Graphic designer Steve Frykholm's picnic poster series for furniture company Herman Miller is inspired by classic outdoor eats, like sweet corn. The series represents some of the best known examples of American graphic design from the latter half of the 20th century. / THF188350
Watermelon, popsicles, barbecued chicken, hot dogs, sweet corn, lemonade and cherry
pie. These are quintessential American picnic foods — sticky, drippy foods best eaten with your hands while sitting on a picnic blanket in the summer heat with friends or family by your side. These are symbolic foods, foods that hold memory. When graphic designer Steve Frykholm was tasked with creating a poster to announce his company’s employee picnic, he relied on these foods to communicate much more than a workplace memo ever could.
Attention-drawing antics and fun, friendly games have long been a part of the summer picnics attended annually by the thousands of members who make us the UAW's Local 600. / Photo Credit: Photo of UAW Field Day 1948 courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University
When you’re observing the Dearborn Truck Plant’s final assembly line during the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, you’re watching a set of skilled operators put finishing touches on all-new Ford F-150s — one is built at the plant every 53 seconds. Those workers are part of UAW Local 600, a unit that’s some 5,000 members strong representing employees from the truck plant, its body shop and paint shop — an electric vehicle center has recently been added too — within the Ford Rouge Complex.
Created more than 40 years ago, the period kitchens on display in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation remain a popular visitor draw, transporting observers to another place and time.
Hidden in plain sight in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation are four period kitchens — the last remaining element of a 1979 museum-wide exhibit upgrade timed to coincide with The Henry Ford’s 50th anniversary. Curators created these kitchen vignettes, representing the late 1700s to the 1930s, to help visitors explore changes through time, putting into context The Henry Ford’s rich collection of over 200 years of household equipment.
These kitchens have staying power. Nearly a half century later, the display continues to resonate with visitors. Not surprising, since kitchens are at the center of activity in a home. They conjure up feelings of security, familiarity, family and friends. Immersive environments like these period kitchens in the museum possess the ability to transport visitors to another place and time. They assist in imagining the lives of people of the past and help us ponder how those experiences relate to our own today.
Metro Detroit is an area bursting with changemakers — those who break the mold to recreate it in their own image. Simply put: Forging your own path is the Detroit way. It’s also a sentiment actively celebrated within the physical spaces of The Henry Ford as well as instilled through its educational resources accessible online and around the world.
In the city’s culinary and grower worlds, several chefs and organizations are certainly blazing their own trails, working with a fierce passion and fortitude to create more equitable workspaces and, more importantly, more equitable food systems.
Whether it’s a woman-run kitchen where all voices are valued, a restaurant opened by immigrants who refused to fail or a BIPOC-led farm rooted in food sovereignty, thought leaders headquartered right in The Henry Ford’s backyard continue to set their own table when there isn’t a seat for them elsewhere.
In June 1878, Eadweard Muybridge was hard at work. At the Palo Alto Stock Farm in Stanford, California, the photographer positioned 12 cameras along the side of a racetrack. A wire trailed away from each camera, connected to an electromagnetic circuit. Muybridge was meticulous; he wanted the experiment to work. Leland Stanford, once governor of California, commissioned Muybridge to answer a pressing question: When a horse ran, did all four hooves ever leave the ground?
It was a contentious topic among horse-racing enthusiasts, and Muybridge believed he could settle the matter using one of Stanford’s horses. Loosing the horse onto the racetrack, as the animal careened around, it tripped the camera wires. Twelve tiny negatives were the result, capturing the full motion sequence. When Muybridge developed the images, they confirmed that when the horse gathered its legs beneath it, all four hooves left the ground.
Three brands developed by Corning Glass Works during the 20th century — Pyrex, Corning Ware and Corelle — became household names that revolutionized American kitchens and endured decades of changing consumer tastes and expectations.
Corning Glass Works found both industrial and household applications for Pyrex. The company produced Pyrex insulators and laboratory glassware alongside its increasingly popular ovenware in the 1930s. Pyrex Perfect Antenna Insulator, 1930-1939. / THF174626
In 1908, scientists at Corning developed glass that could withstand extreme temperatures. It was initially used for industrial products like railroad lanterns and battery jars. Hoping to broaden the market, Corning spent years testing possible household applications. Encouraged partly by the success of one notable experiment — when Bessie Littleton, whose husband was a Corning researcher, used a modified glass battery jar to bake a cake — Corning introduced Pyrex, a line of temperature-resistant glass cookware. The launch of Pyrex in 1915 inaugurated a new Corning division dedicated to consumer products.
Way before the advent of the internet and reality cooking shows, California-born Julia Child was sharing traditional French recipes on her television show The French Chef, which aired from 1963 to 1973.
