Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

One of the most distinctive features of Greenfield Village is the period-authentic clothing worn by the presenters, all created on site by our Clothing Studio. Many of the designs they create are based on objects from our own costume collection, including clothing, shoes, hats, and other accessories. We’ve just digitized a selection of bonnets, including this delicate 19th century example. See detail shots of two dozen bonnets, ranging from the very simple to the very ornate, on our collections website.

Back in May, we received a visit to our reading room by a team of engineering students from Penn State, who were touring Greenfield Village. They had been out in the Village helping to install a working replica (but more on that later) of Henry Ford's first experimental engine, the Kitchen Sink Engine. (The original engine, made in 1893, is in our collections storage.) Now they wanted to see what is near and dear to any engineer's heart: the blueprints. We located and pulled the engine's technical drawings, which had been created by Ford Motor Company staff circa 1944 and form part of our Ford Blueprint Drawings collection (just one small part of which is the "Miscellaneous Ford Motor Company Blueprints and Drawings Collection," where these drawings reside.

Drawing of the 1893 Kitchen Sink Engine, "First Gasoline Engine by Mr. Henry Ford" (Object ID: 64.167.181.1).

The engineering students were a rapt audience, and they stayed in the reading room for a while, poring over the drawings, talking to each other about them, and taking pictures. Later, an order was put in for high-resolution scans of the drawings. It turns out that a previous group of students from their course had already created their own replica of the engine, back in 2012 as part of a class project. The Henry Ford has had a replica of the Kitchen Sink Engine on display, but ours is not a working replica. Theirs is -- and that's the really cool thing. We are always pleased when our collections are used in exciting ways that bring the past forward. Icing on the cake for this particular case (maybe the Fates were smiling on us for the 150th anniversary of Henry Ford's birth?), was that with one of the Kitchen Sink Engine drawings, we hit a milestone number for our image scanning: THF100000! (All of the collections images we scan are assigned a unique identification number, in order to make tracking and retrieval possible.) A nice round—and large—number to commemorate an important first in Henry Ford's career! Now we're going to be wondering what THF200000 will be.

See the Penn State Beaver students' working replica of the Kitchen Sink Engine on display at this weekend's Old Car Festival.

engineering, engines

At this year's Old Car Festival (our 63rd offering), we'll continue to celebrate Henry Ford's 150th birthday by bringing together examples of all of the pre-Model T Fords, known as the letter cars. From the Model A to the Model T, these cars helped revolutionize the car industry. Which cars can you expect to see in Greenfield Village this weekend?

"Evolution of the Ford Car," 1949 (Object ID: P.O.7085).

  • Model A (1903-1904)
  • Model B (1904-1905)
  • Model AC (1904)
  • Model C (1904-1905)
  • Model F (1905-1906)
  • Model K (1906-1908)
  • Model N (1906-1908)
  • Model R (1907-1908)
  • Model S (1907-1908)
  • 1905 Ford Model B Touring Car

    The rarest of these cars is the Model B. It was Ford’s first front-engine car and first four-cylinder model. It was also quite expensive ($2000) and sold poorly. Consequently, only seven complete examples are known to survive today. The Model B at Old Car Festival will be the museum’s own, coming off of the floor to make this special gathering complete.

    1907 Ford Model K Touring Car (Object ID: 00.3.2425).

    Also of note is the Ford Model K. It has its place in the Ford story as the expensive ($2500) six-cylinder car that Henry Ford didn’t like. He was thinking seriously of his “car for the masses” when the K was introduced, and the Model K led directly to a split with his original backer Alexander Malcomson. Malcomson wanted to build big, expensive cars which generated big profits per unit sold, while Ford wanted to build inexpensive cars and make the profit up in volume. Interestingly, Ford Motor Company would not produce another six-cylinder car until 1941.

    1906 Ford Model N Runabout (Object ID: 85.115.1).

    Finally, the Model N deserves some attention. Many people don’t realize that Ford Motor Company was a great success even before the Model T. The N, introduced in 1906, was the best-selling car in the United States with more  than 7000 produced. Reliable and inexpensive ($500), it was very much a proto-Model T.

