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The 1890s De Witt Clinton replica. Photo ID B.112335 

April 2004

The Henry Ford takes great pride in having “real” things—the actual chair Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot; the airplane Richard Byrd took to the North Pole; machine tools used to make parts for Model T Fords; the world’s oldest surviving steam engine. Why, then do we have several replicas, or reproductions, of famous trains, planes, and automobiles? It turns out that there are some very good reasons for museums to have replicas.

  • The real thing may be too valuable or too fragile to operate. Running a replica allows the public to see, hear--and sometimes smell--what the original was like, without putting the original at risk.
  • The real thing may have been changed over the course of its useful life. Replicas allow the public to see a version of the artifact that no longer exists.
  • A replica may allow the museum to tell a story it otherwise couldn’t tell.

All of these reasons apply to the transportation replicas at
The Henry Ford.
Henry Ford’s Quadricycle
The Wright Brothers’ 1903 Flyer
Spirit of St. Louis Airplane
Rocket Locomotive
De Witt Clinton Locomotive


Bob Casey, Curator of Transportation
Marc Greuther, Curator of Industry

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The Henry Ford is an AAM accredited institution. The complex is an independent, non-profit, educational
institution not affiliated with the Ford Motor Company or the Ford Foundation.