Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

turbine-engine

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

turbine-car

Engines Exposed: 1963 Chrysler Turbine

Regenerative gas turbine engine, 130 horsepower

Chrysler’s experimental turbine engine had 80 percent fewer moving parts than a piston engine, producing a very smooth ride. Regenerative turbines used gasses twice – once to drive the car and again to heat new air drawn into the system. Fuel flexibility was terrific (it ran on anything from gasoline to peanut oil) but fuel mileage (around 11.5 m.p.g.) wasn’t so hot.

engines

mercury-cougar

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

mercury-cougar-2

Engines Exposed: 1968 Mercury Cougar

V-8 cylinder engine, overhead valves, 390 cubic inches displacement, 335 horsepower

Unlike other pony cars, the upscale Cougar didn’t bother with 6-bangers. V-8 was the only available engine layout. This XR7-G model is equipped with Mercury’s 390-4V engine. The “V” is for Venturi, meaning that there’s a four-barrel carburetor under that air cleaner. And the “G” in the model name? That’s for Dan Gurney, who raced Cougars in Trans Am competition.

EI.1929.2383

Henry Ford collected many highly significant buildings for the historical and educational institution that would become Greenfield Village—Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Lab, the Wright Brothers’ Cycle Shop, and Luther Burbank’s Garden Office among them.  However, some of the buildings destined for the Village had a very personal connection to Henry Ford’s own history.  One such building is the Chapman Family Home, where John B. Chapman and his wife Susie lived during the 1870s.  Chapman was a teacher first at the Scotch Settlement School and then at Miller School—and at both schools was a favorite of one of his young pupils, Henry Ford.  We’ve just digitized a few photographs related to the home and to the teacher, including this portrait of Chapman himself.  Visit our digital collections to see more images of the Chapman home and the family and learn about the teacher who inspired Henry Ford.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

digital collections

corvair-engine

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

1960-corvair

Engines Exposed: 1960 Chevrolet Corvair

Horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine, overhead valves, 140 cubic inches displacement, 80 horsepower

Chevrolet took the engine to a place it had rarely been in an American production car – the rear. Much of the motor is hidden by a metal shroud directing air flow from the deck louvers. There are two carburetors, one for each cylinder bank, connected to a single air cleaner at center. Later models increased trunk size up front by moving the spare tire to the engine compartment.

engines

Painted Federal Pier Table after treatment, THF 62.139.1. The table is made of pine with a marble top. The painted motifs are gilded urns and horns with rope swags and also bell-flower festoons on alternating panels. The legs also bear free-hand designs incorporating gilded floral elements. The painted and gilded ornaments mimic more expensive metal ornaments that can be found on more expensive furniture of this period.

Museum Conservators don’t usually like stripping. But sometimes we need to do it.

I partially stripped a yellowed varnish from select areas of this fabulous table to restore a more period - appropriate contrast between the painted panels.

If you collect antiques or watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS, you already know that “original surfaces” are usually highly valued. Even when it is found in slightly damaged and worn condition, the original varnish on a piece of furniture may help prove the true age of a treasured antique.

However, what happens when the varnish has aged and yellowed, causing a color-shift in the object? This normal yellowing, which happens over time, may make the object hard to “read.” Continue Reading

conservation, restoration

quadricycle-engine

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

1896FordQuadricycleRunabout-2

Engines Exposed: 1896 Ford Quadricycle

Inline 2-cylinder engine, F-head valves, 59 cubic inches displacement, 4 horsepower (estimate)

Henry Ford based the Quadricycle’s engine on the Kane-Pennington motor he saw in American Machinist magazine. Ford brazed water jackets around each of the two horizontal cylinders and mounted wooden water tanks on either side of his engine. The tanks ultimately were replaced with a smaller under-seat reservoir.

engines, quadricycle

2004.30.3.4

In the 1920s, the African American population in Detroit tripled as the automobile industry drew workers from southern states.  Housing options in a segregated city were limited, however, and many African Americans found themselves living in the poor and crowded neighborhood of Black Bottom.  In the adjacent Paradise Valley area, some residents of Black Bottom were able to make a living working in the many nightclubs and theaters providing entertainment options for audiences of multiple races.  Urban renewal projects and freeway construction in the 1960s almost completely razed both neighborhoods. Archivist Brian Wilson, intrigued by this story as one factor setting the scene for later race riots in Detroit, discovered some related photos in The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation, which we’ve just digitized. They depict various performers at Club Harlem in Paradise Valley in the 1930s, such as this group of finely costumed dancers.

Revisit this lost neighborhood by browsing the rest of these images on our collections website.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

digital collections

Aluminum Christmas Tree, 1960-1965 THF162729

It was eye-catching, lightweight, and easy to care for. There was none of the fuss and muss of a real tree because the needles were attached. You could store it compactly in a box and reuse it year after year. It was completely safe unless you foolishly strung it with electric lights—potentially causing a fire hazard.

