On June 12, 2013, the fully restored 1897 Baldwin Locomotive; affectionately known by The Henry Ford employees, volunteers and frequent roundhouse guests as “Number 7,” went onto the Greenfield Village railroad tracks under its own power. The last time this engine had run under its own steam was 83 years earlier at the Ford Rouge Plant.
Despite its almost regal dark green cab, Russian Iron jacketing and extensive gold and red hand painted trim, Number 7 did not initially live a pampered existence. Besides the 1910 “combination” accident that saw our locomotive buried under a caboose body from another train; its history is typical of many locomotives of that time when railroads were owned by investors that were only interested in squeezing out as much profit as possible. Bankruptcies of these railroads were common and diligent maintenance of equipment was not.
Unlike Number 7's counterparts it had a much brighter ending. This ending was created by Henry Ford and his acquisition of the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railway in 1920.
According to The Henry Ford's registrars file the construction of this 4-4-0 American class locomotive (Baldwin Order No. 15317) and tender was completed sometime in May of 1897. Delivery to its original owner, the Detroit and Lima Northern Railway, was most likely in early July of that year.
The company that manufactured the locomotive and tender was Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. This massive facility that eventually covered 7 square blocks of the “Bush Hill” industrial district produced 501 locomotives that year. Baldwin was the world’s preeminent manufacturer of steam locomotives with 40 percent of what they manufactured being exported. Their customer base included railroads in France and Japan. In 1897 they employed 3,200 men with the vast assortment of special skills required to manufacture the giant locomotives with the precision required.
Baldwin had developed a manufacturing process that would allow them to build a locomotive from “order to delivery” in an astoundingly short eight weeks. They did not build a “standard” locomotive but instead treated each order as a new design with components designed and manufactured by combining common templates and processes to match the customer’s unique specifications.
The first three of the eight-week manufacturing process were used to create the drawings required for the ordered locomotive. During the following two weeks all the materials and outside sourced components or subassemblies were ordered. These purchased items represented about 50 percent of the total cost for the project. In the following two weeks the boiler shop would fabricate the boiler as the other Baldwin shops completed the castings, forgings, and required machining. The eighth week was used in the erection facility where all the components and subassemblies would be assembled into a complete and functioning locomotive. It would then go through a brief prove-out prior to delivery to the customer.
Baldwin 15317 went through this process and when assembled; the cab and tender were painted dark green with gold trim and the tender had Detroit & Lima Northern Railway in gold letters on both sides. When build number 15317 left the Baldwin factory it carried the D&LNR designation #7 on its number plate. Number 7 was a steam powered coal burner that was designed and built to pull passenger cars. Besides the passenger cars its tender would carry up to seven tons of coal and the 3,350 gallons of water necessary for its operation.
The Detroit and Lima Northern Railway started its short lived existence in Ohio sometime during 1896. Chase M. Haskell, Ohio attorney and prominent Democrat, along with other promoters began selling bonds to create a new railway called the Lima Northern. It would haul freight and passengers from Lima, through Ohio and into southern Michigan. Shortly after, plans were made to extend the railway to Detroit and Columbus with the name being changed to the Detroit & Lima Northern Railroad. Within a few months the contractors for the extended rail lines took legal action because they had not received any money. In 1898 the railroad was placed in receivership. Haskell moved on to Oklahoma and in 1907 become its first governor.
The D & LNR operated under receivership until 1901 when it was purchased by New York banker Frederick J. Lisman and the name was changed to the Detroit Southern Railway Company. The banker was an authority on railroad finances and had been prominent in that field for years. As was typical at the time of Lisman’s ownership, he was involved in numerous acquisitions and mergers to extend the systems routes and profits. All went well until a bad economy in 1904 once again forced the railroad into receivership. Following a sale in 1905 the company became the Detroit Toledo & Ironton Railroad. The new DT & I name would continue to exist under various owners until December 1983 when the railroad was assimilated into the Grand Trunk Western Railroad and the DT & I identity disappeared.
The DT& I went into receivership in 1908: elements of the business were sold off but the company continued to operate. In 1914 the company was reorganized and some of the elements that had been sold off were reacquired. The next few years would see a number of significant improvements as heavier railing were installed, buildings were improved and many trestles rebuilt.
As a part of these improvements; the locomotives and other rolling stock (freight cars, tank cars & etc) that had been very poorly maintained during all the financial trauma, were given some much needed attention. This effort did not last; in 1918, in order to better support the war effort (WW I), the federal government took over control of the nations railroads. This control was in place until March of 1920. During those years, rail traffic significantly increased with war production goods and much needed maintenance of the rolling stock was absolutely minimized. DT & I equipment seemed to suffer more than others and according to Scott D. Trostel in his book; Henry Ford: When I Ran the Railroads “the fleet was described in such poor state of repair with drive rods and cross heads that pounded so badly they could be heard for miles.” One of the results of this was that our Number 7 was barely operable in 1920.
In June of 1920 the ownership of the DT&I Railroad was transferred to the Ford Motor Company where Henry would transform it into one of the best managed and financially successful railroads in the country.