    During an anniversary celebration in 1933, Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford posed for this commemorative photograph in a 1903 Model A -- the first automobile produced and sold by his fledgling company thirty years earlier (Object ID: P.189.10644).

    In addition to showcasing the letter cars this year, we'll also be running four additional historically significant vehicles, with replicas of two (the Quadricycle and Sweepstakes) built by Henry himself.

  • 1896 Quadricycle
  • 1901 Sweepstakes
  • 1922 Detroit Electric Coupe
  • 1929 Packard Roadster
  • We'll be open late Saturday night for car enthusiasts to enjoy exploring Greenfield Village looking for some of their favorite classic cars in the gaslight parade as they enjoy the sounds of The Hotel Savarine Society Orchestra. Which car will you be looking for? Share your favorites online us by tagging your content with #GVOldCarFest.

    antique cars

    As Digital Collections Initiative Manager at The Henry Ford, I’m often asked what my favorite artifact is. This is a pretty tough question to answer when I have about 25 million artifacts to choose from—and to be honest, my favorites change all the time. Of the 18,000 or so artifacts added in our digital collections thus far, though, one of the items on my short list would have to be the Monkey Bar.

    The Monkey Bar was created by Patrick J. Culhane (or possibly Culinane/Cullinane—correspondence we have related to the artifact contains several variants on his name) in 1914–15, while he was a prisoner at the Massachusetts State Prison at Charlestown, where he’d been sent after a conviction of “larceny from a conveyance.” Culhane crafted an amazingly extensive diorama by hand, out of materials including peach pits and scraps of wood, fabric, metal, cellulose, and plastic—and all on a base measuring about 16” x 20”.

    Monkeys playing pool, checkers, and cards, and generally enjoying themselves (THF49089)

    Culhane intended the diorama to depict many of the worldly pitfalls that had put him and his fellow inmates on a path to prison. The Bar is chock full of monkeys engaged in all kinds of rambunctious activities—drinking alcohol, gluttonous eating, smoking (cigarettes, cigars, and opium), gambling and gaming in many forms (craps, roulette, checkers, shell game, and cards), playing music, monitoring the stock market via a ticker, and even paying off a policemonkey. Clearly some of the monkeys are ready to check into (or out of) the associated hotel, as they have their suitcases with them and keys and mail are visible behind the desk.

    Checking into a monkey motel, and perhaps enjoying a cigar too (THF49107)

    Perhaps surprisingly, monkey bars were created by other prisoners in the early part of the 20th century (another one was featured on Antiques Roadshow in 2007, for example), but the one in our collection is truly amazing in its tiny details, from the inlaid wood tables, to the cigar ash piling up wherever monkeys are smoking, to the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkey statuettes on top of the piano. Wherever you look in the great detail shots captured by our photographer, you see something new and striking.

    Playing the stock market and eating what must be Chinese food--with chopsticks, of course (THF49090)

    The story didn’t end with the creation of this amazing piece, though. Likely working through intermediaries at a Boston-area Ford Motor Company plant, Culhane managed to get the Monkey Bar to Henry Ford. In this time period, Ford was particularly known for hiring those who might not otherwise have an equal shot, including the disabled, the mentally ill, and former convicts. A hand-calligraphed note on the Monkey Bar’s glass case reads “Presented to Mr. Henry Ford / As a token of appreciation and esteem for his many benevolent and magnanimous acts toward, and keen interest in, prisoners / By A Prisoner.”

    Monkey roulette (THF49105)

    Ford became interested in Culhane, and may even have interceded for his release. In January 1916, Culhane was hired to work at the Ford Motor Company plant in Cambridge, Mass. Ford’s secretary continued to correspond with the Cambridge plant about Culhane, which seems to indicate an ongoing interest on Ford’s part.

