Light's Golden Jubilee
28 artifacts in this set
Light's Golden Jubilee was huge. Henry Ford would go all-out as he planned the elaborate celebration in honor of his hero and friend, Thomas Edison. It was an event worthy of national media attention--as well as the presence of the President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. Many who followed the story in newspapers and on the radio remembered a world before electric lights--one lit by candles, kerosene lamps, and gaslight.
Invitation to Light's Golden Jubilee Celebration and Edison Institute Dedication, Dearborn, Michigan, 1929
Though planning had begun earlier in 1929, invitations were only sent out less than a month before the event. The guest list included renowned scientists, inventors, business leaders, celebrities, politicians, as well as family and personal acquaintances of Thomas Edison.
Letter from Orville Wright to Henry Ford and Edsel Ford regarding Invitation to Light's Golden Jubilee, October 1929
Among the invited guests was aviation pioneer Orville Wright. He gladly accepted.
Famed American humorist Will Rogers was at first uncertain whether he could attend the festivities--he was making a film. Rogers found time to get away just a few days before the event.
Ford's staff worked feverishly to ready everything for the Light's Golden Jubilee celebration and dedication of Ford's museum and historical village. Henry Ford decided at the last minute that he wanted a tintype studio added to the village. This building--designed to look like a small tintype photographic studio from the 1870s and 1880s--was built and furnished in one day!
Ford provided his guests with a detailed guide with instructions on logistics and a description of the events to be enjoyed during the day-long celebration. The day began at Greenfield Village with arrival of Thomas Edison and President Hoover. Lunch and tours of village buildings followed. The day ended with a gala banquet in the museum promenade (the only section of the museum completed at that time).
Organizers had arranged accommodations at the Statler and Book-Cadillac hotels in Detroit for out-of-town guests. Ford provided transportation to and from the hotels to Greenfield Village and the day's celebrations. Local guests could drive their own vehicles to the events, but only if their automobile had a proper window sticker.
President Herbert Hoover Escorts Thomas Edison from "The President" Train at Smiths Creek Station, October 21, 1929
Thomas Edison, President Herbert Hoover, Henry Ford, and their wives arrived by train at Smiths Creek Depot in Greenfield Village that morning. President Hoover escorted Edison from the train car--a replica of one that Edison had worked in as a young boy. Throngs of well-wishers awaited them.
Henry Ford, Mina and Thomas Edison, Lou and Herbert Hoover, Clara Ford, and Others in Greenfield Village, October 21, 1929
As Thomas Edison, President Herbert Hoover, Henry Ford, and their wives arrived for the Light's Golden Jubilee celebrations honoring Edison, they were met by hundreds of invited guests. Guests had been picked up at their Detroit hotels and transported to Dearborn in time for Edison's 10 a.m. arrival at Smiths Creek Depot in Greenfield Village.
Police cooperated with U.S. Secret Service to provide extra security and helped escort the President. After the morning's events, Edison, Hoover, and their wives proceeded to Henry Ford's Fair Lane estate. The president would continue to Detroit to give a speech, before returning to Fair Lane for lunch. The afternoon included a tour of the Rouge factory and the Menlo Park buildings in Greenfield Village.
After the morning's reception, guests could view the historical buildings Ford had gathered for his outdoor museum. The day was a miserable, rainy mess. So, Henry Ford provided horse-drawn carriages to transport guests through Greenfield Village. There was no escaping the rain by visiting Ford's indoor museum. The building was still under construction, with only the front portion--where that evening's banquet would take place--completed.
Guests Watch a High-wheel Bicycle Rider outside the Sarah Jordan Boarding House during a Tour of Greenfield Village, October 21, 1929
The rain and mud did not dampen the enthusiasm of the guests or the employees. Guests visited Greenfield Village buildings--including the Sarah Jordan Boarding House, where Edison's assistants had once lived--while Ford's employees, dressed in period costume, contributed to the experience.
After touring Greenfield Village, guests enjoyed a buffet luncheon at the Clinton Inn (now Eagle Tavern). Here they met and mingled with the other invited dignitaries. After lunch, guests could return to their hotels and prepare for the banquet later that evening. Ford also provided another option. Guests could witness the completion of the Ford National Air Tour at nearby Ford Airport before returning to the hotels.