Ford’s reason for the purchase of the DT&I was to extend its terminating point of Flat Rock to Dearborn and use it to help supply his new sprawling complex, the Rouge Plant. This ultimately supported Henry’s vision to have a manufacturing facility where coal, iron ore, rubber and all raw materials required to construct an automobile, would come in one end of the Rouge and a completed vehicle would roll out the other end. To accomplish this, the rolling stock (80 locomotives, 2,800 freight and 24 passenger cars) would have to be completely rebuilt to Fords impressive standards. A new building was constructed (the Fordson Shop) at the Rouge to facilitate the rebuild and maintenance of the new acquisition. The facility was opened in 1921 with a staff that eventually reached 475 men with the first locomotive to undergo a Ford transformation being DT&I engine Number 7. It was completely stripped down and inspected. Anything that needed it was replaced. Aesthetics were also a part of the transformation; drive rods were draw filed and polished, exposed iron pipes were replaced with bright copper, new boiler jackets were finished in a lacquered Russian Iron and the outside of the metal tires were painted white.
When the rebuild was completed “Number 7” was put into service at the disposal of Henry Ford who had assumed the roll of DT&I president. It was frequently used to take Henry to various points along the line to attend meetings or visit with friends such as Thomas Edison or Harvey Firestone. Some of these trips would include his private rail car the “Fairlane” as part of the “consist” (listing of locomotive and attached cars). According to staff and others along the route, Henry could be seen in the cab during some of these trips. Some who witnessed these trips said Henry could occasionally be seen setting in the engineer’s seat with his engineer Harry Cochran a step away.
Ford owned the railroad until June of 1929 when he became irritated with the intervention of the Interstate Commerce Commissions over shipping rates and other issues. The DT&I was sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad for $36 million. Besides the profits and rate advantage enjoyed during the Ford ownership he turned his initial $5 million purchase price and approximately $8 million of improvements into an impressive $23 million profit.
Number 7 was not a part of this sale. Sometime in 1930 it underwent a restoration at the Ford Rouge’s Fordson Shops and was donated to the Edison Institute (now The Henry Ford) and put on display in the Henry Ford Museum. It remained in the museum until 1985 when it was moved to our train shed (now the Antique Vehicles Garage).
Number 7 remained untouched in the train shed until 1997 when the train staff began a preliminary investigation to see if it was practical to attempt to make the locomotive operational. The jacketing was taken off, the asbestos insulation was removed and metallurgical tests were done to asses the boilers condition.
The 1930 restoration at the Fordson shops was originally thought to have been a complete mechanical and cosmetic upgrading. A later examination revealed that the 1930 restoration was primarily cosmetic but some other elements of that restoration would lead to some real surprises during the recent one.
If Number 7 was ever to run again many parts of its now 80-plus-year-old boiler would have to be replaced and this would require complete disassembly of the locomotive. The new sections of the boiler that would have to be fabricated and installed were the boiler floor, rear tube sheet (boiler end), firebox door sheet, and all of the boilers heat tubes. These are all large parts that must be formed from heavy gauge steel sheet or tubing. The only parts that could be purchased from an outside supplier were the 167 heavy walled heat tubes. All other parts would be fabricated here and an attempt would be made to produce them with the same processes that would have been used in roundhouses of that period. To fabricate these parts and install them would require hundreds of man hours. Even the hammers that would be used for forming the heavy metal would have to be fabricated here.
There were some additional issues that needed to be dealt with before the locomotive could be placed in service. The most labor intensive was that the frame of Number 7s tender was made of wood and had deteriorated to the point where it would not be able to handle day to day service at the Village. The only viable solution was to fabricate an all new metal frame. The second issue was that: in order for the much longer Baldwin to navigate the tight turns of the Village’s 2.5 mile railroad, modifications to the front truck and drive wheels would have to be made. These changes included making swing links for the front truck and additional thrust clearance was provided by machining the drive axles.
Don LaCombe is Supervisor of the Transportation and Crafts Program at The Henry Ford.
References Henry Ford: When I Ran the Railroads (Scott D. Trostel) The Baldwin Locomotive Works 1831 – 1915 (John K. Brown) DT&I The Railroad That Went No Place (William C. Pletz - The Inside Track 1979) The Sad Romance of the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railway Age, July 1920 THF Object Report # 30.235.2 Registrars File Acc. 30.235.2 Curators File Acc. 30.235.2
When you think of Henry Ford, you think of cars almost immediately. Violins probably don't come to mind, do they? While it may come as a surprise to some today, Henry was a lover of violins and classic American music. He loved the fiddle and country dancing, two things that reminded him of his childhood. Henry could often be found in Lovett Hall dancing with Clara Ford as the band played and dances were called throughout the night.
Henry amassed an impressive collection of violins in the early part of the 20th century. Those violins are now within the collections of The Henry Ford, but occasionally they are loaned to other institutions for exhibition or, in the case of Sphinx, loaned to promising young musicians, like Gareth Johnson, to be played for new audiences. Gareth recently played the 1709 Siberian Stradivarius during our National Day of Courage in February.
In this video, Curator of Domestic Life Jeanine Head Miller shares additional insight on Henry and his violins, and why having someone like Gareth play them today would have made him very proud.
It might sound funny to say, but historically tomatoes have had a bad rap. The classic staple condiment in today’s salads and hamburgers was once a mysterious food to many and couldn’t be found in the diets of early settlers.
Thanks to Thomas Jefferson and his adventurous palate, tomatoes were being introduced into the White House’s kitchen at the beginning of the 19th century, according to old menus. However, it would be several years before Americans truly began experimenting with this versatile fruit.
Around the 1840s, tomatoes really started to become part of Americans’ diets. Depending on where you lived in the United States, your approach to using and caring for the tomato in your kitchen varied. In southern states, a pine straw bed was used for growing plants, while other parts of the country used a trellis to stake for growing. East-coast states were first to experiment with the tomato in recipes as it arrived in the U.S., as evident from mentions in “The Virginia Housewife.” African-Americas also adopted the use of the tomato in their cooking early on, utilizing them for low-country cooking.
