THE SMITHSONIAN: Octopus on the Mall by Geoffrey T. Hellman

THE SMITHSONIAN: Octopus on the Mall

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The greater part of Mr. Hellman's purview of the Smithsonian has already made its appearance in The New Yorker; the whole bears the urbane earmarks of that magazine--pointed research, wit, and a developed sense of the ridiculous. An institution that displays the remains of Owney the Postal Dog along with Freer's Whistlers, General Sheridan's horse with the Hirschhorn collection, is eminently qualified for the New Yorker treatment. The particulars of its founding prove it even more suitable, and Mr. Hellman gives full play to the bequest of a childless illegitimate son of a duke whose gift to the United States was ungratefully almost unaccepted by Congress. The story of financing and founding of the institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge has many moments, from the State of Arkansas' reneging on bonds through Joseph Henry's tenure as first Secretary on down the line. Each Secretary had his projects, and crotchets; each made a lasting contribution to the Smithsonian stance, whether in research or museum building. Today, after some one-hundred-forty odd years, aggregating, the Smithsonian is ""still in short pants"" (its present secretary Dillon Ripley). But with a long reach...The thinking man's Americana, to inform and amuse.

Pub Date: July 25th, 1967
Publisher: Lippincott