light from skylights, window and door whose glass was frosted to diffuse the direct sunlight falling on the collections. By 1883, he had replace all of the old gas lighting with electric fixtures and installed an unusual air circulation system that improved air flow. By the time of Goode’s death, the Smithsonian was renowned for its premier collection of anthropological artifacts, art works, historical objects and natural history specimens which was on par with the museums in Europe.
(For more information, see “Smithsonian History” at the online Smithsonian Institution Archives.)
A rather scarce signed letter by Goode. At the time of listing, nothing similar is for sale in the trade, and the Rare Book Hub show no similar items have ever appeared at auction. OCLC lists no similar items in institutional holdings, however many are held by the Smithsonian Institution Archives..