101 Objects That Made America & My 10

The American buffalo.  Polio Vaccine.  Marian Anderson’s fur coat.   The Predator drone. Singer sewing machine.  The AIDs Quilt. These are among the 101 objects selected by Smithsonian Magazine editors and featured in its special collector’s issue. Curators culled these from the Institute’s vast archives holding of 137 million  artifacts either on display or stored among its 19 museums and research centers.

I found the stories fascinating. Representing history, wildlife, clothing, written accounts, photographs and more the 101 celebrates icons that made America.

I can’t imagine how they picked 101. I had enough trouble choosing 10 that spoke to me as symbols of American history and culture.

They are:

1. A life preserver from 1869 that saved explorer John Wesley Powell  when he explored the Grand Canyon by river. A fun account told from the life jacket’s perspective.

2. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s robe.  Poignant words from our nation’s first woman Supreme Court Justice.

3. Lincoln’s Top Hat  from 1865. Already a tall guy (6’4”), Lincoln wore these everywhere.

4. Susan B. Anthony’s Gavel101-Objects-Power-Susan-B-Anthony-Gavel-38-300 was given to her in 1888 by the National Woman  Suffrage Association, an organization she co-founded.  We have much to thank these early pioneers.

5. Levi jeans, 1873.  Where would we be without denim?

6. Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”  I’ve always felt this song should be the national anthem.

7. Barbie. 1959.  She’s endured; has changed careers, boyfriends, and cars.  Maybe not the best symbol of the women’s movement, but an icon that I remember loving as a child.

8. Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers.  101-Objects-Happiness-Ruby-Slippers-74-300There’s no place like home.

9. The National Zoo’s Giant Panda, China’s global ambassadors. 101-Objects-America-Panda-86-300

10. In the 1960’s , the Pill changed the world.

So what objects would you pick?


About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
This entry was posted in collections, commentary, History, Museums, galleries and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to 101 Objects That Made America & My 10

  1. I like your 10! I too struggle with the ‘image’ of Barbie — but remember her from my youth, and from my daughter’s growing years.


  2. Colline says:

    I love denim and when I am not working that is what I wear 🙂


  3. My Schwinn bicycle, which took me all over town when I was in grammar school. The Schwinn was the symbol of freedom to me.


  4. a-hem, so I’m Canadian as you know, eh? But I’ll give this a shot: apple pie, hotdogs, woodstock concert, biscuits and gravy, universal studios, blues & country music, cadilac … oh wait, was I supposed to look at the list? 😉


  5. I agree with your ten. Wow what a hard decision. I just saw a PBS piece on Audubon and have a better appreciation of his works_ Audubon Plate. Marian Anderson’s Fur Coat has such historical significance. Nat Turner’s Bible and of course Langston Hughes “The colored Soldier” for my serious side. The fun side chooses the Wonder Woman Comic, The Mash Sign and Chuck Berry’s Guitar. These bring back fun memories. American Bandstand, all those beach movies that featured rock and roll and Linda Carter. Thanks.


  6. Love yours but I kinda like the Remington typewriter – I refused to learn how to type thinking I’d be relegated to the typing pool a la Mad Men…now I wish I had!


    • I touch type– course in high school– afraid it might be replaced by something that is easier to use with thumbs bc of Iphones, etc. Don’t want to learn something new!

      On Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 8:39 PM, cyclingrandma


  7. Never thought of it before, but Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land would indeed be a perfect national anthem!


  8. I have to add music, especially soul, blues, rock and folk. Well, I guess you covered some of folk with Woody Guthrie, but American popular music has spread to more countries round the world than any other American thing. I made that up, but I’ll bet it’s true! And let’s not forget the songs of the 30’s and 40’s – Gershwin, Berlin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, musicals in general, it goes on and on…


  9. Leah says:

    What a great post and I can’t wait to check out what else is on the Smithsonian’s list. Not sure of its on there, but I’d say the personal computer really changed America in so many ways.


  10. Great list! I finally got to see the ruby slippers this past spring at the Smithsonian in DC. It was wonderful! And they are so little!


  11. ShimonZ says:

    It was very interesting reading your picks. When I saw the title, I thought… not something that would matter to me… but reading your list brought many other thoughts to mind, primarily about the influence of the USA on the whole world. Such a short history… and yet, your country has really changed the world.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s