About the same time the tomato began gaining popularity, American horticulturists began experimenting with breeding new types of tomatoes. Seed house catalogs provided countless species varieties, but most gardens tended to focus on one variety at a time. Unfortunately today, close to 99 percent of these historic, heirloom varieties are now extinct.
Moving on to the 1850s, the tomato starts to become an important ingredient and sauces, like catsup. As Americans learned how to preserve their produce through canning, the tomato was a natural choice for preservation. The following years saw recipe after recipe with baking ideas for tomatoes.
Here at The Henry Ford, tomatoes are an important of our gardens and food preparation. From Eagle Tavern entrees to appetizers at weddings inside Lovett Hall, our menus are a fan of tomatoes. Varieties like yellow pear and pink brandywine are just two of the tomatoes you can see growing at Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village.
Today Americans have a plethora of resources to choose from when setting up their gardens and getting their tomato plants ready. Seed houses concentrating on heirloom seed options help preserve surviving varieties; looking for the latest tomato news? There’s most likely a unique magazine to suit your needs.
If you’re a tomato lover like we are, try this favorite recipe from The Henry Ford - Escaloped Tomatoes and Baked Tomatoes. Want even more tomato-based recipes? Check out our Historic Recipe Bank for recipes to make Fried Tomatoes and Tomato Soup.
(Escaloped Tomatoes recipe found on p. 344 of the "Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping", edited by Estelle Woods Wilcox, 1880)
Modern adaptation may need additional adjustments as measurements and temperatures are estimates.
Butter, cut into small pieces
Salt, pepper and sugar
Onions, if desired
Grease a 2 qt. casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle a layer of bread crumbs, dot with few butter pieces. Then place a single layer of tomatoes on top of the bread crumbs. Season the tomatoes as desired. Top with a layer of bread crumbs and butter as before. Continue making layers of bread crumbs and tomatoes until the dish is full, finishing with the bread crumbs. Bake 45 to 60 minutes in a 350-oven.
If desired, a layer of sliced, browned onions may be added on top of each layer of tomatoes. Slice the onions ½" thick and brown slices in butter over medium heat until light brown on each side. Place browned onion slices on top of tomato layers.
(Baked Tomatoes recipe found on page 272 of "The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book" by Fannie Merritt Farmer, 1896)
Wipe and remove a thin slice from the stem end of six medium-sized tomatoes. Take out seeds and pulp, and drain off most of the liquid. Add an equal quantity of cracker crumbs, season with salt, pepper, and a few drops onion juice, and refill tomatoes with mixture. Place in a buttered pan, sprinkle with buttered crumbs, and bake twenty minutes in a hot oven.
Modern adaptation may need additional adjustments as measurements and temperatures are estimates.
6 medium sized tomatoes
Few drops onion juice (hard to find, but available online)
2 T butter, melted
¾ c bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Clean tomatoes. Cut a thin slice off the stem end of the tomatoes. Take out the seeds, pulp and most of the liquid. Reserve ½ of the pulp and chop fine. To the chopped pulp, add an equal amount of cracker crumbs, salt and pepper to taste, and a few drops of onion juice. Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture and bake 20 minutes in a preheated 375° oven.
History in the field: corn 101
When you think of your favorite summer meal, what’s one dish you can’t live without? Does it happen to be corn on the cob? Chances are it might be, as corn is synonymous with summer dinners and fun.
As a new American crop hundreds of years ago, the Spanish quickly adopted corn into their diets. In the early 18th and 19th centuries, recipes called for “green” corn (pre-ripe corn) to be roasted for optimal taste and palpability.
Do you know the difference between different types of corn? Flint is a meal corn, not sweet and was often ground into flour. Dent has medium moisture content, so it was grown for animal consumption as feed, a perfect choice for hungry hogs. Gourd seed has soft kernels and high moisture content.
Much like tomatoes, corn was a favorite of horticulturists in the 1840s as they discovered sweeter offerings and started breeding for them. The corn you’d find on the dinner table was white, not yellow, and for fancier homes was never eaten off the cob in front of mixed company! The proper serving suggestion was to roast it, boil it, dress it, and serve it at the table in the 1880s.
In 1910, golden bantam is introduced. As a small, very sweet corn variety, its popularity was hard to beat. Today there are numerous corn varieties to choose from and depend on the season and location you’re in.
Growing corn might be a pastime for today’s amateur gardener, but for farmers and those needing to feed large families, corn is grown as a row crop for higher yields. Many of the same techniques to plant corn hundreds of years ago are still used today. When it comes to food technology, corn was one of the last foodstuffs to see big advancements in planting and care.
Can all corn pop? You bet! Whether you eat it plain or drizzle it with butter, popcorn is a long-stranding snack favorite.
At The Henry Ford, corn is all around. To try a favorite recipe of ours, try these tonight and make sure to tell us what you think. Need more inspiration? Try the "vegetables" category over at our Historic Recipe Bank.
(Corn Fritters recipe found on pages 222 - 223 pf "Kentucky Housewife" by Lettice Bryan, 1839)
Having removed the shucks and silks from a dozen young tender ears of corn, grate or scrape the grains fine from the cobs, mix with it the beaten yolks of four eggs, two spoonfuls of flour, a salt-spoonful of salt, and a teaspoonful of pepper; mix the whole together, stirring it till it is well intermingled; then drop it by spoonfuls into a pan of boiling butter or lard, making them all as nearly the same shape and size as possible; turn them over once, and when both sides are of a light brown, serve them up. It is a breakfast dish, and is quite an agreeable relish.
