MUSEUM TOURSBETA

Presidents Tour

Are you looking to hone your presidential trivia skills? We’ve designed this tour of presidential highlights from the Smithsonian collections, taking you to six of the Smithsonian museums from the Natural History, American History and African American History museums on the National Mall and up 7th Street to the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum, as well as to the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. You’ll find out which president got a cool gig working for the Smithsonian Institution after his presidency ended, which first lady brightened her inauguration festivities with a red-hot dress and learn which administration chose indigenous blooms from the American grasslands to decorate the White House china.

National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History collects and preserves more than 3 million artifacts—all true national treasures. The museum is home to 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. The collections form a fascinating mosaic of American life and comprise the greatest single collection of American history.

National Museum of American History

ADDRESS

Constitution Avenue between 12th and 14th Streets NW

Washington, DC 20560

(202) 633-1000

info@si.edu
Website

HOURS

10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Click here for extended hours information.

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Abraham Lincoln Patent Model, Replica

On the Water, One East

In the mid-1840s, as a lawyer in Springfield,Illinois, Abraham Lincoln's law partner William Herndon recalled watching Lincoln working on a large boat model with a local craftsman. A Springfield resident recalled Lincoln demonstrating the idea for his model in public. His model embodies an idea Lincoln had for raising vessels over shoal waters by increasing their buoyancy. That idea became patent #6,469 in May 1849—the only patent ever obtained by an American president. After he became president in 1860 and moved to Washington, he visited his model in the nearby Patent Office at least once. He also enjoyed reviewing naval vessels and ideas, and he personally approved inventor John Ericsson’s idea for the ironclad warship Monitor. Lincoln’s original patent model was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1908 and has left the Mall only once since then, for an exhibit at the US Patent Office. This replica was built by the Smithsonian in 1978 for long-term display to preserve the fragile original.

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Abraham Lincoln Is the Only President Ever to Have a Patent
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Abraham Lincoln's Top Hat

American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, Three Center

At six feet four inches tall, Lincoln towered over most of his contemporaries. He chose to stand out even more by wearing high top hats. He acquired this hat from J. Y. Davis, a Washington hat maker. Lincoln had the black silk mourning band added in remembrance of his son Willie. No one knows when he obtained the hat, or how often he wore it. The last time he put it on was to go to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.

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Abraham Lincoln’s Top Hat: The Inside Story
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Andrew Jackson's Uniform Coat with Epaulets

The Price of Freedom: Americans at War, Three East

Andrew Jackson wore this uniform coat at the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815; it was also worn by Jackson when he sat for his portrait by artist Ralph E. W. Early, about 1815. This coat adheres to the 1813 uniform regulations; single-breasted, of dark blue wool, four buttons placed lengthwise on the sleeves and skirts. A gold star is embroidered on each turnback; gold embroidery adorns the collar and cuffs. Epaulets are bullion and gold lace with cloth strap and gold lace, mounted on board.

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Campaign Hat, Kennedy-Johnson

Supporters of the John F. Kennedy and Lynden B. Johnson presidential ticket wore these hats at the 1960 Democratic convention where Kennedy spoke of his goals as the beginning of a "New Frontier."

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Remembering PT-109
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Can Opener from Theodore Roosevelt’s African Expedition

This fish-shaped can opener went to Africa with Theodore Roosevelt. A keen enthusiast of “vigorous blood-stirring out of doors sport,” Roosevelt began planning his African safari well before he retired from the presidency in 1909. Roosevelt specified the contents of each provision box, as he had for his hunting trips in the Dakota Territory as a young man. He ordered up cans of Boston baked beans, California peaches, and tomatoes, all “in memory of my days in the West.” An essential tool from the journey that Roosevelt had long imagined, the can opener is of cast iron, inset with a steel blade. The original finish appears to have been golden paint, worn by heavy use.

