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.
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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.

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75 years ago today, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance, adding it to the U.S. Flag Code. This schoo...
12/28/2020

75 years ago today, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance, adding it to the U.S. Flag Code. This schoolhouse child's bank from the late 1800s is a reminder that the pledge's history goes back much further than 1945. (Look closely at the bank's roof. The lettering is faint, but can you spot the original wording of the pledge?).

Today’s Pledge of Allegiance is a legacy of the push for "Americanization” that defined the social studies curriculum of U.S. schools from the late 1880s through World War I. In the late 1800s, the steady rise of the nation’s immigrant population created anxiety among many native-born Americans who feared that newcomers were not adapting to their new homeland quickly enough. During that period, veterans’ groups, patriotic societies, and community groups—including the Patriotic League and the Grand Army of the Republic— led grassroots campaigns to promote a specific kind of patriotism and understanding of American values in schools. One consequence of their efforts? An explosion of school supplies with patriotic images and messages, including the bank above with its message: "One Nation, Flag, Language, School."

For companies that manufactured and advertised school supplies, this patriotic fervor was a business opportunity. A version of the Pledge of Allegiance was first published in "The Youth’s Companion," a popular family magazine, on September 8, 1892. The magazine became involved with Americanization efforts in part because of the personal interest of the magazine’s leadership, but also because of the publisher’s desire to boost subscription sales through gimmicks and giveaways. These gimmicks included campaigns to distribute American flags to every school and the promotion of inexpensive images of George Washington to supplement other portraits gracing classroom walls. Both of the magazines’ efforts were successful in boosting magazine sales and, in the process, fostering a tradition of patriotic material culture in American classrooms.

You can learn more about the origins of the Pledge of Allegiance on our blog: https://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/i-pledge-allegiance

Wonder Woman for President? You can learn about the iconic superhero's history and find related educational resources in...
12/28/2020

Wonder Woman for President? You can learn about the iconic superhero's history and find related educational resources in this post from the Smithsonian. ⬇️

Psychologist William Moulton Marsten (as Charles Moulton) and artist Harry G. Peters created Wonder Woman in 1941. On July 1, 1972, she was on the cover of the first issue of Ms. Magazine, a feminist publication founded by activists Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pittman Hughes. This one is now in our National Museum of American History's collection.

The character was chosen for the cover partly as a reaction to DC Comics’ decision to have her lose her superpowers. The magazine includes an essay on Wonder Woman’s history and role in inspiring feminism. Due in part to these efforts, Wonder Woman’s powers were soon restored in the comics.

Inspired by #WonderWoman1984, we have two new Smithsonian Education learn-to-code lessons that teach programming to people of all ages and skill levels.

Decode a message: https://s.si.edu/34CcW7m
Design your own arcade game: https://s.si.edu/2JhzC5x

#SmithsonianEdu #WonderWoman1984 #BecauseOfHerStory

🎵 Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad 🎵 José Feliciano's Christmas classic, Feliz Navidad, turned 50 this year. This...
12/24/2020

🎵 Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad 🎵 José Feliciano's Christmas classic, Feliz Navidad, turned 50 this year. This Perkins Brailler is part of the song's history.

In 2018, Feliciano donated a group of objects to our museum that spoke to different facets of his life and Grammy-award winning musical career. One of those objects was this braillewriter. (Braillewriters are devices used to write in the tactile writing system, Braille). Since the 1960s, Feliciano had used this Perkins Brailler to to write lyrics, notes to fans, and love letters to his wife. Feliciano has been blind since birth, and his braillewriter was one of his critical songwriting tools.

When Felicano donated the braillerwriter, he and his wife, Susan Feliciano, typed one final message into the machine: Feliz Navidad.🎄

This holiday postcard came with an extra gift—a one-year subscription to the Woman's Journal.Founded in 1870 by Lucy Sto...
12/23/2020

This holiday postcard came with an extra gift—a one-year subscription to the Woman's Journal.

Founded in 1870 by Lucy Stone, co-founder of the American Woman Suffrage Association, the Woman's Journal was one of leading periodicals of the woman suffrage movement. Beginning with its first issue, the Woman's Journal's editors described it as a "Weekly Newspaper. . .devoted to the interests of Woman, to her educational, industrial, legal and political Equality, and especially to her right of Suffrage." The paper kept subscribers up-to-date on the latest news, publishing debates, speeches, and notes from women's conventions.

Postcards like this were one of the principal weapons in suffragists' arsenal in the early 1900s. Technological innovations made it affordable for organizations like the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) to create and distribute tens of thousands of postcards as part of their campaigns. Although the postcards' messages ranged from the serious to the sentimental, most tried to raise public awareness of women's fight for the vote. In this postcard, the gifts in Santa's bag include "Votes for Women"—one of the movement's most popular slogans. The postcard was donated to our museum by suffragist Edna L. Stantial, who later served as NAWSA's archivist.

During the Great Depression, the Pinero family refashioned a brown paper bag into a Christmas card, creating a holiday m...
12/21/2020
A cheerful Depression-era holiday greeting

During the Great Depression, the Pinero family refashioned a brown paper bag into a Christmas card, creating a holiday message that still resonates today: "Oh, well_in spite of it all_here's a Merry Christmas..."

A cheerful holiday greeting sent during the Great Depression? Isn't that somewhat contradictory?

Now more than ever, communities are gathering online and using social media to stay connected. Beyond being a helpful wa...
12/18/2020
COVID-19 and Refugee Resiliency

Now more than ever, communities are gathering online and using social media to stay connected. Beyond being a helpful way to staying in touch with friends, social media has also proven to be a critical tool for public health advocacy—especially for underserved communities. Read how a refugee from Nepal leveraged Facebook to share vital COVID-19 safety precautions and information with their community: http://s.si.edu/3r9GZNr

This story was one of the first submitted through our digital storytelling portal: Stories of 2020. After reading, consider submitting one your own memories from this year. Just as historians today turn to letters, diaries, scrapbooks, and physical objects to understand the past, this collection of digital stories will help future generations understand how we are navigating this moment: s.si.edu/stories-of-2020

In 2008, my family and I arrived in Springfield, Massachusetts from a refugee camp in Nepal. We were one of the first families to be resettled here. Since then, as a community leader, I have been fortunate enough to help my fellow Bhutanese community members through my work with a resettlement agenc...

This holiday season, let's take a moment to appreciate the misfit toys that don't find a home—like Thomas Edison's 1890 ...
12/16/2020

This holiday season, let's take a moment to appreciate the misfit toys that don't find a home—like Thomas Edison's 1890 talking dolls.

When Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, he imagined the new device being used to do more than preserve dictation. Animating toys was one of his ideas. Edison's idea became a reality in the 1880s, when his company licensed another to make and sell talking dolls as the Edison Toy Phonograph Company.

The toy that the company produced was revolutionary. The 22-inch doll came with a ceramic head , wooden limbs, and a torso that contained a tiny phonograph with a brown wax record. When someone turned a crank inserted into the back of the torso, the phonograph would play a nursery rhyme like "Jack and Jill." (Important note: although the doll in our collection has a bald head, the original dolls would have had hair and clothes).

Although Edison's dolls received some favorable press coverage when then debuted in the spring of 1890, they quickly failed in the market. The toys had problems—many of them, in fact. The dolls were expensive, broke easily, and the sound fidelity of the nursery rhyme recordings left a lot to be desired. (Due to the limitations of the technology, every record needed to be created individually. Edison hired teenaged girls to make the recordings, who had to shout the rhyme so it could be picked up by the machine. The resulting recordings were pretty "screechy," in our curator's assessment). By the summer of 1890, the company had pulled the dolls from stores.

The newest episode of the Smithsonian's Sidedoor podcast begins with a short story imagining what would happen if two children received one of Edison's talking dolls as a holiday gift, then dives into the history of the toy with our curator Carlene Stephens:http://s.si.edu/3mwYeF2

When Americans vote every four years in presidential elections, their votes don't go directly for their chosen candidate...
12/14/2020

When Americans vote every four years in presidential elections, their votes don't go directly for their chosen candidate. Instead, Americans vote for their preferred candidate’s slate of presidential electors—individuals who, together, make up the Electoral College. Those electors then vote for president and vice president of the United States. (Electors' names often appear on modern ballots, but they're rarely presented as stylishly as on this 1884 Republican party ticket from Connecticut).