Modern adaptation may need additional adjustments as measurements and temperatures are estimates.
1 doz. ears of corn
4 egg yolks, beaten
2 T flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil or butter for frying
Remove the shucks and silks from a dozen ears of corn. Using a sharp knife cut the kernels off the cob. Place kernels in a large bowl. Add beaten eggs and flour to corn kernels and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. In large frying pan heat the oil or butter until hot. Carefully drop mixture by spoonfuls into hot oil. Fritters should be the same size for even cooking. Turn them once. Fritters are done when both sides are nicely browned.
Green Corn Pudding
(Green Corn Pudding found on page 329 of "Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping," edited by Estelle Woods Wilcox, 1880)
Draw a sharp knife through each row of corn lengthwise, then scrape out the pulp; to one pint of corn add one quart milk, three eggs, a little suet, sugar to taste, and a few lumps of butter; stir it occasionally until thick, and bake about two hours.
Modern adaptation may need additional adjustments as measurements and temperatures are estimates.
2 c fresh or frozen corn, cooked
4 c milk
4 eggs, beaten
4 T sugar (more/less to taste)
3 T butter, melted
Mix all ingredients well. Pout into a greased 2 qt. baking dish. Bake in preheated 300° oven. Stir occasionally and bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Pick up everything you need to make these recipes at Meijer
Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.
Susana Allen Hunter (Object ID 2007.71.15, THF37810)
Since joining The Henry Ford in 2010, I had been hearing about the wonderful collection of quilts made by Susana Allen Hunter. I had seen photos of the exhibition that The Henry Ford mounted in 2008 and had glimpsed the quilts in storage. But, I was not quite prepared for the true beauty and historical value of the collection until I got to see the quilts displayed.
The Henry Ford recently loaned part of its collection to the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) for its exhibition, “The Improvisational Quilts of Susana Allen Hunter.” On May 9, I attended the opening with Marc Greuther, chief curator, and Jeanine Head Miller, curator of domestic life. Was I ever impressed! These quilts are a stunning representation of artistry and the daily life of an African American woman living in the difficult conditions of rural Alabama as late as the 1970s.
In collaboration with the GRAM, we loaned 22 quilts from the collection, along with personal objects that belonged to Susana. Our textile conservator, Fran Faile, worked with GRAM staff to ensure that these significant pieces were handled and installed according to museum standards.
Jeanie Miller had secured the initial collection and then painstakingly researched its rich history. She worked with GRAM curatorial and education staff and shared not only her knowledge, but her passion for this extraordinary collection. She understood its value, and the way it captures rich stories of a distinctive time and place. Such stories are elusive and very difficult to collect and preserve. In this collection, The Henry Ford holds a remarkable piece of African American and women’s history.
During the process of acquiring the collection, Jeanie had developed a strong relationship with Tommie Hunter, grandson of Susana, who had lived with her as a young boy and with whom Susana lived in her later years. After Jeanie’s masterful presentation at the GRAM exhibition opening on the quilts and the related materials she has collected, she conducted a question and answer session with Tommie, his wife, Susie, and the audience. What a delight.The personal nature of the memories and tales of Susana Hunter’s quilting had the audience’s rapt attention.
The opening was great fun - food, wine, and people to share the excitement of the evening. But the sense of pride I felt to be associated with an institution that had the foresight to acquire and preserve such a remarkable piece of American history will stay with me always.
Marilyn Zoidis, Director of Historical Resources, gets to work with an incredibly talented group of museum professionals every day.
In 1971 Henry Ford Museum Administration Management began to implement a new master plan program for significant improvements to support the Museum and Village's upcoming celebration of the United State's Bicentennial. Greenfield Village improvements included construction of a new area called Riverfront Street (later known as Suwanee Park), new or improved visitor amenities, and a railroad that would circle the perimeter of Greenfield Village.
The Perimeter Railroad element of the project included the requirement for two operational locomotives, three new passenger cars, building a train maintenance facility (train shed), and the construction of 2.5 miles of track.
One of the major influences in deciding to develop a Perimeter Railroad was a 1968 presentation given by Edison Institute employee Tom Urban. Urban independently developed a plan and went as far as hiring an airplane with his own money to take aerial pictures of the Village. The photographer for this venture was a young man by the name of Rudy Ruzicska - our current photographer. These pictures were used by Urban in a presentation to Finance Director Lyle Hughes to demonstrate the feasibility for the routing of the railroad. Hughes was so impressed he set up a meeting with other members of senior staff to present the proposal.
Hughes’ proposal was well received and a study was started to see how to make the plan a reality. Leslie Henry (Curator of Transportation) began a study that included a number of options. Some of those options were: purchasing and moving a complete functioning railroad (with four miles of track), leasing the locomotives and cars or obtaining our own locomotives and building a railroad from scratch.
One of Henry’s inquiries during his study was to contact the Northern Peninsula mining company about an 1873 Mason-Fairlie locomotive. The Calumet & Hecla Mining Company was in the process of celebrating their 100th anniversary and had the 1873 locomotive on display in Calumet, Mich. After the celebration ended C&H agreed to donate the locomotive to The Edison Institute where it would be restored and maintained in running condition.
