Mar 24 brown bag – The Smithsonian Institution and the Making of the American Nonprofit Sector

When Englishman James Smithson left $500,000 to the United States of America to establish the Smithsonian Institution in 1829, he improbably forced the United States Congress to design America’s first national benevolent institution. This talk will address how Congress came to a decision about whether the Smithsonian should be a government agency, a quasi-governmental institution, or a private corporation in the mid-nineteenth century. Their decision has had a lasting impact on the formation of the American nonprofit sector, I will argue, as future philanthropic foundations used the Smithsonian Institution’s articles of incorporation as a model into the twentieth century.

12:00 pm at UM Museum of Art (Multi-Purpose Room)