The Smith-Geisinger collection is made up of seven letters from Captain Joseph Smith, chief of the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks in Washington, D.C., to Captain David Geisinger, governor of the U.S. Naval Asylum in Philadelphia. The letters are filled with a mixture of personal news and navy gossip, the latter including Smith's efforts in 1854-1855 to find a replacement for Geisinger at the Asylum. A notable topic of discussion is the March 1855 "Act to Promote the Efficiency of the Navy," which established an "Efficiency Board" to advise the secretary about officers they believed to be inefficient or incapable of performing their duties. In a letter dated October 16, 1855, Smith criticizes the Board:
"The selection & classification of the retired & decapitated officers is a lottery, & that without 'a fair shake ' - the blow will fall heavier upon the Navy than upon you, or me. - I retain the Bu: by order of the President, this is no great favor to me tho! it is a severe rebuke to the three gallant spirits. Perry, McCawley & Stribling, who marked me for inefficiency … I want to hear what Read says at retiring him & unanimously keeping Morris on the active list , who has always been sick, tho always doing duty & seven years older than I am."
The final two letters contain poignant expressions of Smith's "crushing & deep-rooted bereavement" (October 16, 1855) over the death of Harriet, his wife of some 37 years.