The restoration of the Torch Lake was to be completed in 1971 for exclusive use in an interim ride known as the One-Way Railroad. For the following year it would become the secondary locomotive for the next phase of the plan, the Perimeter Railroad.
For the primary locomotive it was decided to take the Mason #1 locomotive out of the museum and make it operational.
The Mason #1 was originally a wood-burning 0-4-0 locomotive built by the Manchester Locomotive Works in Manchester, N.H., in the 1870s. Ford purchased the locomotive and tender from the Edison Cement Corporation in 1932.
After the purchase, Ford had the locomotive sent to the Ford Rouge Shops were it was rebuilt and significantly modified to its current 4-4-0 configuration. Additionally, the boiler was enlarged and the sand dome was moved forward. The tender was rebuilt and appears to be in its original configuration.
After the restoration/modification of the locomotive and tender was completed, it was moved into Henry Ford Museum and put on display with the number plate and designation of “Mason #1.”
The Edison Institute did not have the facilities to complete the work necessary to make Mason #1 functional, so bids were requested. Keystone Products of Pittsburgh, Penn., was selected to repair the Mason #1 (Edison) locomotive and tender as well as construct three passenger cars that would be built on used chassis that Keystone would purchase.
The Mason #1 (Edison) and tender were transported by trailer to the Keystone plant in December of 1971. The contract called for replacement of the boiler, rebuilding of the compressor, governor gauge, locomotive/train valves and brakes on the tender. The Edison at that time was oil fired and the fire pan, burner, damper, fire clay lining and oil tank were to be rebuilt. The schedule for the Mason #1 restoration was that all work would be completed and the locomotive and tender would be operational by March 31, 1972.
The construction of the three-passenger cars was a less-than-straight forward process with many design options being discussed throughout the construction. Two of the cars were to be built from existing chassis and a third was going to be built on a soon-to-be purchased obsolete caboose. These cars were to be added to the three already built by Crown Metals for the 1971 One-Way Railroad.
In October of 1971 the landscaping architectural firm of Ecbo, Dean Austin & Williams (EDAW) was given approval to begin developing landscaping plans for the new track. EDAW, located in Los Angeles, Calif., was a highly respected firm with national recognition for their cultural landscaping efforts with universities and national parks.
The architectural firm of Nordstrom-Sampson & Associates from Dearborn was contracted for development of the track layout and grading. Additionally, an engineer from the DT&I railroad was acting as a consultant to N-S&A. Thomas P. McEvilly of N-S&A was chosen as the field superintendent for the project.
The Edison Institute retained Herb Rosenthal and Associates, Inc., as the designers for the new Perimeter Railroad. This project included the track system, a covered platform near Main Street (now Firestone Station), a covered platform at the Riverfront Street area (this platform is now a part of the Henry Ford Academy campus) and a platform at the east end of the Village area. The later platform was removed from the contract just as overall construction was to begin.
The Walter L. Couse Company of Detroit was awarded the contract to build the roadbed and lay the track. In all 12 companies were involved in the project’s construction.
The master plan called for the railroad to be fully functional no later than July 4, 1972. It is unclear if the original intent was to have the new platforms completed by this date, but their actual construction would not be completed until the 1974 season.
Work progressed on the tracks and the roadbed throughout the spring and early summer. Existing water lines, sewers, and gas lines had to be moved as well as filling in some soft clay areas with compacted sand backfill. Several weeks of exceptionally wet weather served to slow progress and put the scheduled July 4 completion date in jeopardy.
In late June track and roadbed construction had progressed to the point where a trial run from Smiths Creek over to the Main Street area was conducted. This run served to identify a number of issues with the curves, rails and switches and the contractors were instructed to make immediate corrections. It was also determined that the public opening of the railroad would need to be postponed to Aug. 23, 1972.
By early August work had progressed to the point where a test trip of the complete 2.5 miles could be conducted. On Aug. 9 the Torch Lake was fired up, cars were attached and a small crew of employees and management rode around the complete perimeter of the Village. (Although the original plan called for the Mason #1 to be the primary locomotive, for some reason the Torch Lake was given that role for the inaugural run even though Mason #1 was on the grounds.) There were a number of issues with the rails, ties and ballast, but not enough to postpone the rescheduled public opening.
The inaugural trip for the Perimeter Railroad was on Tuesday, Aug. 22, when the three cars were loaded with specially invited guests at Smiths Creek Station. The Torch Lake then pulled the consist up to the Main Street crossing were it waited while then-Edison Institute President Dr. Donald Shelley and Board Chairman William Clay Ford drove in the final spikes (painted gold) with chrome plated spike mauls.
The Perimeter Railroad began regular service the following day offering 18 trips around Greenfield Village with each trip lasting about 20 minutes. This schedule provided for a capacity of 3,500 riders per day. For at least the first year of operation, Smiths Creek would be the only stop.
Engineers Frank Petroski (formerly New York Central) and Ivan D. Mead (formerly Grand Trunk Western), who were engineers for the One-Way Railroad, were back to alternate duties on the Perimeter Railroad.
The total number of riders for that first year was 154,761, which were 66,516 more rides than the One-Way railroad had the previous year.
Don LaCombe is Supervisor of Transportation & Crafts Programs at The Henry Ford.
As a public researcher who has spent many hours using the archival holdings of the Benson Ford Research Center, I am always amazed by what I find among the papers and photographs of Henry, Clara and Edsel Ford. Perhaps I am a history geek, but many a time my research has led me to very memorable and enjoyable experiences, as was recently the case.
