Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Pomona, Riverside, Santa Barbara, Laguna Seca, Sebring, Le Mans, Indianapolis…race fans know that these are the tracks where legends were made.

 

Gurney, Shelby , Foyt, Hall, Clark…driving legends who defined modern automobile racing. If it had an engine and rolled, they raced it.

 

Cobra, Lotus, Lola, Porsche, Corvette, Ferrari…cars that defied the laws of physics and the test of time.

 

Between 1960 and 1990, tracks, drivers and cars combined to create a memorable era in automobile racing, and one of the best-known photograph collections documenting this era is now accessible. Selected images from the Dave Friedman collection are now available for viewing at The Henry Ford’s Flickr page. More than 10,000 images have been uploaded since the beginning of 2012, with many more to come!

1960 Pomona Road Races. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thehenryford/6732275289/

During the 1950s and 1960s, American auto racing underwent a radical transformation, evolving from a sport of weekend racers in their home-built hot rods and dragsters to professional teams driving powerful race cars in competitions all over the world. Photographer Dave Friedman had a front row seat for the action during this important transition, capturing the excitement, the grit and the glamour - and creating some of the most iconic images of American motor sports of that era.

12 Hours of Sebring, 1964. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thehenryford/6659919781/

In 1962 Friedman was hired as staff photographer for Shelby-American Inc., the racing design and construction shop owned by a former driver, the late Carroll Shelby. While with Shelby-American Inc., Friedman had the unique opportunity to document the development of one of racing’s iconic stable of cars, the Shelby Cobras. In 1965, Friedman continued to capture the dynamic innovations of Shelby and Ford Motor Company as he documented the development of the record-setting Ford Mark IV race car that was the first American-designed and built car to win the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1967 . Friedman continued to pursue his passion for motor sports into the 1990s, when he refocused his lens on a new art form – classical ballet.

12 Hours of Sebring, 1970. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thehenryford/6761503307/

In 2009, The Henry Ford acquired the unique collection of this internationally renowned photographer, author and motion picture still photographer. The Dave Friedman collection consists of over 200,000 unique images, including photographs, negatives, color slides and transparencies. The collection also includes programs, race results and notes from across the United States and around the world. Dating between 1949 and 2003, the images and programs illustrate the transition of auto racing from dirt tracks and abandoned airfields to super speedways.

 

The Dave Friedman collection is a unique resource that documents in subtle shades the art, power and passion of automobile racing in the second half of the 20th century.

 

What's your favorite moment in automotive racing history? Tell us in the comments below, or check out Racing In America for more details on these iconic races and more.

 

Peter Kalinski is an archivist at the Benson Ford Research Center, part of The Henry Ford.

race cars, racing, Racing In America, racing photos, vintage photos

The Henry Ford mourns the passing of Carroll Shelby—race car driver, champion team owner, automotive designer, true innovator.

From his racing days behind the wheel, to his innovative designs on the track, one common trait threads through all that he accomplished in his more than 50 years in the automotive racing field: passion. He was a firm believer in being passionate about what you did and what you created, always focusing on the future. When asked what was his favorite car creation, he would reply, "the next one."

 

1967 Ford Mark IV Race Car - This car was built to win the world's most important sports car race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

 

We are grateful to Mr. Shelby for his pioneering leadership and all that he has done in the automotive and racing industries and we are proud to display his work in the 1967 Ford Mark IV LeMans Race Car in Henry Ford Museum.

 

This photo still of Mr. Shelby was taken in 2008 during a video segment for The Henry Ford's OnInnovation.com site.

 

racing, Racing In America

A planned two-week checkup inspection of the iconic house of the future - Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion House - turned into a two-month long “surgery” to repair extensive fatigue cracking of the thin aluminum beams that form the deck of the house. The cracks were visible from the underside, which is only accessible by sliding on your back on the museum's teak floor in about 18 inches of workspace.

Axionometric view of the Dymaxion House

Thorough inspection indicated that the damage was happening only in areas where the public walks. There were no cracks in the living room, which has never been accessible to visitors.

