Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

A detail of the 1976 Apple 1 “motherboard” recently acquired by The Henry Ford (THF120186, Image Courtesy of Kristina Sikora/KMS Photography).

When I joined the staff of The Henry Ford, if someone had offered me a glimpse into the future—a bird’s eye view of the events that one short year would bring—it would have taken some time for me to suspend my disbelief. I would have been skeptical if anyone told me I’d play a part in bidding on and acquiring a rare, key, artifact in the history of computing. And if someone told me that this auction would break world records? This is information that I’m still trying to reconcile. Nothing could have prepared me for the anticipation I felt while sitting next to Marilyn Zoidis, former Director of Historical Resources, at Bonhams auctions in just a few short weeks ago. I’ll always remember the excitement in the room as we waited for Lot 285 to end—and for Lot 286 to arrive: the 1976 Apple 1 Computer.

On Wednesday, October 22, 2014 The Henry Ford achieved a major acquisition goal. Perhaps you’ve noticed the recent flurry of press: “The Henry Ford Acquires a 1976 Apple-1 Computer at Bonhams History of Science Auction.” Variations on this headline reveal a record-breaking bid amount of $905,000 – but they also hint at the importance, rarity, originality and provenance of this incredible piece of computing history.  At the time of this writing, over 1200 news mentions of the Apple 1 have appeared in print, television, radio, and social media outlets.

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This 1910 brochure depicted Henry Ford’s dream—a car in which “the great multitude” could spend" hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces." (ID.G32015)

When Ford Motor Company introduced its new Model T automobile on October 1, 1908, the car was the culmination of Henry Ford’s quest to develop an inexpensive, efficient and reliable vehicle that would put automobile ownership within the reach of far more people.

Yet even an inveterate optimist like Henry Ford could not predict the vast success and the far-reaching changes that this rather homely new vehicle would produce. Continue Reading

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Many of us know that Noah Webster was the creator of An American Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1828. But did you know that Mr. Webster was a teacher as well, and the author of the American Spelling Book? The early version was first published in 1783 and our copy is a 1845 edition called the Elementary Spelling Book, being an improvement on the American Spelling Book.

During this time, the English language was changing fast, and many new words were being added that were uniquely American. Mr. Webster wanted to create a spelling book that could help people understand and spell words that were actively used by the American public. Always published with a blue cover, the “Blue Backed Speller,” as it came to be known, was popular across the nation. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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On this week’s episode of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation you’ll learn about Abraham Lincoln. Want to learn even more? Take a look below.

Look

Abraham Lincoln Flickr Set

Read

John and Barney Litogot: Henry Ford’s Uncles in the Civil War

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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Abraham Lincoln as President

At the time of his assassination in April 1865, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was considered by a majority of northerners as a competent president. Yet, this was not always the case. Lincoln was elected president at a critical time when the nation was at a breaking point over issues of states’ rights and slavery. As a direct result of his election, eleven states left the Union before his inauguration in 1861, touching off the Civil War.

During much of his first term of office, Lincoln was viewed by many as lacking the skills necessary for the role of President of the United States. He was lampooned as unsophisticated and criticized for tolerating ineffective generals. Lincoln, however, was a skilled politician—wise, tenacious, and perceptive—and learned from his mistakes.

Abraham Lincoln was committed to preserving the Union. He believed that the United States was more than an ordinary nation—it was the testing ground for a unique form of democracy. Many, including Lincoln himself, described one of his greatest achievements as the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which shifted the goal of the war from a fight to preserve the Union to one of freeing the enslaved. With Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln’s vision of an indivisible Union—and a more perfect one—was fulfilled. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

An early daguerreotype image of Abraham Lincoln originally taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd in Springfield, Illinois in 1846-1847. Early 20th-century print from a 19th-century copy negative. ID.00.1334.112

Take a look at images from The Henry Ford’s wonderful, eclectic collection of Lincoln-related photographs.  These images span the years from Lincoln’s career as an Illinois legislator during the 1840s to his tragic death in 1865.

