The Gunboat “Philadelphia”: The Birth of the US Navy

Built in 1776 as part of the first fleet authorized by the fledgling American Continental Congress, commanded by a General who later turned traitor, and sunk in her very first battle, the gunboat “Philadelphia” nevertheless played a crucial role in the success of the American Revolution.


The “Philadelphia” on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

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Wild Florida–Florida Black Bear

The Florida Black Bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) is a geographical subspecies of the American Black Bear. The common Black Bear ranges all the way from Alaska to Mexico, with populations in at least 40 states. It is the smallest of the three bear species found in North America, with males weighing around 325 pounds or so. The Florida subspecies, however, is even smaller, averaging about 250 pounds, and unlike the far-ranging common Black Bear, thefloridanus subspecies is found only in scattered portions of Florida and the southern parts of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama, wherever it can find the large undeveloped tracts of forest and swampland that it needs. (The isolated population of bears in Louisiana is considered to be another separate subspecies.) Female Florida Black Bears require at least 10 square miles of territory; males, who range over the territories of several females, need at least 30-50 square miles.


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The Pfeil Fighter: Push-Me Pull-You

By 1943, it was becoming apparent that the standard propeller-driven piston-engine aircraft was reaching the limits of its potential speed. At the same time, though, Nazi Germany was facing daily raids by American and British bombers, and needed ever-faster planes with ever-higher altitudes to fight back. In the race to increase speed and power, unconventional designs were looked at, and one of the oddest was the Dornier Do335 “Pfeil” fighter, which had two propellers–one mounted in front and one at the back.


The Dornier Do 335 A “Pfeil” fighter, on display at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center

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Empire State Express No. 999: First Locomotive to Reach 100 mph

By 1890, the US was expanding rapidly. The West had been conquered, thriving large cities existed along both coasts, and populations were moving in large numbers. The primary method of transportation was the railroad, and new tracks criss-crossed the country. But even at top speed, it took almost a week to travel from coast to coast. The locomotive “Empire State Express No. 999” changed that.


Empire State Express No. 999, on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

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