Today in 1981, the British-built John Bull steam locomotive became the oldest operable steam locomotive in history when the Smithsonian Institute fired it up for the locomotive's 150 year anniversary. The John Bull was built in 1831 and was operated for the first time on September 15 of the same year in Bordentown, New Jersey, USA. It saw many ownership transfers over the years, but is now on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Today in 1846, legislation for the Smithsonian Institution was signed into effect by President James K. Polk. It was founded with money left to the Unites States by British scientist James Smithson. After the death of his nephew, Smithson's estate was left "to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men." Today, the Smithsonian boasts over nineteen museums, nine research centers, and a zoo. Most provide general admission for no charge.