Merited behavior: Rewarding the 19th century schoolchild

While some rewards of merit are medallions and pins, most of these rewards are small pieces of paper with either hand-drawn or printed decoration.

Illustrating Prisoners in the Great War

When the United States entered the Great War in 1917, the U.S. Army commissioned eight professional artists to record the activities of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France in an effort to shape popular opinion back home.

It's not heads or tails in the "Game of Thrones"

Even though it's summer in Washington, D.C., winter is coming along with a new season of "Game of Thrones." In honor of this occasion, the staff of the National Numismatic Collection have chosen a selection of coins representative of the noble houses of Westeros.

When real patriots got Tetanus

By the beginning of the 20th century our love of colorful explosions and loud bangs brought with it a scourge: a deadly infection that became known as "patriotic tetanus."

For Roswell Day, a celebration of aliens at the lunch table

Our imaginations have met extraterrestrials of all types. With an amazing variety of looks and intentions, alien life-forms have become some of the most memorable characters in our popular culture.

Weighing the baby

Parents today proudly announce the weight of each new child, along with the baby's height, name, and sex. When did the practice of weighing newborns begin? And why?

Well, that sucks…or does it?

While our pals at the National Air and Space Museum will get excited about the vast vacuum of space, we at American History are geeking out about how a good vacuum was both necessary and fatal for a scientific experiment that demonstrated an important concept in quantum mechanics.

Paul Revere's church bell from "Religion in Early America"

For several decades after the Revolution, Paul Revere was as famous for his church bells as for his midnight ride. While he is often remembered simply as a patriot silversmith, Revere's career and reputation were far more complex during his lifetime.

Dotchin or "opium scale"—What's in a name?

Working with museum collections, I am often reminded that the names we attach to objects can reflect powerful social and political forces. A case in point is the small instrument of ancient Asian tradition that, in popular parlance, became known as the "opium scale" in the late 19th century.

Looking for Liberty in the Nation We Build Together

On June 17, 1885, a French ship, the Isère, arrived in New York Harbor laden with very special cargo—more than 200 crates filled with enormous pieces of copper and iron that, once assembled, would form the towering sculpture dubbed "Liberty Enlightening the World."

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