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Teddy Roosevelt's Epic (But Strangely Altruistic) Hunt for a White Rhino
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Clinton’s Saxophone
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Clinton’s Saxophone

American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, Three Center

When Arkansas governor and presidential candidate William J. Clinton appeared on the "Arsenio Hall Show" in June 1992 in dark shades and performed "Heartbreak Hotel" on saxophone, political commentators and columnists mocked the performance. Clinton's stunt was deemed beneath the dignified place of presidential politics. A few short months later, Clinton, nicknamed the "Elvis candidate," clinched the nomination and his sax earned the title of “First Instrument.” Clinton's appearance on a show hosted by a black comedian and actor signaled the candidate’s interest in engaging populations often left out of the national political scene—a move that is now seen as part of his campaign's success. The saxophone, meanwhile, experienced a renaissance of cool. Clinton performed again at an inaugural party and Macy's took advantage of the moment, advertising its $20 sax with the line, "Wail to the Chief." President Clinton’s saxophone is on loan from the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Declaration of Independence Desk

The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, Three Center

In 1776 Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence on this portable desk of his own design. It features a hinged writing board and a locking drawer for papers, pens, and inkwell. The desk continued to be Jefferson's companion throughout his life as a revolutionary patriot, American diplomat, and president of the United States. While the drafts of the Declaration of Independence were among the first documents Jefferson penned on this desk, the note he attached under the writing board in 1825 was among the last: "Politics as well as Religion has its superstitions. These, gaining strength with time, may, one day, give imaginary value to this relic, for its great association with the birth of the Great Charter of our Independence."

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FDR’s NBC Microphone

The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, Three Center

"I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking." So began on March 12, 1933, the first of about thirty informal "Fireside Chat" addresses that President Franklin D. Roosevelt would deliver over the radio. His ability to communicate over this new medium directly and personally, addressing each listener as a respected friend, gave FDR a powerful tool to shape public opinion. Thoughout his four terms, Roosevelt’s folksy fireside chats pioneered the use of the airwaves to garner public support for his policies. They inspired a new intimacy between the nation's leader and his constituents. This microphone from NBC was one of several Roosevelt used to deliver his message to homes across America.

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George Washington Farewell Address Candle Stand

The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, Three Center

According to family tradition, President Washington worked on his Farewell Address by the light of this brass candle stand. The reflector magnifies the light of the candles in adjustable candlesticks. The back of the reflector is lined with green silk. The candle stand and other relics of George and Martha Washington were sold to the United States government in 1878 by the Lewis family (descendents of George Washington's nephew, Lawrence Lewis, and Martha Washington's granddaughter, Nelly Custis Lewis). The relics were housed in the Patent Office until 1883, when they were transferred to the Smithsonian Institution.

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George Washington Statue, 1841

Landmark Artifact, Two West

In 1832 the U.S. Congress commissioned sculptor Horatio Greenough to create a statue of George Washington on the occasion of the centennial of the first president’s birthday. Installed in the Capitol Rotunda after its completion, Greenough envisioned the statue to be a symbolic representation of Washington as a great exemplar of liberty. The completed 12-ton marble statue atop a granite pedestal and base depicted the first president wearing a chest-baring toga. While many viewers appreciated the artist’s attempt to create a timeless masterpiece, others saw only an inappropriately dressed Washington. A friend of the artist noted: “This magnificent production of genius does not seem to be appreciated at its full value in this metropolis.”

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George Washington's Battle Sword and Scabbard

George Washington wore this simple hanger as his battle sword while serving as commander of the Continental army during the Revolutionary War. Made in Fishkill, New York, by John Bailey, an immigrant cutler from Sheffield, England, the sword has a slightly curved, grooved steel blade, silver-mounted cross guard and pommel, and a green ivory grip. This artifact is currently on loan.

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George Washington: The Reluctant President
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George Washington’s Mahogany Coffin, Relic

Souvenir Nation

When George Washington’s remains were relocated to a new tomb in 1837, his family planned to make souvenirs from the mahogany covering of his lead-lined coffin, but its deteriorated condition made that idea unworkable. So they distributed small pieces of the wood. The note on this piece reads: “Washington’s Coffin presented to Mr. Saltonstall by a nephew, namesake of Washington residing at Mount Vernon.”

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George Washington’s Uniform

The Price of Freedom: Americans At War, Three East

For George Washington, it wasn’t just that the clothes made the man; the clothes made the commander. “Do not conceive that fine Clothes make fine Men, any more than fine feathers make fine Birds,” he once wrote. But Washington meticulously made demands on his tailors and even designed his military uniform. Historians point to Washington’s sartorial tastes as a measure of the studied crafting of his role as commander and statesman. The first president wore this blue and buff wool waistcoat and breeches in a triumphal return to Philadelphia in 1789, less than two years after leaving office and just a year before his death. Before a cheering crowd, Washington rode in on a white horse escorted by militia units.The uniform came to the Smithsonian in 1883 from the Patent Office collection and has been on view almost continuously ever since.

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The Strange Case of George Washington’s Disappearing Sash
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Grant’s Horse-Drawn Carriage
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Grant’s Horse-Drawn Carriage

American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, Three Center

Ulysses S. Grant, a decorated and much-loved war hero, took office in 1868 after a Washington Daily Chronicle editor, John Weiss Forney, helped drum up support for his Republican nomination—which Grant accepted somewhat reluctantly. Running on the slogan, "Let us have peace," Grant bested New York Governor Horatio Seymour in a landslide in the Electoral College, but won in the popular contest by a close 300,000 votes. Four years later, he won the popular vote handily, this time beating Horace Greeley, who died unexpectedly just after the election on November 29, before the Electoral College votes had been cast. Grant’s horse-drawn carriage made by Meeks Carriage and Wagon Repository was purchased during his first term and used during his second inauguration for the parade to the White House.

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General Grant in Love and War
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Hair of the Presidents, 1855

The 1855 display features the hair of presidents from George Washington to Franklin Pierce. John Varden began to collect these locks of hair in 1850. At the time, he was working as keeper of collections for the National Institute for the Promotion of Science at the U.S. Patent Office, but he considered the hair collection to be his personal property. Varden presented his first hair display at the Patent Office in 1853, assembled from donations that he personally solicited, purchased, or may have repurposed from existing collections.

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Comb Through This Framed Collection of Presidential Hair
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Laura Bush’s Inaugural Dress

The First Ladies, Three Center

When a reporter asked Laura Bush if she would be a first lady more like Barbara Bush or Hillary Clinton, the new first lady replied, “I think I’ll just be like Laura Bush.” The former librarian and teacher had a quiet reputation, but when she arrived for the inaugural ball in 2001, she made a bold statement in red. The crystal-embroidered Chantilly lace over silk georgette gown had long sleeves, a scoop neck and close fit. Designed by fellow Texan Michael Faircloth, who also outfitted the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, the gown's bright red color brought a burst of Texas spirit to D.C. The New York Times described her “down-home-Texas-designed dresses” as “illustrating with equal clarity the America-first outlook of the new president's administration.”

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Women Artisans Transforming Afghanistan Have a Major Booster in a Former First Lady
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Martha Washington's Dress

The First Ladies, Three Center

Martha Washington wore this silk taffeta gown in the early 1780s. The silk is painted with a design of flowers, butterflies, and other insects. The collar and cuffs are reproductions.

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Michelle Obama's 2009 Inaugural Gown

The First Ladies, Three Center

Until the night of President Barack Obama's inauguration, designer Jason Wu had no idea that new first lady Michelle Obama had chosen his dress to wear to the inaugural balls. The floor-length gown is a white chiffon, one-shoulder affair that sparkles with Swarovski crystals. In fashion circles, it has been labeled everything from "frothy and girlish" to "dignified and elegant." Wu's now-famous gown became a symbol of Mrs. Obama's willingness to flout fashion expectations and to support a new generation of fashion designers.

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Oleg Cassini Dress and Jacket, 1961
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Oleg Cassini Dress and Jacket, 1961

A brocade dress and jacket worn by Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961 and designed by Oleg Cassini.

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Theodore Roosevelt Teddy Bear

The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, Three Center

President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a 235-pound black bear that had been tied to a tree. When encouraged to shoot it, the President is rumored to have said, "I've hunted game all over America and I'm proud to be a hunter. But I couldn't be proud of myself if I shot an old, tired, worn-out bear that was tied to a tree." A famous political cartoonist for the Washington Star, Clifford Berryman, picked up on the President's refusal to shoot the bear, and used it as a metaphor for Roosevelt's indecision over a Mississippi boundary dispute. Berryman's cartoon soon became well known throughout the United States and inspired Brooklyn candy store owners Rose and Morris Michtom to make the first stuffed bear toy, which they appropriately named Theodore Roosevelt.

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The History of the Teddy Bear: From Wet and Angry to Soft and Cuddly
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Ulysses S. Grant's Field Glasses

The Price of Freedom: Americans at War, Three East

These field glasses belonged to General Ulysses S. Grant, and were probably used during the Civil War. Grant fought one of the bloodiest battles in the West at Shiloh, but it was not the decisive victory that the Union wanted. President Lincoln believed in Grant and refused to remove him from command, saying "I can't spare this man–he fights." His next major objective would cut the Confederacy in two. Grant maneuvered and fought skillfully, winning Vicksburg, the key city on the Mississippi, and breaking the Confederate hold on Chattanooga. Lincoln appointed him general in chief in March 1864. Grant directed Sherman to drive through the South while he himself, with the Army of the Potomac, pinned down Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. On April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Lee surrendered. Grant wrote out magnanimous terms of surrender that would prevent treason trials.

