Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Inside the National Museum of American History - Part 1

We had 'boys' with us (hubs and father-in-law) so naturally enough we started off looking around the transport section of the museum, which I also enjoyed I might add. Those trains were amazing.
Below is the Steam Locomotive Jupiter made in Philadelphia in 1876. Juper was the Santa Cruz Railroad's third locomotive. Built for narrow-gauge track (36 inches between rails), Jupiter became obsolete in 1883 when the line switched to standard gauge (56-1/2 inches). Jupiter was sold to Guatemala, where it hauled bananas for more than 60 years. In 1976 it came to the Smithsonian as part of the United States Bicentennial Exhibition. When I remember I take photos of the historical information at each exhibit and read them when I get back home. I remember more this way. That is how I got my information.

I enjoyed the sculptures at various exhibits, people dressed as they would have been during that time.

Unfortunately I didn't get the information on this locomotive but I will next time I go.

This photo doesn't show you much as I was more interested in the horse sculpture, but he is pulling a Kramer Farm Wagon from 1925. Farmers wagons served many purposes. They picked up and delivered goods and also served as passenger vehicles when benches of extra wagon seats were added in 1926, despite the growing use of automobiles more than 200,000 wagons were manufactured and millions were still in use around the country.

This gentleman is a Pullman Porter. In the 1920's the Pullman Company was the largest single employee of African American men. From the 1870's through the 1960's, tens of thousands worked for Pullman as sleeping-car porters. The feeling of sleeping-car luxury came from the porter. He "made-down' berths at night and "made-up" berths into seating in the morning, helped with luggage and answered passengers calls at any hour. Working 400 hours a month, porters earned wages better than most African Americans, but degrading conditions helped lead to the founding of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925.

The photo below was taken in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1927. In the community: although they were servants on the job, at home they were respected members of their communities. Porters traveled extensively and connected their communities to a wider world. From the 1920's to the 1940's porters helped southern blacks migrate by bringing back information on jobs and housing in the North. Porters were also involved in civil rights activity. Pullman Porter E. D. Nixon helped plan the Montgomery-Alabama bus boycott of 1955-56. Union leader A. Philip Randolph pressured Franklyn Roosevelt into issuing Executive Order 8802 in 1941. It barred discrimination in defense industries and created the Fair Employment Practices Committee. Later Randolph was involved in planning the 1963 civil rights march on Washington DC.
The Railroad Conductor's job involved more than collecting tickets. He was the "captain" of the train. He supervised other train crew, looked out for the safety of everyone aboard and made sure every passenger paid the correct fare. The engineer was responsible for signals and speed restrictions enroute, but the conductor determined when a train could safely depart a station and was in charge of emergencies. The conductor's role as chief of the train came from maritime tradition. Many conductors on the first American railroads in the 1830's had been steamboat or coastal packet captains.

The last photo shows Conductor John W. Zimmer greeting a passenger in Burlington, Iowa in 1925.


  1. Looks like a great trip back in time. I love it when museums can create the feeling of experiencing the past.

  2. wow Denise!
    Very informative post!A History lesson!
    Many thanks for sharing!
    Now I will come back to this post to read more and enjoy all pictures!
    Kind REgards
    Léia :-)

  3. What an interesting post, I enjoyed every picture. The photos of the sculptures was just great, thank you for sharing these with us.

  4. What a fascinating post!
    I bet the Jupiter was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works whose tall smoke stack stood proudly over the 30th St. Station rail yards as I was growing up. Still there?
    Aloha from (trainless- for NOW) Honolulu

  5. Well I just love trains, so the museum would be somewhere I would enjoy immensely. When I was young, I used to go trian spotting most every weekend, those old chugging steam locomotives were fascinating .
    I love your pictures, and infor about the history !
    Great post denise...

  6. What a great post. I love trains.

  7. Wow! Thank you for taking me on a journey inside the museum. You always visit very interesting places. Have a great day, Denise :).

  8. Looks like a place I shuld take the kids this summer!
    Love museums! and thta horse-I thought it real!

  9. How cool! I would love to visit a place like this with trains. Great photos.

  10. What a great exhibit. I have to see it for myself.

  11. steam engines..always photogenic. does take me back to childhood memories of being dragged around engineering/transport museums! such an ungrateful child, lol

  12. Wow! These photos are very nice, and your added history, very well done. I am sure the "boys" have enjoyed the visit.