Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Jim McCabe, Curator of Agriculture and The Environment

This year The Henry Ford has been very excited to be collaborating with the Detroit Institute of Arts, and other Detroit-area community organizations, to provide additional context for their current exhibit, "Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit." This year we've been digitizing parts of our collection that directly relate to Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, their relationship with Edsel Ford and Ford Motor Company, and the creation of the well-known frescos found in the DIA's Rivera Court.

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Because of the close involvement of Edsel Ford and Ford Motor Company in the project, our archives contain documents, photographs, and correspondence related to these subjects.

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Earlier this year a group of curators spent time in Rivera Court thinking about how their areas of expertise here at The Henry Ford connect in some way to Diego's murals. From agriculture to communications, each of our curators found an instant connection.

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Take a look at our curators' reflections in this series of videos shot on location at the DIA.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

The 1965 Lotus-Ford Type 38 established Formula One-style design at the Indianapolis 500.

Jim Clark changed the face of the Indianapolis 500 in 1965 when he won with a rear-engine car adapted from Formula One design. His lightweight Lotus-Ford race car broke dramatically from the heavy front-engine roadsters that dominated the race after World War II. Clark's victory capped a three-year effort by some of the biggest names in racing. Driver Dan Gurney realized the potential of F1 technology at Indy and set the project in motion. Designer Colin Chapman put his expertise and reputation behind the chassis. Ford Motor Company provided resources, support, and a superb racing engine. And Jimmy Clark endured two years of disappointment - losing through no fault of his own - before taking the checkered flag in 1965. So complete was their triumph that no front-engine car has won the Indianapolis 500 since.

The Henry Ford's Archive of American Innovation is proud to preserve significant artifacts, images, texts and interviews related to Clark's groundbreaking win. Below are links to key pieces in this collection. Continue Reading

Can of New Coke, THF 304647

Remember “New Coke”?  April 23, 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of its celebrated—and controversial—introduction. This soft drink lasted less than three months but its legacy lives on as a cautionary tale of marketing and branding. Was this attempted innovation a great marketing blunder or did it turn out to be a great marketing success? It depends on how you look at it.

On April 23, 1985, The Coca-Cola Company introduced “New Coke” as a replacement to the old Coke that had been around for almost 100 years. The sweeter, more syrupy taste of New Coke—based on the company’s Diet Coke formula but without the artificial sweeteners—was intended to compete successfully with Pepsi. Over the years, more and more people—especially young people—had come to prefer the taste of Pepsi over Coke. Now, in numerous blind taste tests among consumers, New Coke successfully beat out Pepsi time after time. Coca-Cola spent over four million dollars developing, testing, and marketing New Coke. The company was sure they had a winner on their hands. Continue Reading

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As part of our collaboration with the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and other Detroit-area community organizations to provide additional context for the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit exhibit at the DIA through July 12, 2015, The Henry Ford has been digitizing parts of our collection that relate to Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and their relationship with the Ford family and Ford Motor Company. We ran across a couple dozen 1932 photographs, including this one, of the Ford Motor Company Mexico City plant, all marked “Kahlo Foto,” and wondered whether these might be the work of Frida Kahlo’s father Guillermo Kahlo. An essay in the exhibit catalog by Diego Rivera’s grandson Juan Rafael Coronel Rivera notes “Don Guillermo was considered the finest architecture photographer in Mexico, a master in the field…. Diego respected Don Guillermo … for his studies of industrial machinery: Don Guillermo recorded the day-to-day modern development of the country; every factory and every major engine installation became the subject matter of his photographs, which were published in the Mexican press as an indisputable symbol of the nation’s advancing progress.” We haven’t yet found any further information about the genesis of these images, but it seems likely, given the labels on the images, Guillermo Kahlo’s architectural photography background, and the year the images were taken (the same year Rivera started work on the Detroit Industry murals at the DIA), that these images have a tie to Frida and Diego’s time in Detroit and relationship with the Fords. Visit our collections website to see all of these images, as well as the other related material we’ve digitized.

