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American History Programs
Patrick Henry: The Forgotten Founding Father

Though he was enormously influential in his time, Patrick Henry’s accomplishments—other than his one great line “Give me liberty or give me death”—were subsequently all but forgotten. Historian Jon Kukla, author of a new biography of Henry, discusses why he finds that obscurity is less then deserved, and why his contributions to the nation’s early years merit more attention.

Date
Tuesday, August 22, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Smithsonian Sleepover at the American History Museum

Family Program: (Ages 8 to 12) Go on an interactive exploration of the American History Museum. Then roll out your sleeping bag and dream away in the darkened halls of one of the world’s most famous museums!

Date
Friday, August 25, 2017 - 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.
The Historic C&O Canal
All-Day Tour

Today, the C&O Canal National Historical Park is the ninth-most-visited site within the National Park System, with more visitors annually than signature parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, or the Grand Canyon. Spend a summer day along—and on the C&O Canal, learning about its colorful history—and meeting several of its charismatic mules!

Date
Thursday, August 31, 2017 - 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Jazz Age: Rhythms of History

The term Jazz Age conjures colorful images of a flamboyant anything-goes culture that characterized the 1920s. Little wonder that jazz music, with its improvisation syncopation, and strong rhythm was the era’s soundtrack.  Learn about the origins, nature, and legacy of the 1920s—underscored by period jazz recordings, of course—with historian and scholar Michele L. Simms-Burton.

Date
Saturday, September 9, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Historic Chestertown and a Cruise on the Schooner Sultana
All-Day Tour

Regional historian Hayden Mathews explores the rich heritage of this lovely Eastern Shore town, focusing on both land and sea. The day includes a cruise on a replica of an 18th century vessel, as well as an historic-district walking tour guided by Chestertown’s mayor.

Date
Sunday, September 10, 2017 - 8:00 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.
The Capital of Espionage: Washington’s Spy Sites

The trail of espionage in and around the nation's capital traces back more than 200 years to spymaster George Washington’s study at Mount Vernon. This evening, spy histories spanning the Civil War to today are uncovered in true stories that put even the best spy fiction to shame!

Date
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
The Golden Age of Steam: Strasburg Rail Excursion and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
All-Day Tour

Climb on board with railroad historian Joseph Nevin for a steam train excursion through the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside and an afternoon at one of America's finest rail museums.

Date
Saturday, September 16, 2017 - 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Alaska at 150: The Big Land and the United States

On March 30, 1867, Russia and the United States signed the Treaty of Cession and this country acquired the Alaska Territory, which became, in 1959, our 49th state. In this entertaining and informative all-day program, learn about the early history of Alaska and the role the Smithsonian played in making it part of the U.S. With Alaskan-style lunch.

Date
Saturday, September 16, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
American Novels of the ’20s
4-Session Evening Course

If you love discovering (or re-discovering) a book and sharing it with a friend, here’s a chance to do both by reading and discussing some iconic works of 1920s American literature, including novels by such groundbreaking writers like Ernest Hemingway and Willa Cather.

Date
Monday, September 18, October 16, November 13, December 18, 2017 – 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
The Supreme Court: A Preview of the New Term

Spend a morning getting a rare behind-the-scenes look at the Supreme Court—including the courtroom where cases are argued. Then, a panel of top legal experts previews the issues that will come before the court when the new session begins in October.

Date
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The Myth of the Lost Cause: How Civil War History Was Rewritten

The Southern-created Myth of the Lost Cause has shadowed the historical remembrance of the Civil War, the country's watershed event. Historian Ed Bonekemper critically examines the accuracy of that myth and how it has affected perceptions of slavery, states' rights, and the nature of the conflict itself.

Date
Saturday, September 23, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Historic Chestertown and a Cruise on the Schooner Sultana
All-Day Tour

Regional historian Hayden Mathews explores the rich heritage of this lovely Eastern Shore town, focusing on both land and sea. The day includes a cruise on a replica of an 18th century vessel, as well as an historic-district walking tour guided by Chestertown’s mayor.

