Greene Smith

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Greene Smith
Born 1842
Died 1886
Nationality American
Education Harvard
Scientific career
Fields Ornithology
Institutions Cornell University
Patrons Angelina Grimke and Theodore Weld

Greene Smith (1842–1886) was an American amateur scientist and taxidermist with a specific interest in ornithology. His father was Gerrit Smith.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Greene Smith was born in 1842. He was the son of Gerrit Smith. He started bird watching when he was nine.[2] As a child he was educated by Angelina Grimke and Theodore Weld.[3] Smith moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend Harvard.[3][4] After two years he was sent back to his hometown of Peterboro, New York due to his smoking and drinking habits.[3][4] He served in the Union Army from 1864 to 1865. In 1875, he was the president of the National Sportsmen’s Association. He 1877 he was president of the New York State Association for Conservation of Fish and Game.[3] His wife was Elizabeth "Bessie" Smith.[1][3] Smith would die of tuberculosis in 1886.[1][3]

Ornithology & the Bird House[edit]

Smith was a professor of ornithology at Cornell University. He built a museum in 1863, the Greene Smith Museum, which was three stories and housed his collection of bird specimens. The house is also nicknamed the Bird House. It was located in Peterboro, New York.[1] The bird house had central heating, a rarity at that time for homes. The plumbing was made of marble, the paneling was birch and the windows were stained glass. It also had a staircase made of mahogany.[2] He donated 362 bird specimens to Cornell in 1869. He did taxidermy work for the Smithsonian Institution. He was friends with Spencer Baird and J.G. Bell.[3] Smith would die in 1886 while trying to compile an annotated catalog for his taxidermy bird collection.[2]


The majority of the birds, eggs, and nests in his museum collection - over 2,000 specimens - went to Harvard, Colgate University or Cornell University.[1][2] At the time of his death, his collection of hummingbird specimens were estimated to be worth $75,000. The collection was originally offered to the New York City Parks Department but was rejected due to what was described as by The Ornithologist at the time as "their ignorance of its value."[5] His papers are held in the collection of Syracuse University Library.[1] The house collapsed around 1975.[6] The former ruins of the museum are located on the grounds of the Gerrit Smith Estate.[7] The Greene Smith Society was founded in his memory. The Society focuses on citizen scientists in the United States.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Greene Smith Papers". Special Collections Research Center. Syracuse University Library. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Green Smith and his Magnificent Bird House" (PDF). Smithfield Community Association. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Bird Man of Peterboro". Cazenovia Republican. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Milton C. Sernett (1 January 2002). North Star Country: Upstate New York and the Crusade for African American Freedom. Syracuse University Press. p. 302. ISBN 978-0-8156-2914-6. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Ornithologist and Oölogist. 1884. p. 122. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  6. ^ "Bird House". NoteCards. Peterboro Mercantile. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "Gerrit Smith Estate" (PDF). National Historic Landmark Designation. National Park Service. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  8. ^ ""Keep It Natural: A Naturalist's Calling and His Call to Citizen-Scientists" Peterboro's Greene Smith Society Features CNY Naturalist John Weeks". Archived. Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark. Retrieved 29 October 2012.