Americans have always been a people on the move—on rails, roads, and waterways (for travel through the air, visit the National Air and Space Museum). In the transportation collections, railroad objects range from tools, tracks, and many train models to the massive 1401, a 280-ton locomotive built in 1926. Road vehicles include coaches, buggies, wagons, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and automobiles—from the days before the Model T to modern race cars. The accessories of travel are part of the collections, too, from streetlights, gas pumps, and traffic signals to goggles and overcoats.
In the maritime collections, more than 7,000 design plans and scores of ship models show the evolution of sailing ships and other vessels. Other items range from scrimshaw, photographs, and marine paintings to life jackets from the Titanic.
"Transportation - Overview" showing 1 items.
- Pound for pound, ambergris was the most valuable product produced by the whale. It was—and is—also the rarest and most enigmatic whale product. An opaque, waxy substance from a sperm whale’s intestines, it was found occasionally in the stomachs of whales being processed on whale ships. More commonly, it was found floating on the surface of the world’s oceans or washed up on the shore in pieces that could weigh several hundred pounds. It was used by western cultures as a fixative to prolong the scent of perfumes into the later 20th century.
- But why it is formed—and from which end of a sperm whale it is expelled—remains unknown. Fragments of squid beaks are often found inside the pieces, and some scientists believe that ambergris forms around the sharp, indigestible squid beaks to prevent irritating or cutting a whale’s intestines. Others consider it the cetacean equivalent of human gallstones.
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center