As a cooking show pioneer, Child was well loved in America and around the world. A big part of her appeal was the fact that anyone who enjoyed cooking — or eating — could relate to her as a person. She had no airs or graces, and her audience saw her as a humble home cook, spontaneously and excitedly experimenting in the kitchen, sharing her love of food with anyone who wanted to learn. Today Child’s lighthearted, trial-and-error approach to cooking continues to influence cooks in the digital age who are working hard to preserve obscure recipes from the past.
When the internet became mainstream in the early 1990s, the way people shared food and cooking knowledge began to change. Able to receive feedback from fans and critics almost instantaneously, online cooks developed a more interactive and dynamic relationship with their audience, and the content they created sometimes took on a life of its own.
One of Child’s greatest fans was American food writer Julie Powell, who started blogging on the news and opinion website Salon in 2002 about her attempts to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In 2005, Powell’s posts were compiled into a cookbook titled Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. Powell’s journey — which had a profound impact on her own personal growth — was adapted in 2009 into the Nora Ephron-directed film Julie & Julia, starring Amy Adams as Powell and Meryl Streep as Child.
Thankfully, Powell’s legacy, and that of Child, lives on. Today home cooks around the world have adopted their educational and exploratory cooking styles, using different online platforms to raise public awareness about historical recipes, stories, cooking methods and practices.
Through Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, podcasts, websites and newsletters, internet cooks are connecting with a wide audience to preserve foods from the past.
The answer lies in understanding what local populations need and finding solutions with zero negative consequences. That’s sustainable. Many argue, however, that the health of the planet and well-being of its residents require a regenerative food system, one that eliminates harmful greenhouse gas emissions caused by chemical- and fossil-fuel-dependent agriculture. At present, agriculture and food processing contribute 30% to emissions that cause global warming. The planet has not been able to naturally sequester these emissions since 1945. A sustainable food system must offset and reverse these factors.
So how do we accomplish this? Ingenious strategies and innovative solutions designed and implemented locally can address the challenge. Models exist. Generations of growers have cultivated fields and tended livestock in tune with local resources. Acequias (engineered irrigation canals) in arid farming areas and terraced fields in mountainous regions confirm some of the strategies adopted over centuries to feed growers and those dependent on growers. Local ingenuity can turn alternative agriculture with little to no synthetic chemical dependence into regenerative agriculture. Yes, growers must play a central role, but customers committed to buying directly from growers at local markets must support the effort too.
To celebrate the completion of the first six months of work on our 2022-2024 IMLS Museums for America – Collections Stewardship Program, the Conservation staff are highlighting some standout objects we have cleaned and repaired. This grant began late last year as part of a two-year project to conserve, rehouse, relocate and create fully digital catalog records for 1,800 objects related to agriculture and the environment that have resided in the Collections Storage Building. Many of these objects will be used to support our Edible Education and Green Museum initiatives.
Stop by the back of the museum, near the steam engines, to get a peek through the windows of the Conservation lab and see what staff are currently conserving.
One of the first objects chosen for the grant was this entertaining dolphin-patterned culinary mold that received a thorough cleaning. The image above was taken during cleaning.
The inscription reads: “OF ALL Y FISHES IN Y SEA / I AM DOLPHIN EAT OF ME” / THF192318
This glass washboard was cracked in nine places and previously mended, but the glue was discolored from aging. The tin soap tray mounted in the wooden frame was corroded.
My friend Jennifer introduced me to Marian Morash’s The Victory Garden Cookbook (Alfred A. Knopf, 1982) in 2022. She explained that the cookbook was her mother's go-to wedding present. When Jennifer and her daughter saw a feature article about Mrs. Morash and her husband in Better Homes & Gardens (2017) they wrote her. They thanked her for the inspiration the cookbook provided three generations of cooks in Jennifer's family, and the modest Beard-Award-winning chef, author and TV personality wrote back, amazed that the cookbook could still be found.
Marian’s inspiration came from none other than Julia Child who passed along partially cooked foods from a cooking show that Marian’s husband, Russell Morash, piloted in 1962. The following summarizes the connections that laid the groundwork for the influential Victory Garden Cookbook.
Dust jacket, The Victory Garden Cookbook (1982). / THF708642
Hardcover, The Victory Garden Cookbook (1982). / THF708645
Morash’s husband, TV producer Russell Morash, first encountered Julia Child, co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1962), on the WGBH-TV show I’ve Been Reading, in an episode likely broadcast on February 19, 1962. Child captivated WGBH-TV staff and viewers with her cooking demonstration, and the station decided to produce three pilot episodes of The French Chef. These aired in 1962 on July 26 (the omelet), August 2 (coq au vin) and August 23 (the souffle). The new series, The French Chef, debuted February 11, 1963. Marian’s husband, Russell Morash, produced the new series. The half-prepared recipes that Russell salvaged from the show, along with Julia Child’s directions written to Marian so she could complete the cooking, nurtured the nascent chef. In 1975, Marian co-founded Straight Wharf Restaurant in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and ran it as executive chef.