    Hanging out behind the piano smoking opium, while a waiter brings more drinks and some law-related graft appears to be going down nearby (THF49103)

    Over the next 15 years or so, Culhane married, had children, and became owner of his own roofing company, seemingly having turned his life around from his earlier, criminal days. One can only assume Henry Ford, given his views on the rehabilitation of former convicts and his continuing interest in Culhane, would have been overjoyed at this change of fortune.

    Nothing like a turkey dinner, carved tableside, with plenty of chilled drinks (THF49094)

    Check out additional photos of the Monkey Bar, and the rest of our digital collections, online.

    Ellice Engdahl heads up the collections digitization effort at The Henry Ford, so gets many opportunities per day to revise her list of favorite objects. Invaluable assistance with this post was provided by her colleagues Lisa Korzetz, Registrar, and Andy Stupperich, Associate Curator.

    bars, cocktails, crafts, jail, prison

    Today, on Aug. 28, 2013, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

    Of all the events that occurred that day 50 years ago, it is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech that is most often remembered today. That speech—which went far beyond what King had initially planned—has been considered one of the most inspiring and powerful speeches of all time.

    But what else happened that day?

    Take a closer look at the March on Washington through these five artifacts from the collections of The Henry Ford.

    Pennant, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963 (Object ID: 2000.32.4)

    As this pennant shows, the March on Washington was not solely a Civil Rights demonstration. It actually started as a march for jobs. This march was the brainchild of A. Philip Randolph, 73-year-old founder of the famous black union for Pullman porters, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. He had talked of staging a march similar to this one back in 1941, to protest the lack of military defense jobs for African Americans. Now, 22 years later, African Americans had still not made much progress, in either employment opportunities or equitable wages. When Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Civil Rights leaders decided to combine forces with Randolph, the march took on the broader meaning that we associate with it today.

    Handbill, "March on Washington, Wednesday August 28," 1963 (Object ID: 2001.48.10)

    Once they decided to join forces, several black Civil Rights organizations came together to plan the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington. Each group had different outlooks, agendas, and reasons for being there. But, working together, they created the list of demands on this handbill. While all the leaders could rally around the new Civil Rights bill that President Kennedy had just introduced to Congress, most of them wanted more—more assurance of jobs, reasonable wages, and an end to segregation and discrimination. Handbills like this one were posted in local communities to inspire people to attend the March.

    LP Record, "March on Washington: The Official Album," 1963 (Object ID: 2001.142.52)

    The organizers of the March had hoped for 100,000 marchers to show up. But, by 11:00 the morning of Aug. 28, some 250,000 marchers had arrived in Washington, D.C., having come by bus, train, foot, bicycle, and even on roller skates. Many had traveled hundreds, even thousands, of miles to get there. Most had paid their own way. The March was held on a Wednesday, so many people had to miss a day or more of work. While most in attendance were African American, there was a strong contingent of white marchers as well. The photograph that appears on the front of this record album depicts just a small segment of the hundreds of thousands of marchers that attended that day. Leaders of the event can be seen spanning the row in the foreground.

    March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963. Lincoln Memorial Program (Object ID: 2000.32.58)

    This program is a fascinating document of the day’s events. Speakers from each of the Civil Rights organizations who had helped plan the March offered remarks, as did labor leader Walter Reuther and members of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish organizations. A “Tribute to Negro Women Fighters for Freedom” included Rosa Parks. After about two hours of speeches, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech ignited the hot, tired crowd. Then, A. Philip Randolph—the original instigator of the March—read the words of a pledge that the marchers were to agree to, raising their voices in the affirmative. The words of this pledge still ring with the hope and determination that defined that day 50 years ago. The following is an excerpt:

    I pledge to carry the message of the March to my friends and neighbors back home and arouse them to an equal commitment and equal effort. I will march and I will write letters. I will demonstrate and I will vote. I will work to make sure that my voice and those of my brothers ring clear and determined from every corner of our land.

    I pledge my heart and my mind and my body unequivocally and without regard to personal sacrifice to the achievement of social peace through social justice.

