August 29, 1838

James Smithson’s legacy, in the form of 11 boxes of gold sovereigns as well as his personal effects, arrive with Richard Rush on the ship “Mediator” in the harbor of New York. The personal effects are deposited with the collector of the Port of New York on September 1. The gold is immediately deposited with the Bank of America, until September 1, when it is transferred to the Treasurer of the United States Mint in Philadelphia. The £104,960 and 8 shillings, 6 pence in gold sovereigns is melted down and reminted into United States coins worth $508,318.46. Smithson’s personal effects remain in New York until June 1841, when the National Institute requests they be sent to Washington.

Posted: 29 August 2010
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Alex di Giovanni has been editing The Torch since August 2006. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she worked as a writer and editor for the National Geographic Society, Plexus Scientific, The Nature Conservancy, The National Foreign Language Center and St. Martin’s Press, among others. She has the best job in the world.