Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Read a message from our director, and check our website and social media for updates.

Fun Facts for Kids

The Museum is filled with all sorts of things that Americans have used at home, work, and play. By looking closely at this stuff we can learn a lot about people who lived before us. Here are some of the things in our collection and some of the things we know about them.

Greensboro Lunch Counter (1960)

In 1960, four African American college students sat down at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, and asked to be served. In many parts of the country at that time, African Americans and other people of color were denied service solely on the basis of race. The students’ brave stand against injustice inspired others of all ages to fight for equal rights.

President Abraham Lincoln's Top Hat (1865)

Where do you keep notes to yourself and papers that you want to keep handy? President Lincoln tucked important papers inside his top hat. According to tradition, this is the hat he wore on the night of April 14, 1865 when he went to Ford's Theater.

John Bull Steam Locomotive (1831)

The John Bull, named for the British equivalent of Uncle Sam, was one of the first successful “locomotive steam engines” in the United States. In 1831, it arrived from England in pieces packed in crates-without assembly instructions! Although Isaac Dripps, a 19-year old American mechanic, had never seen a locomotive before, he and his crew had the John Bull reassembled and running in just 10 days.

Julia Child's Kitchen (2001)

Through her cookbooks and cooking shows, Julia Child introduced millions of Americans to classic French ways of preparing and enjoying food. Many of her television programs were filmed in this kitchen, which she donated to the Museum in 2001. Because Julia Child was over six feet tall, she had the countertops built two inches higher than usual to make her workspace more comfortable.

Skeleton of the racehorse Lexington (1875)

Lexington was the most famous horse in 19th-century America. He was so fast that in 1855, he ran his most important race against the clock—not another horse! Lexington ran four miles in 7 minutes, 19 and 3/4 seconds, setting a world speed record that would stand for twenty years.