Photo of tree in living room, December 1962 THF126330

No, to make your aluminum Christmas tree shine with a dazzling brilliance, you didn’t use strings of electric lights. You turned a four-color, revolving color wheel onto it. And maybe added a few shiny blue or red balls to heighten the silvery aluminum effect. Any way you looked at it, the aluminum Christmas tree was a perfect symbol of the modern Jet-Age lifestyle people were dreaming about in the early 1960s. Continue Reading

EI.1929.2124

Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford contains many homes associated with famous people: the Wright family home, the Robert Frost home, the Noah Webster home—and the Edison homestead, the Canadian farmhouse owned by Thomas Edison’s grandparents.  Henry Ford wanted his historical village to feature not only Menlo Park Lab, the fabled workplace of his friend and hero, but also to trace his upbringing with this home that young Thomas visited as child, where his parents had been married.  We have just digitized over 50 images related to the Edison homestead on its original site, including this photo of Edison family gravestones taken in 1933.

Trace the lineage of an innovator for yourself by visiting our digital collections to browse all of the Edison homestead images.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

digital collections

THF325123

Dressing Goodfellows dolls has been a Christmas tradition in Detroit since 1924, and the Ford Motor Company Girls’ Club was a major participant in dressing Goodfellows dolls for underprivileged children in Detroit for many years. Starting in 1946 by dressing 65 dolls, the club’s peak donation was 3,000 dresses in 1967, 1969, and 1970, and they averaged between 1,500 to 3,000 dolls most years.

The Ford Girls’ Club was started in 1946 under the Recreation Section of Ford Motor Company. Every female employee – salaried, or hourly – was automatically a member (though active membership did cost $1.00 per year). Any immediate female family member of a club member could join, as could the wives of Ford male employees. The club was primarily social, meeting once a month in addition to dinners, picnics, dances, lectures, and workshops. Members were also service oriented - they held dances for returning veterans, gave gifts and visited veterans in hospitals, and each Christmas they participated in clothing dolls for the Goodfellows to distribute, making thousands and thousands of handmade dresses over the years.

Dolls were usually handed out at the annual November service meeting. The club’s first foray into dress making was in 1946, when women of the club made 65 handmade dresses for dolls. The next year they jumped up to 290, with the dresses being displayed in the Administration Building cafeteria before being sent to the Goodfellows. As more women joined the club, interest grew in this Christmas service project and the club dressed more and more dolls each year, with their finished projects being displayed in various Ford Motor Company buildings’ lobbies, and offices, as well as the Dearborn Virginia Dare storefront window in 1949. The number of dresses made continued to climb each year reaching to almost one thousand in 1954, and the dolls were displayed for the first time at the Rotunda Christmas Fantasy. The next few years were dress-making bonanzas, and in 1957 2,500 dolls were dressed and displayed at the Rotunda for visitors to view before they were distributed to girls in the Detroit area on Christmas Eve. The Girl’s Club maintained a high production rate in the years to come - between 1,750 and 2,000 dresses were made annually and displayed at the Rotunda or Ford Motor Company buildings. In 1966 production saw another jump when the club made almost 3,000, a number they reached the next year and continued to reach or come close to for the next four years.

Viewing the Doll Dressing Display at the Ford Rotunda, Dearborn, Michigan, 1958. THF111275

The handmade dresses were made of all kinds of fabric, from cotton to organdy, satin and lace. Women also knit and crocheted dresses, from wool to angora. Dolls dressed as nurses, astronauts, drum majorettes, hula dancers, Girl Scouts, flying nuns, ballerinas, and ice skaters complete with skates, graced the displays, as did brides, baby dolls, and all kinds of different ethnic dresses. Women could make any type of dress they wanted, but prizes were given by the Goodfellows, and later Ford, in specific categories:

  • Bride
  • Fancy dress
  • Baby doll
  • Character doll
  • Sensible doll
  • Costume
  • Tailored
  • Knit and crocheted

Goodfellows prizes ranged from $1 for a dress placing in a particular division to a grand prize of $10. Ford soon began judging the Girls’ Club’s work and awarding prizes as well, with the dresses usually judged by the wives of the Goodfellows’ president and executive officers. Early on prizes were cash, but when the displays headed to the Rotunda the stakes were raised. Grand prize in the 1950s and early 1960s was a sewing machine and console, second prize being a portable sewing machine, and third prize was a sewing cabinet.

The prizes, of course, were always of secondary importance in the Girls’ Club work with the Goodfellows' goal of “no child without a Christmas.” Over a 27-year period, 1946-1972, the Ford Girls’ Club donated over 45,000 hand-made dresses to the Detroit Goodfellows' organization to distribute to area children. The Ford employee newsletter The Rouge News and later Ford World carried stories and photos of the club’s donations every year, urging members of the club and others in the Ford organization to participate. We lose track of the Ford Girls’ Club here in the archive at about 1973, when Ford World ceased publishing stories on the yearly donation of dolls. However, judging from the 1972 output of 2,000 dolls, it seems likely the club continued the annual service drive for some years after.

The Goodfellows still distribute dolls and people in the metro Detroit area continue to provide dresses each year.

Kathy Makas is Reference Archivist at The Henry Ford.

Christmas toys, Goodfellows, toys