Object Project

Postwar potluck: Grilling out, convenience cooking, and other 1950s food trends

For the third installment of our Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project potluck series, we embraced 1950s cooking. We found recipes influenced by the end of World War II rationing, an ongoing interest in convenience, and the growing peacetime prosperity and leisure that many, though not all, Americans enjoyed. Here are just a few of the trends we noticed:

Becoming "Louise the Wheelwoman"

"Meet the Wheelwoman" is an interactive theater program created in conjunction with a new learning space at the museum, the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object ProjectI play the role of Louise, a fictional female character, as I ride a restored 1898 antique safety bicycle from the museum's hands-on teaching collection. You can usually find me on the first floor of the museum, in the new Innovation Wing or in the Constitution Avenue lobby.

Parties for plastic: How women used Tupperware to participate in business

For Women's History Month, we're taking a look at some of the ways that American women have made their place in the marketplace by participating in business and consumption. Brownie Wise was not only a rare female executive in the 1950s, but she also developed a sales plan for Tupperware that allowed men and women across the country to make money marketing and selling the new plastic products from their own homes.

Wheelwoman "Louise" rolls into the museum

The year is 1895. Louise Gibson and her bicycle, Sylvia, are at the forefront of the bicycle craze sweeping America in the late 19th century. Louise has just ridden in from the recently established railroad town of Takoma Park to visit the nation's capital and the Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall for the day. To Louise, the bicycle boom represents new opportunities for women like herself.

A taste of wartime rationing in 1940s product cookbooks

The Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project team had a variety of reactions, taste-wise, to the 1930s recipes that we concocted a few months ago. However, we all agreed that the experience was valuable in another way: it highlighted some facets of 1930s life that we may not have appreciated otherwise.

Watching the Super Bowl like it's 1967

For Super Bowl 50, we're sharing some 1960s objects from the museum's collections to add a little retro flare to any game watching party today.

First, what to wear in honor of Super Bowl's 50th year? A "Souper" dress for the Super Bowl. This mod paper dress with a Campbell's Soup pattern was wearable pop art that could be donned a few times and then discarded. Besides looking "M'm! M'm! Good!", it fits right in with the ads on television.

Learning about historical innovations through a classic American game show

The Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project is a new learning space in the museum's innovation wing that explores "everyday things that changed everything." Inspired by one of America's favorite game shows, The Price is Right, the Taylor Foundation Object Project team created a version of the game that challenges visitors to guess the prices of common household items from the 1820s to the 1990s.

Not just a cool convenience: How electric refrigeration shaped the "cold chain"

Electric refrigeration motivated Americans to rethink how they purchased, prepared, and stored food when it first took off in the 1930s. Refrigerators continue to play a central role in our daily lives; 99.5 percent of all American households have one. I spoke with Colorado State University–Pueblo historian and author Jonathan Rees, who explains why refrigeration became a phenomenon in America—and why we might not even realize the extent of its impact.

Tasting the 1930s: An experiment with congealed salads and other one-dish wonders

The members of the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project team have been poring over authentic period cookbooks as research for the refrigerators section of this new learning space. We cringed at the varied uses of gelatin; we marveled at the elegant radish roses. Finally, we decided to put the recipes into practice. We each selected one from the Product Cookbook Collection of the museum's Archives Center.

Bicycles have changed, but fellowship remains

One of the most popular photo opportunities in the museum's new innovation wing can be found in the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Projecta pair of high wheel bicycle models that visitors can try on for size. They're located in a section of the new learning space that explores how Americans used bicycles for personal liberation. A phenomenon that became a nationwide craze from the 1880s to the 1910s, bicycling was an affordable means of mobility, leisure, and freedom.