    In acknowledgement of the 50th anniversary of the March, a 20-minute film produced by the National Archives featuring historic footage will run on a loop throughout the day by "Your Place in Time" in Henry Ford Museum. From the U.S. Information Agency:

    Experience the American Journey through our country's visual heritage in this historical recording provided by the National Archives of the United States. Scenes from the Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C., August 1963 includes footage featuring people walking up sidewalk; gathering on Mall, standing, and singing. It also includes people marching with signs, people at the speaker's podium, men with guitars, and crowds outside of the White House. A number of speakers are featured, including Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Also included are women at the podium singing "We Shall Overcome."

    Donna R. Braden is Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.

    Civil Rights

    This is the inaugural post of a new regular feature on The Henry Ford’s blog showcasing an item from the physical collections of The Henry Ford that has been recently added to our digital collections. In addition to an image, we’ll provide a brief bit of background information and links or hints for searching. A lot of the objects we’re digitizing are not currently on display, so in many cases the digital collections are the only way to see them. Please enjoy, and let us know if you have any questions about our digitization efforts.

    This week we’ve just added an object that may look familiar to our visitors—this eighteenth-century daybed is currently on display in Henry Ford Museum in the “Fully Furnished” exhibit. View the daybed and over 270 pieces of furniture and related items by visiting our collections website. Let us know if your favorite piece from “Fully Furnished” has been added yet!

    artifacts

    How can historians use the clues hidden in the floor plans of houses to piece together the past?

    The Adams House floor plan in 1937 (left) at the time of The Henry Ford’s purchase, and the layout depicting 1878 (right), The Henry Ford’s chosen date of interpretation, are similar but have noticeable differences.

    Every home is a reflection of the people who once resided there, at once a testament to the past and a projection into the future. In few cases is this more evident than in the George Matthew Adams House in Greenfield Village. Originally built in Saline, Michigan, in 1846, the house was moved to the Village in 1937 and reconstructed on the crest of a hill, not unlike many other houses in Greenfield Village. Fast forward to the 21st century, and it became apparent that the home was slowly sliding down. This of course signaled the beginning of a battle against time and gravity to save the Adams House; every problem that arises, however, brings with it new opportunities to try different approaches and put the latest scholarship into practice.

    The recent work on the Adams House (also called the Adams Family Home) has given researchers a chance to look at the old house from a fresh perspective. When houses are renovated, historians do their best with the available sources to ensure the house in question is as close to the original plan as possible. Precision can prove to be difficult, as some important information is often absent from the written record. This is when logic and deduction come into play, much like detective work. Historians can use photographs and floor plans to discover the truth and uncover the mysteries hidden in the house.

    This 1937 picture of the Adams House before relocation is exhibitive of changes to the house, including a stucco covering, a rear addition, and the window to the far left. The window’s lack of uniformity with the others suggests that it was added at a later date. This image and others shown here come from The Henry Ford's Greenfield Village buildings records collection (http://bit.ly/18Mx2qw), accumulated records documenting the history of each individual building in Greenfield Village, and colloquially known as the "Building Box collection."

    Houses are rarely static objects. As the years go by, people change, families grow, and structures pass into different ownership. Homes are adapted to meet the needs of their residents, and in doing so, those same dwellings are able to share their secrets with those that have a discerning eye. Consider, for example, this picture of the front entryway of Adams House, looking into the kitchen. The way to the kitchen is open, just as it is at Greenfield Village, but what about the opening to the left, immediately in front of the kitchen door? When we study the blueprint, it appears that this passage would lead into the sitting room, although it is not depicted in the 1876 interpretation of the Adams House in the Village. It is entirely possible that this passage was open, and the doorway to the kitchen solid wall, when the home was built in 1846, more than three decades before George Matthew Adams. The kitchen of the 1840s was a far cry from the kitchen of today. While modern kitchens are open and inviting, often combined with or indistinguishable from the dining room, antebellum kitchens were usually cut off from the rest of the house, a place that the family never exhibited and where guests were rarely allowed. In fact, it was more likely to have a passage from the main hallway lead into the sitting room than the kitchen. It might be the case that the door to the kitchen was added many years later, when homeowners insisted on a greater degree of convenience and changing domestic patterns made the kitchen into more of a social and familial gathering place.

    From the hall. The openings to the kitchen (straight ahead) and to the sitting room (to the left) may not have been built at the same time.

    Looking into the kitchen from another angle, even more interesting features can be spotted. The wall with the doorway in the picture below shows a division in the kitchen, which in all likelihood was a pantry. So while it is unclear if the pantry wall in the picture is original to the house, there are several clues to help scholars determine a rough chronology. Many kitchens in the early Victorian era had no need for a pantry. After the Civil War, however, mass production and an increase in commercial products led to a need to store food and keep it organized. The Adams House as it stands today does indeed have a pantry, although not in the same location as the one depicted here. Like the other walls in the picture, the wall in question is made using plaster applied to strips of lath. This is the 19th-century equivalent of the beams and drywall system of today. All of the strips in the house are split laths rather than sawn laths, indicating that the interior wall is close to the rest of the house in terms of construction date. Laths that were sawn off of logs rather than stripped would illustrate a date closer to the 20th century and an increase in sawmill technology, when there was greater uniformity both in the form of houses and the materials that were used to make them. The pantry wall, with its construction indistinguishable from the rest of the original structure, could be original to the house or, if not built right away, a very quick addition afterwards.

    The laths in this interior wall help to show its age relative to the rest of the house.

    Using the evidence discovered from viewing old photographs and other floor plans, historians at The Henry Ford outlined this conjectural layout of the George Matthew Adams House at the time of its construction in 1846.

    Like the foundation of the Adams House, the floor plan has shifted and fluctuated. The great gap in years, as well as the gap in the written and photographic record, makes piecing together the layout of the Adams House a daunting task. By using a combination of photographs, blueprints, and oral histories, employees at The Henry Ford have been able to conjecturally construct the history of the George Matthew Adams House. With this fresh and logical outlook, it is easier than ever to see the changes in the home between its construction in 1846, George Matthew Adams’ birth in 1878, and the purchase of the house by The Henry Ford in 1937. These changes over the years show how the role of the house evolved to meet the needs of new families and domestic ideals. The recent study on the Adams House layout has helped uncover not only what features of the house had been modified, but also how and why those alterations took place when they did.

    Jacob Thomas is one of the 2013 Simmons Graduate Interns at The Henry Ford.

    Greenfield Village buildings

    Where in the world is The Henry Ford this weekend? Pebble Beach, Calif.!

    Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has invited The Henry Ford to showcase our 1950 Lincoln “Bubbletop” Presidential Limousine in its 63rd showing. As part of this stellar automotive event, we appear as one of the select cars on the famed 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

    This year’s show field focuses on one-off custom-bodied Lincolns. After Ford Motor Company purchased Lincoln in 1922, Edsel Ford further defined it with superior styling and elegant custom coachwork. Long one of America’s elite luxury cars, Lincoln served as the official vehicle for presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy and George H.W. Bush.

    This isn't the first time the Bubbletop has been on display outside of the museum. In 2012, The Henry Ford proudly exhibited our Bubbletop in England during the Diamond Jubilee celebration of Queen Elizabeth.

    The car's bubbletop

    Secret Service agent platform

    What else should you know about the Bubbletop?

  • Built for President Harry S. Truman in 1950, and used by President Dwight D. Eisenhowser
  • Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson also used this car as a spare until its retirement in 1967
  • Assembled by the Ford Motor Company in Detroit
  • Special bodywork done by Raymond Dietrich, Dietrich Creative Industries, Grand Rapids, Mich
  • Engine: V-8 L-head
  • Horsepower: 152
  • Displacement: 336.7 cubic inches
  • Weight: 6,500 pounds
  • Total of 10 limousines built at a cost of $500,000
  • President Eisenhowser added the distinctive plastic "bubbletop," which is removable so presidents could be seen during parades in all weather
  • A folding bug shield protects the president's face when standing during parades
  • A platform in back holds Secrete Service agents
  • Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

    Car Shows

    I began my internship with Charles Sable, Curator of Decorative Arts, in September of 2011. My assignment: to educate myself on the history of American lighting, research the lighting collection at The Henry Ford, and help to prepare for a visit of four antique lighting clubs that was scheduled for October of 2012.