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Which General Was Better? Ulysses S. Grant or Robert E. Lee?
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White House China Collection

The First Ladies, Three Center

Lady Bird Johnson's love of wildflowers inspired a national campaign to beautify hundreds of miles of highways. “Masses of flowers where masses pass,” she wrote of the effort in her diary. Her affection for the nation’s native blooms also proved inspiration for the state china service of the Johnson administration. The delicate Tiffany-designed china juxtaposes imperial eagles with dainty, indigenous blooms. In the nation's capital, entertaining is a form of diplomacy. From the bright red borders on Nancy and Ronald Reagan's dishes to the oyster and game plates featuring American flora and fauna of the Rutherford Hayes administration, the White House china reflects both popular fashions and the personal ambitions of the presidential families.

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National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

Tells the multifaceted story of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story. Connect with the museum at Facebook; Instagram; blog; Twitter and YouTube.

National Portrait Gallery

ADDRESS

8th and F Streets, NW

Washington, DC 20001

(202) 633-8300

info@si.edu
Website

HOURS

11:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. daily

Closed December 25

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America's Presidents, Presidential Portraits

Second Floor

The nation’s only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House, this exhibition lies at the heart of the Portrait Gallery’s mission to tell the American story through the individuals who have shaped it. Visitors will see an enhanced and extended display of multiple images of all the United States presidents, including Charles Willson Peale's portrait of George Washington, currently on loan from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The exhibition also features whimsical sculptures of Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush by noted caricaturist Pat Oliphant. Presidents Washington, Andrew Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt are given expanded attention because of their significant impact on the office. Presidents from FDR to Bill Clinton are featured in a video component of the exhibit.

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Barack Obama

Barack Hussein Obama (b. 1961) by Shepard Fairey (b. 1970), 2008

Fairey’s Barack Obama “Hope” poster became the iconic campaign image for the first African American president of the United States. Early in 2008, Fairey produced his first Obama portrait, with a stenciled face, visionary upward glance, and the caption “Progress.” In this second version, Fairey repeated the heroic pose and patriotic color scheme, substituting the slogan “Hope.”

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The Artist Behind the Obama Portrait: Shepard Fairey
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Donald J. Trump

Donald John J. Trump, (b. 1946) by Michael O'Brien (b. 1950), 1989

This photo portrait of President-elect Donald J. Trump will remain on view until February 26, 2017. The photograph, taken in 1989 by photographer Michael O’Brien, shows Trump tossing an apple with his right hand. It was added to the collection in 2011. Because of Trump’s prominence in New York real estate, the museum has four works in the collection representing the president-elect. Throughout his career, O’Brien has worked for Esquire, Life, the New York Times Sunday Magazine and National Geographic, among other publications. Well known for his portraiture and documentary photography, O'Brien has photographed presidents and personalities from different fields. His work is in the permanent collections of several museums around the country.

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The Tradition of Presidential Portraiture, Explained
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George H. W. Bush

America's Presidents

George Herbert Walker Bush (b. 1924) by Ronald N. Sherr (b. 1949), 1994-1995

Bush sat for this portrait at his home in Kennebunkport, Maine. The picture's backdrop, however, is the East Room of the White House. Among artist Ron Sherr's aims was to balance the formality of the composition with a warmth capable of drawing the viewer into the picture.

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John Adams

America's Presidents

John Adams (1735-1826) by John Trumbull (1756-1843), 1793

Chief among Adams's presidential successes was the avoidance of hostilities over France's infringement on American neutrality in the war between France and Great Britain. Unfortunately, Adams pleased no one in doing so, and he left the White House in 1801 largely discredited on all sides. Recalling his administration years later, he noted, "No man who ever held the office of president would ever congratulate a friend on obtaining it." This portrait was derived from sittings that occurred during Adams's vice presidency. By then, John Trumbull had painted two other likenesses of Adams, including one that was eventually incorporated into Trumbull's picture depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which now resides in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.