The evening of the Light's Golden Jubilee celebration, Henry Ford's guests gathered in his museum building where they were served a lavish meal catered by Detroit's Book-Cadillac Hotel. Guests sat under fine crystal chandeliers fitted with candles hand-dipped in Greenfield Village.
Nearly 500 distinguished guests--inventors, politicians, scientists, celebrities, business leaders, and Edison's family and friends--were seated during the anniversary's gala dinner.
The evening's program was a tribute to Thomas Edison. Guests listened to an account of Edison's re-enactment of the first successful lighting of his incandescent lamp as it took place in nearby Greenfield Village. Albert Einstein made congratulatory remarks via a radio broadcast from Germany, and Edison shared heartfelt remarks of appreciation. The night concluded with President Hoover formally dedicating The Edison Institute of Technology.
Francis Jehl, Thomas Edison, President Herbert Hoover, and Henry Ford at Menlo Park Laboratory in Greenfield Village, 1929
Edison's re-enactment that evening was the highlight of the Light's Golden Jubilee celebration. Edison, Ford, and President Hoover made their way to Greenfield Village's detailed reproduction of Edison's laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Here, Edison re-enacted the first successful illumination of the light bulb in 1879. (This photograph shows the distinguished group in Greenfield Village earlier in the day.)
Thomas Edison at Menlo Park Laboratory in Greenfield Village during Light's Golden Jubilee, October 1929
Edison conducted his re-enactment in the perfect setting. The reconstructed Menlo Park Laboratory was completely immersive--it looked as it did when Edison worked there in the 1870s. Ford had spared no expense or effort in recreating the lab--down to every detail shown in a photo taken at that time. It may have seemed like a time machine to Edison--he was able to "step into" his own past.
Thomas Edison was assisted during the Light's Golden Jubilee re-enactment by Francis Jehl--who as a 19-year-old lab assistant--was present in October 1879 as Edison first successfully illuminated his incandescent lamp.
Francis Jehl's Notes to Thomas Edison for the Incandescent Lamp Lighting during Light's Golden Jubilee, 1929
Francis Jehl's handwritten notes helped guide the elderly Thomas Edison through the re-enactment.
Nighttime Lighting Rehearsal at Menlo Park Laboratory, Preparing for Light's Golden Jubilee, October 18, 1929
Once the re-enactment of the lighting of Edison's incandescent lamp was completed, the Menlo Park complex and museum were bathed in light. (This image shows the building during the dress rehearsal earlier in October.) Radio listeners--who had been instructed to turn off their electric lights to experience what life was like before Edison's invention--now flipped switches in their darkened homes and businesses, bringing the world to light.
Nighttime Lighting Rehearsal at Henry Ford Museum, Preparing for Light's Golden Jubilee, October 18, 1929
Back at the museum, electric lights flashed and lit up the banquet hall and the exterior of the building. (This photograph shows a dress rehearsal of the big event taken a few days earlier.) In the museum's clock tower, a replica of the Liberty Bell pealed for the first time.
Representatives of the press covered the event. And millions of Americans from coast-to-coast tuned into NBC on the evening of Light's Golden Jubilee to listen to Graham McNamee describe the proceedings. The highlight of the broadcast was McNamee's description of the re-enactment of the lighting of Edison's first electric incandescent lamp. "It lights!" he announced excitedly. "Light's Golden Jubilee has come to a triumphant climax!"
Thomas Edison created this bulb--a 1929 recreation of the original 1879 incandescent lamp--two days before Light's Golden Jubilee, then presented it to Henry Ford.
Many guests sent letters to Henry Ford thanking him for hosting Light's Golden Jubilee. In her letter, world-renowned chemist and physicist Marie Curie stated that it was a pleasure for her to attend and praised Ford for hosting the event which he had "planned and carried out so beautifully."
Surprisingly, there were no photographs taken of the Light's Golden Jubilee banquet--Ford did not want the smoke from flash cameras to disrupt the event. So, in the mid-1930s, Ford asked his staff artist, Irving Bacon, to capture the event in this panoramic painting. Bacon took many artistic liberties: locations of guests were moved when needed, and many guests were not included. Bacon did, however, managed to fit in 262 recognizable portraits.
Light's Golden Jubilee was just the beginning. This August 1930 image shows the museum (at left) and village (at right), as work continued. In the coming years, Ford would complete the museum building, select and move more structures to Greenfield Village, and gather thousands of artifacts to display in the museum and furnish village buildings. The museum and village would officially open to the public in 1933.