National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History Home of the Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired the national anthem. The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history.

As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are temporarily closed. We are not announcing a reopening date at this time and will provide updates here and on our website.

Operating as usual

Frayed paper and rusty staples were only some of the obstacles that conservators faced when they opened the Caramelo Dep...
10/14/2021
Unveiling the Caramelo Deportivo through conservation

Frayed paper and rusty staples were only some of the obstacles that conservators faced when they opened the Caramelo Deportivo, a 75-year-old-album chronicling the stars of Cuban baseball.

In preparation for an exhibition, all objects undergo a thorough assessment of their condition by conservators. That was the case for Caramelo Deportivo, a 15-page album on newsprint paper bound with staples in 1940s Havana, Cuba.

Who is Dolores Huerta and why is she holding up a sign that says “huelga?” Designed for elementary school students, this...
10/12/2021
Dolores Huerta I History Time

Who is Dolores Huerta and why is she holding up a sign that says “huelga?”

Designed for elementary school students, this episode of History Time allows students to practice their “See, Think, Wonder” routine by observing a photograph of the activist.

Who is Dolores Huerta and why is she holding up a sign that says “huelga?” Elementary school students can practice their “See, Think, Wonder” routine by obse...

Pumpkins mean fall and that means it’s time for Last Call! Americans have been brewing, enjoying, and thinking about bee...
10/12/2021

Pumpkins mean fall and that means it’s time for Last Call!

Americans have been brewing, enjoying, and thinking about beer for generations. But there is still new light to shed on the nation’s favorite libation.

Join us on Friday, October 22, 7:00-8:15 pm ET, for a live, virtual conversation, "Last Call: Beer Histories, Now," with several individuals who are working in innovative ways to share the stories and histories of beer.

In a lively discussion, they share what intrigues them about beer in the United States past and present and how they communicate with beer’s many devotees.

Register today and order a curated box of craft beers at a special Smithsonian price: https://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/beer-histories-now

Last Call is hosted in collaboration with Smithsonian Associates and generously made possible by the Brewers Association.

📷: Tap handle used to serve pumpkin ale at Buffalo Bill’s Brewery in Hayward, California, 1983-1994. Gift of Buffalo Bill’s Brewery.

Pumpkins mean fall and that means it’s time for Last Call!

Americans have been brewing, enjoying, and thinking about beer for generations. But there is still new light to shed on the nation’s favorite libation.

Join us on Friday, October 22, 7:00-8:15 pm ET, for a live, virtual conversation, "Last Call: Beer Histories, Now," with several individuals who are working in innovative ways to share the stories and histories of beer.

In a lively discussion, they share what intrigues them about beer in the United States past and present and how they communicate with beer’s many devotees.

Register today and order a curated box of craft beers at a special Smithsonian price: https://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/beer-histories-now

Last Call is hosted in collaboration with Smithsonian Associates and generously made possible by the Brewers Association.

📷: Tap handle used to serve pumpkin ale at Buffalo Bill’s Brewery in Hayward, California, 1983-1994. Gift of Buffalo Bill’s Brewery.

In 1800s America, some saw the Transcontinental Railroad as a symbol of modernity and national progress. For others, how...
10/11/2021
The impact of the Transcontinental Railroad on Native Americans

In 1800s America, some saw the Transcontinental Railroad as a symbol of modernity and national progress. For others, however, the railroad undermined the sovereignty of Native nations and threatened to destroy Indigenous communities and their cultures as the railroad expanded into territories inhabited by Native Americans.

Learn more about the impact of the railroad on Indigenous peoples and nations on our blog.

The Transcontinental Railroad was celebrated by some as a symbol of modernity. However, the railroad also threatened Native nations. Discover their stories.

On the blog, our curator unpacks the complex history behind the first public memorial to Christopher Columbus in the Uni...
10/11/2021
The monument that created Columbus

On the blog, our curator unpacks the complex history behind the first public memorial to Christopher Columbus in the United States—and the New York merchant who worked to create it:

"In October 1792, the United States of America was still a new country, not even a decade old, fresh from a complete government overhaul just four years earlier. With only one federal election by that point, and one president, it was a nation long on ambition, but short on history. There were heroes, of course, drawn from the ranks of those who had struggled for independence from Great Britain. But Revolutionary heroes were growing politicized by 1792, taking sides in an emerging party system. What figure could rise above partisan squabbles to unite Americans in patriotic spirit? A New York merchant with a penchant for history and a budding fraternal organization had an answer: Christopher Columbus."

In October 1792, the United States of America was still a new country, not even a decade old, fresh from a complete government overhaul just four years earlier. With only one federal election by that point, and one president, it was a nation long on ambition, but short on history.

Made with organza and tulle, this pink quinceañera gown helps us explore the history of the fiesta de quince años, or qu...
10/08/2021
Collecting la fiesta de quince años

Made with organza and tulle, this pink quinceañera gown helps us explore the history of the fiesta de quince años, or quince años. Every year, tens of thousands of Latina/o youth nationwide celebrate their 15th birthday with a quince años—a celebration marking the transition to adulthood.