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

Newcomen Engine, circa 1750 (29.1506.1)

 

The broad iconic power of steam engines is maintained by the continued appeal of steam locomotives—an appeal kept fresh no doubt by Thomas the Tank Engine or the Hogwarts Express of the Harry Potter series. The visual impact of the earliest stationary steam engines, while less defined in the popular imagination, is undeniable when encountered in person: early beam engines exert a powerful presence, whether through their immense scale, exposed mechanical elements, or general complexity. And there is often a note of recognition—they are often identified by visitors as distant relatives of the familiar bobbing pumps found in oilfields. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, by Alexander Gardner, November 8, 1863. THF 99129

Many people know that The Henry Ford has in its collection the rocking chair in which President Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated.  This chair is currently on display in Henry Ford Museum.

But our Lincoln-related collections encompass much more than this rocker.  They include materials that relate to such topics as his two presidential campaigns, life before his Presidency, his efforts to preserve the Union during the Civil War, his assassination, the public mourning after his death, and the ways in which he has been remembered over time.

The 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination gave us the unique opportunity to assess, study and organize these collections into digital galleries we call “Expert Sets.”  Links to these are included below, along with links to five essays written by curators that delve more deeply into some of these topics. Continue Reading

"Allegheny" and "Sam Hill" Locomotives and Replica "DeWitt Clinton" Locomotive and Coaches, circa 1956-1958. P.B.12920

On this week's episode of "The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation" you'll learn more about our collection of trains found inside Henry Ford Museum. Want to learn more? Take a look.

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Locomotives of Greenfield Village

Expert set: Some of the locomotives of Greenfield Village—working artifacts

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

American type 4-4-0 locomotives, like the “Sam Hill,” are quintessential symbols of 19th century progress. THF.91567

Chances are that, when you hear the phrase “steam locomotive,” you picture an engine like the 4-4-0 “Sam Hill.” No technology symbolized 19th century America’s industrial and geographical growth better than the railroad, and no locomotive was more common than the 4-4-0.

In the 70 years from 1830 to 1900, rail lines grew from separate local routes connecting port cities with the interior to a dense and interconnected network that linked cities and towns across the continent. Likewise, locomotives grew from diminutive four-wheelers capable of five miles per hour to eight and ten-wheeled engines able to reach 100 miles per hour. But the 4-4-0 offered a special blend of performance and ability that made it particularly popular on American rails.

The 4-4-0 takes its name from the arrangement of its wheels. The four small leading wheels, located in front under the cylinders, help guide the locomotive through curves. The four large driving wheels, connected by rods to the cylinders, move the engine along the track. There are no (or zero) trailing wheels on a 4-4-0, but on larger locomotives trailing wheels help support the weight of the firebox. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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John Margolies spent decades traveling the United States and photographing roadside attractions, restaurants, shops, and motels, with a particular focus on interesting or quirky shapes and signage.  Many of the places he photographed are in varying states of abandonment and decline, but harken back to the excitement of the golden era of road trips and the unique commercial designs they spawned.  Last year, The Henry Ford acquired about 1500 slides by John Margolies, and a little later this year, we will be putting on an exhibit of selected material, transformed from 35mm slide format into art prints.  If you’d like to get a jump on the exhibit, you can currently view over 120 recently digitized Margolies slides on our collections website (including, in most cases, the slide mounts with John Margolies’s hand-written notes).  Some of these images—perhaps this dinosaur offering up live music and a really good deal on a large t-bone—will be featured within the exhibit.

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

African American community parade celebrating Emancipation Day in Richmond, Virginia, on April 3, 1905. (P.DPC.018421/THF118868)

This lively scene from 1905 documents African Americans proudly parading through the streets of Richmond, Virginia, in celebration of Emancipation Day. The well-dressed marchers include many elders who were formerly enslaved, as well as many of their children and grandchildren born after the end of slavery. In 1905, forty years after the American Civil War ended, this life-changing event—Emancipation—continued to have deep, emotional meaning for African Americans.

During the height of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect on January 1, 1863. This Executive Order, aimed at the secessionist states of the fledgling Confederate States of America, declared their slaves to be free. (However, this proclamation did not include all enslaved people—slaves were not freed in slave states that had remained loyal to the Union. In December 1865, the 13th Amendment completed Emancipation by declaring slavery illegal everywhere in the United States.) Continue Reading