A good deal of my work takes me to Accession 1, the Fair Lane papers, comprised of the documents, photographs and ephemera found throughout Fair Lane, the Fords' home, after Clara passed away in 1950. Among the 74 cubic ft. of the Fair Lane papers, you will find documents related to the Fords' various activities beyond Ford Motor Company.
These are the records of the Fords' everyday lives—from drawings made by their young son, Edsel, to the sympathy cards they received upon his early death. The boxes include receipts of purchases they made, correspondence from famous friends, like the Edisons, and itineraries from trips abroad. The accession also includes dozens of compelling letters sent to Clara Ford from people asking her for money, and from others asking her to speak to her husband on their behalf to buy a family heirloom for his museum or employ a family member during the Depression. Thank goodness the Fords saved so much, for it gives us an insight into the forgotten details of their experiences, times they shared, decisions they had to make, and the heartaches and challenges they faced.
During a recent research project, I came across a letter from Helen Keller to Clara Ford, dated March 29, 1949, written two years after Henry's death. In the letter, Helen Keller (1880-1968) thanks Clara for her donation to the American Foundation for Overseas Blind. The Fords, Henry and Clara, as well as Edsel, had begun in the 1920s to donate to causes led by Helen Keller. Ford Motor Company's job training and placement for blind workers was one of the catalysts that began their association.
But the 1949 letter is so much more than an organizational thank you. As I read the three-page typed letter, it made me pause, as I imagined this extraordinary woman, penning this beautifully composed letter to Clara, sharing personal moments she experienced traveling the world and providing a personal window into her life.
Although this letter was not the primary focus of my research, it lured me on to new directions, causing me to ask more questions about the relationship of Helen Keller and the Fords, and the work of Helen Keller. It was a long time ago, back in elementary school, that I had read Helen Keller's autobiography, The Story of My Life, but I recalled how remarkable a life she had led. Visiting a few websites allowed me to put the time the letter was written into a better context and learn more about the American Foundation for Overseas Blind, the organization referenced in the letter.
The new search engine available internally at the BFRC allowed the archivist to provide me with a list of all known items related to Helen Keller in other boxes. This is a wonderful new tool for researchers that is just getting launched. With so many records, this will assist researchers with finding material that before relied on a lot of work, skill and sometimes luck, to find related documents throughout the collection.
We located several letters that spanned the decades, sent to Henry, Clara and Edsel. Helen Keller traveled all over the world, speaking and raising money for various organizations that supported research and assistance for blind citizens. I learned that Edsel Ford was one of the lead organizers for one such visit to Detroit in 1930.
I recalled that during an earlier research project I had seen a photograph of Helen Keller on the porch of the Menlo Park Laboratory in Greenfield Village. Reviewing the search results, we located a few photos of Helen Keller with her secretary and companion, Polly Thompson, along with Edsel Ford and Francis Jehl, Thomas Edison's assistant. If you look at Helen Keller's hand, you can see it placed in Polly Thompson's.
During this research period, I happened to mention the Helen Keller letter to a friend, Sandy North, who is the former Director of the Redford Union Oral Program for the Hearing Impaired. Sandy has long been a great admirer of Helen Keller, even posting quotes of Keller in her classroom for many years. Sandy has been a member of The Henry Ford for many years, but had never visited the Benson Ford Research Center. I invited her to join me to see the Keller letter and photographs.
As Sandy later wrote to me:
Because of my vocation, I have always admired Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind. She learned language through feeling the fingers of her interpreter. She communicated to others through her oral speech…and spoke and wrote in several languages. She was a champion of the poor and women's rights at a time when women did not have the right to vote. She is my role model.
I had read Helen's speeches, but I had never read any of her personal correspondence. Here I was holding it! Her vocabulary far exceeded mine and her beautiful descriptive language brought tears to my eyes. Although the letters were typed, her signature was hand-printed by Helen! Best of all, I had copies made of the letters and could bring them home with me!
To think that all of this extensive collection of the Benson Ford Research Center is available to people of our community and people everywhere doing research!
It was a memorable experience for both of us and this blog post has been the result of this very interesting research project.
Along the way, I discovered another path of inquiry as I was researching the American Foundation for Overseas Blind. This organization is now named Helen Keller International. It was founded in 1915 by Helen Keller and George Kessler, a wealthy New York merchant, and is among the oldest non-profits dedicated to preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition. During the World Trade Center terrorist attack, their New York headquarters were destroyed; gratefully no employees were injured, but their collection of Helen Keller papers was lost. This circumstance makes this document even more valuable, not only to The Henry Ford’s collection, but also to Helen Keller International and to scholars studying Helen Keller's life and legacy.
So I hope that with more and more relevant archival materials being digitized and made freely available online, and with the sharing of expertise among these and other organizations as well, the association of the Fords with Helen Keller and their support for her causes can continue to be preserved and made better known.
Susan McCabe is the former curator of Henry Ford Estate, Dearborn. Shevholds an MA in history museum studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY at Oneonta. She has researched extensively and lectured on the life of Clara and Henry Ford.
Editor's note: Another organization with which Helen Keller was associated is the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). The AFB holds of the main body of Helen Keller papers, called the Helen Keller Archives, which includes personal papers that she bequeathed to them as well as professional papers from her tenure with AFB.
