50 artifacts in this set
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.
The Ford Tri-Motor was the most popular airliner of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Its rugged dependability led Richard Byrd to choose a Tri-Motor for his attempt to be the first person to fly over the South Pole. On November 28-29, 1929, Byrd and a crew of three achieved that goal in this plane.
The stagecoach is a symbol of the American West, but its origins are in New England. First built in the 1820s, Concord coaches featured an innovative leather-strap suspension that produced a rocking motion over rough roads -- easier on passengers and horses alike. This example carried passengers and mail in New Hampshire and Maine before the automobile made it obsolete.
This 1858 Rogers steam locomotive is typical of those used in the United States in the second half of the 19th century. Its flexible wheel arrangement, high power output, and light weight were well suited to the tight curves, steep grades, and hastily-constructed track that characterized American railroads. This locomotive struck an agreeable balance between practicality, safety, and economy.
The German-built Hildebrand & Wolfmuller motorcycle was the first motorized, two-wheeled vehicle sold to the public on a series production basis. Hildebrand & Wolfmuller was also the first company to refer to the device as a "motorcycle" (though it used the German word, motorrad). The curious engine design features two cylinders with connecting rods attached directly to the rear wheel.
New "safety" bicycles, like this Pope Columbia, touched off a bicycle craze in the 1880s and 1890s. More stable with two same-sized wheels and less expensive than the high-wheeled "ordinaries," safety bicycles allowed many Americans to discover the sheer joy of riding.
Igor Sikorsky, as a young man in Russia, tried unsuccessfully to build a helicopter in 1909. He went on to build fixed-wing aircraft but returned to helicopters in 1938. Within three years, he had developed the first practical helicopter in the United States: the VS-300A.
The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway's massive Allegheny, introduced in 1941, represents the peak of steam technology. Among the largest and most powerful steam locomotives ever built, it weighed 1.2 million pounds with its tender and could generate 7,500 horsepower. Just 11 years later, though, the C&O began pulling these giants from service. Diesel locomotives proved more flexible and less expensive.
Longer than a Duesenberg. Twice the horsepower of a Rolls-Royce. More costly than both put together. The Bugatti Royale was the ultimate automobile, making its owners feel like kings. Not only did it do everything on a grander scale than the world's other great luxury cars, it was also rare. Bugatti built only six Royales, whereas there were 481 Model J Duesenbergs and 1767 Phantom II Rolls-Royces.
It's an old auto industry cliche -- "you can't sell a young man an old man's car, but you can sell an old man a young man's car." It's also true. The sporty Mustang was a young man's -- and woman's -- car. The under-30 crowd loved it. But older people also bought them, often as a second car. The Mustang hit a sweet spot in the market, appealing to a wide range of buyers.
This 1914 Touring Car is one of several Model T cars given to naturalist John Burroughs by his friend Henry Ford. Ford Motor Company experienced a milestone year in 1914. The automaker fully implemented the moving assembly line at its Highland Park plant, and it introduced the Five Dollar Day profit-sharing plan for its employees.
Early automobile inventors tended to make one-of-a-kind vehicles. Charles and Frank Duryea had a different idea. In 1896, they established the Duryea Motor Wagon Company and built thirteen identical vehicles. Based on their second model that had recently won America's first automobile race, this car was user friendly. A single lever controlled steering, shifting, and accelerating. The Henry Ford owns the only known surviving 1896 Duryea.
The Douglas DC-3, introduced in 1936, carried 21 passengers -- enough to fly profitably without relying on subsidies from air mail contracts. While the DC-3's economy appealed to airlines, its rugged construction and comfortable cabin attracted passengers. More than any other aircraft, the DC-3 ushered in the era of dependable, long-distance air travel in the United States.
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in this car on November 22, 1963. The midnight blue, un-armored convertible was rebuilt with a permanent roof, titanium armor plating, and more somber black paint. The limousine returned to the White House and remained in service until 1977. The modified car shows the fundamental ways in which presidential security changed after Kennedy's death.
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.
With its rear-mounted, air-cooled engine, the Corvair was conceived as an American answer to the rear-engined, air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle. Corvairs sold well, although not as well as the more conventional Ford Falcon. But sales slipped after Ralph Nader's book, Unsafe at Any Speed, raised questions about the Corvair's handling. Production ceased in 1969.
Factory-built buggies made the pleasures of carriage ownership affordable for a new group of people. Whether in town or on the farm, people loved these inexpensive, lightweight vehicles. The piano box buggy -- named for its resemblance to 19th-century square pianos -- was the most popular of all. Buggy owners quickly became accustomed to the freedom and control offered by personal vehicles.
