Criss-crossed Conveyors at Ford Rouge Plant, 1927

Summary

In 1927 Ford Motor Company commissioned Charles Sheeler to do a series of documentary photographs of their River Rouge industrial complex near Dearborn, Michigan. The conveyors move coal and coke to the pulverizing building and screening stations. Coke made from coal is used in the steelmaking process of the Blast Furnaces. This vigorous photograph shows Sheeler's ability to form a compelling image from a complicated scene.

In 1927 Ford Motor Company commissioned Charles Sheeler to do a series of documentary photographs of their River Rouge industrial complex near Dearborn, Michigan. The conveyors move coal and coke to the pulverizing building and screening stations. Coke made from coal is used in the steelmaking process of the Blast Furnaces. This vigorous photograph shows Sheeler's ability to form a compelling image from a complicated scene.

Charles Sheeler is recognized as one of the founders of American modernism and one of the master photographers of the 20th century. Equally gifted as a photographer and painter, Sheeler used photographs, drawings and paintings to refine common motifs.

In 1927 Vaughn Flannery, art director of the advertising agency N.W. Ayer & Son suggested to his Ford Motor Company clients that they commission a series of documentary photographs of Ford Motor Company's River Rouge industrial complex near Dearborn, Michigan, at this time "the largest industrial complex in the world." Flannery first offered the job to Edward Steichen, who turned it down because of his contract with the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. Steichen, who called the Rouge contract "the finest photographic commission anybody ever got," suggested Charles Sheeler, already well known for his still life paintings and photographs.

The artist's visit to River Rouge was an outstanding experience which introduced him to a subject he used throughout his career. American industry became the focus of his art for the next thirty years. Sheeler photographed the Rouge for about six weeks, from late October until the end of November, just before the unveiling of the new Ford Model A automobile on December 2, 1927.

Sheeler took more than thirty-two photographs. Of the prints he developed, one group went to Ford Motor Company. Of these, only twelve 8 x 10 inch copy negatives were made by the company in 1929 from the original photographs. The company used these images for the covers of their magazine, Ford News between 1929 and 1930. Today, these 1929 contact prints are part of the collections of The Henry Ford.

Detailed Description
Artifact

Photographic print

Subject Date

1927

Creators

Ford Motor Company. Engineering Photographic Department 

Sheeler, Charles, 1883-1965 

Place of Creation

United States, Michigan, Dearborn 

Creator Notes

Photographed by Charles Sheeler in 1927 for Ford Motor Company. Copy negative made by Ford's Engineering Photographic Department in 1929.

 On Exhibit

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Object ID

84.1.1660.P.189.6577

Credit

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

Material

Paper (Fiber product)

Technique

Gelatin silver process

Color

Black-and-white (Colors)

Dimensions

Height: 10 in

Width: 8 in

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