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OFF DISPLAY

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) by Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989), 1963

When Elaine de Kooning first saw President Kennedy in Palm Beach, he was talking to reporters in the distance. As she recalled, "he was not the grey sculptural newspaper image. He was incandescent, golden. And bigger than life. Not that he was taller than the men standing around; he just seemed to be in a different dimension. Also not revealed by the newspaper image were his incredible eyes with large violet irises half veiled by the jutting bone beneath the eyebrows."

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John Tyler

America's Presidents

John Tyler(1790-1862) by George Peter Alexander Healy (1813-1894), 1859

In rallying to the cry of "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too" in 1840, voters had their eyes fixed on the Whig Party's White House contender referred to in the first half of that catchy slogan-William Henry Harrison, hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe. For most, his vice-presidential running mate, John Tyler, represented merely an afterthought. Within a month of his inauguration, however, Harrison was dead, and Tyler became the first vice president to be made president upon the death of his predecessor. Tyler claimed the full powers of the presidency on taking office and thereby set a valuable precedent for future vice presidents who faced his situation.

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Lincoln’s Life Mask, 1860

Second Floor

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) by Leonard Wells Volk, 1860

On February 11, 1865, about two months before his death, Abraham Lincoln permitted sculptor Clark Mills to make this life mask of his face. This was the second and last life mask made of Lincoln. The strain of the presidency was written on Abraham Lincoln’s face. His secretary, John Hay, remarked on the dramatic difference in Lincoln’s two life masks. He noted that the first mask, produced by Leonard Volk in 1860, “is a man of fifty-one, and young for his years. . . . It is a face full of life, of energy, of vivid aspiration. . . . .The other is so sad and peaceful in its infinite repose . . . . a look as of one on whom sorrow and care had done their worst without victory is on all the features.”

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Richard Nixon

America's Presidents

Richard Nixon (1913-1994) by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), 1968

Artist Norman Rockwell admitted that he had intentionally flattered Nixon in this portrait. Nixon's appearance was troublesomely elusive, Rockwell noted, and if he was going to err in his portrayal, he wanted it to be in a direction that would please the subject.

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Thomas Jefferson

America's Presidents

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) by Mather Brown (1761-1831), 1786

The young American artist Mather Brown produced this first likeness of Jefferson in Paris.

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Ulysses S. Grant

America's Presidents

Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) by Thomas Le Clear (1818-1882), c. 1880

Grant's popularity led to his election to the presidency in 1868, but his weak control over his administration spawned an outbreak of federal corruption that made "Grantism" synonymous with public graft. Nevertheless, his charisma persisted through his two terms. Grant posed for this portrait shortly after he returned from a triumphant world tour following his presidency. The largely self-taught artist Thomas LeClear painted two versions. This one was originally owned by Grant himself, while the second one became part of the White House collection.

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National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History is dedicated to inspiring curiosity, discovery and learning about the natural world through its unparalleled research, collections, exhibitions and education outreach programs. Opened in 1910, the green-domed museum on the National Mall was among the first Smithsonian buildings constructed exclusively to house the national collections and research facilities. The museum connects people everywhere to Earth’s unfolding story.

National Museum of Natural History

ADDRESS

10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20024

(202) 633-1000

info@si.edu
Website

HOURS

10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. daily

Click here for extended hours information.

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Teddy Roosevelt’s White Rhino

Hall of Mammals, First Floor

President Theodore Roosevelt was known for his irrepressible love of adventure. So it should come as no surprise that three weeks after William Howard Taft took over the presidency, TR set sail from New York City on a journey to British East Africa on an expedition supported in part by the Smithsonian Institution. His mission? To hunt game and bring back exotic specimens for the collections. By train, horse, camel and a steamboat on the Nile, the yearlong expedition took the former president and his crew (including his intrepid 19-year-old son) all over what is today southern and western Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan. Of all the specimens Roosevelt brought back from the 1909–10 expedition—zebras, hyenas, warthogs, insects, ungulates, rodents and more—the square-lipped rhinoceros, or white rhino, is the only specimen that remains on view today, in the Kenneth Behring Family Hall of Mammals.

