America's Industrial Revolution
61 artifacts in this set
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.
Swift & Company's Meat Packing House, Chicago, Illinois, "Splitting Backbones and Final Inspection of Hogs," 1910-1915
At this meat packing operation, a conveyor moved hog carcasses past meat cutters, who then removed various pieces of the animal. To keep Model T production up with demand, Ford engineers borrowed ideas from other industries. Sometime in 1913 they realized that the "disassembly line" principle employed in slaughterhouses could be adapted to building automobiles -- on a moving assembly line.
The first Ford assembly line at the Highland Park, Michigan plant was relatively crude. Here, in 1913, workers put V-shaped magnets on Model T flywheels to make one-half of the flywheel magneto. Each worker installed a few parts and simply shoved the flywheel down the line to the next worker.
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.
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.
Unimate made the first successful industrial robots, and this is the first Unimate robot ever installed on an assembly line. The robot unloaded a die-casting press at the General Motors Ternstedt Division plant in Trenton, New Jersey in 1961. A hydraulically activated arm makes this an electro-hydraulic robot.
The Fordson tractor, manufactured by Henry Ford and Son, Inc., was the first lightweight, mass-produced tractor that was affordable to the average farmer. Through this and other efforts, Henry Ford sought to relieve farmers of the burden of heavy labor. Ford gave this Fordson, the first production model, to fellow innovator Luther Burbank, creator of hundreds of new plant varieties.
Ford Motor Company built the Rouge Plant with the ability to create automobiles from raw materials. In this photograph, the boat docks and huge coal, iron ore and limestone bins are visible. In 1948, about 850,000 tons of ore and 2,500,000 tons of coal arrived by boat and filled these bins to be used towards building Ford cars.
William Henry Jackson of the Detroit Publishing Company captured a typical scene inside of a nineteenth century Mississippi cotton gin mill. Workers fed raw cotton into the gin which separated the cotton fibers from the cottonseeds. In Jackson's photograph, African American workers pressed the separated cotton into bales while an overseer watched closely.
Photo taken near the end of the Model T assembly line at the Highland Park Plant, 1914. Radiators, assembled elsewhere in the same building, were conveyed to an overhead platform and slid down ramps. Wheels, with tires mounted and inflated, rolled down chutes from the upper levels of the building. Workers installed both on chassis pulled along by moving chains.
By the time this oil tank wagon was built for the Standard Oil Company about 1892, petroleum products were in common use in both urban and rural areas of the United States. People needed kerosene for heating and lighting, and oil to lubricate traction and small stationary engines on the farm. By the 1910s, many of these wagons also hauled gasoline and oil for rural automobiles. This wagon has three separate compartments-for kerosene,...
This Ford Motor Company leaflet discusses its exhibit at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, the Model T, and its U.S. factories. The image of the main plant at Highland Park, Michigan illustrates the comprehensive manufacturing operations. The plant had facilities for casting, machining, stamping, assembly, and shipping. The massive power plant with five smoke stacks generated the factory's electricity.
The Shelby Division of Copperweld, in Shelby, Ohio, used this time recording punch clock. The numbered wheel can be rotated, which activates the time recording mechanism, causing the employee number and time to be printed on paper tape fixed to the drum at the rear of the mechanism. The clock is an electrically activated slave unit connected to a master clock. Such time clocks both regulated employees' workdays and helped insure accurate...
Portable steam engines like this powered grain threshers, sawmills, or corn shellers. Horses pulled them from farm to farm. In 1882, 19-year-old Henry Ford was able to make this engine run well when an older man could not; his first accomplishment in the adult world. Thirty years later Ford tracked down the engine, bought it, and returned it to operating condition.
Westinghouse Portable Steam Engine Powering Thresher at Gleason Farm, Redford Township, Michigan, October 3, 1923
Until reliable internal combustion engines became available, farmers depended on portable steam engines. They were efficient and affordable, and when mounted on wheels or skids, horses could pull them from farm to farm. The small engines powered agricultural machinery like sawmills, corn shellers, or -- as seen here -- grain threshers.
Steamboats were popular for long-distance and inter-city travel. These boats made trips between Detroit and Cleveland in 1911.
Ford and his engineers constantly searched for ways to speed up car production and keep costs low. The integration of a moving assembly line in Highland Park Plant allowed the company to do just that. From 1908-1927, Ford Motor Company produced over 15 million Model T cars and the price dropped from $850 to as little as $260.
