Future president Richard M. Nixon.

When He Said "Jump..."

Philippe Halsman defied gravitas

Lincoln’s original patent model was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1908. This replica was built by the Smithsonian in 1978 for long-term display to preserve the fragile original.

Abraham Lincoln Is the Only President Ever to Have a Patent

In 1849, a future president patented an amazing addition to transportation technology

Balloon Jupiter had to land after 30 miles; its mail (here) was sent on by train.

Airmail Letter

Stale Mail: The nation's first hot-air balloon postal deliveries barely got off the ground


In the mid-1800s, "ships of the desert" reported for duty in the Southwest

Although owners prized their EV1s, the manufacturer did not relent.

The Death of the EV-1

Fans of a battery-powered emissions free sedan mourn its passing

James McNeill Whistler's palette, c. 1888-90.

Refined Palette

Scholars say this 19th-century artifact could have belonged to the celebrated American painter

Ray Charles' Ray-Bans, his celebrity trademark, are held in the collections of the National Museum of American History.

Ray Charles' Fusion of Gospel and Blues Changed the Face of American Popular Music

A visionary virtuoso, Charles made brilliance look easy

A Mount Rushmore of stardom: Gable (left) cracks a joke at the photographers expense with friends Heflin, Cooper and Stewart.

Grab a Drink With Hollywood's Stars

To photographer Slim Aarons, the biggest stars were auld acquaintances

A photo of the first Miss America winner, Margaret Gorman. This was the official photo of her as the winner.

American Idol

Once upon a time, Miss America reigned supreme

For Christmas in 1965, astronauts Walter M. "Wally" Schirra Jr and Thomas P. Stafford played "Jingle Bells" aboard Gemini 6.

The Day Two Astronauts Said They Saw a U.F.O. Wearing a Red Suit

When orbiting pranksters Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford launched into "Jingle Bells," Mission Control almost lost control

A sportive thrill c. 1957.

Fashion Faux Paw

Richard Avedon's photograph of a beauty and the beasts is marred, he believed, by one failing

The family of Cesar Chavez donated this jacket to the National Museum of American History shortly after the labor leader's death.

When Union Leader Cesar Chavez Organized the Nation's Farmworkers, He Changed History

Cesar Chavez' black nylon satin jacket with the eagle emblem of the United Farm Workers is held in the Smithsonian collections

John Lennon's stamp album, pages 34-35

John Lennon's First Album

A boyhood collection of stamps opens a new page on the teenage Beatle-to-be


Going for the Gold

A pop-music confection known as The Village People belted out disco hits in the 1970s that morphed into American standards


Hearing Aid

A trove of recorded sounds preserves everything from tree frog calls to murmurs of the heart

Costume designer Charmaine Simmons conceived Jerry's foppish garb to be both "uncomfortable" and "unwearable."

The Shirt Off His Back

Jerry Seinfeld's silly, frilly prop takes its place in television history

At 23.1 carats, the gem is one of the largest Burmese rubies in the world.

Romance And The Stone

A rare Burmese ruby memorializes a philanthropic woman

The traditional Thanksgiving turkey is delicious, but is it paleo?

How 260 Tons of Thanksgiving Leftovers Gave Birth to an Industry

The birth of the TV dinner started with a mistake


Kilroy Was Here

En route to Vietnam in the 1960s, American G.I.'s recorded their hopes and fears on the canvas undersides of troopship sleeping berths

Promotional photo of Imogene Coca and Sid Caesar from Your Show of Shows

Comedy Central

"Your Show of Shows," starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, pioneered madcap TV humor in the 1950s

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