The Most Popular Digital Collections Artifacts of 2019
50 artifacts in this set
On April 13, 1934, Ford Motor Company received this unusual product testimonial. In it notorious bank robber Clyde Barrow extolled the virtues of Ford V-8s as getaway cars. Handwriting analysts have questioned the letter's authenticity, but it is the sort of thing the publicity-seeking Barrow might have written.
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.
Button, "You Are the Spark That Started Our Freedom Movement. Thank You Sister Rosa Parks," circa 1988
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her courageous act of protest was considered the spark that ignited the Civil Rights movement. For decades, Martin Luther King Jr.'s fame overshadowed hers. But by the time of this button, Parks was beginning to receive long-overdue recognition.
Carroll Shelby was brought in to boost Ford's struggling GT racing program in late 1964. Shelby, who'd won Le Mans as a driver in 1959, turned things around. His team reworked the GT40 and, with Ford engineers, replaced its 289-cubic inch engine with a big 427. Ford swept the Le Mans podium in 1966 by taking first, second, and third places.
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.
In 1914 Ford Motor Company established the Ford English School, where the automaker's diverse immigrant employees could learn the English language and take civics lessons in preparation for becoming U.S. citizens. At the graduation ceremony, students wearing clothing from their native countries descended into a large "American Melting Pot" and emerged wearing homogenous suits and waving American flags.
This is Henry Ford's first race car. After his first auto company failed, Ford turned to racing to restore his reputation. He raced "Sweepstakes" against Alexander Winton on October 10, 1901, and, to everyone's surprise, the novice Ford beat the established Winton. The victory and resulting publicity encouraged financiers to back Ford's second firm.
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.
Inside this bus on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a soft-spoken African-American seamstress, refused to give up her seat to a white man, breaking existing segregation laws. The flawless character and quiet strength she exhibited successfully ignited action in others. For this, many believe Rosa Parks' act was the event that sparked the Civil Rights movement.
Bill Elliott set NASCAR's all-time speed record with this car when he qualified for the 1987 Winston 500 at Talladega at 212.809 miles per hour. By the 1980s, "stock cars" only looked stock. Underneath this Thunderbird sheet metal is a purpose-built steel tube frame, racing suspension and brakes, and a racing engine that no Ford dealer ever sold.
Rocking Chair Used by Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theater the Night of His Assassination, April 14, 1865
President Abraham Lincoln was sitting in this rocking chair during a production of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC when he was assassinated on April 14, 1865. Henry Ford purchased the chair in 1929 for the Museum, where it remains one of the most revered objects associated with the "man who saved the Union."
In the nineteenth century, schoolchildren used slates to practice handwriting and arithmetic without wasting precious paper. Slate pencils were made of soapstone or softer pieces of slate rock, sometimes wrapped in paper like this one. Many students remember the sound of the slate pencil -- like nails on a chalkboard. In the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, chalk was used instead.
Henry Ford hired a fearless bicycle racer named Barney Oldfield to drive "999." Although he had never driven a car, Oldfield not only mastered it but also won his first competition. He went on to become America's first nationally famous racing hero, known for his thrilling exhibition races and the trademark cigar he chewed to protect his teeth in a crash.
Cotswold Cottage is from the Cotswold Hills in southwest England. The Fords were attracted to the distinctive character of Cotswold buildings, which are characterized by the yellow-brown stone, tall gables, steeply pitched roofs, and stone ornamentation around windows and doors. Several decorative additions were made to the house in England, before dismantling and re-erecting it in Greenfield Village.
When Carl Fisher and his partners opened Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909, the crushed stone and tar track surface quickly proved too dangerous. Fisher had the entire track resurfaced with 3.2 million paving bricks. The track was fully paved with asphalt by 1961, but a three-foot brick strip -- at the start/finish line -- remains, as does the speedway's nickname: the Brickyard.
Amana's Radarange, introduced in 1967, was the first compact microwave oven made for home use. By 1975, when Ed and Flo Harper bought this Radarange as a family Christmas gift, sales of microwave ovens outpaced gas ovens for the first time. The convenient, time-saving microwave oven was becoming a practical necessity for a fast-paced world. People had less time to devote to cooking.
President Ronald Reagan was getting into this car when he was shot by John Hinckley on March 30, 1981. The car carried Reagan to the hospital. Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and George H.W. Bush also used this car. In 1982 the front sheet metal was updated, but since a 1982 grille no longer fit properly on the 1972 body, a 1979 grille was used.
Henry Ford acquired the Wright brothers' home and cycle shop and relocated the buildings from Dayton, Ohio, to his Dearborn, Michigan, museum complex in 1937. Ford placed the structures right next to each other in Greenfield Village. In Dayton, the buildings had been located a few blocks apart.
After his first two attempts at commercial auto-making failed, Henry Ford found success with the Ford Motor Company, established in 1903. The firm's first product, the Model A, was conventional by the standards of the day. It featured a two-cylinder engine mounted under the seat and rear wheels driven by a chain.
Churches were a center of community life in the 1700s, a place where townspeople came together to attend services and socialize. The Martha-Mary Chapel, with its architecture inspired by New England's colonial-era churches, was built in Greenfield Village in 1929. This chapel was named after Henry Ford's mother, Mary Litogot Ford, and his mother-in-law, Martha Bench Bryant.
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.
British-born Ken Miles was a gifted race car engineer and driver. Through his work for Carroll Shelby, Miles got involved in Ford's GT racing program. Miles won the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1966, and placed second at Le Mans. Miles died in a crash while testing Ford's J-Car later that year.
When Henry Ford introduced the moving assembly line in 1913 he loved it but his employees didn't. The work was boring and relentless, and worker turnover was high. To get workers to stay, Henry more than doubled their pay, from $2.34 per day to $5 per day. It was headline news in Detroit and around the country.
Henry Ford built his first experimental engine using scrap metal for parts. He tested it on the kitchen sink after supper on December 24, 1893. For ignition he ran a wire from the ceiling's light bulb. His wife, Clara, hand fed the gasoline to the intake valve while Henry spun the flywheel. The engine roared into action, shaking the sink.
When Ford Motor Company's 1963 bid to buy Ferrari failed, Henry Ford II decided to beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After two disappointing years in which Ford cars didn't even finish the race, Mr. Ford gave these "motivational" cards to his senior managers in 1966. They worked! Ford took first, second, and third places at that year's race.
Many native-born Americans viewed immigrants with fear at the beginning of the 20th century. Economic instability and social tensions were blamed on foreigners, and the "immigrant problem" became a national focus. This anti-immigrant document released from the Ku Klux Klan announces members' belief in protecting traditional American ideals from immigrants, reflecting the fear that many native-born Americans felt.
In 1964, Pedwin Shoes sponsored contests in which winners received go-kart replicas of the Lotus-Ford driven by Jim Clark in the 1963 Indianapolis 500. Each kart featured a fiberglass body in Lotus green and yellow, wearing Clark's #92, with a gasoline-powered engine in the rear. Pedwin was a brand of the Brown Shoe Company of St. Louis, Missouri.
Two-seater runabouts like this 1906 Ford Model N were favored by middle-class Americans who could afford one. They were fast and rugged. Most runabouts featured one- or two-cylinder engines and bicycle-style chain drives. But this Ford Model N offered four cylinders and a shaft drive, plus it cost less. At $500, it became the bestselling car in America.
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.
In the early 1980s Japanese electronics manufacturers began to develop a sense of how to shape American tastes in design, terming their approach "lifestyle design." This boombox represents the first example of a Japanese electronics firm tapping into the international trend toward postmodernist design. It references 1930s American streamline design, while simultaneously drawing inspiration from 1950s American vernacular design.
The Model T's basic design received many updates over the car's 19-year life. Some incorporated mechanical improvements, some responded to growing consumer demands, and some simply reduced costs. The 1919 sedans were the first with electric starters and demountable tire rims. These features were standard on other makes but cost extra on a Ford, keeping the base price low.
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.
Benjamin and Catherine Firestone raised their three children in this farmhouse, including tire maker Harvey Firestone. Originally located near Columbiana, Ohio, the 1828 house was updated in 1882 to appear more stylish and up-to-date. The traditional Pennsylvania German layout of the Firestone's farmhouse was transformed, with a central foyer, separate dining room and kitchen, a sitting room, closets, wallpaper, and fancy new furniture.
Lincoln Motor Company adopted the greyhound as its corporate mascot in 1925. The swift, graceful animal was a fitting symbol for a company that prided itself on speedy and stylish motor cars. Gorham Manufacturing Company, a silversmithing firm based in New York City, designed the regal hood ornament that crowned Lincoln automobiles through the 1930s.
Henry Ford crafted his ideal car in the Model T. It was rugged, reliable and suited to quantity production. The first 2,500 Model Ts carried gear-driven water pumps rather than the thermosiphon cooling system adopted later. Rarer still, the first 1,000 or so -- like this example -- used a lever rather than a floor pedal to engage reverse.
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.
This 3/8 scale model was built to explore how the future of energy might affect the future of automotive design. The Ford Nucleon would have been powered by a rear-mounted self-contained nuclear reactor. This atomic automobile idea assumed, of course, that issues with nuclear safety and the size and weight of nuclear reactors would eventually be resolved. The Nucleon was never produced.
In this painting Norman Rockwell gives us an idealized view of Henry Ford building his first automobile in 1896. In a small brick shed behind the Fords' rented home on Bagley Avenue in Detroit, Henry fine tunes a part of the car while his wife Clara looks on, darning socks. The reality was somewhat different. Henry built the little car with the aid of several friends, and much of the work was done in a shop near Ford's place of work, an...
Letter written to Henry Ford from the wife of an assembly line worker, January 23, 1914. The woman writes asking Henry Ford to investigate the situation on the assembly lines in the factories with regard to working conditions. She is angry about the treatment her husband receives on the job.
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.
Ford workers disliked the new assembly line methods so much that by late 1913, labor turnover was 380 percent. The company's announcement to pay five dollars for an eight-hour day compared to the previous rate of $2.34 for a nine-hour day made many workers willing to submit to the relentless discipline of the line in return for such high wages.
Henry Ford II (center) celebrates with Bruce McLaren (left) and Chris Amon (right) after the two New Zealanders won the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT40 Mark II. Ford swept the podium that year, taking second and third places too. It was a milestone victory over Ferrari, the Italian automaker long dominant at the French race.
Henry Ford was born in this farmhouse on July 30, 1863. The house stood near the corner of present-day Ford and Greenfield Roads in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford grew up in the house and moved out at age 16 to find work in Detroit. He restored the farmhouse in 1919 and moved it to Greenfield Village in 1944.
This sharp looking little two-seater created a great "buzz" when racing driver Dan Gurney introduced it at the United States Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, New York, in 1962. Featuring a rear-mounted V-4 engine, it was unlike any Ford ever seen before. The Mustang name later appeared on a sporty four-seater that created its own buzz in 1964.
Henry Ford began restoration of his Dearborn, Michigan, birthplace in 1919. He repaired or replaced the farm buildings and filled the small, white clapboard house with original or similar furnishings he remembered from his boyhood. He dedicated the restoration to the memory of his beloved mother, Mary Litogot Ford, who died in 1876. In 1944, the house and outbuildings were moved to Greenfield Village.
This test tube was one of several that Charles Edison noticed standing open in a rack in the bedroom in which his father had just died in 1931. The attending physician was asked to seal the tubes, one of which Charles later sent on to Henry Ford who kept it with other Edison mementos at his home, Fair Lane.
Clara Ford, wife of Henry Ford, drove this Detroit Electric. In the years before World War I many women chose electric cars because they started instantly without hand cranking and had no difficult-to-shift transmission. The superintendent of the Detroit Electric factory employed his daughter, Lillian Reynolds, to sell to women -- including Clara Ford, who drove this car into the 1930s.
This FMC motorhome carried a three-man TV crew on America's back roads, where they took time "to meet people, listen to yarns, and feel the seasons change." The CBS-produced show, On the Road, featured Charles Kuralt's superbly crafted stories about ordinary people who were often quite extraordinary. It was a novel idea that lasted 27 years from 1967 to 1994.