For Natalia Flores, the young woman who wore this gown, the quinceañera was both a religious ceremony and an important new chapter in her family's story. To Flores, the dress' embroidered stems and flowers symbolized reaching out to the future while preserving roots to a traditional past.

Learn more about how our curators have been collecting la fiesta de quince años.

Light pink and very full, the organza and tulle gown took up a major portion of the sofa. Beside it, Natalia had placed her glittery high heels, a rhinestone tiara, and a bouquet of artificial flowers. As a curator of costume and clothing at the National Museum of American History, I was thrilled; a...

A tiny badge that belonged to a teenage firefighter in Charleston. A silver trumpet engraved with a message of appreciat...
10/06/2021
Two objects bring the history of African American firefighting to light

A tiny badge that belonged to a teenage firefighter in Charleston. A silver trumpet engraved with a message of appreciation for Philadelphia’s firefighters. These two objects tell very different stories, but together, they're helping our experts illuminate the history of Black communities and their connections to firefighting in the decades before the Civil War.

Two objects, a valued heirloom and a forgotten metal pin, tell very different stories of African American communities and their connections to firefighting in the 1800s, one in the North and the other in the South.

This year's annual National Youth Summit will examine issues of gender, bias, and equity. History will be our guide as w...
10/05/2021
Gender Equity

This year's annual National Youth Summit will examine issues of gender, bias, and equity. History will be our guide as we unpack this question and envision our own answers to it.

Register here: https://s.si.edu/385Z2Mb

This project received support from the Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative.

Join us from September 21 through October 12 for the 2021 National Youth Summit. What will the future of gender equity look like? This year's annual summit will examine issues of gender, bias, and equity. History will be our guide as we unpack this question and envision our own answers to it.

A baseball helmet, a union jacket, an evening dress, a wooden cross, and a margarita machine: objects from across our co...
10/01/2021
Ten objects that will help you understand Latinx history

A baseball helmet, a union jacket, an evening dress, a wooden cross, and a margarita machine: objects from across our collection document how Latinx peoples have shaped all of U.S. history, from before our nation's founding to today.

From wooden crosses to baseball uniforms to costume butterfly wings, our collections show that Latinx people have been an important part of U.S. history since the nation’s beginnings.

Visitors to our National Mall this September can see artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg's "In America: Remember." Each o...
09/29/2021

Visitors to our National Mall this September can see artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg's "In America: Remember." Each of the installation's more than 660,000 flags memorializes the life of someone who died from COVID-19 in the United States. "In America: Remember" is part of a long tradition of monumental memorialization on our National Mall, from permanent fixtures such as the Washington Monument and the Vietnam War Memorial to temporary collaborative installations like the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Our collection now includes a small selection of flags and related materials from Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg’s earlier installation, “In America How Could This Happen…” In 2020, Firstenberg needed far fewer flags—around 270,000—to honor the lives lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visitors can explore these new objects online, as well as see several flags in a temporary display on our second floor: https://s.si.edu/39M7j8E

📷: Jonathan Thorpe, courtesy of In America Flags

Few novels have had a larger impact on U.S. culture than Uncle Tom's Cabin. First published as a newspaper serial in 185...
09/24/2021
Conserving pieces of the history of Uncle Tom's Cabin

Few novels have had a larger impact on U.S. culture than Uncle Tom's Cabin. First published as a newspaper serial in 1851, Harriet Beecher Stowe's book exposed a generation of readers to the horrors of slavery and became a lightning rod for political debate.

However, in the years after its publication, many Americans were introduced to the novel through minstrel-style shows featuring blackface performers, with messages that were antithetical to Harriet Beecher Stowe's original story. These racist performances echoed across popular culture for decades in plays, silent films, and cartoons.

This year, our conservators are working to preserve pieces of a wagon that once carried a traveling show of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Their work will help future generations understand this complicated chapter in entertainment history.

During my time at the museum’s object conservation lab, I discovered that a set of painted panels in the museum’s collection had quite a history—most of it hidden from view.

This is the second iteration of the prototype skateboard designed by professional skater Cindy Whitehead and manufacture...
09/23/2021

This is the second iteration of the prototype skateboard designed by professional skater Cindy Whitehead and manufactured by Dwindle Distribution in 2015. Whitehead used her skate background to create the “Girl Is Not A 4 Letter Word” brand which includes Cindy’s original art work. Whitehead began skateboarding at age 15 and had turned pro by the time she was 17, something girls were not doing in the mid-1970s. She became one of the only girls skating both pool and half pipe and is the only girl ever to be featured in a two page article with a centerfold in a skateboarding magazine. Whitehead retired from skateboarding at 22 but still skates and has remained in the sports arena as a sport stylist, a job title she also created. Whitehead is especially supportive of young female skaters through her “Girl Is Not A 4 Letter Word” skate team and her products which are geared towards women and girls.

