Some of the earliest objects in the Smithsonian documenting American political history came to the United States National Museum (USNM) from the United States Patent Office in 1883. These objects consisted of a collection of George Washington relics originally purchased by the United States Congress as well as Washingtoniana exhibited at and transferred from the Patent Office.
These objects were the responsibility of various divisions in the USNM until 1949 when the Division of Civil History, Department of History, assumed curatorial responsibility. When the Museum of History and Technology (MHT) was set up in 1957, the Division of Political History, Department of Civil History, became responsible for the objects. In 1969 MHT was renamed the National Museum of History and Technology, and the Division of Political History became part of the Department of National and Military History.
From 1950 to 1969, curators in the Division of Political History and its predecessor, the Division of Civil History, included Margaret B. Klapthor, assistant curator, 1949-1951, and associate curator, 1952- ; Charles G. Dorman, assistant curator, 1957-1960; Anne W. Murray, assistant curator, 1957-1964, and associate curator, 1965-1967; Herbert R. Collins, assistant curator, 1961- ; Wilcomb E. Washburn, curator, 1965; Keith E. Melder, associate curator, 1965- ; and Claudia B. Kidwell, assistant curator, 1965-1967.