Ford Motor Company and Norman Rockwell
16 artifacts in this set
Norman Rockwell created eight paintings for the Ford Motor Company's 50th Anniversary calendar project. Four of the paintings examined Henry Ford's past and his impact on the larger world, while the others focused on the Ford Motor Company's present and future. In this painting, the young Henry Ford shows a skeptical village blacksmith his concept for an automobile.
In this painting, Rockwell presented his vision of Henry Ford creating his first automobile -- the Quadricycle. Rockwell visited a reconstruction of Ford's Bagley Avenue garage at Greenfield Village. That building inspired the setting of this painting. Rockwell incorporated numerous period-appropriate artifacts into the scene. Models were recruited from the staff of the nearby Dearborn Inn where Rockwell stayed during his visit.
In this watercolor, Norman Rockwell captured the pride of ownership in -- and the public's curiosity about -- the Ford Model T. It depicts an average American family happily seated in their new Model T. The proud owners are showing off the car to an admiring farm family who appear amazed by the new contraption.
This painting, like the previous one, depicts the impact of Henry Ford's newfangled automobile. The proud owner cruises down the street to the surprise of all who view him. A horse rears up on its hind legs; bystanders are literally hanging out of the windows; children and dogs chase the car, while a boy shouts at the viewer to look at the new innovation.
The first of Rockwell's contemporary paintings, this image presents the past and future of Ford Motor Company. Reading from left to right we find Henry Ford (the founder), his son, Edsel (company president from 1919-1943), and Henry Ford II (Edsel's son and successor), who represents the future.
Norman Rockwell Painting of Henry Ford II, Benson Ford, and William Clay Ford for Ford Motor Company's 50th Anniversary, 1953
Rockwell's portrait of the three Ford brothers -- William Clay, Benson, and Henry Ford II -- also emphasizes the future, as the portraits are arranged from youngest to oldest. This image, for whatever reason, did not end up in the company's anniversary calendar.
Like the previous portraits, this 3/4-length view of Henry Ford II pays homage to the past -- with an image of the Quadricycle in the background -- while emphasizing Henry Ford II's plans for the future of the company.
A departure from the imagery of the other paintings, Crossroads on Sunday shows a slice of contemporary life -- and the automobile's intrinsic role in it. Families in their cars are stuck in traffic, with parents and eager children looking forward to fun and recreation just up ahead.
Norman Rockwell Creating the Painting "Henry Ford, The Boy Who Put the World on Wheels" for Ford Motor Company, 1951-1952
Norman Rockwell visited Dearborn, Michigan, several times to study the actual locations depicted in two of the paintings. After taking photographs and completing detailed studies, Rockwell returned to his Arlington, Vermont, studio. This photograph shows him at work on the final study for The Boy Who Put the World on Wheels.
Ford Motor Company's relationship with Norman Rockwell began a few years before the calendar project. Records suggest that Ford intended to commission a series of Rockwell Christmas cards. In 1951, Rockwell created this card for the automobile company. Its nostalgic imagery hearkens back to a time when the Model T was replacing the iconic one-horse open sleigh.
Rockwell's 1952 card for Ford Motor Company incorporated nostalgia with fantasy -- Santa drives a Model T as if it was his sleigh. Santa's ubiquitous overflowing bag of toys is spilling out a train set, doll, and a rocking horse. This was the last card Rockwell created specifically for Ford Motor Company. However, studies exist for others that were never produced.
Ford Motor Company Fiftieth Anniversary Calendar, Advertising Ford Dealer Floyd Rice, Detroit, Michigan, 1952-1953
The 1953 calendar came in two variations: a large 16" x 30" community calendar that could be sent to local businesses and a smaller 10" x 15" home version. The home calendar, like the one seen here, featured six pages, each with a Rockwell image. Dealers throughout the country could distribute these calendars to their customers.
Ford Motor Company not only made commemorative 50th anniversary calendars for domestic customers, but also its international markets. Ford's promotional divisions in each country produced variations based on the American model. The most unusual of these was the Swedish calendar, which was printed on glossy paper and spiral-bound. The Swedish calendar also organized the Rockwell images in a different order than other calendars.
"Ford Motor Company Fiftieth Anniversary Norman Rockwell Calendar Program," Order Kit for Ford Dealers, 1952-1953
This golden anniversary promotional packet held information and instructions on how Ford dealers could celebrate the company's 50th anniversary. Inside was also an order form so dealers could order the two sizes of calendars. Ford sent different packets to dealers offering other commemorative items, such as: drinkware, cigarette lighters and ashtrays, puzzles, medallions, and affordable prints of the Rockwell paintings.
This brochure from a Ford promotional packet explained Rockwell's importance in the history of American illustration to dealers. And, in company's own words, "it was inevitable" that Ford should turn to Rockwell to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The brochure showed preliminary images of the calendar and described how dealers could use this publicity to improve sales.
Rockwell's portrait of the three Fords who served as company president was struck as a commemorative medallion. It served as a hallmark for the celebration and appeared on many commemorative items, including graphics, advertisements, and souvenir merchandise.