Donna Braden, Curator of Public Life, had the pleasure of delving into our vast collections to develop the “Ford at the Fair” display, our complement to the traveling exhibition “Designing Tomorrow” that is currently in Henry Ford Museum. Take a trip back in time with her in today's blog post as we head to to the fair.
Welcome to the Ford Building at Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition here in the year 1934! We hope that our exhibits will inform and inspire you, along with the millions of other visitors we expect to attend the fair and see our exhibits this year. Henry Ford has a passion for world’s fairs and he is always enthusiastic about showing the public how we do things at Ford Motor Company.
How far we’ve come since Mr. Ford invented his first car, the Quadricycle. And although we are currently deep in an economic depression, our exhibits will surely impress upon you how busy we are developing new products for your current and future enjoyment.
We are proud to boast the largest corporate exhibition at the Century of Progress Exposition this year—11 acres in all! Our stunning Exposition Building was designed by Albert Kahn, who has designed many buildings for us, including the exceptional Ford River Rouge Plant. Mr. Kahn cleverly planned the circular court in the center of our Exposition Building to simulate a graduated cluster of gears.
Now come inside for a closer look at how our exhibits present the fascinating story of the Ford motor car.
First off, you’ll see our centerpiece exhibit, “Ford Industries Cover the World.” This huge rotating globe identifies the locations of our company’s production plants around the world. Our company is truly international in its reach.
Circling the outer edge of the center court we present “The Drama of Transportation,” showing the evolution of horse-drawn and horseless carriages leading all the way up to our modern 1934 Ford V-8.
Now let’s turn left and enter the smaller wing of the building. Here you’ll find the “Henry Ford Century Room,” celebrating 100 years of mechanical progress. This room includes early electric generators brought here from Mr. Ford’s growing collection at his museum in Dearborn, Mich., along with his first workshop and his first car.
Beyond this room you’ll see exhibits reflecting Mr. Ford’s interest in bringing together agriculture and industry, particularly his passion for growing and processing soybeans for car manufacturing. Mr. Ford even staged an all-soybean meal here recently, where he invited 30 reporters to partake of several specially made dishes. The reporters were not so sure about soybeans in their food but they had to admit that the future of soybean-based plastics, paint, and oil looks bright!
Now let’s head over to the large wing on the other side of our Exposition Building. Here we have many exhibits that showcase our modern industrial practices.
For example, inspired by Mr. Ford’s passionate interest in using natural materials to manufacture car parts, our “Out of the Earth” exhibit demonstrates how natural resources—like iron, aluminum, rubber, asbestos, and of course soybeans—go into the making of specific parts of the Ford V-8, mounted on top as a cutaway view.
Farther down this wing, you can see the amazing “Proof of Safety” exhibit. Here three Ford V-8’s are suspended from the rim of a welded steel wheel of the type used on all our Ford V-8 cars. This should assure you of the strength and dependability of the modern cars we are producing.
While you’re touring the many exhibits and demonstrations at the Ford Exposition building today, be sure to visit our impressive “Roads of the World” display outside. This large oval track features 100-foot-long sections that resemble 19 world-famous thoroughfares, ranging from the earliest Roman roads to the smooth paved highways of today.
Alas, our time is up. We hope you enjoyed your brief tour today, and are as excited as we are about the bright future we all have ahead of us.
Over the weekend of March 9-10, I had the pleasure of serving as a guest judge at the 2013 Detroit Autorama. The show, which features some of the best hot rods and custom cars in the country, is to car guys what the World Series is to baseball fans. My task was to select the winner of the CASI Cup, a sort of “sponsor’s award” given by Championship Auto Shows, Inc., Autorama’s producer.
I’d like to say that I entered Cobo Center and got straight to work, diligently focused on my duties. But it would be a lie! I quickly got distracted by the amazing vehicles. There was “Root Beer Float,” the ’53 Cadillac named for its creamy brown paint job. There was the ’58 Edsel lead sled with its chrome logo letters subtly rearranged into “ESLED.” There was the famous Monkeemobile built by Dean Jeffries. And, from my own era, there was a tribute car modeled on Knight Rider’s KITT. (You’ve got to admire someone who watched all 90 episodes – finger ever on the pause button – so he could get the instrument panel details just right.)
Every vehicle was impressive in its own way, whether it was a 100-point show car or a rough and rusted rat rod. In the end, though, my pick for the CASI Cup spoke to my curator’s soul. Dale Hunt’s 1932 Ford Roadster was, to my mind, the ultimate tribute car. It didn’t honor one specific vehicle – it honored the rodder’s hobby itself.
Hunt built his car to resemble the original hot rods, the fenderless highboy coupes that chased speed records on the dry lakes of southern California. The car’s creative blend of parts and accessories – the ’48 Ford wheel covers, the stroked and bored Pontiac engine, the lift-off Carson top – all spoke to the “anything goes” attitude that is at the heart of hot rodding and customizing to this day.
It was a privilege to be a part of the show. Like most of the fans walking the floor with me, I’m already looking forward to Autorama 2014!
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
Dress, Worn by Elizabeth Parke Firestone, 1950 (Object ID: 92.263.43)
Elizabeth Parke Firestone (1897-1990) was destined to develop a refined sense of fashion. Born the daughter of a wealthy Decatur, Ill., businessman, she was given the opportunity to study in Europe in her mid-teens. Through this adventure she developed a deep appreciation for French culture, particularly French decorative arts. She also nurtured a lifelong love of dancing, which influenced not only her fashion sense but her choice of spouse.