    I was excited for this opportunity; I enjoy research and was curious to see what was in the collection. As I began to learn the history of lighting and understand fuel sources and mechanics, I quickly found the breadth of the project was far greater than I had initially imagined! My preliminary research took about four months; I then began combing through some 7,000 lighting-related objects in the collection to select appropriate examples to present to the lighting collectors. This was done by searching the Henry Ford Museum’s collections management system.

    To better understand the lighting collection at The Henry Ford, it's important to know its history, which can be traced back nearly 100 years, when Henry Ford first began collecting in the 1920s. During Ford’s creation of a museum that would “reproduce American life as lived,” (Simands, William A. & Stokes, Frederick A. Henry Ford and Greenfield Village. New York, p. 117) his agents scanned the country for objects that represented the development of the American experience. He was passionate about technological innovations of all kinds, with an interest in the evolution of lighting and the development of electricity, influenced by his close friendship with and admiration for Thomas Edison. This led him to acquire a substantial collection of lighting objects. Though some examples were peculiar and unique, many were rather conventional. These objects represent the technologies of their time period, as Americans searched for the most efficient lighting options.

    Betty Lamp made by Peter Derr, 1848 (Object ID 67.6.2).

    Kerosene Lamp, 1880-1900 (Object ID 00.4.588).

    The origin of much of the collection is difficult to pinpoint. Many objects were acquired before 1940 and were not documented the way objects are today. Luckily, Henry Ford kept the receipts for many of his purchases. These records provide clues that indicate Ford initially began collecting chronologically. He started with the oldest forms of lighting, such as candlesticks and rushlights, and by the 1930s was collecting gasoline-fueled lighting. The initiative to collect lighting ebbed after Ford’s death in 1947, but picked back up again in the 1960s and 1970s under the curatorship of Carleton Brown.

    Though the collection was acquired in many stages, its significance is clear: it represents the evolution of lighting, and the search for a fuel that would burn brightly, was safe to use, easily accessible, and affordable.

    Whale Oil Wall Sconce, 1840-1860 (Object ID 62.70.511); India Rubber Safety Lamp, 1855 (Object ID 00.919.3); Grand-Val's Perfect Time Indicator Lamp, 1880 (Object ID 66.7.24)

    Working chronologically, as Henry Ford did when assembling the collection, I sorted the objects into categories. The process of selecting those that would be shown to the visiting collectors then began. Working with two representatives from the groups, Charles and I spent several days going through the collection determining which objects would make the cut. The collectors were interested in unique examples, patent models, and rare pieces. After careful consideration, 25 objects were selected, and we ended up with some very interesting and unique picks!

    Alonzo Platt Fish Oil Chandelier, 1836 (Object ID 65.26.1); Cigar Lighter & Cutter, "Smoke George W. Childs Cigars," circa 1877 (Object ID 34.717.1).

    During the weekend of Oct. 12, 2012, the four organizations (the Rushlight Club, The Historical Lighting Society of Canada, The Night Light Club, and the Fairy Lamp Club) visited The Henry Ford. They toured Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village to see the lighting on display, and were able to examine the 25 objects we selected. It was certainly a rewarding experience for everyone involved!

    Though much of the lighting collection is not currently on display, visitors to the museum can see lighting examples in the "Made in America" and "Fully Furnished" exhibits, as well as inside many of the homes in Greenfield Village. All the objects chosen to show the collectors have been digitized for public viewing; for the remaining objects not shown here, take a look at our online collections site. You can see the artifacts listed here and more!

    By Melanie Parker

    interns, lighting, lights

    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.

    Baldwin No. 7 at the Roundhouse

    Photo courtesy David Matt

    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.

    Henry Ford stands at the Tender of DT&I Number 7 Locomotive.

    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.

    DT&I Locomotive #7 was on display in the Henry Ford Museum until late in 1985.

    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

    railroads, trains