World War II produced one of America's all-time favorite vehicles -- the Jeep. Soldiers loved the homely little car because it could go anywhere and do almost anything. They used it to tow artillery, carry the wounded, and deliver ammunition. When fitted with a machine gun, it became a weapon itself. The Jeep came to symbolize American ingenuity and productivity to allies and enemies alike.
Modern refrigerated rail cars have mechanical cooling units, but well into the 20th century, ice cooled refrigerator cars like this one. Since 45-55 pounds of ice melted each hour, icing stations had to be located at regular intervals along the route, and adherence to strict schedules was necessary to prevent spoilage. The ability to ship meats and produce in refrigerator cars, far from their points of origin, greatly expanded both farmers'...
When this truck was new, about 120,000 tractor-trailers traveled the roads. By 2000, there were over two million. New interstate highways helped long-haul trucks dominate the freight business. Americans developed a romantic image of truckers as modern cowboys roaming concrete trails, speaking their own language on CB radios. Drivers became heroes of movies and music. But real truck driving is demanding, sometimes dangerous, and often boring work.
Most people think of Checker as an operator of taxicabs, but from 1922 through 1982 they also manufactured cabs. Checkers featured big back seats and trunks and rugged, durable construction. This Checker's basic design dates to 1956 and was substantially unchanged until production ceased in 1982.
De Soto appealed to drivers who desired the cutting edge of technology. Soaring fins and an airy roof suggested military jet fighters. Pushbuttons replaced old-fashioned transmission levers. And De Sotos were powerful -- perfect for the new high-speed, four-lane turnpikes and the newly-funded interstate highway system.
In 1908, George Robertson drove this car to victory in the Vanderbilt Cup, America's first great automobile race. It was the first time an American car won a major international road race in the United States. The Locomobile competed while wearing race number 16, and it's been known as "Old 16" ever since.
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.
Honda introduced its Accord in 1976 as a compact car. It was economical, well-built, and fun to drive. Over the years Accords got bigger, and by 1989 they could accommodate families. In 1989 Accord became the first Japanese nameplate to become the best-selling car in the United States. Ironically, many Accords, including this one, were built at Honda's plant in Marysville, Ohio.
The Smiths Creek Depot stood on the Grand Trunk Western Railway, about 10 miles southwest of Port Huron, Michigan. The railroad station was the center of 19th century small-town life. More than a place to catch a train, the depot was where customers sent and received packages and telegrams, caught up on the latest news, and shared gossip.
Though the Wright family moved around, brothers Wilbur and Orville always thought of this house, originally located at 7 Hawthorn Street in Dayton, Ohio, as home. Orville was born here in 1871, and Wilbur died here in 1912. It was also here that the brothers began their serious studies in aviation -- work that led to their successful 1903 Wright Flyer.
Wilbur and Orville Wright operated their Dayton, Ohio, bicycle business out of this building from 1897 to 1908. The brothers sold and repaired bikes, and even produced models under their own brands. It was also in this shop that the Wright brothers built their earliest flying machines, including the 1903 Flyer that became the first successful heavier-than-air, powered, controlled aircraft.
The Torch Lake, built by the 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. The Torch Lake joined The Henry Ford's collection in 1969.
When it inspires a song, you know it's popular. This Olds was the bestselling car in America from 1902 to 1905. Automobiles had an emotional appeal. A driver in 1901 said that controlling a car satisfied "an almost universal sense, the love of power." Despite the attraction, cars were not a significant player in the transportation world. In 1903, 4000 people bought Oldsmobiles, but more than 900,000 bought buggies and carriages.
Cadillac introduced the electric starter in 1912. The device, which eliminated the difficult and sometimes dangerous work of hand-cranking an engine, was quickly adopted by other automakers. Charles Kettering, formerly an engineer with National Cash Register, developed the starter working from electric motors used in cash registers. This engine features an improved starter from Cadillac's 1913 model year.
Plymouth Voyager advertising called this the "all-new space-age American family wagon," and it really was a new kind of vehicle. Shorter than typical sedans, station wagons, or large vans, the new "mini-vans" were easy to drive but could carry seven people, plus lots of luggage, camping gear, or sports equipment. They were instantly popular with buyers and were immediately copied by other manufacturers, foreign and domestic.
Hybrid automobiles improve fuel efficiency and reduce tailpipe emissions compared to standard internal combustion-powered cars. Hybrids use small internal combustion engines and battery-powered electric motors. Powerful computers and sophisticated software coordinate the smooth, seamless transfer of power between the two units. This Prius is one of Toyota's first-generation hybrids, introduced in the United States in 2000.
The caboose was the conductor's office, the crew's quarters, and the observation platform from which to spot problems with the train. It could also be dangerous. "Slack action" -- sudden movement when slack ran in and out of a moving train -- could toss riders about. Computerized record keeping, trackside defect detectors and smaller crews made the caboose obsolete by the 1980s.
Small enough to be taken apart and shipped anywhere, the Bleriot XI could be reassembled from drawings, with basic tools, in about nine hours. Louis Bleriot proved the design's worth in 1909 when he piloted an XI Monoplane on the first flight across the English Channel.
Scotsman Jim Clark won the Indianapolis 500 with this rear-engine car in 1965. After his victory, a traditional front-engine car never won that race again. The Lotus-Ford combined a European Formula One-inspired lightweight chassis with a big Ford V-8 engine. The Lotus-Ford's success effectively killed the traditional Indy roadster and established a new design for American race cars.
This car was built to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driven by Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt, it accomplished that goal in 1967, beating the second-place Ferrari by 32 miles at a record-breaking average speed of 135.48 miles per hour. The Mark IV combined a sophisticated chassis with a big engine based on Ford's V-8 for stock car racing.
Charles Metz of Waltham, Massachusetts, built the Orient Oriten in 1896 as a way to promote his Orient line of bicycles. Metz featured this 23-foot-long, 305-pound ten-seater at local bicycle meets and races throughout the country. The vehicle, though difficult to ride, could reach speeds of 45 mile per hour. The Henry Ford owns the only surviving Oriten.
This 1941 FL model motorcycle, built by Harley-Davidson of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is fitted with a two-cylinder, overhead valve "knucklehead" engine, named for the unique shape of its valve covers. The FL bikes featured large frames well suited to highway cruising. The attached sidecar made the motorcycle a practical, more affordable alternative to an automobile.
Henry Ford and Ford Motor Company revolutionized the auto industry once again in 1932 with the introduction of a low-priced V-8 engine. By casting the crankcase and cylinder banks as a single unit, Ford cut manufacturing costs and could offer its V-8 in a car starting under $500. Ford's original V-8 design remained in production, with modifications, until 1953.
Steam locomotives required constant maintenance from an army of skilled and unskilled workers, and the roundhouse is where that work took place. This roundhouse was built in 1884 in Marshall, Michigan, for the Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Railroad. Today it services the locomotives and equipment of Greenfield Village's Weiser Railroad.
In 1969, Honda introduced the CB750. This motorcycle was fast, smooth, and reliable. Honda packaged a powerful 4-cylinder engine, five-speed gearbox, electric starter, and front disc brake -- something new to the motorcycle world -- into a light weight and reasonably priced vehicle. The CB750 is sometimes called the first modern motorcycle.
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.
This is one of the earliest diesel-electric locomotives used on American railroads. Diesel-electrics offered many advantages over steam locomotives. They required less maintenance, were more fuel-efficient, and could be operated by smaller crews. This locomotive's body houses an Ingersoll-Rand diesel engine that drives a General Electric generator, which in turn powers electric motors on the axles.
In 1914 Detroit blacksmith August Fruehauf devised a simple single axle trailer for lumber dealer Frederic Sibley. Hooked to a modified Ford Model T, it carried Sibley's boat on vacation trips. Sibley then had Fruehauf modify the trailer for hauling lumber. This "semi-trailer," as Fruehauf called it, is the ancestor of trailers carrying freight all over American roads today.
The Model T's distinction as a landmark car design can be traced in large part to machines like this -- a high capacity precision machine tool that performed just two production steps on the car engine's cylinder block. The Model T as a design achievement is inseparable from many hundreds of engineering, materials, and production innovations.
In 1926, Alfred P. Sloan Jr., president of General Motors, sought a lower-priced companion to the Cadillac to fill out General Motors product line. He lured a custom designer named Harley Earl to Detroit for the project and the result was the 1927 LaSalle, the first mass-production car to be consciously "stylized." The stylish and affordable LaSalle marked the demise of individually-designed and prohibitively expensive custom cars.
Angelica Bratt Campbell purchased this sporty, two-passenger carriage from coachmaker William Ross of New York City. She used it in and around Schenectady, New York, where her husband had made a fortune as a merchant. In the 1790s carriages were much rarer than cars today -- especially for city dwellers. Only the wealthy could afford closed carriages like this one.
The "combination car" combined the functions of a baggage car and a passenger coach. These economical railcars were ideal for distant branches or short line operations, where traffic was light. This car, built circa 1905 and used on Michigan's Detroit & Mackinac Railway, includes three compartments: a baggage area, a smoking compartment, and a seven-seat parlor.
General Motors tested a series of autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, California, and Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2016. These cars, developed with GM subsidiary Cruise Automation and based on the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle, used a combination of cameras, radar and lidar sensors, cellular and GPS antennas, and powerful computers to drive themselves on public streets in both cities.