Elizabeth met Harvey S. Firestone, Jr., at a dance. Their 1921 wedding was the union of two well-established business families, and their celebration was the most lavish Decatur had ever seen. It began a 52-year marriage, during which the couple raised four children at "Twin Oaks," their Akron, Ohio, home. They also maintained homes in New York City and Newport, R.I.
Elizabeth's background prepared her well for her role of representing her husband and family in the most influential business and social circles of the time. She joined her husband on business trips, traveling the United States, Europe and Asia throughout their marriage. She looked to both the New York and Paris fashion scenes to find couturiers who met her style standards, then worked through both correspondence and visits to modify their designs to fit her best features.
Evening Dress, Worn by Elizabeth Parke Firestone, 1947
Elizabeth was meticulous about her looks, leaving no detail unattended. Her fair skin became radiant when she wore pinks and blues, and most of her clothing can be found in variations of these shades. Multiple matching gloves, shoes, purses and hats were commissioned for each outfit, so that replacements would be readily available in case of damage.
Trim, blonde and blue-eyed, Elizabeth looked stunning in designer gowns and was frequently photographed for fashion and society magazines. Well into her 50s her fashions were the talk of society, and her style-both classy and classic-was frequently noted in the press. In the 1950s she was named one of the "Best Dressed Women in the World" by the Couture Group of the New York Dress Institute along with the Duchess of Windsor and Hollywood actresses including Olivia de Havilland.
Prior to her death, Elizabeth and her family realized that the clothing she owned offered a rich and sweeping view of fashion history to future generations, and a large segment of her wardrobe was donated to The Henry Ford. Today that collection includes more than 1,000 dresses, shoes, gloves and other accessories, from early home-sewn creations including her wedding dress to custom-made American and European designer fashions. Each dress is truly a work of art, crafted by inventive couturiers for a patron who not only collaborated on the result, but well understood the contribution each made to the life of her family and the society of the day.
This time of year I feel so nostalgic about activities surrounding Valentine's Day! I fondly recall making cards for my mother on construction paper by coloring with crayons. Many looked a lot like this one in the museum's collections.
I also have many happy memories of exchanging cards with my classmates in elementary school, especially cutouts featuring kids or animals.
Valentine, "Bank of True Love," circa 1852. Richard Marsh of 374 Pearl St., New York City printed this Valentine in the form of a promissory note. It shows a view of lovers seated in a garden at the top and Cupid on the right with the text, "State of Matrimony." ID THF99107 / 89.0.540.683.
Cutout Valentine, "Radio Me and I'll Radio You," circa 1920. A mechanical card with moving arms and heads shows a girl and a boy with radio sets sending messages to each other. It is signed on the back, "Llewellynne From Aunt Ida." ID THF99109 / 89.72.1
Three-Dimensional Valentine, "To Greet My Love," circa 1910. Card opens out completely to form a tissue bell. It is signed on the back, "From Dufur to Eva Lena." ID THF99115 / 90.234.19.
This year I searched our collections for more selections of valentines and found some surprises. I happened to find several which struck me as a quite unique. One is designed to look like a promissory note, picture above, from a bank in the 1850s. Another is a cutout card featuring kids playing with radio equipment in the 1920s - then the latest technology! The third example is a card that folds out to form an elaborate 3D tissue bell.
Photographic print, Girls' Club Valentine Dance and Ford Plant Engineering Party, Dearborn, Michigan, February 14, 1947. Joseph Farkas was the Ford Motor Company photographer. ID THF99127 / P.833.83934.2.
Cabinet photograph, Cyclist Eugene Valentine with Bicycle and Medals, 1887. It was photographed by J. Wood of 208 Bowery, New York City. Signed on the back "Yours truly, Eugene Valentine, Dec 29, 1887." ID THF206673 / 220.127.116.11
Then I came across this photo of a Valentine's Day Party. It is identified as a Girls' Club Valentine Dance, but they look like ladies and a gentleman to me. The room is decorated with crepe paper streamers and a large heart-shaped doorway. The sign above the doorway reads, "Kiss Me!"
My searches also came up with a man named Eugene Valentine. Once I saw this I realized that Valentine is indeed a last name, not just a romantic holiday. The name is from the Latin "Valentinus" based on "valere," meaning to be strong. In the British Isles, it has been recorded from medieval times as a first and then a last name with many different spellings, including Valentyn, Vallentine, and Valentine.
I also found a business named Valentine-Souvenir Company of New York City. There are several dozen postcards made by this company in our collections, but not one is a Valentine card. It turns out this company was formed from several later mergers of the founding company started by John Valentine of Dundee, Scotland, in 1825. The original Valentine Company made lithograph prints before starting to produce postcards in 1896. From 1914 to 1923 the Valentine-Souvenir Company of New York City printed postcards using the letterpress halftone color printing process.
Postcard - "Band Stand over Lagoon, Belle Isle, Detroit, Mich.," circa 1915, Valentine-Souvenir Co. ID THF99105 / 18.104.22.168
I think that any search for Valentine's Day cards needs to include heart shapes as a design motif. In addition to the cards, I expected to find jewelry, dishes and quilts to have heart motifs, but here's something unexpected: a forerunner of the bicycle made with heart shapes cut out of the wooden wheels.
Velocipede, Draisine, attributed to a German maker, circa 1818. German Baron Karl von Drais invented the Draisine in 1817. Operators of this human-powered vehicle sat astride the wooden rail and pushed off with their feet. This early velocipede or hobby horse can be said to be the first bicycle. THF108100 / 32.161.1