Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project

This website is based on an exhibition that opened at the National Museum of American History in July 2015. Objects pictured here may differ from those currently on view at the museum.

Object Project examines how the interplay of people, innovative things, and social change have shaped life as we know it. Explore Object Project through four lenses: 

Ready-to-Wear Clothes = Opportunity


Ready-to-Wear Clothes

By the 1890s, both men and women were able to buy off-the-rack clothing in department stores and mail-order catalogs that was mass-produced in the same styles at different price levels. Americans began to dress more alike, obscuring the differences between them. 

Household hits = transformation


Household Hits

Americans have long been on the lookout for innovative things, especially household conveniences they could use to transform their lives. These things and the people who adopted them shaped—and continue to shape—everyday life, for better or worse.

Bicycles = Liberation



From the 1880s to the 1910s, Americans took to the wheel, sparking a nationwide bicycle craze. In the era before automobiles, bicycles were a means of affordable personal mobility. Americans awheel went to new places and felt differently about themselves.

Refrigerators = happiness



In the 1930s, Americans began to think differently about what they ate and how they spent their time. Increasingly, they gave up their unreliable iceboxes for newly affordable electric refrigerators. By the 1960s, they were buying ever-larger models with spacious freezers.


Download the Object Project teaching poster