As part of this year’s National Youth Summit, Whitehead will serve as a guest speaker as we examine issues of gender, bias, and equity through the lens of history. You can join our summit online for free. Register here: s.si.edu/nys

The National Youth Summit is made possible in part by support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

This object is currently on display in our exhibition, Girlhood: It's complicated.

Girlhood: It's complicated received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative

This is the second iteration of the prototype skateboard designed by professional skater Cindy Whitehead and manufactured by Dwindle Distribution in 2015. Whitehead used her skate background to create the “Girl Is Not A 4 Letter Word” brand which includes Cindy’s original art work. Whitehead began skateboarding at age 15 and had turned pro by the time she was 17, something girls were not doing in the mid-1970s. She became one of the only girls skating both pool and half pipe and is the only girl ever to be featured in a two page article with a centerfold in a skateboarding magazine. Whitehead retired from skateboarding at 22 but still skates and has remained in the sports arena as a sport stylist, a job title she also created. Whitehead is especially supportive of young female skaters through her “Girl Is Not A 4 Letter Word” skate team and her products which are geared towards women and girls.

As part of this year’s National Youth Summit, Whitehead will serve as a guest speaker as we examine issues of gender, bias, and equity through the lens of history. You can join our summit online for free. Register here: s.si.edu/nys

The National Youth Summit is made possible in part by support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

This object is currently on display in our exhibition, Girlhood: It's complicated.

Girlhood: It's complicated received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative

David Jaramillo of Chimayo, New Mexico, began customizing this modified 1969 Ford LTD in the 1970s. Known as “Dave’s Dre...
09/22/2021

David Jaramillo of Chimayo, New Mexico, began customizing this modified 1969 Ford LTD in the 1970s. Known as “Dave’s Dream,” the vehicle is a beloved example of Latino lowriders.

Lowriding is a family and community activity with parades, trophies, and other events celebrating cars and paying homage to their power and beauty. Artistic paint schemes and custom upholstery make each lowrider unique. Hydraulic lifts enable lowriders to hop, making them seem alive and animated.

Sadly, Jaramillo was killed in an accident in another car, but his family and local artisans completed the modifications that he had planned, and the car often won “first” or “best in show.”

This object is currently not on view.

David Jaramillo of Chimayo, New Mexico, began customizing this modified 1969 Ford LTD in the 1970s. Known as “Dave’s Dream,” the vehicle is a beloved example of Latino lowriders.

Lowriding is a family and community activity with parades, trophies, and other events celebrating cars and paying homage to their power and beauty. Artistic paint schemes and custom upholstery make each lowrider unique. Hydraulic lifts enable lowriders to hop, making them seem alive and animated.

Sadly, Jaramillo was killed in an accident in another car, but his family and local artisans completed the modifications that he had planned, and the car often won “first” or “best in show.”

This object is currently not on view.

This dress belonged to Minnijean Brown Trickey, a member of the Little Rock Nine. Trickey was one of nine African Americ...
09/21/2021

This dress belonged to Minnijean Brown Trickey, a member of the Little Rock Nine. Trickey was one of nine African American students who desegregated the Little Rock, Arkansas, high school in 1957—three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregated schools were unconstitutional in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case.

Despite disruption resulting from the suspension from Central High School and the later closure of all of Little Rock’s public schools to avoid integration, Minnijean graduated on schedule in 1959 from New Lincoln School in New York City. New Lincoln School was a private, integrated school from 1948-1988, known for its progressive educational methods.

This tea length white dress has a sheer white flocked floral pattern layer over a plain white underdress. The short sleeves are sheer, the skirt full, and the bodice fitted with a zipper and buttons on the back. Minnijean designed this dress herself, specifically for her graduation.

As part of this year’s National Youth Summit, Minnijean will serve as a guest speaker as we examine issues of gender, bias, and equity through the lens of history. You can join our summit online for free. Register here: s.si.edu/nys

The National Youth Summit is made possible in part by support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

This dress is currently on display in our exhibition, Girlhood: It's complicated.

Girlhood: It's complicated received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative

This dress belonged to Minnijean Brown Trickey, a member of the Little Rock Nine. Trickey was one of nine African American students who desegregated the Little Rock, Arkansas, high school in 1957—three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregated schools were unconstitutional in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case.

Despite disruption resulting from the suspension from Central High School and the later closure of all of Little Rock’s public schools to avoid integration, Minnijean graduated on schedule in 1959 from New Lincoln School in New York City. New Lincoln School was a private, integrated school from 1948-1988, known for its progressive educational methods.

This tea length white dress has a sheer white flocked floral pattern layer over a plain white underdress. The short sleeves are sheer, the skirt full, and the bodice fitted with a zipper and buttons on the back. Minnijean designed this dress herself, specifically for her graduation.

As part of this year’s National Youth Summit, Minnijean will serve as a guest speaker as we examine issues of gender, bias, and equity through the lens of history. You can join our summit online for free. Register here: s.si.edu/nys

The National Youth Summit is made possible in part by support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

This dress is currently on display in our exhibition, Girlhood: It's complicated.

Girlhood: It's complicated received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative

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