Henry Ford Office Records - Engineering Lab Office

Biographical / Historical Note

Henry Ford Office Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903. In 1906, James Couzens, at the time general manager and one of the company’s first stockholders, organized the Henry Ford Office to manage Ford’s correspondence and personal affairs. Frank...

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Henry Ford Office Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903. In 1906, James Couzens, at the time general manager and one of the company’s first stockholders, organized the Henry Ford Office to manage Ford’s correspondence and personal affairs. Frank L. Klingensmith, who was hired as a bookkeeper and clerk and eventually became treasurer and a director, received and answered mail, handled taxes, real estate transactions, requests for aid, etc. By 1911, E.G. Liebold had become personal secretary to Henry Ford, and in addition to some company duties, largely took over the administration of Henry’s affairs. The Ford Motor Company was relatively small, correspondence was slight, and Henry’s interests centered on his automotive and agricultural activities. Between 1914 and 1919, however, the character of the Henry Ford Office changed. The universal acceptance of the Model T and the national publicity following the announcement of the five-dollar day resulted in an increased volume of correspondence. As the company’s size increased, functionally specialized departments were created for handling company activities and records. As early as 1916, income tax records reveal the beginnings of the Henry Ford Office as an independent entity distinct from the Ford Motor Company. Organizational lines within the company, however, were fluid; there were no tight chains of command. After his resignation as president of the company in 1919, Henry’s attention turned increasingly to the diverse and varied interests he cultivated outside the Ford Motor Company; Liebold’s responsibilities as general secretary grew substantially. Enterprises beyond the Ford Motor Company managed from the Henry Ford Office included the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad, the Dearborn Publishing Company, the Dearborn Realty and Construction Company, Henry Ford & Son, Inc., the Dearborn State Bank, and Henry Ford Hospital, to name a few. Subjects beyond Henry Ford’s business activities include the Peace Ship expedition in 1915, agriculture, antiques, historical restorations, education, and the operation of numerous schools. From the early 1920s, Henry Ford also utilized the services of Frank Campsall as a private personal secretary. Campsall handled most of the important, non-financial business and correspondence; his responsibilities gradually increased in the 1930s as Liebold’s declined. Along with Campsall, Harold Cordell was Ford’s private secretary from 1919 to 1929, largely detailed to handling the purchase of antiques. L.J. Thompson served as cashier, bookkeeper, and accountant after 1918, handling personal finances, payroll and income taxes. William Gregory was active in the purchase of real estate and in the handling of real estate taxes in the 1910s and early 1920s; Charles Newton took on this role in the 1930s. H.R. Waddell was part of the organization from 1924 on, originally as assistant to Cordell and Campsall, becoming Mrs. Ford’s secretary after Henry Ford’s death in 1947. The office then became the Office of Mrs. Henry Ford and handled estate matters. Dearborn Engineering Laboratory In March of 1923 construction began on the Albert Kahn-designed Dearborn Engineering Laboratory. The building was completed at the end of 1924 and although he had offices in other locations, Henry Ford's office there became his most frequently used and the home base for his office staff, including E. G. Liebold and Frank Campsall. The building was built near Ford's Fair Lane estate and next to his beloved Edison Institute. It also housed the offices and publishing facilities of the Dearborn Publishing Company (publisher of the Dearborn Independent and Ford News), the C.E. Johansson Company, Ford radio stations, and engineering and experimental operations. The building was also the site of round table luncheons in the dining room, where Henry Ford and various executives would often dine and discuss company business. Henry Ford's main office remained at the Dearborn Engineering Laboratory until his death in 1947.

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Scope and Content Note

The Engineering Laboratory Office records are comprised of six series which are found in two accessions, 64.167.284 and 64.167.285. This finding aid contains information on the second accession, 64.167.285, which is arranged in four series: the In-House...

