Featured on The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation: Season 3
26 artifacts in this set
This expert set is brought to you by:
The staff at The Henry Ford
1949 Volkswagen Sedan
The Volkswagen Beetle was different from any American car. It looked like an insect, its engine was where the trunk should be, and it didn't have a radiator. But it recalled the spirit of Henry Ford's legendary Model T. Both cars were simple, reliable, economical, and never deviated from their basic original design. The VW would go on to break the Ford's all-time sales record.
Colorful carousels were at the height of their popularity during the early 1900s and could be found all across America in amusement parks, city parks, and seaside resorts. Built in 1913, this "menagerie" carousel's hand-carved animals include storks, goats, zebras, dogs, and even a frog. Although its original location is uncertain, this carousel operated in Spokane, Washington, from 1923 to 1961.
First Portable Superheterodyne Radio Receiver, Made by Edwin Howard Armstrong, 1923
Edwin H. Armstrong was a pioneer of radio engineering, credited as the inventor of FM radio. In 1918 he filed a patent for the superheterodyne radio circuit. This technology increased the sensitivity and selectivity of radio receivers. The radio depicted is the first portable superheterodyne radio receiver ever made. Armstrong gave it to his wife, Marion, on their 1923 honeymoon.
Pig Pen Variation and Mosaic Medallion Quilt by Susana Allen Hunter, 1950-1955
After working the fields of her rural Alabama tenant farm and tending to her family's needs, Susana Hunter sat down to lavish her creativity on quilt making. On-the-fly inspiration -- rather than tradition -- guided this African-American quilt maker's improvisational creations. Susana made over a hundred quilts -- each of them unique -- from the worn clothing and fabric scraps available to her.
1957 Cornell-Liberty Safety Car
Cornell Aeronautical Labs did some of the first crash testing of automobiles. In 1957 Cornell teamed with Liberty Mutual Insurance to build this unusual looking concept car that incorporated the lessons learned in testing. The car did not actually run, but it featured ideas like seat belts, head rests, and padded interiors that are incorporated into today's cars.
1927 Boeing Model 40-B2 Biplane
Subsidies from the federal government for air mail encouraged the development of improved long-distance aircraft like the Boeing 40. The key to the Boeing's success was the use of a lightweight air-cooled radial engine which allowed it to carry the mail and two paying passengers. This plane flew between Chicago and San Francisco, making 12 fuel stops along the way.
Charles Steinmetz Cabin
This cabin was originally located on a steep bank overlooking a tributary of the Mohawk River, just outside of Schenectady, New York. Its simplicity was a contrast to the General Electric laboratories where Steinmetz spent his workweek. It served as a getaway -- for quiet study or writing, but also for more animated weekend camp gatherings for selected friends and associates.
Corning Glass Ribbon Machine, 1928
Design as a discipline is rooted in craft but revealed in industry. Similarly the story of incandescent lamp manufacture begins with craft (the earliest ones offered for sale were exquisite hand-made objects) and ends with mass production. This high output machine (ten bulb blanks a second) was developed by a former glass blower and a mechanical engineer.
Ford Charcoal Briquets Bag, 1929-1947
Ford Motor Company sawmills created heaps of wood wastes. Some was used to produce steam for factory operations. The rest was carbonized and compressed into charcoal. Workers mixed charred hardwood chips with starch, forming nearly 100 tons of charcoal briquettes each day. Dealers sold branded bags of the popular briquettes in Ford dealerships across the country.
Gristmills -- usually among the earliest businesses established in a community -- ground grain harvested by local farmers. This mill, originally located in Monroe, Michigan, was set up to grind both corn and wheat. It incorporates a sophisticated conveyor system, developed by Oliver Evans in the late 1700s, that moves grain through the building to undergo a variety of processes.
1965 Goldenrod Land Speed Race Car
On November 12, 1965, Goldenrod streaked across Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats at 409.277 miles per hour, setting a new land speed record for wheel-driven cars. Builders Bob and Bill Summers powered Goldenrod with four massive Chrysler V-8 engines. Although other car builders copied its sleek design, Goldenrod held the record until 1991.
Radio Beacon Station Building Used at Ford Airport, 1927
Early pilots depended on visible landmarks, preventing reliable navigation in bad weather. Henry Ford's engineers developed a radio beacon that simultaneously transmitted two Morse code letters. Pilots steered until the separate signals merged into one steady hum. The original beacon station building at Ford Airport was removed in 1933 and is now displayed in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.
Standard Crown Visible Delivery Gasoline Pump, circa 1920
Before visible gasoline pumps, drivers relied on the accuracy of the pump and the honesty of station owners. Visible pumps, like this circa 1920 example, used a graduated glass cylinder to show customers the quality and quantity of gas being purchased. Glass globes, like the Standard Oil red crown, usually topped the pumps and advertised a company's brand and name.
Radio Receiver, Type SE-950, Used by Charles Francis Jenkins in Experiment Detecting Radio Signals from Mars
The SE950 was produced commercially during WWI as a rugged field radio; its versatile nature allowed it to remain useful in Charles Francis Jenkins' laboratory. The radio was used in a curious 1924 experiment as Mars drew near Earth's orbit. The SE950 was connected to a device capable of photographically recording any "alien communication" broadcast during military-imposed radio silence.
1907 Selden Motor Buggy
George Selden conceived -- but didn't build -- a gasoline-powered vehicle in 1877 and received a patent in 1895. The Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers enforced Selden's patent, but Henry Ford fought ALAM in court. Ford ultimately won, freeing the auto industry from paying royalties and making himself a folk hero. This car was built in 1907 as evidence for the court.
Eames Molded Dining Chair, circa 1950
Chair (Furniture form)
Charles and Ray Eames designed this chair in the mid-1940s. Intent on creating practical, durable, and affordable seating, they turned to basic materials such as plywood and steel rod. Its simplicity and strength suggest a pure engineering solution, but its grace and delicate appearance give it a sculptural presence. It also happens to be incredibly comfortable.
1896 Ford Quadricycle Runabout, First Car Built by Henry Ford
The Quadricycle was Henry Ford's first attempt to build a gasoline-powered automobile. It utilized commonly available materials: angle iron for the frame, a leather belt and chain drive for the transmission, and a buggy seat. Ford had to devise his own ignition system. He sold his Quadricycle for $200, then used the money to build his second car.
1915 Laird Biplane, "Boneshaker"
This was the third airplane constructed by Matty Laird, a self-taught pilot and aircraft engineer. He used the plane in stunt flying exhibitions from Montana to Maryland. Later the famous aviator Katherine Stinson took the plane to Japan and China, where she was the first woman to fly.
Mug, Jimmy Carter Caricature, 1976-1980
Democrats selected Jimmy Carter as their presidential nominee in 1976 and 1980. Carter was a naval officer and successful peanut farmer before entering politics. His association with peanut farming figured prominently in campaign materials--both for and against him. This peanut mug also depicts a toothy smile--another signature representation of the candidate used in campaign items.
Section of the First Transatlantic Cable, 1858
Telegraphs could be sent wherever wires could be hung in the 1850s, but hardwiring signals between transoceanic continents required a feat of engineering. In 1858, a team laid underwater cable across the Atlantic and sent a successful telegram. Though the cable soon failed, pieces were sold as souvenirs in Charles Tiffany's renowned jewelry store as symbols of speed and progress.
Robert Moog's Prototype Synthesizer, 1964-1965
This prototype synthesizer--a collaboration between engineer Robert Moog and composer Herbert Deutsch--is a musical icon. Synthesizers create unique electronically-produced sounds. Moog's solid-state synthesizer was musically superior and much more portable than earlier vacuum tube-based systems. In 1968, the album “Switched-On Bach" introduced the Moog synthesizer to a wider audience. Synthesizers quickly became a mainstay of popular music.
Torch Lake Steam Locomotive, 1873
Torch Lake, built by Mason Machine Works in 1873, hauled ore for the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company on Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. The engine is an articulated design. The driving wheels pivot under the boiler, allowing the locomotive to handle sharp curves. Torch Lake joined The Henry Ford's collection in 1969.
Grant-Colfax "Tanners of Augusta" Campaign Cape, 1868
Republicans nominated Ulysses S. Grant for president in 1868. Grant backed policies that kept former Confederate leaders from returning to power and provided Black Americans with political and civil rights--measures supported by the Radical wing of the Republican Party. He won easily. Four years later, the Republicans' Liberal wing challenged Grant. Though the party split and Democrats supported the Liberal candidate, Grant still won.
Manual Crank Gasoline Pump, circa 1915
Gas pumps provide drivers with an easy way to put gasoline in their cars. This gas pump, made by Gilbert and Barker Manufacturing Company, dates from about 1915. Gilbert and Barker introduced the first measuring gas pump in 1911. Customers, however, could not see the gasoline. They had to rely on the pump's accuracy and the gas station owner's honesty.
Handstamp for First Commercial Contract Air Mail, February 15, 1926
When regularly scheduled air mail service began in 1918, the United States Post Office operated the various routes itself. These flights were intended to prove the safety and reliability of air service, and ultimately to encourage private contractors to take over the operations. Henry Ford was an early contract bidder and, in January 1926, he was awarded the Detroit-Chicago route.