The cracks were developing due to the flexing of metal at the sharp edge of L-shaped brackets supporting the beams. Remember, there was no precedent for the use of aluminum in this architectural application, so we guess that Bucky was never aware he had allowed this fundamental design flaw. The house was a prototype in process - so it's understandable.

Tim Brewer and Clara Deck open the floor to expose the beams for repair.

Our first look at the problem set off a flurry of activity to plan for repair. Fortunately, we had most of the expertise and labor required right on staff. Tim Brewer was there every step of the way when we put the house together the first time in Oct 2001; he knows every bolt and cable of the complicated dwelling machine.

Jill Maki carefully removes the floorboards.

Our dedicated volunteer Richard Jeryan, a retired engineer from Ford Motor Company, knew the best local firm to jump in and manufacture repair patches for us. Metro Technologies, located in Troy, Mich., made and helped install the necessary patches using high-tech adhesive and large rivets.

Most of the conservation department had a role as well. Some of our part-time staff - notably Fran McCans and Jill Maki - put in many extra hours to see this fascinating project through in good time.

A technician from Metro Tech applying adhesive

Just getting at the problem required the removal of hundreds of fasteners – the stainless steel bolts, wood screws and aluminum rivets that hold the whole house together. Removing all those rivets while working in such tight spaces was challenging.

Clara Deck, Richard Jeryan and Tim Brewer move a pod to get to the repair work.

We lifted and moved the closet “pods” to open up more of the floor.  We shored the structure with lumber and removed the offending brackets. We pounded-out the floor-boards to access the bolts that retained the brackets.

Tim Brewer drills a crack with magnification. The workspaces were very tight.

Then we drill-out the ends of the cracks to arrest their progress in preparation for the addition of thicker aluminum patches custom-fit to the tapered U-shaped profile of the beams.

This photo was taken during initial installation of the house in the museum. You can see some of the floor beams in place.

MetroTech workers installing a patch for more stability.

Two Metro Tech guys came in to apply the patches. Then we closed the first half and repeated the whole process for the second half of the deck.

Meanwhile, we worked with staff carpenters to make a new “over-floor” of plywood to install under the carpet.  This serves to spread the load of visitors’ foot-falls, reducing that flexing stress that causes fatigue in metals.

Exterior view of the Dymaxion House.

After reassembly and the carpet is relaid, the change will go unnoticed by most visitors.

Those of us familiar with the house can feel a distinct difference: it feels much more solid. Bucky meant for the house to hang from the mast.  He described the deck as “pneumatic” in some publications…but he had no idea that his prototype would become one of Henry Ford Museum’s most loved exhibits one day, with hundreds of thousands of visitors walking through it every year.

We think our work has preserved this house for another couple generations at least.  Only time will tell.

Clara Deck is a Senior Conservator at The Henry Ford.

Buckminster Fuller, Bucky Fuller, Dymaxion House

When guests see the Rosa Parks bus on display inside Henry Ford Museum, they are often in awe. Speechless. Moved, even.

And you don't have to merely look at this magnificent milestone in American history. When you visit Henry Ford Museum, you can actually climb aboard, walk the narrow aisle of the bus - and even sit in the very seat that Rosa Parks occupied on December 1, 1955.

Inside the Rosa Parks Bus at Henry Ford Museum. (Photo by Michelle Andonian, Michelle Andonian Photography)

But during that visit, two questions are typically asked: "Is it THE bus?" and "How did The Henry Ford get it?"

The answer to the first question: Yes, it is.

The "smoking gun" - the page of Charles Cummings' scrapbook page with the notation "Blake/#2857," indicating the driver and number of the bus.

How the bus was acquired is a more modern story. In September 2001, an article in the Wall Street Journal announced that the Rosa Parks bus would be available in an Internet auction in October. Once we had confirmed the answer to the question posed above, we entered the online auction and came out the highest bidder.

The unrestored bus, arriving at Henry Ford Museum.

Cleaning the bus to prepare it for restoration.

After nearly five months of restoration, with support from the Save America's Treasures grant program, the Rosa Parks bus made its return to the floor of Henry Ford Museum on February 1, 2002. (With Liberty And Justice For All, the exhibition where the bus currently is displayed, had not yet been constructed.)

Paint chips from the unrestored bus, consultation with other experts, vintage postcards and eyewitness accounts from a museum employee who lived in Montgomery during the bus boycott allowed the museum to recreate the paint colors exactly.

Restoration efforts were performed on the bus down to the tiniest detail. For example: On the day Mrs. Parks boarded it, the bus was already seven years old and ran daily on the streets of Montgomery. Therefore, for authenticity, conservation experts applied recreated Alabama red dirt in the wheel wells, and tire treads and period advertising was recreated for the interior and exterior of the bus.

The back end of the bus, pre-restoration...

...and after. (Photo by Michelle Andonian, Michelle Andonian Photography)

With all of these elements together and pondering what happened on December 1, 1955, exploring this historic artifact creates a powerful connection for many.

bus, Civil Rights, Rosa Parks bus

When my parents handed me the keys to my 2001 Ford Escort ZX2 at the ripe old age of 16, I felt an instant sense of freedom.  Being able to go anywhere without asking for a ride from my mom or older brother gave me my first taste of adulthood.  I know the feeling of independence of owning your own destiny impacts almost all drivers because I recognize this passion in the researchers and car restorers who visit our reading room.

And freedom would have resonated with early car consumers too, especially women.  After gaining the right to vote with the passage of the 19th amendment in 1919, many women felt for the first time that they had a political voice and were therefore empowered to fight for equality in other areas.  Of course, many women, especially women of color, saw emancipation fleeting, as they were either barred from voting or secluded in the private sphere.  Still, for many women, the feelings of accomplishment were overwhelming, and advertisers in the United States’ emerging modern consumer economy took the chance to capitalize on the freedom motif.

The newest, most revolutionary, most popular item on the market was the automobile, and auto companies sought to reach out to female consumers using shiny new cars as the greatest symbol for female enfranchisement.  These ads reflect the duality of the discourse on women in the country:  both free yet still bound to feminine stereotyping.

This 1925 Ford advertisement features a charming image of women driving their Model T to meet friends for a golf outing. Many advertisements connected their product to the leisure of a middle-class lifestyle, leaving women of color and working women out of the picture. The message Ford Motor Company wished to embody: owning a car will allow you to achieve middle-class status.

“It enables them now to do things and to go places that had hitherto seemed out of the question.”

This statement expresses the general sentiment of the time that many women were moving into new and exciting territories.  As the 1920s progressed, highlighting the ability of the Model T to allow women to pursue independence became a popular theme in Ford advertisements. Notice that Ford tells women that they can “drive this easily-handled car themselves” and not need a man to escort or help them.  Although this advertisement obviously relies on stereotypes of feminine weakness, the overall message is that feminine weakness does not prohibit the modern woman from achieving equality.

Another Ford advertisement from 1925 that features a woman using her Model T to explore the outdoors. In this image the fabulously dressed woman could be anywhere, stepping out of her car with confidence and joy. Again, her white gloves and fur coat signify all the trappings of Jazz Age extravagance.

“By owning a Ford car a woman can with ease widen her sphere of interests without extra time or effort.” 

In this advertisement Ford once more points out the ways that a Model T can help women move beyond home.  Unlike the previous ad that associated the car with female autonomy, this ad links a woman and her domestic duties.  With this ad Ford targets older women who use their car not to golf or enjoy leisure activities but to conduct daily errands.  The suggestion is that with a Model T, a woman with a family can quickly and efficiently complete the tasks within her sphere while still remaining independent from her husband.

A 1926 Ford Advertisement celebrating the “torque tube drive” found on the Model T. This black and white advertisement emphasizes the technical advantages to driving a Ford.

Not every Ford advertisement featuring women played on traditional stereotypes.  This ad, though not as flashy or colorful as others, shows off the Ford’s mechanical assets rather than its association to style or sophistication.  Although it might seem strange that a technical ad would feature women drivers and passengers, there are many advertisements like this that do not simply link female car ownership to accepted domestic behavior.  One reason might be audience, as this ad ran in publications like the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s and had to resonate with men as well as women.  At the same time, there were many women who were interested in the mechanical aspects of automobiles and Ford reached out to these consumers with ads like this.

Notice the difference between this ad (which features the newly unveiled Model A) and the ads for the Model T. The imagery in this 1928 Ford advertisement feels modern with its art deco lines and tall, slender woman wearing the latest flapper-esque fashions. The red brick house in the background looks like one found in the Indian Village neighborhood in Detroit. The atmosphere, still one of elegance, reflects the Model A’s message: This isn’t your mother’s Ford.

When interest and enthusiasm for the Model T waned in the mid-1920s, Ford Motor Company stopped production on the world’s most popular car and in December 1927 debuted the 1928 Model A.  The new Ford was a beautiful car, modern and stylish, and the advertisements followed suit.  This ad relies heavily on a distinct gender binary by focusing on the different features of the Model A that would appeal to men and women.  “Men will admire the colors of the new Ford, but only a woman, from her fuller knowledge of clothes and style, will realize that they are colors that will not tire.”  This statement perfectly exemplifies the attitude in auto advertising that still continues to this day, namely relying on the assumption that men buy cars based on speed and horse-power, while women focus on aesthetics and comfort.

This artful image of two women speeding along a mountain highway in their 1928 Model A embodies a sense of freedom. These daring women are shown driving their car on their way to some unknown destination, and the dynamic composition creates an air of movement and possibility.

While the last advertisement reflects gendered biases towards consumers, this advertisement demonstrates a very different message.  Here the main focus is not the women in the picture or specifications given in the text; no, the feeling I get when I look at this advertisement hearkens to that first experience of autonomy, driving my own car at age 16 with nothing but the road in front of me and endless possibilities of people, places and experiences surrounding me.  In 1928 this feeling of freedom and independence would have resonated with all drivers regardless of gender, class, race or creed, as it still does today.

Jillian Reese, Reading Room Assistant at the Benson Ford Research Center, is an avid women’s history fan and photocopier extraordinaire. 

car ads, vintage car ads

“If we ever do anything worth doing, maybe we can get a car in here.”

That’s what Wood Brothers Racing's Eddie and Len Wood said following a 2008 visit to Henry Ford Museum when they had the opportunity to get up close and touch the 1965 Lotus-Ford race car that is part of their family’s 60-year racing legacy.

Well, to make a long (great!) story short: They did something. And it was big. Really big.

The Wood brothers and driver Trevor Bayne were in Dearborn yesterday to present to Henry Ford Museum that really big something: the famous No. 21 Ford Fusion that a 20-year-old Bayne drove to an unlikely victory in the 2011 NASCAR Daytona 500.

Len Wood shares the story of the road to the 2011 Daytona 500 win.

Fans and press were on hand to see and cheer on the unveiling of the museum's newest artifact.

Fans take photos as the car is unveiled at Henry Ford Museum.
The car will be on display in the Racing in America area of the Driving America exhibition in Henry Ford Museum. The Fusion's permanent home will be right between the 1901 Ford Sweepstakes car and the 1965 Indy 500-winning Lotus-Ford. The Sweepstakes marked the beginning of Ford racing, the Lotus-Ford changed everything, and now the No. 21 Ford Fusion has earned a spot as part of the Ford racing story.

The car is in the exact same condition it was when it left victory lane at Daytona in 2011. The exterior is ornamented with confetti - stuck to the car thanks to a glue of cola and Gatorade that bathed the car when celebrating the win. The car is authentically dirty; even Bayne's water bottle is still under the seat in the cockpit.

