U.S. History

Signs calling for the abolition of Columbus Day formed the backdrop for a protest in front of city hall in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The Evolution of Columbus Day Celebrations, From Italian Immigrant Pride to Indigenous Recognition

The holiday has been controversial practically since its inception

The New English Canaan by Thomas Morton criticized the Puritan government in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

There's More to That

A Brief History of Banned Books in America

Attempts to restrict what kids in school can read are on the rise. But American book-banning started with the Puritans, 140 years before the United States

Jack Trice (second from left) and three of his teammates on the varsity football squad

Untold Stories of American History

This Black Football Player Was Fatally Injured During a Game. A Century Later, a College Stadium Bears His Name

Rival athletes trampled Jack Trice during his "first real college game." He died two days later at age 21

This statue of Christopher Columbus resides at Columbus Circle in front of Union Station in Washington, D.C. 

Breaking Down the United States' Historical Obsession With Christopher Columbus

Columbus became Columbus in the American Revolution—when the colonials sought out an origin story that didn’t involve the British

Historian Peter Mancall says New English Canaan is “not very long” and “not very well written,” but holds immense value in what it says about the nation’s founding.

History of Now

How America's First Banned Book Survived and Became an Anti-Authoritarian Icon

The Puritans outlawed Thomas Morton's "New English Canaan" because it was critical of the society they were building in colonial New England

Performers at the 1963 Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Ron Patterson, a co-founder of the event, appears in orange at the far right.

The Surprisingly Radical Roots of the Renaissance Fair

The first of these festivals debuted in the early 1960s, serving as a prime example of the United States' burgeoning counterculture

“Had it not been for the testament given [to] him by Mr. Foster, which received a second bullet, I doubt if you would have ever seen him again,” wrote journalist Benjamin Perley Poore in a letter to Merrill's father.

Untold Stories of American History

The Bible That Stopped a Bullet

In 1863, a New Testament tucked in the pocket of Union soldier Charles W. Merrill prevented a musket ball from mortally wounding him

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is on the grounds of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

How an Ohio Cow Pasture Gave Rise to a Monument to Aviation History

The National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, celebrates 100 years

On September 18, 1873, an investment bank owned by Jay Cooke, who financed the construction of the Northern Pacific Railway, went bankrupt, sparking a multiyear financial crisis.

Untold Stories of American History

How One Robber Baron's Gamble on Railroads Brought Down His Bank and Plunged the U.S. Into the First Great Depression

In 1873, greed, speculation and overinvestment in railroads sparked a financial crisis that sank the U.S. into more than five years of misery

An advertisement for California citrus, circa 1920

When California and Florida Attracted Settlers With Promises of a Perfect Climate

Today, they rank at the top of lists of U.S. states most at risk from climate change

Isabella Bird ascended the 14,259-foot-tall Longs Peak, now part of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Following British Explorer Isabella Bird's Footsteps Through the Rockies, 150 Years Later

The intrepid Victorian-era author proved that a lady’s life could be in the mountains, and I am forever grateful for that

Minerals from a melting glacier mix with clear water and wind a colorful path through the trees at Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

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

When it comes to historical markers, the hidden truth is this: In any given state, as many as a dozen entities could be putting up signs at the same time.

History of Now

Why Historical Markers Matter

Few realize that the approval process for these outdoor signs varies widely by state and organization, enabling unsanctioned displays to slip through

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There's More to That

The Remarkable Story of WWII’s 6888th Battalion, as Told by the Women Who Were There

Learn about the accomplishments of the Black Americans who served their country abroad, even as they faced discrimination at home

Brother Jonathan attacks John Bull—an avatar for the Brits—with a flagon of pear cordial in this c. 1813 cartoon by Amos Doolittle of Connecticut.

Meet Brother Jonathan, the Predecessor to Uncle Sam

Older, but by no means wiser, the political cartoon character symbolized a mischievous young nation

Austin West visits Kindred Spirits, a monument to the Choctaw in County Cork. The 20-foot-high steel feathers symbolize those used in Choctaw ceremonies.

The Unlikely, Enduring Friendship Between Ireland and the Choctaw Nation

One act of generosity during the Great Famine forged a bond that transcends generations

Outside of Earth, is there any place a human could survive unprotected for even ten seconds?


 

Could Humans Survive Unprotected Outside of Earth's Atmosphere for Even Ten Seconds?

You’ve got questions. We’ve got experts

Morris “Moe” Berg in 1933. Dubbed the “brainiest man in baseball” due to his knack for languages and quick wit, the catcher joined the OSS in 1943.

The Baseball Player-Turned-Spy Who Went Undercover to Assassinate the Nazis' Top Nuclear Scientist

During World War II, the OSS sent Moe Berg to Europe, where he gathered intel on Germany's efforts to build an atomic bomb

The indomitable Lady Columbia defends the United States with her snazzy patriotic shield, c. 1890.

Before Lady Liberty, There Was Lady Columbia, America's First National Mascot

The forgotten figure symbolized the hopes—and myths—of the early United States

In 1963, standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. waves to the largest crowd ever to participate in a civil rights demonstration in Washington, D.C. where he delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech.

To Mark the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' Speech Goes on Display

The draft on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture was produced a few hours before King took to the podium

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