Featured on The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation: Season 8
26 artifacts in this set
Drop the top, and cruise like a movie star! It sounds like fun. But movie stars live in sunny California -- most of us don't. Convertibles may draw people into showrooms, but sedans take them home. In 1956, only about 2.6 percent of Chevy customers drove home in ragtops. Despite that fact, the carefree appeal of 1950s convertibles has made them a symbol of that era.
This timber frame loom is the type used by American colonists to produce fabrics for clothing, table and bed linens, and utilitarian items like towels and sacks. Hand weaving was labor intensive, so these textiles were among the most valuable household items. Many weavers were professionals, weaving at home or in a small workshop, but some families also had looms to produce their own cloth.
Yellowstone National Park, established 1872, was America's first national park. The inscription "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People," over the park's north entranceway, symbolizes the ideals that created Yellowstone and defined the vision for all national parks to come. This arch, completed in 1903, was dedicated by and later named after President Theodore Roosevelt.
Many early American bridges operated as private businesses. Travelers paid tolls to cross them. Tolls repaid construction costs, funded maintenance, and hopefully produced a profit for owners. Workers at this toll house, built in 1828, collected fares for a bridge across the Merrimack River at Rocks Village, Massachusetts. Henry Ford acquired the building in 1928 and moved it to Greenfield Village.
Spinning frames spin cotton fiber into yarn and then wind it onto a bobbin. This throstle spinning frame could simultaneously spin 64 strands of yarn. (Throstle -- an old name for a song thrush -- refers to the bird-like sounds the machine made.) Machines like this helped produce the large quantities of yarn that growing industrial weaving operations needed in the early and mid-1800s.
Scenic, park-like roadways for carriages, horses, and bicycles led to experiments with urban "parkways" for automobiles. But these roads, intended for pleasure driving, were soon dominated by suburban commuters. One such road was the Merritt Parkway, created in the 1930s to relieve traffic congestion on busy U.S. Route 1 between the New York state line and Milford, Connecticut.
Children's furniture often reflected up-to-date fashion trends found in full-sized adult versions. Parents in the 1950s could purchase this modern child-sized table with a Formica top as part of a set with patterned vinyl-covered chairs. Children could sit comfortably around this fashionable playset and pretend to be mom and dad, who probably were sitting around a similar adult-sized version in the kitchen.
The first baby monitor was created by Zenith president, Eugene McDonald, Jr. Concerned for his daughter's safety following the 1932 Lindbergh baby kidnapping, McDonald's device allowed monitoring of children after bedtime. The "Guardian Ear" transmitter was installed in a child's bedroom while the "Radio Nurse" receiver was placed near parents. Sculptor Isamu Noguchi created the receiver's aesthetic, which looked like an abstracted image of a...
Tomatoes need careful handling. Growers who contract with processors used to rely on human laborers. The quest to plant and harvest more, faster, gave mechanical engineers and plant geneticists incentive to design a machine and a tomato it could harvest. The FMC Cascade Harvester carried 10-12 laborers who sorted debris out of the crop, fewer laborers than growers had needed for handpicking.
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.
Henry Ford attended this one-room schoolhouse from age seven to ten. Because of Ford's fondness for his teacher John Chapman, he not only followed Chapman to Miller School but also brought Chapman's house to Greenfield Village. This school, originally built in 1861 in Dearborn Township, was the first classroom of the Greenfield Village school system Henry Ford started in 1929.
Alonson Howard practiced medicine in rural Tekonsha, Michigan, starting around the time of the Civil War. He was an "eclectic" physician, combining Western medicine and surgery with the herbal and homeopathic methods popular in the 19th century. This building was the waiting room, office and laboratory for Doc Howard and his patients. He also made herbal medicines here.
One of Japan's leading glass artists, Hiroshi Yamano is known for technical skills and innovative surface applications. Hiroshi uses the fish as a symbol to describe his journeys from Japan to America -- literally crossing the ocean. Most recently he has been focusing on imagery of his homeland and has included flowers and birds to complete his scenes of Japan.
Hunneman & Company, founded in Boston in 1792, was known for the high quality of its hand-pumped fire equipment, like this example. When in use, the long bars -- called brakes -- were placed on the ends of the pumper. Teams of firefighters pushed them up and down to pump water. This pumper originally served the town of Orono, Maine.
Research scientist Domick Labino created the #475 marbles for commercial use. These marbles had a relatively low melting point. Labino offered these for use in a series of workshops led by Harvey Littleton at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1962. The marbles were successfully melted in a small kiln and blown into vessels, laying the foundation for the Studio Glass Movement.
Designer Milton Baumann and pilot Howard Rinehart hoped to win the 1920 Gordon Bennett Air Race with their Dayton-Wright RB-1. Years ahead of its time, the airplane featured a single cantilevered wing, movable wing flaps for adjustable camber settings, an enclosed cockpit, and retractable landing gear. But a failed control cable knocked Rinehart out of contention. The RB-1 never raced again.
In the decades following the Civil War base ball clubs rapidly came to represent a community's identity and honor. Players donned colorful uniform shirts to make the team readily visible to its supporters and opponents alike. The oversized "A" on this bright red wool shirt would have stood for the name of the community, company, school or club.
Henry Ford hired a fearless bicycle racer named Barney Oldfield to drive "999." Although he had never driven a car, Oldfield learned quickly and 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.
In addition to lending some charm, covering a bridge protects its wooden truss work from weather, extending the structure's service life. Joshua Ackley and Daniel Clouse built the Ackley Covered Bridge in 1832, across Wheeling Creek in southwestern Pennsylvania. Henry Ford acquired the bridge in 1937, when it was scheduled to be torn down, and moved it to Greenfield Village.
Catalin, a hardy plastic, had mass appeal during the 1930s. Catalin jewelry was inexpensive to make, easy to work with, and versatile -- which meant that it was widely available in a variety of fashionable colors appealing to Depression-weary Americans. These bracelets were likely produced for mass merchandisers, but retailers offered Catalin jewelry at every price point.
Pumper trucks from the Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, were distinguished by front-mounted pumps topped with large chrome balls. Air in that ball-shaped chamber smoothed out the pulses of water delivered by the piston pump. The ball also led to an unusual complaint from some drivers: excessive glare from sunlight glinting off the shiny sphere.
This adorable keychain, intended for children, shows just how creatively plastic has been used in jewelry production. The interlocking elements are artfully arranged in the primary colors of red and yellow, plus green. Children solved the puzzle through trial and error, arranging and rearranging the elements to create a dog shape. Once through, they may have hung house keys on the interlocking chain.
In 1908, driver George Robertson and mechanician Glenn Ethridge took this car to victory in the Vanderbilt Cup, America's first great automobile race. It marked the first time an American-built car won a major international road-circuit race. The Locomobile competed while wearing race number 16, and it's been known as "Old 16" ever since.