Tag Archive | U.S. Presidents

Object: Pen

I-0022a (13)

I-022a 1-16
Washington, DC
20th Century
Materials: Plastic, Metal, Ink, Wood

This object is a set of fifteen pens with Lyndon Baines Johnson’s name on each one. The pens are individually boxed in gold foil boxes with white lids that also bear the President’s name.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, look on. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, look on. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Presidents often use multiple pens to sign a bill and then give those pens to the people involved in getting the bill passed. There is a famous photograph of President Johnson handing several pens used to sign The Civil Rights Act into law to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is believed that the custom began during Truman’s Presidency. President Obama recently used twenty-two pens to sign the Affordable Health Care Act. President Clinton used forty pens in 1997 to sign the Taxpayer Relief Act. President Lyndon Baines Johnson holds the record for the most pens used to sign a bill. He used seventy-two pens to sign The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

President Johnson was born and raised near Johnson City in the Texas Hill Country. He graduated from what is now known as Texas State University. He worked as a teacher in Cotulla, Texas before serving in the Navy during World War II where he earned a Silver Star Medal. He then served six terms in the House of Representatives before being elected to Congress in 1948. In 1960, Johnson was elected Vice-President along with President John F. Kennedy. After President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Johnson assumed the role of President and was then re-elected for one term as President in 1964.

While we have no information about whether these fifteen pens were used to sign a bill, President Johnson signed many important bills into law during his Presidency, including the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, and the Voting Rights Act, to name a few. Thanks to President Johnson and his Public Broadcasting Act, we have Public Television which brings us educational shows like Sesame Street and NOVA. Because of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, the Head Start Program was created to allow disadvantaged four and five year olds to attend pre-school. The list of his landmark bills is several pages long.

Former President Lyndon Johnson at his ranch in Texas, August 1972. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Former President Lyndon Johnson at his ranch in Texas, August 1972. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Johnson’s term as President was filled with controversy due to the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. Even though he accomplished so much for the American people, his inability to resolve the Vietnam conflict caused him to refuse to run for another term as President. After finishing his term, Johnson moved back to Texas to retire on his ranch in Johnson City. He died on January 22, 1973. [Kim Grosset edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Dallek, Robert. 1991. Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. 

Dallek, Robert. Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. 

Green, Robert P., and Harold E. Cheatham. The American Civil Rights Movement: A Documentary History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.


Object: Photograph

I-0635a (2)









“Steves, Johnson, Tobin HF’68”
Photographer unknown
Materials: Paper and ink

This is a photograph of (from left to right) of Marshall Steves, Lady Bird Johnson, and Robert Tobin. This photo is a copy of the original and was autographed by Lady Bird Johnson: “To Robert Tobin – with memories of an elegant opera and with much appreciation – Lady Bird Johnson.”

Born  in Karnack, Texas on December 22. 1912, Lady Bird Johnson’s given name was Claudia Alta Taylor. Her mother passed away by the time Claudia was five. Sometime after the death of her mother her nursemaid, Alice Tittle, gave Claudia the nickname ‘Lady Bird’, which she went by for the rest of her life. After graduating High School in 1928, Lady Bird attended St. Mary’s Episcopal School for Girls in Dallas. She obtained two bachelors degrees between 1933 & 1934: one in history and one in journalism. She met Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1934 and, after a swift engagement, the couple married in November of the same year.

Lady Bird Johnson, circa 1915

Lady Bird Johnson, circa 1915

Shortly after their marriage, her husband Lyndon ran for political office. After Lyndon won congressional office, the couple moved to Washington D.C. When the United States entered World War II, Lyndon enlisted in the navy. While he was away, Lady Bird managed his office. Two years later, Lady Bird purchased the KTBC radio station in Austin, which eventually grew into a large-scale media company called the LBJ Holding Company. After Lyndon returned from the war, his career advanced to the U.S. Senate and by 1960 he served as Vice President of the United States alongside John F. Kennedy. While President Kennedy’s wife Jacqueline was pregnant, Lady Bird stood in for her at official events. Tragically, President Kennedy was assassinated during his visit to Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Shortly after, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the 36th President of the United States and Lady Bird became First Lady.

As First Lady of the United States, Lady Bird Johnson worked on several campaigns to benefit the country. She headed the Society for a More Beautiful National Capital planting flowers in Washington D.C. Lady Bird also started a series of Women Doers Luncheons to commemorate the contributions of women. She traveled to eight different southern states to promote the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the campaign came to be known as the Lady Bird Special. Lady Bird also endorsed the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, and was the honorary chairman of the National Head Start Program which sought to help disadvantaged children prepare for school.

Lady Bird Johnson circa 1962

Lady Bird Johnson circa 1962

As a native Texan, Lady Bird Johnson also has special ties to San Antonio. In April of 1968, as First Lady of the United States, Lady Bird Johnson officially opened the HemisFair ’68. This would be about the time the photograph was taken. At the end of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s term in 1969, the couple returned to Texas. Lady Bird went on to write a book titled White House Diary before her husband died in 1973.