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Teddy Roosevelt's Epic (But Strangely Altruistic) Hunt for a White Rhino
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, a leading voice for contemporary art and culture, provides a national platform for the art and artists of our time in the celebrated Gordon Bunshaft designed cylindrical building and adjoining plaza and sunken sculpture garden.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

ADDRESS

700 Independence Ave. at 7th Street, SW

Washington, DC 20560

(202) 633-1000

info@si.edu
Website

HOURS

Museum: 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily
Plaza: 7:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Sculpture Garden: 7:30 a.m. to dusk
Closed December 25

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Five Nights, 2014

Masterworks of the Hirshhorn Collection, Lerner Room

Cuban artist Reynier Leyva Novo has literally weighed history’s dictatorships. He uses software to measure the weight of ink in the seminal texts by Castro, Hitler and other dictators around the world, which he then paints in correspondingly sized rectangles onto the gallery wall. The work—stark, black and conceptual—is on view in the Lerner Room, which commands a stunning view of the National Mall, where visitors can watch the Inauguration activities from the Museum’s third floor windows.

Installation view of Masterworks from the Hirshhorn Collection at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2016. Reynier Leyva Novo, Five Nights, 2014. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Cathy Carver

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Hope and Change, 2015

Suspended Animation

Josh Kline’s Hope and Change, on view in the exhibition "Suspended Animation," uses cutting-edge facial recreation software of an Obama impersonator, and a political speechwriter to recreate Obama’s 2009 Inaugural speech in an alternate universe with dramatically polarizing language. The resulting video is looks like Obama, sounds like Obama, but isn’t Obama—a surreal reminder of what can happen when tech and humanity collide.

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Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation’s first collection of American art, is an unparalleled record of the American experience. Its artworks capture the aspirations, character, and imagination of the American people across four centuries. The museum is home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world, revealing America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

ADDRESS

8th and F Streets, NW

Washington, DC 20001

(202) 633-1000

info@si.edu
Website

HOURS

11:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. daily

Closed December 25

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METRO

Gallery Place-Chinatown (9th St. exit)

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Abraham Lincoln

Second Floor, East Wing

This work was modeled in the same year that Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s sculpture of the 16th president of the United States was unveiled in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Between 1884 and 1887, the sculptor made clay sketches and plaster models as he worked out his plans for the finished work. To create Lincoln’s face, he relied heavily on life casts made by sculptor Leonard Volk in 1860, the very year of the Cooper Union speech, which Saint-Gaudens had attended. On that memorable day, Saint-Gaudens was impressed with Lincoln’s height and the way he bowed his head as he acknowledged the people gathered before him. Saint-Gaudens presented Lincoln here with his head slightly tilted down, as it had remained etched in the sculptor’s memory.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, modeled 1887, cast ca. 1923, bronze on stone base

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Ball in Honour of President Lincoln

This 1865 engraving originally published in the Illustrated London News, and entitled "Ball in Honour of President Lincoln in the Great Hall of the Patent Office at Washington," offers a rare view of the inaugural ball for President Abraham Lincoln’s second term. The event was held in the Patent Office Building, now home to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery.

Unidentified, 1865, wood engraving on paper, gift of Jeremiah H. Gallay

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Bible, 1853

U.S. President James Buchanan, the 15th president, took the oath of office on this bible on March 4, 1857.

Oxford University Press (Publisher), 1853, reddish brown velvet, gilt edges, brass details and clasp closed, bequest of Harriet Lane Johnston

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Inaugural Presidential Medals, 1917

Fourth Floor

Though inaugural medals won’t buy you much at the grocery store, they are still priceless works of art, announcing a new era with a likeness of the leader. After a nationwide competition, an artist is selected to design a unique coin to commemorate the president. Some medals, like William Howard Taft’s from 1909, stick to a traditional profile of the leader and his vice president on one side with the full names of both on the reverse. Barack Obama’s 2009 medal, by artist Marc Mellon and Thomas Rogers, shows him in a three-quarter profile rendered in low relief and, for the first time, includes the official inaugural seal. A selection of medals, including those of presidents William Howard Taft, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt, are on view in the museum's Luce Center.

Darrell Clayton Crain, 1917, gold, Gift of the James F. Dicke Family

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John Adams, 1826

Second Floor, East Wing

Gilbert Stuart, 1826, oil on canvas, Adams-Clement Collection, gift of Mary Louisa Adams Clement in memory of her mother, Louisa Catherine Adams Clement

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Kennedy Caisson, ca. 1964-1990

Marshall B. Fleming saw John F. Kennedy’s funeral on television and wanted to commemorate the event. He also wanted to make a tribute to the other presidents who were assassinated—Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield and William McKinley. He based his design on a postcard of the funeral cortege and created the procession from painted wood, fabric, leather, and thread. Although the piece has somber associations, it was meant to celebrate Kennedy’s life and the lives of those who had died in office before him.

Marshall B. Fleming, ca. 1964-1990, carved and painted wood, leather, wire, metal, printed paper, paperboard, cloth, pen, and pencil, gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and Marshall B. Fleming and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson

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Lincoln at Gettysburg III, ca. 1939-1942

William H. Johnson, ca. 1939-1942, recto: gouache, pen and ink and pencil on paper verso: gouache and pencil on paper, gift of the Harmon Foundation

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Silhouette of Martha Washington, 19th century

Martha Dandridge was born on a plantation near Williamsburg in 1731. At the age of 18, she married a rich Virginia landowner, Daniel Parke Custis. He died eight years later, however, leaving Martha one of the wealthiest women in Virginia. She became the “first of First Ladies” in 1759 with her marriage to George Washington, and together they traveled between the early capitals of New York and Philadelphia. Martha was known for her hospitality and once commented that she was “fond of only what comes from the heart.” This miniature is unusual because the artist added color over the top of a black silhouette, and spent less time capturing Martha’s features than he did painting her elaborate costume.

Unidentified artist, 19th century, watercolor on ivory, bequest of Mary Elizabeth Spencer

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Study for the Apotheosis of Washington, ca. 1859-1862

Second Floor, East Wing

Constantino Brumidi was commissioned to paint the ceiling decoration in the rotunda of the United States Capitol, and presented this study to gain approval to begin the monumental work. He chose to paint George Washington in the center of the dome, having ascended to the heavens, looking down upon the visitor. Steeped in Classical mythology, Brumidi presents Washington as Zeus, chief among the Greek gods, flanked by 13 female figures symbolizing the original 13 colonies. Six vignettes form the outer edge of the decoration, allegories pairing Greek gods and goddesses with an aspect of American prowess and ingenuity. Brumidi incorporated current events into his vignettes: at the bottom of this painting, Athena—portrayed as goddess of war—vanquishes the forces of evil, here portrayed by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, and his vice-president, Andrew Stephens. The completion of the dome in 1865 came to symbolize a newly reunited America after the Civil War.

Constantino Brumidi, ca. 1859-1862, oil on canvas, museum purchase made possible by the American Art Forum

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The Council of War, ca 1873

Second Floor, East Wing

The Council of War depicts President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and General Ulysses S. Grant discussing the Civil War. Sculptor John Rogers made the group at the suggestion of Stanton, who described the scene as “one of the most interesting and appropriate occasions” for a sculpture. It was later praised by Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln, who considered it to be the most lifelike portrait of his father in sculpture. John Rogers, modeled ca. 1873, painted plaster, Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase 1967

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Visit to the Tomb of Washington at Mount Vernon, October 1860, 1861

Second Floor, East Wing

In 1860, the 19-year-old Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) visited the tomb of the man who had led the Continental Army to victory over the forces of Great Britain in the American Revolution. Demonstrating the renewed harmony between the two nations, President James Buchanan stands beside the heir to the British throne as he pays his respects at this American shrine. The clouds above the assembled crowd of dignitaries take the form of George Washington's profile.

Thomas P. Rossiter, 1861, oil on canvas, bequest of Harriet Lane Johnston

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Washington Resigning His Commission, ca. 1841

Second Floor, East Wing

George Washington refused to accept the extraordinary power Congress offered to him after his victory over the British, declaring "as the sword was the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so it ought to be the first thing laid aside, when those liberties are firmly established." He resigned his military commission and became an ordinary citizen because he believed that only monarchies needed standing armies, chiefly to keep the people subdued. Citizen militias, organized at moments of crisis and quickly disbanded, represented the true nature of a democracy. Ferdinand Pettrich created this work when political power in the United States was being consolidated around the federal government. He may have felt that this historic moment in Washington’s life would remind a new generation of the nation's founding ideals, and of the dangers of too much power given to too few.

Ferdinand Pettrich, ca. 1841, painted plaster, gift of the artist

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National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Hundreds of aircraft and spacecraft are on display in two massive hangars, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, and the Space Shuttle Discovery. View aircraft flying in and out of Dulles International Airport from the museum's Observation Tower. Watch restoration specialists restore artifacts in the Restoration Hangar.

National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

ADDRESS

14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway

Chantilly, VA 20151

(703) 572-4118

NASMVisitorServices@si.edu
Website

HOURS

10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. daily

Click here for extended hours information.

