Founding Fathers

Only about a dozen first printings of the Constitution are known to exist.

After Selling for $43 Million, Rare Copy of the Constitution Goes on Display

The new exhibition explores diverse interpretations of the document's founding values

By March 1862, Judith Henry's Virginia home had been reduced to rubble.

Untold Stories of American History

The Civil War's First Civilian Casualty Was an Elderly Widow From Virginia

Union gunfire killed 85-year-old Judith Carter Henry on July 21, 1861—the day of the First Battle of Bull Run

As recent archival finds and reappraisals of well-known documents show, Liss forged her own path to freedom—and may have even spied on the British while doing so.

Untold Stories of American History

Did an Enslaved Woman Try to Warn the Americans of Benedict Arnold's Treason?

New research sheds light on Liss, who was enslaved by the family of a Culper Spy Ring leader and had ties to British spymaster John André

One reader wonders how birds stay balanced on tree branches while they’re asleep. 
 

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Ben Franklin by Joseph-Siffred Duplessis, ca 1785

Ben Franklin Lives in Your Smartphone

The 18th-century inventor discovered concepts that impact modern technology

Artifacts found in an attic in a Boston home consisted of items such as letters, tools and a trade sign, all believed to have been owned by the family of Paul Revere.

Cool Finds

Sold: Paul Revere Family Artifacts Found in a Boston-Area Attic

A trade sign bearing the name of the patriot’s son, along with letters and personal items owned by his grandchildren, sold at auction for $20,000

Franklin believed a turkey killed with electricity would be tastier than one dispatched by conventional means: decapitation.

When Benjamin Franklin Shocked Himself While Attempting to Electrocute a Turkey

The statesman was embarrassed by the mishap—no doubt a murder most fowl

This recreated wooden building resembles one that may have housed enslaved people on John Dickinson's Dover, Delaware, plantation.

Graves of Enslaved People Discovered on Founding Father's Delaware Plantation

A signee of the U.S. Constitution, John Dickinson enslaved as many as 59 men, women and children at one time

For generations, Americans have sought to understand the sense of shared destiny—or perhaps, civic obligation—that forged the nation.

The Pitfalls and Promise of America's Founding Myths

Maintaining a shared sense of nationhood has always been a struggle for a country defined not by organic ties, but by a commitment to a set of ideals

The election of 1800 didn't invent the idea of a peaceful transition of power from one set of ideals to another, but it did engrave the United States into history as a democracy.

Inauguration History

How John Adams Managed a Peaceful Transition of Presidential Power

In the election of 1800, for the first time in U.S. history, one party turned the executive office to another

Several line items in Alexander Hamilton's cashbook indicate that the Founding Father purchased enslaved labor for his own household.

New Research Suggests Alexander Hamilton Was a Slave Owner

Often portrayed as an abolitionist, Hamilton may have enslaved people in his own household

President John Tyler was born in 1790 and died in 1862.

Grandson of President John Tyler, Who Left Office in 1845, Dies at Age 95

Born 14 years after the nation's founding, the tenth commander-in-chief still has one living grandson

“The postal service is one of the oldest federal agencies,” says Daniel Piazza, a curator of philately at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum. “Maybe for that reason, we tend to take it for granted. But we have always relied on it, whether for news from home, prescription medications or e-commerce.”

A Brief History of the United States Postal Service

To forge a nation, the founders needed an efficient communications network

Shannon LaNier, a TV news anchor, has complex feelings about being descended from Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. “He was a brilliant man who preached equality, but he didn’t practice it. He owned people. And now I’m here because of it.”

These Portraits Revisit the Legacies of Famous Americans

Photographer Drew Gardner painstakingly recreates the images with the notable figures' descendants

The Washington Family, painted by Edward Savage in New York City while Washington was the nation's president. The children in the portrait are Martha Custis Washington's grandchildren, to whom George was a father figure.

The Father of the Nation, George Washington Was Also a Doting Dad to His Family

Though he had no biological children, the first president acted as a father figure to Martha's descendants

Washington, who tended to favor surprisingly silly names for his animals—his dogs answered to Sweetlips, Drunkard and Madame Moose—went literal when it came to the mule, who he called Royal Gift.

George Washington Saw a Future for America: Mules

A newly minted celebrity to the world, the future president used his position to procure his preferred beast of burden from the king of Spain

The Landsdowne portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

A New Book About George Washington Breaks All the Rules on How to Write About George Washington

Alexis Coe's cheeky biography of the first president pulls no punches

Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre

Exploring Paul Revere’s Legacy Beyond His Famed Midnight Ride

Before becoming an American legend, the Revolutionary War hero was best known as a skilled artisan, activist and entrepreneur

In the corner of one side of the document, Washington wrote "Genealogy of the Washington Family in Virginia"

This Long-Ignored Document, Written by George Washington, Lays Bare the Legal Power of Genealogy

In Washington’s Virginia, family was a crucial determinant of social and economic status, and freedom

This detail of The Apotheosis of Washington, a fresco painted in the 19th century by Constantino Brumidi in the eye of the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building, depicts George Washington rising to the heavens, flanked by the Roman goddesses of liberty (left) and victory (right).

Why No One Can Agree on What George Washington Thought About the Relationship Between Church and State

The first president wanted to unite citizens of all religions without alienating Catholics, freethinkers and Jews

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