Date
Sunday, September 24, 2017 - 8:00 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.
War of 1812: Out of History’s Shadows

The War of 1812’s significance to the course of American history has long been overshadowed by the conflicts that bookend it: the American Revolution and the Civil War. Historian Richard Bell explains why the War of 1812 was, in fact, nothing short of a watershed event in the young republic’s life.

Date
Monday, September 25, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Great Escapes: How Spies, Hostages, and Assets Survive and Get Out Alive
4-Session Daytime Course

Escape-room challenges are popular among fans of spy thrillers, but what if your life actually depended on the result? Be regaled by experts familiar with life-or-death operations conducted in such places as Iran and Moscow in this series exploring memorable escapes, rescues, and evasions from the 1970s through today.

Date
Wednesday, September 27 to October 18, 2017 – 10:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
American Women in Politics: Did Suffrage Matter?

Nearly a century after the 19th Amendment was ratified, it is worth asking whether having the women’s vote has made a significant difference in American politics. Historian Elisabeth Griffith, a biographer of suffrage pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, reviews women’s political engagement from marching for the vote to campaigning for (or against) a woman for president.

Date
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Glimpses of Old Arlington
All-Day Tour

From the pre-Revolutionary era to the Civil War to the Great Depression and the postwar boom, Arlington County has always been a canvas for American history. Get a surprising look at the suburbs you think you know when you join historian Kathryn Holt Springston for a tour that uncovers the area’s rich heritage.

Date
Sunday, October 1, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The Sputnik Years

When a Russian rocket lofted Sputnik 1 into orbit on October 4, 1957, the Space Age—and the Space Race—had begun. Explore the events leading up to Sputnik's launch, the political fallout that led to America's response (Explorer 1), the formation of NASA, and the role that everyday citizens played in tracking the first satellites.

Date
Wednesday, October 4, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Kayaking the Potomac: A New View of the Capital
Weekend Tour

Experience some of Washington’s most distinctive landmarks from a different perspective—a kayak on the Potomac. Judy Lathrop, a certified interpretive guide and kayak instructor, weaves together urban, cultural, and natural history to create a unique portrait of the capital city, its people, and its most famous river. 

Date
Saturday, October 14, 2017 - 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Tales and Tombstones: Walk in Rock Creek Cemetery
Weekend Tour

Rock Creek Cemetery is one of the area’s most historic sites, a place that tells eloquent stories about the past. Historian and guide Jeanne Fogle leads a walking tour—and tells some of those tales.

Date
Saturday, October 14, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Tales and Tombstones: Walk in Rock Creek Cemetery
Weekend Tour

Rock Creek Cemetery is one of the area’s most historic sites, a place that tells eloquent stories about the past. Historian and guide Jeanne Fogle leads a walking tour—and tells some of those tales.

Date
Saturday, October 14, 2017 - 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Kayaking the Potomac: A New View of the Capital
Weekend Tour

Experience some of Washington’s most distinctive landmarks from a different perspective—a kayak on the Potomac. Judy Lathrop, a certified interpretive guide and kayak instructor, weaves together urban, cultural, and natural history to create a unique portrait of the capital city, its people, and its most famous river. 

Date
Saturday, October 14, 2017 - 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The Battle of Cedar Creek
All-Day Tour

Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley was both a crucial invasion route and the breadbasket for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and as a result, it was a much-fought-over region. Join author and historian Garrett Peck on a daylong tour of the last major battle in the Shenandoah Valley.

Date
Sunday, October 15, 2017 - 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Kayaking the Potomac: A New View of the Capital
Weekend Tour

Experience some of Washington’s most distinctive landmarks from a different perspective—a kayak on the Potomac. Judy Lathrop, a certified interpretive guide and kayak instructor, weaves together urban, cultural, and natural history to create a unique portrait of the capital city, its people, and its most famous river. 

Date
Sunday, October 15, 2017 - 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Tales and Tombstones: Walk in Arlington National Cemetery
Weekend Tour

Arlington National Cemetery is one of the area’s most historic sites, a place that tells eloquent stories about the past. Historian and guide Jeanne Fogle leads a walking tour—and tells some of those tales.

