It was created by act of Congress in 1849. It is an extensive and important branch of the public service, and comprises the Patent Office, the Pension Office, the General Land Office, the Census Office, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Education, the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads, and the Office of the Geological Survey. It is under the supervision and control of the Secretary of the Interior, who is a Cabinet minister, and has a compensation of $8,000 per year. The Secretary has also the general supervision of the Capitol (through the office of the architect), the Government Printing-Office, the Government Hospital for the Insane, and the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. Each office and bureau of the Department of the Interior is managed by a commissioner or director, who has his own force of officials and clerks.
The colossal structure known as the Patent Office, which extends from Seventh to Ninth streets, and from F to G streets northwest, is occupied by the Secretary of the Interior, and sundry bureaus of the department. It stands upon a government reservation 0f four acres, which was set apart by L’Enfant in his plan of Washington for a great national church, and is four hundred and ten feet from east to west, and two hundred and seventy-five feet from north to south. Its erection was begun in 1837, and the main division, which was constructed of Virginia freestone and granite, was completed in 1842. An east wing was added in 1853, and north and west wings some years later. The east and west wings were constructed of marble from Maryland quarries, and the north wing of granite. The building is of the Doric order 0f architecture, has two stories and a rustic basement, and is nearly seventy-five feet high. The main entrance is on F Street, through a massive portico of two rows of huge columns, which was designed after that of the Parthenon in Athens, and is precisely of the same dimensions. A lofty flight of broad granite steps leads to the portico. On the Seventh Street side is another great portico, and smaller ones are on the north and west. There is an interior court-yard ornamented with fountains and flower-beds. The building contains nearly two hundred apartments, besides the extensive halls of the Museum of Models. The architects were Robert Mills, who constructed the original portion, and Edward Clark, who constructed the extensions. The cost of construction was $2,700,000.
There is an assistant secretary of the interior, with a salary of $4,000, and the department office is provided with a chief clerk at $2,750, a superintendent of documents at $2,000, six chiefs of divisions at $2,000 each, and many clerks and employes. The Commissioner of Patents has a salary of $4,500; the Commissioner of Pensions, $5,000; the Commissioner of the Land Office, $4,000; the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, $4,000; the Commissioner of Education, $3,000; the Commissioner of Railroads, $4,500, and the Di-rector of the Geological Survey, $6,000.