History lovers' 10 must-read blog posts of 2014

Judging from our readers' favorite posts, you love Civil War history, aren't very good singers, and can't wait for Downton Abbey to return.

1) 7 things you didn't know about the Star-Spangled Banner

Read over 18,000 times, this post revealed that the 200-year-old flag has a missing sibling, went into hiding during World War II, and will never leave the Smithsonian.

Two staff members wear protective overalls and look at the flag with a flash light


2) 3 Surprising facts about Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman

He was infamous for leaving a wake of destruction through Georgia and South Carolina during the Civil War, but there was much more to the man.

3) Smithsonian curator seeks one storied FFA jacket

The Future Farmers of America (now simply "FFA") have touched communities across the country. Blog readers helped us track down jackets with amazing stories to represent agricultural education in our upcoming American Enterprise exhibition. The selected jackets, including President Jimmy Carter's, will be on display in rotation when the exhibition opens in summer 2015.

4) 150 years after the battle, the story of an African American waiter and the Spotsylvania Stump

Until May 12, 1864, this piece of wood was part of a large oak tree just outside Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia. Early that morning, entrenched Confederates awaited the assault of thousands of Union troops. The same fury that destroyed thousands of combatants in about 20 hours of sustained fighting tore away all but 22 inches of the tree's trunk. For years, soldiers remembered the moment the tree fell, sometime during the grisly night of May 12.

Photograph of a stump with bullet holes

5) Why is the national anthem so hard to sing?

Just be glad we typically don't sing beyond the first stanza. Then, you'd have to tackle challenging phrases, such as "foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes" and "fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?"

6) An American take on the world of Downton Abbey

"Oh, Edith!" This side of the pond, our collections reflect some of the glitz, glamour, and World War I drama seen on the show.

7) Pointers from the flag code just in time for Flag Day

Hat or no hat? Rain or shine? And what to do with a worn-out flag?

8) A nation of savers: The impulse to connect with history through objects, buildings, and sites

Tourists' souvenirs used to be more destructive than today's snow globes and keychains. For example, you'd visit George Washington's Mt. Vernon with the expectation of taking a chunk of the building with you. How'd we get from there to the current preservation movement?

Wooden chunk of the President's house

9) Ten questions with a Muppet maker

We chatted with the co-creator of many of the Jim Henson puppets in our collection. "Børk! Børk! Børk!"

10) May the circle be unbroken: The IBM 360 and the birth of multi-purpose computers

Fifty years ago, you might have used a telegraph line to communicate with an IBM computer.

Blue punch card with numbers

My colleagues on the Blog Team and I look forward to bringing you more awesome blog posts in 2015. Some of the big themes we'll focus on are innovation, the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and President Lincoln's assassination, American business history, and everyday objects (such as bicycles, deodorant, and Suzy Homemaker toys) that reveal social changes in America.

In the meantime, we'd love to hear your ideas for what you want to see on the blog in 2015! Share your thoughts in the comments.

Erin Blasco is an education specialist in the New Media Department. Want to learn more about her work with the blog and social media? Apply for a summer internship with New Media!