When Henry Ford formally dedicated The Henry Ford in 1929,
his collecting predated the opening of either Greenfield Village
or the Edison Institute, as Henry Ford Museum was known at that
time. Beginning in the 1910s, he collected objects that reflected
his personal interests in American history. He often acquired
the common items of American life, and this helped him establish
what is now regarded as one of the greatest collections in America.
The technological history of farming proved to be one of Henry’s
favorite topics. When later explaining what he meant by his often
cited “History is bunk” quote he remarked that he
thought history focused too much on politics and war. He believed
the American people ought to study the material of everyday life,
including the progress made with farm machinery. It is a collection
that The Henry Ford continues to build. It spans eighteenth century
plows to combines from the 1970s, and includes miniature harrows
and twenty-ton steam engines. It reflects how we went from a nation
of farm families to a country where less than one percent of the
population produces America’s food.
So what is a harrow? Harrows consist of a frame with a set of
wooden or metal teeth, though later models had rolling metal disks.
The implement prepares the ground for planting and historically
followed plowing. In the case of small grains such as wheat, harrows
were used a second time to work the seed into the soil after planting.
Also, harrows can be used to remove weeds from a field.
Today, The Henry Ford maintains a collection of fifteen full-size
and two model harrows. One of the miniature models is on exhibit
in Henry Ford Museum, but will temporarily move to an exhibit
called Henry’s Attic installed to help celebrate the 75th
anniversary of The Henry Ford. The exhibit will open in March
2004 in the lobby gallery of The Benson Ford Research Center.
You may visit and see a range of materials from Henry Ford’s
collecting era or artifacts acquired by the current curators of
The Henry Ford. We hope you get inspired to learn about harrows,
history, and a whole lot more.
Leo E. Landis, Curator of Agriculture & Rural Life