Smithsonian & American Art

The Smithsonian Institution


The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities and magazines. Most of its facilities are located in Washington, D.C., but its 19 museums, zoo, and nine research centers include sites in New York City, and Virginia. It has over 136 million items in its collections,publishes two magazines named Smithsonian (monthly) and Air & Space (bimonthly), and has its own Police Force to protect visitors, staff, and the property of the museums.



In 1826, James Smithson, a British scientist, drew up his last will and testament, naming his nephew as beneficiary. Smithson stipulated that, should the nephew die without heirs (as he would in 1835), the estate should go “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” 
The motives behind Smithson’s bequest remain mysterious. He never traveled to the United States and seems to have had no correspondence with anyone here. Some have suggested that his bequest was motivated in part by revenge against the rigidities of British society, which had denied Smithson, who was illegitimate, the right to use his father’s name. Others have suggested it reflected his interest in the Enlightenment ideals of democracy and universal education.
Smithson died in 1829, and six years later, President Andrew Jackson announced the bequest to Congress. On July 1, 1836, Congress accepted the legacy bequeathed to the nation and pledged the faith of the United States to the charitable trust. In September 1838, Smithson’s legacy, which amounted to more than 100,000 gold sovereigns, was delivered to the mint at Philadelphia. Recoined in U.S. currency, the gift amounted to more than $500,000. 
After eight years of sometimes heated debate, an Act of Congress signed by President James K. Polk on Aug. 10, 1846, established the Smithsonian Institution.


Below  are some of the artifacts from the Smithsonian. Visit


Celebration of the
200th Anniversary of
Lincoln's Birth


At six feet four inches tall, Lincoln towered over most of his contemporaries. He
chose to stand out even more by wearing high top hats. He  acquired this hat from
J. Y. Davis, a Washington hat maker. Lincoln had the black silk mourning band added in remembrance of his son Willie. No one knows when he obtained the hat, or how often he wore it. The last time he put it on was to go to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.



The Star Spangled Banner 
Remnants of the Flag that Inspired
Francis Scott Key to write our National Anthem
At the Smithsonian Institute


 On September 14, 1814, U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of those “broad stripes and bright stars” inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that eventually became the United States national anthem. Key’s words gave new significance to a national symbol and started a tradition through which generations of Americans have invested the flag with their own meanings and memories.
War of 1812 & The Star Spangled Banner

The British entered Chesapeake Bay on August 19, 1814 and in just 5 days invaded and captured the young Republic's Capital, burning down both the Capitol and White House with flames visible 40 miles away in Baltimore next to be attacked.

The "war of 1812" was quickly coming to a sad end.  Earlier in 1813 US Maj. George Armistead   the commander of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Maryland asked for a flag so big  "the British would have no trouble seeing it from a distance." The summer of 1813, Mary Pickersgill (1776–1857) was contracted to sew two flags for Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. The one that became the Star-Spangled Banner was a 30 x 42–foot garrison flag; the other was a 17 x 25–foot storm flag for use in inclement weather.  

During the attack of Baltimore the townsfolk asked a young, 35 years old, attorney, Mr. Key, for his assistance in obtaining the release of the town physician, Dr. William Beanes, who was being held as a prisoner aboard a British ship.  Mr. Key along with Col. John Skinner, an agent for prisoner exchange,  sailed under a flag of truce 3 September.  Producing a pouch of letters from wounded British prisoners praising their care which Dr. Beanes provided, they were able to secure his release.

A decisive sea attack was soon to be launched by the British and  the American party was not allowed to return  having seen the enemy's  preparations. The British began a bombardment of Fort McHenry which lasted 25 hours, firing bombshells weighing as much as 220 pounds.*

Seeing the flag still flying at day break, the attorney, Francis Scott Key, an amateur poet, wrote on the back of a letter while sailing back to Baltimore and later in his lodgings at the Indian Queen Hotel the poem which became our National Anthem.  It was printed in the Baltimore Patriot September 20th, and in the Baltimore American the next day followed by  a dozen more newspapers in the following weeks.
Francis Scott Key was a well-known attorney in his day, but he was also an amateur poet. His most famous poem, written with the tune of a popular British song, was originally entitled “the Defense of Fort M’Henry”. When formally connected to the music, a few days after the battle in 1814, it was rechristened “The Star-Spangled Banner” which became our national anthem in 1931.
Mount Rushmore
Black Hills, South Dakota
The Presidents were selected
on the basis of what each symbolized.
George Washington represents the struggle for independence.
Thomas Jefferson the idea of government by the people.
Abraham Lincoln for his ideas on equality and the permanent union of the states.
Theodore Roosevelt for the 20th century role of the United States in world affairs.
Register and Register
Family & Friends
"If the people fail to vote, a government will be developed
which is not their government. The whole system of
American Government rests on the ballot box. Unless
citizens perform their duties there, such a system of
government is doomed to failure."
Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the USA.