The original daguerreotype of this image of Abraham Lincoln was taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd in Springfield, Illinois, shortly after Lincoln’s election in 1846 to the U.S. House of Representatives.  It is believed by many to be the earliest known image of Lincoln, who was 37 or 38 years old when it was taken.  At this time, Lincoln was a husband and father of two small boys, had a successful law practice in Springfield, and had just become a junior member of Congress.

Daguerreotypes like this one are one-of-a-kind photographs made on silver-coated copper plates.  In order to make photographic prints, copy negatives had to be made from the original daguerreotypes.  This photographic print was made in the early 20th century from a 19th-century copy negative.  In 1902, Frederick Hill Meserve, an early collector of photography, found glass negatives from Mathew Brady’s Washington, D.C., studio in a Hoboken, New Jersey warehouse.  Meserve carefully preserved the negatives and made the later photographic prints of the earlier images--including this photographic print in our collection. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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In October, we announced that The Henry Ford has acquired a functioning Apple-1, a major milestone in the history of computing.  However, in September, we acquired another significant computer, and we’ve just added it to our collections website.  When Pixar began as a department within Lucasfilm in 1979, it started developing its own computer system to support graphics and visualization.  The Pixar Imaging Computer became commercially available in 1986, and was adopted by other organizations with intensive graphic arts and animation needs, such as the Walt Disney Company and the United States Departments of Defense and Forestry.  Curator of Communication & Information Technology Kristen Gallerneaux notes about the P-II: “One of our goals at The Henry Ford is to document computing as applied to creative and expressive activities. The Pixar Image Computer II (P-II) is of particular interest not only as a graphics rendering tool … but also as a hugely significant element in the thread that connects the Apple-1 computer to the finely designed and engineered computing devices we all carry with us every day.”  See the P-II, as well as the rest of our digital collections related to computers, on our collections website.

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

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You might have heard that there are big changes afoot at the Ford Rouge Center: production has recently started on the all-new 2015 F-150, featuring an aluminum-alloy body and bed. As part of this change, we’ve been enhancing the Ford Rouge Factory Tour experience, and we’ve also taken advantage of the production line’s downtime to digitize the vehicles you’ll see in the Legacy Gallery.  You can now check out glamour shots of the 1929 Ford Model A Roadster, the 1932 Ford V-8 Victoria, the 1949 Ford V-8 Club Coupe, the 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible, and, last but not least, the 1956 Ford Thunderbird Convertible shown here—all part of the legacy of the Rouge.  Visit our collections website to see these vehicles, as well as much more material related to the history of the Rouge.

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

American society became more child-centered as the birthrate climbed after World War II. Like other aspects of American life during this “baby boom” era, Jewish ritual observances in the home became more child-focused, as reflected in this 1953 publication. (Object ID.2005.29.32) (Gift of Judith E. Endelman and William D. Epstein in memory of Miriam Ruth Epstein)

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the few and the weak over the mighty and the strong.  Legends and stories surround the holiday’s origins, whose name means “dedication” in Hebrew.

For centuries, Hanukkah was a modest occasion, a minor holiday. Jewish law and custom only required the lighting of candles for eight nights, with one candle to be used as the shamash (“guard” or “servant” in Hebrew) to light the others. The lighted candles were to be kept by a window where they could be seen by passers-by. In Eastern Europe, the celebration included eating latkes (potato pancakes), distributing small amounts of Hanukkah gelt (coins) to children, playing games with a dreidel (a spinning top), and playing cards. Continue Reading

This model was used to demonstrate the soybean extraction process at several world’s fairs in the 1930s. (THF 153893)

Soybeans: A New Hope for Farmers

In the 1920s, following his success with the Model T, Henry Ford increasingly turned his attention to transforming farming—the life he sought to escape as a boy.  He focused on finding new products and new markets for agriculture. (The charcoal briquette was an early result of this effort, made from surplus wood scrap.)

In 1928, Ford started the Chemical Lab (the building in Greenfield Village now known as the Soybean Lab), and asked Robert Boyer, a student at the Ford Trade School to run it.  Ford told Boyer to select good students from the Trade School to staff the Lab. Ford then set them to experimenting with all manner of agricultural produce, from cantaloupes to rutabagas. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation