The Most Popular Digital Collections Artifacts of 2020
50 artifacts in this set
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.
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 wealth and power of Southern plantation owners depended upon a large labor force of enslaved people. Slaves known for running away might have had to wear an iron collar like this, for punishment or to prevent them from running away again. The hooks caught on bushes or tree limbs, causing a violent jerking to the individual's head and neck.
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.
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.
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.
From the late 19th through the mid-20th centuries, segregation laws in Southern states separated African Americans and whites in almost every aspect of public life -- from railroad cars and schools to restrooms and drinking fountains. Varying from state to state, these laws were supposed to establish facilities that were "separate but equal." In reality, these were almost never equal.
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.
The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway's massive Allegheny, introduced in 1941, represents the peak of steam railroad 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, C&O began pulling these giants from service. Diesel-electric locomotives proved more flexible and less expensive.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, garments for swimming, also called sea bathing, were quite modest and included accessories like caps and lace-up bathing slippers. Bathing shoes served a practical purpose, helping protect the swimmer's feet from broken glass, shells or pebbles.
In his first season with the Chicago Bulls (1984-1985), basketball phenomenon Michael Jordan wore black and red Nike shoes. Almost immediately, the company launched commercial "Air Jordans" and an aggressive advertising campaign. The popularity of Air Jordans was unprecedented -- first-year sales totaled 130 million dollars! This pair was purchased as a Christmas present for a young Iowan boy in 1985.
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.
Amos and Grace Mattox -- descended from enslaved African Americans -- raised their two children in this rural Georgia farmhouse during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Amos farmed, cut hair, made shoes, and preached at the local church, while Grace sewed, canned, cooked, and helped needy neighbors. Although life was hard, the family proudly affirmed that there was "always enough."
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.
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.
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.
In 1923, Ford Motor Company launched the Ford Weekly Purchase Plan in response to the increasing popularity of buying cars on credit. Customers made payments to a bank in the amount of five dollars a week until they accumulated the price of a new Model T. It was unsuccessful because customers could just as easily open their own savings account.
Mary Janes are flat-soled shoes with straps that fasten across the instep. Named after a Buster Brown comic strip character, these simple shoes have remained a popular style for children -- especially little girls -- since the late 1800s. This pair was part of the stock from the Carey Boot Shop in Charlevoix, Michigan.
This was the first car built expressly for presidential use. It was nicknamed the "Sunshine Special" because President Franklin Roosevelt loved to ride in it with the top down. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 the car was returned to the factory where it was equipped with armor plate and bullet-resistant tires and gas tank. The "Sunshine Special" was retired in 1950.
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.
Parcheesi is based on Pachisi -- a game that originated in India. Basic game rules have players traveling around the cross-shaped board from start to home. Landing on another players' marker sends that player back to start. American game makers, Selchow and Righter, trademarked the Parcheesi name in 1874 after purchasing the game rights in 1867.
Starting in the early 1980s--and already established as an internationally recognized architect--Michael Graves began to pursue a parallel career as a product designer. Over the following three and a half decades he and his collaborators designed everything from humble household goods to limited edition luxury items for clients as diverse as Steuben, Alessi, Target, J. C. Penney, and Disney.
Saddle shoes are comfortable, lace-up shoes with a contrasting band of colored leather. The classic black and white combination was most popular after the Second World War, especially among American teens. The shoe's popularity has since waned, though saddle shoes are still available -- and in a variety of colors. This pair was part of the stock from the Carey Boot Shop in Charlevoix, Michigan.
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.
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.
Indiana farmwife Susan McCord made this stunningly beautiful quilt -- indisputably her masterpiece. This trailing vine design is a McCord original. McCord pieced together printed and solid cotton fabric scraps to create the over 300 leaves on each of the thirteen vine panels. McCord used variations of this vine in the borders of several quilts. But McCord's vine design is rendered to perfection in this work of genius.
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.
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.
This massive convertible Lincoln was built for President Harry S Truman in 1950, but it is most associated with Truman's successor Dwight D. Eisenhower, who used the car from 1952 until 1960. Eisenhower added the distinctive plastic "bubble top." Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson also used this car as a spare until its retirement in 1967.
Engineers designed the TR70 as a compact machine suitable for hilly terrain. The twin rotors (TR) shelled corn or threshed grain and moved it through the combine’s body. Setting the rotors at an angle (axial) shortened the machine. Farmers changed the front-end attachment to harvest corn, beans, or wheat. Stencils on this prototype, exhibited at trade shows, explained additional features.
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.
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.
Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon won the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans in the #2 Ford GT40 Mark II. Ford swept the podium that year with first, second, and third places. The company attempted a dramatic three-way tie but, because they started farther back in the grid, McLaren and Amon technically covered more distance in the French endurance race.