Unsigned Autograph Letter to Alexander Graham Bell, Regarding Appointment of the Next Secretary of the Smithsonian. William T. Hornaday.

Unsigned Autograph Letter to Alexander Graham Bell, Regarding Appointment of the Next Secretary of the Smithsonian

Very good. Four-page autograph draft, unsigned, of a letter from William T. Hornaday, pioneering conservationist and Director of the New York Zoological Park (now the Bronx Zoo), to Alexander Graham Bell, who was then a member of the Smithsonian's Board of Regents. Approximately 850 words, on three sheets of letterhead from the New Willard hotel in Washington, D.C., with a note at the top reading "my private file for 1906, under H. (Holland)." This is presumably Hornaday's retained copy of a letter that was later typed and mailed. We have established Hornaday's authorship based on other materials found with this letter, as well as a careful comparison to known examples of his handwriting. In 1906, just as construction began on a new United States National Museum, Samuel Pierpont Langley died after nearly twenty years as Secretary of the Smithsonian. The Board of Regents was tasked with appointing a new leader for the nation's National Museum. Eager to see the institution led by a zoologist, Hornaday wrote to Bell to plead his case, one scientist to another. In this letter he argues that America should match its preeminence in politics, industry, and agriculture with equally important national scientific institutions. This requires a "captain of industry" who "knows by actual contact what it is to create a museum out of the raw materials." Asserting that "the American people expect that the National Museum shall be preeminent in zoology" he concludes that "the logic of the situation seems to call for the selection of a zoologist." The remainder of the letter is a detailed and unqualified recommendation that the Board consider William J. Holland, Director of the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, for the position. He reviews Holland's many accomplishments and argues that he "possesses the breadth of mind, the scholarship, and the industry which render him the logical and the ideal candidate." We do not know if Holland was considered for the position, but in the end Hornaday's advice went unheeded. After being turned down by Henry Fairfield Osborn of the American Museum of Natural History, the Regents ultimately gave the position to Charles Doolittle Walcott a well-known geologist and explorer who had succeeded John Wesley Powell as director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Item #21315

Price: $125.00

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