Founded in 1914 to address the language needs for Ford's ever-expanding immigrant labor force, the Ford English School used this method of language training to quickly give students a basic and functional vocabulary of English words to help them integrate into American society. In addition to English, the school also taught students, many attending classes before or after their regular shifts, the requirements needed to pass citizenship tests...
When the V-8 went into production in 1932, Henry Ford and Ford Motor Company once again revolutionized the automobile market. The engine was the first V-8 light enough and cheap enough to go in an inexpensive car like a Ford. The secret was casting the cylinder block in one piece. This is a common practice today but was a manufacturing breakthrough in 1932. Henry Ford personally oversaw the design and development of the V-8 with a selected...
Unmarried young people found that some Victorian-era social restrictions -- like having a chaperone -- loosened on a bicycle trip.
Ford's Model T mass production system would not have been practical without electricity; by 1919 nine of these Ford-designed hybrid internal combustion/steam engines generated the power needed by the Highland Park plant's assembly lines and associated machinery. By 1926 the engines were rendered obsolete when electricity was fed from the power plant at Ford's River Rouge plant ten miles away.
This photographic negative gives a glimpse of farm life circa 1900. Most farms were family operations and everyone, including children, had a job to do. People and horses were the primary power sources for most farm work. But technology, like electricity, was becoming more widely available, even in rural in farmhouses.
Around 1919 a farmer driving his converted Model T Runabout is pulling a McCormick-Deering reaper to harvest grain in Minnesota. Large-diameter steel-drive wheels and a rear power takeoff were all that was needed to achieve the conversion. For only $195, E.G. Staude Company of St Paul, Minnesota had started selling the Mak-a-Tractor conversion kit for the Model T in 1917, capitalizing on the popularity of the Ford car among farmers. Staude...
As the 19th century progressed, Americans had additional travel options. Railroads competed with steamboats for freight, mail, and passenger traffic. Rail routes often paralleled major river traffic routes. In 1852, the Hudson River Railroad offered travel to points along the river between New York City and Troy. This schedule shows the different travel schedules and options available to passengers.
Canals opened new lands to settlement and commerce in the first half of the 19th century. New York's Erie Canal, completed in 1825, connected Albany with Buffalo. It also joined with other canals to make more areas of the state accessible. This print shows the junction of the "Northern" (Champlain) and the "Western" (Erie) canals.
Machining Model T Ford engine blocks, ca. 1914. Fifteen engine block castings were loaded into large milling machines that made two cuts on the bottom of each block. The Highland Park machine shop was filled with such specialized machine tools. One of these machines is displayed in the Made in America exhibition in Henry Ford Museum.
When August Edinger of Kimmswick, Missouri, bought this mail wagon in 1902, he was part of a "communications revolution" sweeping the American countryside. That year, Congress made rural postal routes-operated in a few areas since 1897- a permanent part of the postal service. Instead of having to make a trip to town a few times a week, rural inhabitants now had their mail delivered each day to their farms. Edinger's rural customers opened...
This single-cylinder, four horsepower engine powered the Oldsmobile Curved-Dash runabout. It has one cylinder, one piston, one connecting rod and crank, one balance wheel, and two valves. The complications of larger multi-cylinder engines were eliminated. The engine's simplicity and the vehicle's affordable $650 price made the Curved-Dash runabout America's first car produced in large numbers.
Before it was the Motor City, Detroit had a diversified industrial economy. Its waterway and railroad access made Detroit a prime location for manufacturing. The Berry Brothers Varnish Factory and office was built in 1861 on the corner of Leib and Wight Streets. The company made varnish used by other industries, including railroad cars, carriages, wagons, furniture and farm implements.
The image shows continuing United Auto Workers activity outside the Ford Rouge plant less than three months following the "Battle of the Overpass," in which Ford Motor Company security men beat labor organizers Walter Reuther, Richard Frankensteen, Richard Merriweather and Ralph Dunham. Men and women hand out special editions of the United Auto Worker UAW newspaper while boys sell Detroit Free Press newspapers.
Byron Moore grew up on a farm in rural Utica, Michigan and came to work for Ford Motor Company. This biography describes his positions at the Piquette Plant, Grand Boulevard and Woodward sales branch office, Highland Park Plant and Rouge Plant. Moore also remarks on Henry Ford's theories about agriculture and advancements in safety on the farm.
This short biography reveals James O'Connor's history with the Ford Motor Company. After starting work in a paint shop at a young age, O'Connor progressed through the employment ranks to become the final assembly line foreman in B building of the Ford Rouge Plant.