Lady Bird was just as active outside of the White House as in. She lent her assistance to the Town Lake Beautification Project which was eventually renamed Lady Bird Lake. Lady Bird served on the University of Texas System board of regents, co-founded the National Wildflower Research Center, and served as trustee of the National Geographic Society. In recognition for her efforts, Lady Bird received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Gerald Ford in 1977 and the Congressional Gold Medal presented by Ronald Reagan in 1988. Lady Bird Johnson passed away in July of 2007 at her home in Texas, where she was buried in the family cemetery at LBJ Ranch. For much of her life, she had a great appreciation for nature that translated into a passion for conservation. Both as First Lady and as a private citizen, Lady Bird dedicated her life to the beautification and social improvements of her country. She was an excellent humanitarian, Texas is proud to call one of their own. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Holmesly, Sterlin. Hemisfair ’68 and the Tranformation of San Antonio. San Antonio: Maverick, 2003.

Johnson, Lady Bird. A White House Diary. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1970.

Johnson, Lady Bird and Carlton B. Lees. Wildflowers Across America. Austin: National Wildflower Research Center, 1988.

Unger, Irwin and Debi Unger. LBJ: A Life. New York: Wiley, 1999.

Object: Drawing


Jack “Herc” Ficklen
20th century
Materials: paper, ink

Known as one of the greatest commanders in U.S. history, this object is a drawing of Dwight D. Eisenhower also known as “Ike.” Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas in 1890 and would go on to be the 34th president of the United States. He is also the last president to be born in the 19th century. Dwight Eisenhower was the son of David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth (Stover) Eisenhower. The family moved to Abilene, Kansas  in 1892 and Dwight considered this his hometown. He attended Abilene High School  and graduated in 1909, but was not able to attend college due to financial reasons. Ike’s brother also wanted to attend college so the brothers made a deal that one would work while the other attended college. After his first year Ike’s brother wanted a second year so, at the urging of a friend, Ike applied to the naval academy because no tuition was required. Ike requested consideration for West Point or Annapolis from his U.S. Senator and although he won the entrance exam competition, he was too old for Annapolis.  Eisenhower accepted an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy of West Point in 1911, and graduated in 1915. Following graduation Eisenhower was stationed in San Antonio, Texas where he met his wife Mamie Geneva Doud.

1024px-Eisenhower_d-dayDuring World War I Ike served with infantry in both Texas and Georgia. He was denied an overseas assignment and was instead placed with a new tank corps and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. During this time Ike showed exceptional organizational skill and was later awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. However, he was disappointed because he did not see combat. He would however, have a big role to play oversea during World War II. Following WWI Eisenhower served as an aide to Douglas MacArthur and was stationed in the Philippines until 1939, right before the Nazi invasion of Poland. After the attack of Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was called to D.C. to be a planning officer. He would command the Allied Forces landing in North Africa known as Operation Torch. He was also Supreme Commander on D-Day of the troops invading France, this was known as Operation Overload.

After the war Eisenhower became the President of Columbia University in New York City. However, he was then commissioned by President Truman to take command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Europe also known as NATO. In 1952 he was persuaded to run for President of the United States with the support of President Truman. He resigned his command at NATO and ran as a Republican, using the campaign slogan “I like Ike.” I_like_IkeEisenhower won the Presidency by a landslide becoming the 34th President of the United States. In November of 1956 he would be elected for his second term. Throughout his Presidency Eisenhower had to face issues dealing with ending the Korean War, containing Communism, and try to strengthen relations with the Soviet Union, as well as the civil rights issues present in United States. As President he was able to ensure a secure economy and kept many New Deal and Fair Deal programs. Perhaps his most enduring project was the creation of the Interstate Highway System, which was responsible for 41,000 miles of roads across the country. After the launch of Sputnik, Eisenhower launched a campaign to support space exploration, science and higher education. This would result in the creation of NASA.

Eisenhower left the White House in 1961 and although he received criticism from both sides he had favorable approval ratings overall. He retired to his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with his wife. After a long illness Dwight D. Eisenhower passed away on March 28, 1969. Today he is remembered for his role in WWII, ending the Korean War, and the creation of the Interstate Highway system. Throughout the United States multiple memorials can be seen dedicated in his name, and his farmhouse can still be visited. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources: 

Ambrose, Stephen E. Eisenhower. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983.

Eisenhower, Dwight D., and Robert H. Ferrell. The Eisenhower Diaries. New York: Norton, 1981.

Eisenhower, Dwight D., Alfred D. Chandler, Louis Galambos, and Daun Van Ee. The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1970.

Mieczkowski, Yanek. Eisenhower’s Sputnik Moment: The Race for Space and World Prestige. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013.

The TARL Blog

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Museum Anthropology

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Center for the Future of Museums

Experimenting with collections access since 2013


Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Smithsonian Collections Blog

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Digital Scholarship in the Humanities

Exploring the digital humanities

ethnology @ snomnh

experimenting with social microexhibitions since 2007

%d bloggers like this: