Today in 1807: Robert E. Lee, Confederate general during the Civil War, is born. He sat in the chair on the left when surrendering to General Grant at the home of Wilmer McLean at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

Union officers recognized the historical significance of the surrender and took pieces of furniture as souvenirs: [ Ow.ly Link ]
Where to find presidential history? This new Smithsonian digital tour will take you right to the top.

Smithsonian Museum Tours

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Today is #MuseumSelfie Day, when our visitors and staff share their favorite museum selfies. But how were selfies taken in the past? Our Photographic History Collection offers some clues. Instead of selfie sticks, photographers made sneaky use of mirrors and strings.

Share your favorite selfie snapped at a museum today!
Yes, we're open on Inauguration Day! Have questions about visiting on or around January 20? Friendly staff members from our Visitor Services team will answer your questions here on Facebook today. Please leave your question in the comments and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

In the meantime, here are tips for your visit on Friday, January 20:

• The museum is free and many of our...
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Today in 1804: The Vigilant Fire Company is founded in Baltimore, Maryland. It operated until the introduction of the paid fire department in 1859. This hat was worn by a firefighter in the company. Colorful hats like this one were helpful at chaotic fire scenes.

That huge eye is the Eye of Providence, or the All-Seeing Eye, which represents an omnipresent gaze, a suitable icon for a...
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45 years ago this month, "EMERGENCY!" debuted on NBC. It brought a new sense of realism to medical drama. Have you seen it?

Reality plus drama equals "EMERGENCY!"

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Today in 1862: West Point graduate Brigadier General David M. Gregg begins his military service. This is one of his eagle-head strap spurs.

On November 29, 1862, he was promoted to brevet Brigadier General and was a commander of a cavalry division under Ulysses Grant and Philip Sheridan. Gregg was involved in major battles such as Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.
Little historians learn about Dr. King's legacy and the importance of character.

Kindergarteners paint a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. with objects

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Today in 1919: The Eighteenth Amendment is ratified. It made the manufacture, transport, and sale of alcohol illegal in the United States. This restriction on the alcohol industry ushered in Prohibition, an era that impacted the social, political, and economic landscapes of America.

Check out this silver cocktail shaker and set from 1924. Shaped like a vase and covered in a hammered surface...
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Visiting us on Inauguration Day? A few tips for your visit on Friday, January 20:

• We will open our Constitution Ave. doors at 8:30 a.m. to provide a warm space and restrooms for visitors. Exhibitions will not be accessible until the museum fully opens at 10 a.m.
• Our National Mall entrance (Madison Drive) will be closed all day.
• There will be no access to the National Mall from the...
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Today in 1865: The Civil War battle of Ft. Fisher takes place.

Tensions erupted between Union and Confederate troops around mid-afternoon. A shattering whistle from the Union fleet signaled the beginning of the assault on Fort Fisher. Waves of Union soldiers advanced on the fort while Confederates rained down artillery and rifle fire. Many fell, but Union troops kept pushing forward.

Ft. Fisher: The beginning of the end

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In March 1776, the Continental Congress voted to create 11 medals honoring heroes of the Revolutionary War. Not only were the medals beautiful, the decision to create them was a diplomatic and public relations win for our young nation: [ S.si.edu Link ]
This plane ticket was issued on today's date in 1959 for jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, America's "First Lady of Song."

Our Fitzgerald archive includes sound recordings, concert programs, photographs, awards and honors, and newspaper clippings.

Ella Fitzgerald Papers, ca. 1935 - 1996, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Visiting us on Inauguration Day? A few tips for your visit on Friday, January 20:

• We will open our Constitution Ave. doors at 8:30 a.m. to provide a warm space and restrooms for visitors. Exhibitions will not be accessible until the museum fully opens at 10 a.m.

• Our National Mall entrance (Madison Drive) will be closed all day.

• There will be no access to the National Mall from the...
View details ⇨
Today in 1919: Luciille Angiel Calmes arrested for woman suffrage demonstration. Her "Jailed for Freedom" pin.

She was sentenced to five days in a District of Columbia jail for participating in a watch fire demonstration on January 13, 1919. The watch fires of freedom marked a return of woman suffrage pickets to the White House. They burned copies of President Woodrow Wilson's speeches in...
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We're getting into the swing of Inauguration Day with a look back at a jazzy evening in Washington, D.C.

Ella at the gala: Ella Fitzgerald's performance at the Kennedy Inaugural Gala

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Today in 1850: This life-car is first used to rescue the stranded British bark Ayrshire.

The ship, most likely filled with Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine, ran aground on a sand bar off the New Jersey shore at Squan Beach, now known as Manasquan. A blinding snow storm made the ocean too dangerous to launch a surfboat, the usual method of rescue, so local lifesavers decided to...
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Today in 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General issues the first federal report linking smoking to ill health. On our blog, curator Jeffrey Stine looks at how tobacco companies tried to market cigarettes throughout the 20th century.

Smoke gets in your eyes: 20th century tobacco advertisements

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