The Smithsonian Institution — fondly called “the nation’s attic,” was founded on this date in 1846. It is named for British scientist James Smithson, who willed his fortune to the U.S. to establish the institution, even though he had never visited America.
Today, the Smithsonian is made up of 19 museums, along with the National Zoo and nine research centers. It currently has more than 136 million items in its collections. It is one of the main attractions for both American and foreign visitors, and its National Air and Space Museum is the most visited museum in the U.S.
Each year, more than 1.5 million visitors from overseas come to Washington, D.C.
You can find these and more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau, online at www.census.gov.
Sources: Chase’s Calendar Events 2011, p. 407
Statistical Abstract of the United States 2011, t. 1260