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The Engineering Laboratory Office records are comprised of six series which are found in two accessions, 64.167.284 and 64.167.285. This finding aid contains information on the second accession, 64.167.285, which is arranged in four series: the In-House Subject and Name Filing System series, January-June, 1921 (7.6 cubic ft.); the Library Bureau Filing System series, July 1921-1929 (429.6 cubic ft. and 6 oversize boxes); the Amberg Filing System series, 1930-1949 (781.6 cubic ft. and 1 oversize box); and the In-House Name File with Subjects Filing System series, 1950-1952 (14 cubic ft.). Accession 64.167.284, which has its own finding aid, contains the Business and Personal Correspondence series, 1920 (13.2 cubic ft.); and the Business and Personal Correspondence Addendum series, 1920 (2.8 cubic ft.). Taken together, these two accessions contain an unbroken run of Henry Ford Office correspondence from 1920 through 1952. During these years however, filing systems changed, which is reflected in the names of the series into which the accessions have been arranged. The Engineering Laboratory Office records is a remarkable collection of material that documents a period of more than thirty years of activity of one of the world's great industrialists and his company. The records are arranged by year and then alphabetically according to the filing system used during that year. Typically for each year files can be found for most domestic and foreign Ford Motor Company branches, including Highland Park and the Rouge plant, as well as most company departments such as accounting, advertising, auditing, disbursement, employment, chemical laboratory, chemical and metallurgical, engineering, medical, purchasing, sociological, service, the President's office, general sales, and traffic and for other ventures pursued by Henry Ford, especially those that were managed by his secretary E.G. Liebold, such as Henry Ford Hospital, Dearborn Publishing Company, Dearborn State Bank, Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad and Dearborn Realty and Construction Company. Additional subjects that have multiple folders through the years include antiques, Dearborn Water Works, Dearborn Inn, Dearborn Country Club, Berry Schools, Edison Institute, Boreham House Estate, Michigan Bell Telephone Company, Michigan Central Railroad Company, Michigan Public Utilities Commission, Henry Ford Flour Mill, Henry Ford and Son, Lincoln Motor Company, Lincoln and Lincoln-Mercury Divisions, Botsford Inn, Wayside Inn, Michigan Iron Land and Lumber Company, Hamilton and Rossville Hydraulic Company, Henry Ford's yacht Sialia, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company and various Village Industries. Also included in the collection is material about the Edison Botanic Research Corporation, a corporation formed by Henry Ford and Firestone in 1927 to research sources of domestic rubber, based out of Thomas Edison's Fort Myers Laboratory. Accident reports and insurance information from the firms Lucking, Helfman, Lucking and Hanlon; Kelly, Halla, Peacock and Hughes and Johnson and Higgins are found in multiple years as well. Individuals with multiple folders include Henry, Edsel and Clara Ford, newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane, Jens Jensen, Herbert Hoover, Ford real estate agent William T. Gregory, John Burroughs, G.K. Chesterton, Calvin Coolidge, Thomas Edison, Sialia captain Perry T. Stakes, Harvey Firestone, Albert Kahn, and missionary Joseph Bailie. There is one letter from Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen inviting Henry Ford to expand automobile industry work in China. The records also include hundreds of thousands of letters from individuals asking Henry Ford for financial assistance, employment, donation of a vehicle, wanting to donate or sell something to him for his museum, providing opinions on Ford products, or opinions on projects and ventures Henry Ford was involved with or supporting; the letters offer insight into the social conditions of the period. While there is typically no way to access this particular material by subject, as it is generally filed by the last name of the correspondent, almost any box in the collection contains these types of letters. The records are worth checking if the name of an individual or subject is known as well as a general time period. In some cases, office staff and later archivists handling the collection have provided extensive cross-reference sheets in the boxes to aid in subject access.

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Collection Details

Object ID: 64.167.285.0
Creator: Ford, Henry, 1863-1947 
Inclusive Dates: 1921-1952
Size: 1238.05 cubic ft. (3087 boxes)
Language: English

Collection Access & Use

Item Location: Not Currently On Exhibit

Access Restrictions: The records are open for research.

Credit: From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Digitized Artifacts From This Collection

In many cases, not all artifacts have been digitized.
Contact us for more information about this collection.

Advertisement, "Have You One of These Old Stoves," 1922

  Details

Advertisement, "Have You One of These Old Stoves," 1922

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Clipping (Information artifact)

Date Made

1922

Object ID

64.167.285.56

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Related Objects

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Advertisement, "Have You One of These Old Stoves," 1922

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Album of Documents Concerning Henry Ford's Violin Collection, 1921-1951

  Details

Album of Documents Concerning Henry Ford's Violin Collection, 1921-1951

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Album

Summary

An amateur fiddler, Henry Ford had a special passion for the violin. This wealthy industrialist could choose from among the finest. In the 1920s, Ford purchased several classical violins through the Wurlitzer Company's violin department. In this album are the certificates of authenticity provided by the company, identifying each violin's maker, describing its construction, and listing previous owners, if known.