Joseph Galamb was an engineer from Hungary who immigrated to the United States in 1904. Galamb was part of the Ford Motor Company team that produced the 1909 Ford Model T. This biography explains how Galamb came to the United States, and includes his memories of looking for work, his first job and finally finding the right fit at Ford.
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.
So called "safety" bicycles like this one-chain drive bikes with both wheels the same size superceded the fast but dangerous high-wheeler bikes in the early 1890s. Easier to ride than the high-wheelers, faster than walking, cheaper and more convenient than a horse and buggy, safety bicycles allowed unprecedented freedom and personal mobility. They helped whet the public's appetite for the even greater (but much more expensive) freedom and...
The design of this 1858 Rogers locomotive accommodates factors and limitations directly connected to the character of American railroads. Its flexible wheel arrangement, high power output, and light weight allow it to perform on the tight curves, steep grades, and hastily-constructed track that characterized cheaply-built American railroads. Cost cutting approaches a preference for cast iron components and the use of thin boiler plates...
Ticket for Travel by Train, Canal Boat, and Steamboat, "Rail Road Line from New York to Buffalo," 1831
The passengers traveling on this 1831 ticket could use three complementary modes of transportation: canal boats, steamboats, and railroads.
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.
From the 1820s to the 1850s, hundreds of these uniquely designed carts could be seen transporting supplies to the Red River Valley settlements of northwestern Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada each year. On return trips, the carts carried meat, furs and skins to St. Paul, where the goods were sold or traded to the Hudson Bay Company. A Red River cart could be built with the most basic tools and no metal was required for its construction. ...
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.
In 1872, Montgomery Ward & Company launched America's first general mail order company. Through their catalogs, the company offered a broad selection of goods at affordable prices. Others would follow. But as this 1894-1895 catalog proudly states, Montgomery Ward & Company were the "Originators of the Mail Order Business."
"New Yorker" Reaper was made between 1851 and 1853 by Seymour and Morgan, one of the earliest manufacturers of harvesting machinery, and is similar to Cyrus McCormick's "Virginia" reaper. Horse-drawn reapers like this greatly expanded the productivity of American farmers by reducing labor requirements over harvesting by hand with a sickle, while allowing the increase of land under cultivation.
Spinning fibers into yarn for weaving into cloth was an important task in many 17th and 18th century households. Spinning, often the work of young or unmarried women, was a skilled -- but often tedious -- task. The woman who operated this large wool wheel spent countless hours walking to and fro, alternately spinning the wool fibers into yarn and then winding it onto the spindle.
Called a "plantation spinner" or "spinster", this small machine combined the three processes required to convert raw cotton to yarn -- ginning, carding and spinning. Its small size and human-powered design was made for plantation slave labor. By the time of the Civil War, there were 3000 in use across the south. After emancipation they were no longer economically viable.
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.
When Edison moved to Menlo Park, New Jersey in spring of 1876 the laboratory building contained his entire operation -- a handful of collaborators, office, library, and machine shop as well as laboratory. As the scale of Edison's investigations grew so did the complex, but this building -- dedicated to experimental activities -- was always understood to be the heart of the enterprise.
Originally built as a photographic studio and drafting room, the glassblowing shop was fundamental to Edison's enterprise. Edison's incandescent lighting experiments ensured that the laboratory had a voracious appetite for glass -- not only for bulbs but also for associated apparatus such as vacuum pumps. Ludwig Boehm, the laboratory's first master glassblower, worked here -- and lodged in the attic space.
This forge belonged to the Stanley family, who were the blacksmiths in the Cotswold village of Snowshill from before 1795. The business passed between family members until it ceased operation in 1909 with the death of Charles Stanley. Blacksmiths made tools and hardware from iron. At the time of the shop's closing, most work was repair of factory-made items.
Small sawmills played a fundamental role in rural communities in nineteenth century America, processing locally-logged wood to provide sawn lumber for construction in the immediate area. While many such mills were water powered, this was steam-powered from the outset. It was simple but refined -- a modest, self-sufficient industrial operation (water and fuel was available onsite), comfortably wedded to its rural location.
Gristmills -- usually among the earliest businesses established in a community -- ground grain harvested by local farmers. This mill, originally located in Monroe, Michigan, was set up to grind both corn and wheat. It incorporates a sophisticated conveyor system, developed by Oliver Evans in the late 1700s, that moves grain through the building to undergo a variety of processes.
Farmers use hoes for a variety of jobs. The hoe can break up hard soil, dig holes, and cut unwanted roots and weeds found around crops. This useful tool has been an agricultural basic for thousands of years. According to the donor, this tobacco hoe was brought to Missouri from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1828.