In 1776 Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence on this portable desk of his own design.
Politics and Voting
Examine collections of the Museum's key resources on major themes in American history and social studies teaching. Additional resources can be found in the main search areas of the website.
Explore politics and voting with your students this election year.
Resource Type(s): Primary Sources, Interactives & Media,
Duration: 7 Minutes
Date Posted: 2/5/2014
A short video, this one is great as a lesson opener! "Political Comic Books" is the fourth episode in the NMAH webseries "Founding Fragments." Join host Tory Altman for a behind-the-scenes look at some of our most intriguing and little-known objects. Hear personal interviews with curators and get a glimpse into non-public spaces at the museum. This episode focuses on a special set of items in our Political History Collection: comic books that were turned out by presidential campaigns starting in the 1930s. Not your traditional comics, they still present men like Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman as real American heros. One of many episodes available on YouTube.
Resource Type(s): Artifacts, Primary Sources,
Date Posted: 9/3/2008
In January 1917, members of the National Woman's Party (NWP) became the first people to picket the White House. Protesting the government's failure to pass a constitutional amendment enfranchising women, NWP members, led by Alice Paul, began picketing the White House. Their purple, white, and gold banners asked President Woodrow Wilson, "Mr. President what will you do for woman suffrage?" and "Mr. President how long must women wait for liberty?" Tolerated at first, the "silent sentinels" were increasingly seen as an embarrassment to the administration. As the United States entered the First World War, the NWP pickets' banners often pointed out the hypocrisy of fighting for democracy and freedom in Europe while denying it to women at home. In June 1917, the D.C. police began arresting picketers for obstructing sidewalk traffic. Over 150 women were sentenced to terms ranging from 60 days to six months in the Occoquan Workhouse. When their demands to be treated as political prisoners were ignored, they went on hunger strikes and were forcibly fed. The publicity surrounding their ordeal generated public sympathy for the suffragists and their cause.
In December, 1917, at a meeting in their honor, the pickets who had been jailed were presented with small silver pins in the shape of prison doors with heart-shaped locks. The National Museum of American History owns three "Jailed for Freedom" pins that belonged to Lucille Calmes, Amelia Walker, and Alice Paul.
The nineteenth amendment to the Constitution enfranchising women was ratified in August 1920.
Use this Investigation Sheet to guide students through describing the object and analyzing its meaning.
Resource Type(s): Interactives & Media, Lessons & Activities,
Duration: 7 Minutes
Date Posted: 3/1/2012
Learn more about the American voting system using short videos, mini-activities, and practice questions in this segment of Preparing for the Oath: U.S. History and Civics for Citizenship. The seven questions included in this segment cover constitutional amendments about voting, political parties, and when Americans elect their president.
This site was designed with the needs of recent immigrants in mind. It is written at a “low-intermediate” ESL level.
Resource Type(s): Reference Materials,
Date Posted: 9/8/2008
This online exhibition examines the history of the American presidency. Through the use of objects from the museum's extensive collection, an interactive timeline and interactive activities, students will study the realities of the presidency, from its origins to the present, as well as the lives of the men who have held the office.
Resource Type(s): Primary Sources, Interactives & Media, Lessons & Activities,
Date Posted: 11/8/2009
This object-based learning activity revolves around an 1898 Standard Voting Machine, the fight against voting fraud and the extension of voting rights in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Students will learn how voting technology was used to democratize the voting process in the United States. After exploring the Voting Machine and its importance as a source of historical information, students will visit the forum section of the site to hear NMAH curators and historians discuss the object and then use what they have learned to complete the Virtual Exhibit Activity.
This resource is included in The Object of History, a cooperative project between the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and George Mason University's Center for History and New Media.
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Resource Type(s): Reference Materials,
Date Posted: 8/18/2008
In this online exhibition, students will explore the history of voting methods in the United States, study how ballots and voting systems have evolved over the years as a response to political, social, and technological change, transforming the ways in which Americans vote. The exhibit includes sections on paper ballots, reform, the gear & lever voting machine, Florida 2000, and present and future ballots.
Resource Type(s): Lessons & Activities,
Duration: 45 Minutes
Date Posted: 12/17/2012
Explore the American presidency and elections in these four activities from Smithsonian Education’s Art to Zoo. Each of the four activities focuses on a different skill in social studies: examining maps, using timelines, studying collections, and using primary sources. The activities are enhanced with printable handouts for students, discussion questions for the class, and suggestions for additional resources.