- from Washington, D.C.
In 1835, the United States got some amazing news. James Smithson, an Englishman who had never set foot in the U.S., had given our country half a million dollars. He wanted to establish a Smithsonian Institution “to increase . . . knowledge among men.”
Three years later, 105 bags of gold coins arrived. This gift confused the nation’s leaders. First they debated about whether to take the money. Then they couldn’t decide how to use it. Finally, in 1846, Congress passed an act that established the Smithsonian Institution as both a museum and a research organization. The Smithsonian’s first building was completed in 1852. Today the institution includes 19 museums. Seventeen of these are in Washington, D.C. There are also nine research centers and the National Zoo. The newest addition is the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It’s set to open soon.
There are so many national treasures in the Smithsonian, it has been called the Nation’s Attic.