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

64.167.285.32

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

Not on exhibit to the public.

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Album of Documents Concerning Henry Ford's Violin Collection, 1921-1951

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

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  Details

Captain Walter Wanderwell Business Card

  Details

Captain Walter Wanderwell Business Card

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Business card

Summary

In 1919, Captain Walter Wanderwell began an automobile globe-trekking expedition to promote world peace and an international police force. He also organized other teams of like-minded adventurers to drive through as many countries as possible and promote the cause. They sold pamphlets, hosted lectures, and created and screened films of their travels to help cover expenses. Wanderwell even wrote Henry Ford asking for his support.

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

64.167.285.126

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Captain Walter Wanderwell Business Card

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Clipped Poem, "The Old Hot-Dog Wagon," Sent to Henry Ford from Mrs. H. E. Hornbeck, January 1936

  Details

Clipped Poem, "The Old Hot-Dog Wagon," Sent to Henry Ford from Mrs. H. E. Hornbeck, January 1936

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Letter (Correspondence)

Date Made

January 1936

Summary

This poem by Edgar Guest recalls meeting Henry Ford at a night lunch wagon in Detroit, probably in the late 1890s. Night lunch wagons offered simple, affordable food to nighttime workers like Guest - a "fledgling reporter" - and Ford - an engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company - after regular restaurants closed for the night.

Object ID

64.167.285.37

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Clipped Poem, "The Old Hot-Dog Wagon," Sent to Henry Ford from Mrs. H. E. Hornbeck, January 1936

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Clouds below Balloon during Piccard Stratosphere Flight at Highest Altitude, October 23, 1934

  Details

Clouds below Balloon during Piccard Stratosphere Flight at Highest Altitude, October 23, 1934

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Summary

The Piccard stratosphere flight departed Ford Airport field on October 23, 1934. Spouses Jean and Jeannette Piccard ascended 10.9 miles in a metal gondola carried by a hydrogen balloon. Jeannette was the first American woman licensed as a balloonist, and first to reach the stratosphere. While Jeannette piloted, Jean gathered scientific data. Here, balloon is at highest altitude of 57,579 feet.

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

64.167.285.34.5

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Clouds below Balloon during Piccard Stratosphere Flight at Highest Altitude, October 23, 1934

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Correspondence between Benjamin Akines and Henry Ford regarding a George Washington Carver Sculpture, June 1941

  Details

Correspondence between Benjamin Akines and Henry Ford regarding a George Washington Carver Sculpture, June 1941

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Correspondence

Date Made

12 June 1941 and 24 June 1941

Object ID

64.167.285.54

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Correspondence between Benjamin Akines and Henry Ford regarding a George Washington Carver Sculpture, June 1941

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Correspondence between Claude Harvard, Frank Campsall, George Washington Carver and James McClure, May-June 1935

  Details

Correspondence between Claude Harvard, Frank Campsall, George Washington Carver and James McClure, May-June 1935

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Correspondence between Claude Harvard, Frank Campsall, George Washington Carver and James McClure, May-June 1935

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Correspondence between F. D. Patterson and Frank Campsall (for Henry Ford) regarding Claude Harvard's Visit to Tuskegee Institute, May-June 1935

  Details

Correspondence between F. D. Patterson and Frank Campsall (for Henry Ford) regarding Claude Harvard's Visit to Tuskegee Institute, May-June 1935

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Letter (Correspondence)

Date Made

26 May 1935-10 June 1935

Object ID

64.167.285.52

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Correspondence between F. D. Patterson and Frank Campsall (for Henry Ford) regarding Claude Harvard's Visit to Tuskegee Institute, May-June 1935

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Correspondence between Ford Motor Company and Walter Wanderwell, 1921-1922

  Details

Correspondence between Ford Motor Company and Walter Wanderwell, 1921-1922

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Correspondence

Summary

In 1919, Captain Walter Wanderwell began an automobile globe-trekking expedition to promote world peace and an international police force. He also organized other teams of like-minded adventurers to drive through as many countries as possible and promote the cause. They sold pamphlets, hosted lectures, and created and screened films of their travels to help cover expenses. Wanderwell even wrote Henry Ford asking for his support.

Object ID

64.167.285.125

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Correspondence between Ford Motor Company and Walter Wanderwell, 1921-1922

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details