On June 26, 1974, the supermarket price scanner made its debut in Troy, Ohio, as a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum costing 67 cents and bearing a Uniform Product Code (UPC) was scanned by Marsh Supermarket cashier Sharon Buchanan for customer Clyde Dawson. (The barcoded package of never-chewed gum is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.)
The Smithsonian Institution (/smɪθˈsoʊniən/ smith–SOE-nee-ən), established in 1846 “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” is a group of museums and research centers administered by the United States government. Originally organized as the “United States National Museum,” that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967. Termed “the nation’s attic” for its eclectic holdings of 137 million items,
1994, controversy arose over the exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum associated with display of the Enola Gay, the Superfortress used by the United States to execute the first atomic bombing in World War II. The American Legion and Air Force Association believed the exhibit put forward only one side of the debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that it emphasized the effect on the victims without the overall context of the war. The Smithsonian changed the exhibit, displaying the aircraft only with associated technical data and without discussion of its historic role in the war. A political correct museum or over the top, you decide.
Among the many strange mementos are Warren Harding’s silk pajamas, one of Harry Truman’s bowling pins and a framed display featuring locks of hair cut from the heads of the first 14 presidents, from Washington all the way up to Franklin Pierce.
Some of the stuff that’s been saved is arguably downright macabre, like the top hat that Abraham Lincoln allegedly wore when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre or the cup William McKinley had just sipped from before he, too, was shot.
John Travolta and Jake Gyllenhaal might have enjoyed happy endings in their portrayals of the “Bubble Boy,” but the real story ended tragically in 1984 when 12-year-old David Vetter died in the months following a bone marrow transplant that his doctors had hoped would reverse his severe combined immunodeficiency. This suit is at the museum.
Oct. 4, 1918, the U.S. Army’s 77th Infantry Division was trapped behind German lines. In an effort to assist the division, U.S. troops started firing artillery rounds, only the shells were inadvertently bombarding the very soldiers they were supposed to protect. His first pigeons shot down, the besieged division’s field commander, Maj. Charles Whittlesey, had just one pigeon remaining to try to get a message through: Cher Ami. This stuff bird is at the Smithsonian.
Movies with a Smithsonian twist include the Librarian and The Night at the Museum duo. Honorable mention the opening sequence of Ghostbusters at the library where the library lady morphs into a terrifying ghost.