Happy Birthday to the Smithsonian! Our neighbors on the National Mall were founded on August 10, 1846, when Congress passed legislation creating the Smithsonian Institution as an establishment dedicated to the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.”
The Smithsonian now consists of many museums, with collections that range from paintings and sculpture to stuffed and live animals to asteroids and space shuttles. The National Mall is ringed with buildings containing these varied collections.
But this photograph (part of our Mathew Brady collection) was taken during the Civil War, when that future was still decades away. Only “The Castle,” built in 1855, is standing on the future National Mall.
Image: Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C, ca. 1860-1865