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METRO

Wiehle-Reston East (Silver Line) Transfer to Fairfax Connector bus 983

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Bell H-13J

Vertical Flight

On July 12, 1957, Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first President of the United States to fly in this helicopter. The occasion was a simulated nuclear alert staged to test how quickly the Chief Executive and other government officials could depart Washington, D. C. and reach a safe haven outside the city. During 1957, the Bell Helicopter Corporation modified a stock Bell H-13J helicopter to meet the President's special needs. Technicians added all-metal rotor blades, special arm and foot rests to the right seat, and a frame-less, Plexiglas nose bubble heavily tinted to reduce glare and heat. Eisenhower's personal helicopter pilot, United States Air Force Major Joseph E. Barrett, flew the rotorcraft from the center seat and a Secret Service agent occupied the left seat. An identical Bell H-13J, assigned the Air Force serial number 57-2728, usually accompanied the President's helicopter. This aircraft carried his physician and another Secret Service agent.

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The Huey Defined America's Presence in Vietnam, Even to the Bitter End
National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum has thousands of objects on display, including the 1903 Wright Flyer, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia. Visit 23 galleries exhibiting hundreds of aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, rockets, and other flight-related artifacts.

National Air and Space Museum

ADDRESS

Independence Ave. at 6th St., SW

Washington, DC 20560

(202) 633-1000

NASM-VisitorServices@si.edu
Website

HOURS

10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. daily

Click here for extended hours information.

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METRO

L'Enfant Plaza (Maryland Ave. exit)

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Button, Geraldine Ferraro, Sally Ride

Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall

This Geraldine Ferraro campaign button was owned by Dr. Sally K. Ride. Ferraro was Walter Mondale's running mate on the Democratic ticket in the 1984 presidential election, and had she been elected, she would have been America's first woman Vice President. During her acceptance speech at the party convention, Ferraro cited Sally Ride's achievement as the first American woman in space as evidence that "change is in the air." Ride saw Ferraro's nomination as inspirational, and said about the DNC speech, "I was as moved by that as many women had been by my flight into space. For the first time, I understood why it was such an emotional experience for so many people, to see me accomplish what I had, as a woman." Ride was a strong supporter of Ferraro and visited her at her congressional office a few months prior to the election, posing for photos with her and a t-shirt that Ride had given her bearing the vice-presidential insignia.

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Medal of Congress to Curtiss NC-4 Crew

Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery

President Woodrow Wilson presented this medal on behalf of Congress to NC-4's crew and planners for the first transatlantic flight. The airmen were hailed as heroes, but their 24-day adventure was soon obscured by a blizzard of aviation records set by others.

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National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress, making it the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. The museum will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation. A place that transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us, and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all. The museum's grand opening is September 24, 2016.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

ADDRESS

Constitution Avenue, N.W., between 14th and 15th Streets

Washington, DC 20004

(202) 633-1000

info@si.edu
Website

HOURS

10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

METRO

Smithsonian (Mall exit) or Federal Triangle

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Campaign Button, 2008

A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond

Campaign button from the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama and Joe Biden

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Fountain Pen, 1965

Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation, 1876-1968

Using this pen, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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Inkstand, ca. 1863

Freedom and Slavery

This brass inkstand sat on the desk of Maj. Thomas Eckert in the War Department telegraph office. At the time, the War Department handled all the president’s telegrams, and Abraham Lincoln often stopped by to learn the latest news of the war. Years later Eckert would recall, “The President came to my office every day and invariably sat at my desk. . . . I became much interested . . . with the idea that he was engaged upon something of great importance, but did not know what it was until he had finished the document and then for the first time he told me that he had been writing an order giving freedom to the slaves of the South, for the purpose of hastening the end of the war. . . . I still have in my possession the inkstand which he used at the time.”

Transfer from Library of Congress, NMAH

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James Brown, Civil War Veteran, 1936

Photograph of James Brown, Civil War veteran, with a picture of Abraham Lincoln, May 1936

Unidentified photographer, photographic gelatin on photographic paper and paint; paper; ink on newsprint; blue pencil, gift from the Liljenquist family collection

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President Obama, May 2009

In May 2009, you Jacob Philadelphia checks out President Barack Obama's hair.

Pete Souza, May 2009, ink on photographic paper, NMAAHC

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The Proclamation of Emancipation, 1862

Slavery and Freedom

This booklet, "The Proclamation of Emancipation by the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863," was produced in December 1862 specifically for Union soldiers to read and distribute among African Americans

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