Across the United States today, electors will be meeting to vote for the candidate who won their home state’s popular vote, as recorded by the state’s governor in certificates of ascertainment. (Each U.S state has the same number of electors as it does representatives and senators in Congress—from 3 to 55 electors depending on the state). After today, the results of the electors' votes will be sent to the President of the Senate and the Archivist of the United States. On January 6, 2020, the electors' votes will be counted during a joint session of Congress, after which the winners of the 2020 presidential election will be announced.

Interested in digging into the history of the Electoral College? Visit the US National Archives's blog to learn more about its history: https://s.si.edu/37ZTdiQ

We are thinking this evening about the remarkable achievements of country music legend Charley Pride—and giving a spin t...
12/13/2020

We are thinking this evening about the remarkable achievements of country music legend Charley Pride—and giving a spin to his classics, “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'” and “Just Between You and Me.” From his ultra-smooth delivery of sentimental love songs, to those of heartbreak and hardcore honky-tonk despair, Pride's unmistakable voice earned him tremendous accolades and broke barriers as he navigated a country music industry made up almost entirely of white artists and producers. Our music collections include more than sixty of Pride's records.

While a child growing up in Mississippi and picking cotton with his family, Pride avidly listened to music on the radio and took up the guitar as a teen. A talented athlete, he played for several years in baseball’s Negro Leagues before hitting it big as a country music sensation. In a year of marked by the loss of some of our most significant musical artists, our thoughts are with Pride's family and fans.

Did you have a favorite Charley Pride song?

[📷: Charley Pride on the cover of Country Song Roundup, 1974]

How do vaccines get to the people who need them? In the 1910s an American pharmaceutical firm developed this “mail-order...
12/11/2020

How do vaccines get to the people who need them? In the 1910s an American pharmaceutical firm developed this “mail-order kit” to deliver the rabies vaccine to doctors and their patients. (Rabies is unusual in that patients usually receive the vaccine after they have been potentially exposed to the virus).

In the early 1900s, patients sometimes needed to travel long distances in order to obtain this multi-week, life-saving treatment. (See the multiple syringes in the kit? The full treatment required 21 doses administered over as many days). This vaccine kit is a reminder that even the best medicine is of little value if it’s not available and affordable.

What will curators collect this year to remind future generations of what daily life was like in 2020? Find out today at 4pm ET during Curating Crises—a behind-the-scenes, virtual program. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet our curators, ask questions, and learn how they decide what to include in the museum’s collection. The program is free with registration: https://s.si.edu/curating-crises-register

Curating Crises is part of 24 Hours in a Time of Change, a full day of digital programs across the Smithsonian on December 11. Visit https://24hours.si.edu/ to learn more!

“I Voted” stickers are a popular visual symbol of civic engagement. They used to be fairly standard, but voting district...
12/10/2020

“I Voted” stickers are a popular visual symbol of civic engagement. They used to be fairly standard, but voting districts are increasingly personalizing them. In 2016 the city of Chicago opted for a very different style using wristbands instead.

Typically, curators have met voters in person to ask for their “I Voted” stickers. This year, COVID-19 has pushed curators to develop and build upon their virtual collecting skills. The 2016 wristband is an example of the “new” collecting techniques curators are using in 2020 as it was first spotted by a curator in a post on social media and later donated to the collection.

Interested in learning more about how our curators are reflecting and documenting 2020? Join us tomorrow for Curating Crises—a behind-the-scenes, hour-long virtual program. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet our curators, ask questions, and learn how they decide what to include in the museum’s collection. The event is free with registration: https://s.si.edu/curating-crises-register

Today we officially launch Stories of 2020, a digital storytelling campaign to document how people across the country ar...
12/10/2020

Today we officially launch Stories of 2020, a digital storytelling campaign to document how people across the country are coping with change, overcoming challenges, and shaping history.

Stories of 2020 is an opportunity for you to add your voice to a digital time capsule of inclusive, wide-ranging, personal records of this unique moment in history. Just as historians today turn to letters, diaries, scrapbooks, and physical objects to understand the past, Stories of 2020 will help future generations and historians understand how we are navigating this year. https://americanhistory.si.edu/stories-of-2020

Los historiadores recordarán el 2020: un año de pandemia, crisis económica, violencia policiaca y protestas.