Date
Sunday, October 15, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Tales and Tombstones: Walk in Arlington National Cemetery
Weekend Tour

Arlington National Cemetery is one of the area’s most historic sites, a place that tells eloquent stories about the past. Historian and guide Jeanne Fogle leads a walking tour—and tells some of those tales.

Date
Sunday, October 15, 2017 - 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Kayaking the Potomac: A New View of the Capital
Weekend Tour

Experience some of Washington’s most distinctive landmarks from a different perspective—a kayak on the Potomac. Judy Lathrop, a certified interpretive guide and kayak instructor, weaves together urban, cultural, and natural history to create a unique portrait of the capital city, its people, and its most famous river. 

Date
Sunday, October 15, 2017 - 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Baseball’s First Golden Age

During the sports-crazed ’20s, baseball established itself as the true national pastime—and a modern game entering a golden age. Join John McMurray, chair of the Deadball Era Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research for an examination of how that came about and an evaluation of this remarkable decade of change in baseball history.

Date
Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Chasing the Ghost of the China Clipper
All-Day Tour

Led by transportation expert Scott Hercik, learn about the beginning of trans-Pacific commercial aviation and the four-engine flying boats, the legendary Clipper line that pioneered the launch, during this visit to the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum.

Date
Saturday, October 21, 2017 - 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
How Manhattan Became an Isle of Joy

Historian Mike Wallace takes a fascinating look at the confluence of social, economic, and creative forces that transformed New York City in the 1920s into a cultural mecca. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the rides at Coney Island, there was something for everyone.

Date
Monday, October 23, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
The Potomac Eagle: A Rail Ride Through the Trough
All-Day Tour

Squeezed between two Appalachian ridges, the south branch of the Potomac cuts through a narrow wooded West Virginia canyon known as the Trough. Traverse it with rail historian Joe Nevin on a tour that includes a 3 1/2-hour excursion on the diesel-powered Potomac Eagle along the route of the South Branch Valley Railroad from Petersburg to Romney.

Date
Saturday, October 28, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The Secret Revolution: Espionage, 1776 Style

Learn how George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and other leaders of the American Revolution used espionage, covert action, and other techniques to trick the British.  David Robarge, chief historian at the CIA, explores the secrets of the Revolutionary War.

Date
Monday, October 30, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Written Out of History

In the earliest days of our nation, a handful of unsung heroes—including women, slaves, and an Iroquois chief—pioneered the ideas that led to the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers, and the eventual abolition of slavery. Their largely forgotten stories are given a deserved airing by Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

Date
Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Analyzing President Trump’s First Year: Twelve Months Unlike Any Other

On the 1-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s election, experts from media and politics offer a measured examination of the changes President Trump has brought and how the political landscape has changed in 12 tumultuous months.

Date
Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Harpers Ferry: American History in Brilliant Color
All-Day Tour

Grab your hiking boots and camera and take in the autumn beauty—and the local history—during an excursion led by historian Garrett Peck.

Date
Saturday, November 4, 2017 - 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
From Swamp to Swank: A Walk Through Washington’s Gilded Age
Morning Tour

A guided walk through the Dupont Circle neighborhood provides glimpses of Washington’s social and architectural emergence from the post-Civil War years into the Gilded Age. Pass grand homes and visit other residences of the era including Heurich House and Anderson House.

Date
Wednesday, November 8, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
From Swamp to Swank: A Walk Through Washington’s Gilded Age
Morning Tour

A guided walk through the Dupont Circle neighborhood provides glimpses of Washington’s social and architectural emergence from the post-Civil War years into the Gilded Age. Pass grand homes and visit other residences of the era including Heurich House and Anderson House.

Date
Saturday, November 11, 2017 - 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
From Swamp to Swank: A Walk Through Washington’s Gilded Age
Morning Tour

A guided walk through the Dupont Circle neighborhood provides glimpses of Washington’s social and architectural emergence from the post-Civil War years into the Gilded Age. Pass grand homes and visit other residences of the era including Heurich House and Anderson House.

Date
Friday, November 17, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.