U.S. History

In "Lady in the Lake," Natalie Portman plays a fictional journalist who investigates a pair of mysterious deaths. The cases are inspired by the real-life disappearances of Esther Lebowitz and Shirley Lee Parker.

Based on a True Story

The Real Story Behind the Baltimore Deaths That Inspired 'Lady in the Lake'

A new mini-series offers a fictionalized take on two unrelated 1969 cases: the mysterious disappearance of bartender Shirley Lee Parker and the murder of 11-year-old Esther Lebowitz

President Ronald Reagan, pictured waving to a crowd shortly before John Hinckley Jr. tried to assassinate him on March 30, 1981

History of Now

The History of Presidential Assassination Attempts, From Andrew Jackson to Teddy Roosevelt

Before last weekend's attack on Donald Trump, would-be assassins unsuccessfully targeted Ronald Reagan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and seven other sitting presidents or candidates for office

After Ronald Reagan stumbled through his answers and closing statement at the first presidential debate in 1984, Walter Mondale closed the gap in the polls. This photo was taken at the second debate two weeks later.

History of Now

When a Debate Flop Raised Concerns About Ronald Reagan's Fitness to Run for Re-Election

During the 1984 campaign, the 73-year-old president meandered his way through his first face-off against Walter Mondale, prompting questions about his mental acuity

To mark her graduation from dental school in 2021, Breanna Henley took photographs in front of a slave cabin at Redcliffe Plantation.

Why Descendants Are Returning to the Plantations Where Their Ancestors Were Enslaved

Some Black Americans are reclaiming antebellum estates as part of their family legacy, reflecting the power and possibility of these historic sites

A self-portrait taken in New York by Vivian Maier in 1954

Women Who Shaped History

Meet Vivian Maier, the Reclusive Nanny Who Secretly Became One of the Best Street Photographers of the 20th Century

The self-taught artist is getting her first museum exhibition in New York City, where she nurtured her nascent interest in photography

A woman named Evelyn Thaw dodges a camera, 1909

How the Rise of the Camera Launched a Fight to Protect Gilded Age Americans' Privacy

Early photographers sold their snapshots to advertisers, who reused the individuals' likenesses without their permission

Was Leicester Hemingway's micronation of New Atlantis a quixotic experiment in democracy or an elaborate improv comedy sketch? 

Untold Stories of American History

Why Ernest Hemingway's Younger Brother Established a Floating Republic in the Caribbean

On July 4, 1964, Leicester Hemingway founded New Atlantis, a raft-turned-micronation intended to support marine life in the region

Making a U-turn is more fun when traveling the Mount Carmel Highway in Zion National Park.

Smithsonian Photo Contest Galleries

Explore the Great Outdoors With Photography From U.S. National Parks

Travel the country's beautiful natural wonders from home with these breathtaking highlights from the Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

A 1914 photo of the Star-Spangled Banner undergoing conservation in the Smithsonian Castle

The Real Story Behind the Star-Spangled Banner, the Flag That Inspired the National Anthem

How the flag that flew proudly over Fort McHenry in September 1814 made its way to the Smithsonian

York, the enslaved man who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their history-making expedition, appears in the rightmost canoe in this 1905 painting by Charles Marion Russell.

History of Now

The Forgotten Black Explorers Who Transformed Americans' Understanding of the Wilderness

Esteban, York and James Beckwourth charted the American frontier between the 16th and 19th centuries

Attendants assist Thomas Hicks, an American runner who consumed strychnine, egg whites and brandy during the race.

The Paris Olympics

How the 1904 Marathon Became One of the Weirdest Olympic Events of All Time

Athletes drank poison, dodged traffic, stole peaches and even hitchhiked during the 24.85-mile race in St. Louis

For Union soldiers, a cup of coffee made hardtack biscuits more palatable. 

How Coffee Helped the Union Caffeinate Their Way to Victory in the Civil War

The North’s fruitful partnership with Liberian farmers fueled a steady supply of an essential beverage

Richard Loeb (left) and Nathan Leopold sought to plan "the perfect crime."

There's More to That

'The Crime of the Century,' a Century Later

In the summer of 1924, the Leopold and Loeb murder case triggered a media frenzy and a debate over whether anyone can truly know what’s inside the mind of a cold-blooded killer

Edythe Eyde started writing under the pen name Lisa Ben after an editor rejected her first choice, Ima Spinster.

LGBTQ+ Pride

Who Was 'Lisa Ben,' the Woman Behind the U.S.'s First Lesbian Magazine?

Edythe Eyde published nine issues of "Vice Versa" between June 1947 and February 1948. She later adopted a pen name that doubled as an anagram for "lesbian"

Beginning on June 24, 1924, the summer convention in Madison Square Garden was a bleak, sweltering affair for the Democrats.

History of Now

Why the 1924 Democratic National Convention Was the Longest and Most Chaotic of Its Kind in U.S. History

A century ago, the party took a record 103 ballots and 16 days of intense, violent debate to choose a presidential nominee

This still from The Bikeriders is a recreation of Danny Lyon's photo Crossing the Ohio River.

Based on a True Story

The Real Story Behind 'The Bikeriders' and the Danny Lyon Photography Book That Inspired It

A new film dramatizes the story of a motorcycle club chronicled by Lyon in the 1960s, offering a tribute to the outlaw spirit

Saxophonist Dexter Gordon at Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen in 1964

Why the Nordic Countries Emerged as a Haven for 20th-Century African American Expatriates

An exhibition in Seattle spotlights the Black artists and performers who called Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden home between the 1930s and the 1980s

“What made Willie so appealing," says author James S. Hirsch "was how he played the game: the grace and the tenacity and the sheer entertainment value that he brought to playing the game, the style with which he played.”

Why Baseball Legend Willie Mays, Dead at 93, Will Never Be Forgotten

Even decades after he redefined the game, the 24-time All-Star continued to be revered by fans and historians alike for his incredible athleticism, spellbinding defense, powerful bat and admirable sportsmanship

The Phrygian cap derives its name from the ancient region of Phrygia, in what is now Turkey. Also known as a liberty cap, it inspired revolutionaries in both the Colonies and France.

The Paris Olympics

The Paris Games' Mascot, the Olympic Phryge, Boasts a Little-Known Revolutionary Past

The Phrygian cap, also known as the liberty cap, emerged as a potent symbol in 18th-century America and France

A lesson plan from the National Museum of the American Indian seeks to include missing narratives about the California Gold Rush.

There’s a Better Way to Teach the California Gold Rush

A new lesson plan centers Native American perspectives on the violence of Western expansion

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