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National Museum of American History, D.C. – Virtual Tour

National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History – Virtual Tour

The National Museum of American History collects the heritage of the United States in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific, and military history.

The museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution and located on the National Mall.

A Virtual Tour of the National Museum of American History, D.C.

Highlights Tour of the National Museum of American History

Star-Spangled Banner Flag

The Star-Spangled Banner was the garrison flag that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812.

The flag inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem in 1814, which included the following lines:

“And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave.
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

This poem gave the flag its name, and later, when the poem was set to the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven” by John Stafford Smith, it then evolved into the national anthem of the United States.

“George Washington” by Horatio Greenough

This statue of George Washington is a massive sculpture by Horatio Greenough commissioned for the 100th anniversary of U.S President George Washington’s birth.

Washington, who was born in 1732, is depicted seated with his chest bare and with his right arm and hand gesturing with an index finger pointing towards the heavens.

His left hand cradles a sheathed sword, with the sword handle forward, symbolizing Washington turning over power to the people after the American Revolutionary War.

John Bull Locomotive

John Bull is a railroad steam locomotive that operated in the United States. Robert Stephenson and Company built it in Britain.

It was purchased and operated by the first railroad in New Jersey, which gave this locomotive number 1 and its first name, “Stevens” after the president of Railroad at the time.

It operated from 1833 until 1866, and through regular use of the engine, the crews began calling it the old John Bull, a reference to the cartoon personification of England, John Bull.

Greensboro sit-in Lunch Counter

This 4-seat section of what used to be the “Whites Only” lunch counter from the Woolworth department store in Greensboro, North Carolina, is part of the Civil Rights history that was made in 1960.

It is at this lunch counter where four black students sat down and were refused service when they asked for a cup of coffee.

Following store policy, the Lunch Counter staff refused to serve the black men at the “whites only” counter, and the store manager asked them to leave.

USS Philadelphia – 1776 Gunboat

The USS Philadelphia was a gunboat of the Continental Navy. She is the oldest American Combat Ship ever found, and one of a few vessels used during the American Revolutionary War to have been recovered.

The first USS Philadelphia was part of a fleet under the command of General Benedict Arnold that fought the 1776 Battle of Valcour Island.

The New England armed vessels commanded by Benedict Arnold included: Royal Savage, Revenge, Lee, Trumble, Washington, Congress, Philadelphia, New York, Jersey, Connecticut, Providence, New Haven, Spitfire, Boston, and the Liberty.

The more massive Royal Navy fleet damaged many of the American boats in the battle. However, the USS Philadelphia was one of the few that sank that day.

Following the primary battle, most of the other boats in the American fleet were sunk, burned, or captured.

First Computer Mouse

The First Computer Mouse prototype was built in 1964 and was invented by Doug Engelbart in his research lab at Stanford Research Institute.

Although many innovations for interacting with computers have followed since then, the mouse remains the most popular pointing device for speed and accuracy.

A computer mouse is a hand-held pointing device that detects two-dimensional motion relative to a surface. 

The patent application for what we know today as the Computer Mouse was filed in 1967 as: “X-Y position indicator for a display system.”

The first public demonstration of a mouse controlling a computer system was in 1968. Mice originally used a ball rolling on a surface to detect motion, but modern mice often have optical sensors with no moving parts.

The patent was awarded in 1970 as US Patent 3,541,541. Originally hardwired to a computer, many modern mice are cordless, relying on short-range radio communication with the connected system.

First Apple Computer – Apple I

The Apple I, Apple’s first product, was a computer released, designed, and hand-built by Steve Wozniak in 1976. The idea of selling the computer came from Wozniak’s friend Steve Jobs.

In 1975, Steve Wozniak attended the Homebrew Computer Club’s first meeting and was so inspired he decided to build a computer.

After showing it at the Club and receiving a high level of interest, Steve Jobs suggested that they design and sell a circuit board for hobbyists to build their own computer.

Jobs sold his VW Microbus for a few hundred dollars to finance its creation, and Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator for $500.

Soon, Steve Jobs successfully negotiated to sell about 50 completely built computers to the Byte Shop in Mountain View, California, for $500 each.

The Apple I went on sale in July 1976 for US$666.66 because Wozniak “liked repeating digits” and because of a one-third markup on the $500 wholesale price.

First Electronic Calculator Prototype

The First Electronic Calculator Prototype was developed by Thomas E. Osborne for Hewlett-Packard in 1964. This prototype changed our world as it introduced cost-effective personal calculation devices, which eventually led to the personal computer and then smartphones.

Osborne built the logic and memory for his prototype calculator into a separate box (on the left in the photo) to allow the prototype keyboard and display unit (as displayed on the right in the photo) to assume the proposed size he believed would represent the final production product.

He did this to ensure that decision-makers would not get the impression that the calculator would be huge and unsellable.

This prototype gave birth to Hewlett Packard 9100A, the first programmable calculator (computer). Following the 9100A success, Hewlett-Packard introduced the first desktop scientific calculator and the HP 35 pocket scientific calculator.

Alexander Graham Bell’s “Large Box” Telephone, 1876

Alexander Graham Bell’s Large Box telephone was one of the first available telephones in 1876. Alexander Graham Bell produced two telephones for a demonstration between Boston and Salem, Massachusetts, in 1876.

Bell’s first telephone included an iron diaphragm, two electromagnets, and a horseshoe permanent magnet pressed against the electromagnets. Both transmitter and receiver were similar. 

When used as a transmitter, sound waves at the mouthpiece cause the diaphragm to move, creating a fluctuating current in the electromagnets.

This current was conducted over wires to a similar instrument, acting as a receiver. At the receiver, fluctuating current in the electromagnets causes the diaphragm to move, producing vibrations that can be heard.

National Museum of American History

  • Name:                   National Museum of Natural History
  • City:                       Washington, D.C.
  • Country:                United States
  • Established:          1964
  • Type:                     History museum
  • Location:               National Mall in Washington, D.C., United States

National Museum of American History, D.C. – Map

National Museum of American History – Virtual Tour

National Museum of American History – Virtual Tour

A Tour of Washington, D.C. Museums

Welcome to the National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History

American History at the Smithsonian

Virtual Tour of National Museums of the United States


“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow.
The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

– Abraham Lincoln


Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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