America on the Move

Exhibit scene depicting the first cross-country car trip

This major exhibition examines how transportation—from 1876 to 1999—has shaped our American identity from a mostly rural nation into a major economic power, forged a sense of national unity, delivered consumer abundance, and encouraged a degree of social and economic mobility unlike that of any other nation of the world.

Arranged chronologically and through 19 sections, historical settings include the coming of the railroad to a California town in 1876, the role of the streetcar and the automobile in creating suburbs outside of cities, and the transformation of a U.S. port with the introduction of containerized shipping in the 1960s.

Among the 300 objects on view, highlights include:

  • “Jupiter,” a steam-powered locomotive built in 1876 for the Santa Cruz Railroad
  • 260-ton “1401” locomotive, which pulled President Franklin Roosevelt's funeral train on part of its journey to Washington, D.C.
  • 1903 Winton, the first car driven across the U.S.—by H. Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker, with Bud the Dog as a passenger
  • 1926 Ford Model T Roadster
  • 1942 Harley-Davidson motorcycle
  • Chicago Transit Authority “L” mass transit car built in 1959
  • A piece of U.S. Route 66, the “People's Highway,” that connected Chicago to Los Angeles

Online Exhibition

Journey though the history of the United States to learn how transportation changed American lives and landscapes. See behind-the-scenes stories about collecting and preparing objects for the exhibition. Discover hundreds of objects in our transportation collections. Visit the website.