The Baird Ornithological Club, the Berks County Bar Association, and the City of Reading will celebrate the reinstallation and dedication of state historical markers honoring Spencer Fullerton Baird, the second secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and William Strong, a former Supreme Court Justice.
The ceremony is set for Thursday, December 16th, at 10 a.m., outdoors at 50 North Fifth Street.
Both men had significant ties to Reading in the 19th Century and to the block where the markers are to be re-installed.
The preeminent naturalist of the 19th Century, Baird was born in Reading in 1823. Baird rose to prominence as the first curator of the National Museum at the Smithsonian Institution in 1850 and was named the second Secretary of the Smithsonian in 1878. He concurrently held the position of the first director of the United States Commission on Fish and Fisheries, establishing the Marine Biological Research Station in Woods Hole, Mass., where he died in 1887. Under his leadership, the Smithsonian Institution developed into a world-class museum.
Strong practiced law in Reading at his home and office in the first block of North Fifth Street. He was a member of the state Supreme Court from 1857 to 1868 and was named an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1870, serving until 1880. He died in 1895 and is buried within the city limits at Charles Evans Cemetery.
Dr. Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador at Large and Interim Director, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., will be the keynote speaker.
“It is an honor-to-honor Baird,” said Kurin. “Without him, we simply would not have the national museums of the U.S., or certainly not with the invaluable collections they possess and steward for the nation and the world. He was the right guy at the right time to make that happen.”
Brian Engelhardt, a retired local attorney, published historian, and member of the Berks County Bar Association, will speak about Strong’s legal career and ties to Reading.
Bill Uhrich, retired Reading Eagle photo editor, author, naturalist, and past president of the Baird Ornithological Club, will discuss Baird’s contributions to Berks County.
Also offering remarks will be Mayor Eddie Morán and Dr. Walter Meshaka, Senior Curator of Natural Sciences for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which approves all state markers. Tony Grimm, past president of the Baird club and also past president of the Berks County Chamber of Commerce, will serve as emcee. Unveiling of the markers will conclude the event.
Alan Shuman, CEO of the Shuman Development Group, is hosting this at his building. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the Roosevelt Suite at the Abraham Lincoln, 100 North Fifth Street.
Special thanks to the City of Reading Public Works Department, Amy Johnson, City Historic Preservation Specialist, and Managing Director Abe Amorós for their assistance in the reinstallation of these markers.