¿Pero qué se siente ser parte de la historia? Queremos reunir un registro inclusivo, amplio y personal de este momento: una cápsula del tiempo para futuras generaciones y a la vez un espacio de conversación para hoy. Esta es tu oportunidad de dejarte escuchar... por tu museo nacional, por tus conciudadanos y por el futuro. https://americanhistory.si.edu/es/stories-of-2020

Hanukkah Sameach!In 1986, Manfred Anson celebrated the Statue of Liberty's centennial by designing this patriotic menora...
12/10/2020

Hanukkah Sameach!

In 1986, Manfred Anson celebrated the Statue of Liberty's centennial by designing this patriotic menorah.

Anson was born Germany, and his childhood came to an abrupt end with the Nazi rise to power in 1933. As conditions for Jews worsened, 14-year-old Anson was enrolled at an agricultural school in the hope that he could secure a visa to emigrate to Palestine. However, just prior to the start of World War II, another opportunity presented itself, and Anson was chosen as one of 20 boys rescued by the Jewish Welfare Guardian Society of Australia. He served in the Australian military during World War II. In 1963, Anson immigrated to the United States to reunite with his sister.

Visit our blog to learn more about Anson’s journey and his custom menorah: http://bit.ly/libertymenorah

On Friday, December 11 at 4pm ET, join us for “Curating Crises,” a behind-the-scenes look at how our curators are docume...
12/09/2020

On Friday, December 11 at 4pm ET, join us for “Curating Crises,” a behind-the-scenes look at how our curators are documenting the history-making events of 2020. During the hour-long virtual program, you’ll have an opportunity to meet our curators, ask questions, and learn how they decide what to include in the museum’s collection. The event is free with registration: https://s.si.edu/curating-crises-register

"Curating Crises,” is part of #Smithsonian24Hours—a day-long series of digital programs from ten Smithsonian museums and units on Friday, December 11. All of the day’s programs will focus on contemporary issues and how they relate to your personal experiences of 2020. To see the full schedule of presentations, visit https://24hours.si.edu.

On December 7, 1941, a "date which will live in infamy," Japanese warplanes attacked the U.S. military base at Pearl Har...
12/07/2020

On December 7, 1941, a "date which will live in infamy," Japanese warplanes attacked the U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor. Although the entire attack lasted only a few hours, by the end almost 2,500 Americans had been killed and over 1,000 more had been wounded. After the attack, many Americans rallied around the war effort with the patriotic cry, "Remember Pearl Harbor."

This poster—created by Work Projects Administration for the City of New York in 1942—encouraged Americans to transform that patriotic slogan into an act of service: knitting goods that could be sent to support U.S. forces in the war effort. Organizations like the Red Cross supplied knitting patterns for everything from socks and fingerless mittens, to toe covers (to keep toes warm when wearing a cast) and more goods specifically designed for wounded soldiers.

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Here on Facebook, we share objects from our collections, updates from our experts, and our passion for American history. We love to hear your personal connections to American history! The museum is free and open daily except December 25. Feel free to ask us for visiting tips and recommendations! Find us elsewhere: -Blog: http://americanhistory.si.edu/blog -Twitter: http://twitter.com/amhistorymuseum -Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amhistorymuseum - Newsletter: http://s.si.edu/Newsletter While on-topic discussion is encouraged, we ask that you express yourself in a civil manner and treat other users with respect. The Smithsonian also monitors and may remove posts consistent with its terms of use. - Our terms of use: http://si.edu/Termsofuse#user-gen - Our Privacy Policy: http://www.si.edu/Privacy

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The National Museum of American History collects and preserves more than 1.8 million artifacts—all true national treasures. We take care of everything from the original Star-Spangled Banner and Abraham Lincoln’s top hat to Dizzy Gillespie’s angled trumpet and Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz (returning to display in 2018, stay tuned). Our collections form a fascinating mosaic of American life and comprise the greatest single collection of American history.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research, and dynamic public outreach, we explore the infinite richness and complexity of American history. We help people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future.

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