Pictured, left to right: The Henry Ford's executive vice president Christian Overland, Ford Racing's Jamie Allison, Len Wood, Trevor Bayne, Eddie Wood, The Henry Ford's president Trisha Mooradian, and Edsel B. Ford II .

Eddie Wood gave a moving account of how events that led to the win just seemed to fall into place. Edsel Ford II told the crowd that although he's witnessed some exciting races in his life - including the 1966 Le Mans when Ford beat Ferrari - the Feb 20, 2011 win at Daytona topped them all.

Trevor Bayne graciously autographs fan's hat at Henry Ford Museum.

Fans were eager to hear from Trevor Bayne who shared his account and gave some insight into all the people who are part of the story that led to victory lane. He also shared his own excitement about his car being part of Henry Ford Museum.

"When I walk up to my car and they call it an artifact, it kind of throws me off a little bit," he joked. "I got to flip the ignition switch. I never thought it'd be something I'm not allowed to touch anymore."

After the unveiling before the cheering crowd, there was a fan Q & A led by Michigan International Speedway president Roger Curtis.

Michigan International Speedway president Roger Curtis leads a fan Q & A with Eddie Wood, Trevor Bayne, Len Wood, Ford Racing's Jamie Allison, and The Henry Ford executive vice president Christian Overland.

Fans collected some autographs and had some photo ops with car and crew.

Fan John Furmanski took the opportunity to have his die cast of the winning Motorcraft Ford Fusion signed by Len and Eddie Wood and Trevor Bayne.

 Kristine Hass is a writer and long-time member of The Henry Ford. 

race cars, racing, Racing In America

If you’re a regular reader of The Henry Ford’s blog, you might have noticed several recent blog posts about The Henry Ford’s ongoing effort to digitize its collection – from a special project to photograph 120 of the collection’s vehicles to the rapid capture of 2D archival materials.

Capturing the 3D collection in electronic format has its own joys and pitfalls. The three-dimensional objects have a (sometimes substantial!) weight and heft to them, they are in various states of fragility, they are on exhibit or well-packed in storage, and in some cases, they may have particular complications in handling due to their age or the materials from which they are made.

Take, for example, our hubcap collection.

“Hubcaps?” you might ask. “Why hubcaps?”

Well, The Henry Ford has collected hundreds of hubcaps. Matt Anderson, our Curator of Transportation, explains their importance this way:

“The hubcap’s evolution mirrors that of the car itself. What began as a purely practical device grew into a stylish form of expression. Manufacturers mark hubcaps with logos and use different designs to complement a vehicle’s overall form, from elegant wire to sporty magnesium alloy. Some owners install custom caps, further personalizing their vehicles.”

In short, there is more to a hubcap than meets the eye, which is why they found their way into our digitization process recently.

The first step in digitization is locating and retrieving the object(s) we want to digitize, which are usually either in on- or off-site storage or on exhibit somewhere on the premises and can only be retrieved by staff members specially trained to handle the objects.

 

Just a small selection of our hubcaps on display in the Driving America exhibit.

Once retrieved, objects need varying levels of conservation. This can involve something as simple as cleaning, or much more involved procedures to restore the stability of an object. Here, conservation specialist Marlene Gray examines and treats boxes and boxes of hubcaps.

Conservation in action!

Once they are all clean and shiny, the hubcaps are carefully moved over to our photography studio, where they get the glamour treatment. In the photo below, Conservation Specialist Sarah Kollar and our photographer Rudy Ruzicska pick out the next hubcap to be photographed, using the camera set-up behind and just to the right of Rudy in the below photograph.

Many, many hubcaps wait their turn for their close-up.

Some complex objects get many photographs from multiple angles, while some, like the humble hubcap, get one good chance to shine (literally).

Once the photograph(s) have been taken, the digital images have to be named, appropriately sized, and moved into our collections database, which looks a lot like Sarah sitting at a computer with spreadsheets nearby.

This is what a lot of the digitization process looks like, actually; it may not be glamorous, but we find it quite worthwhile!

From there, we create a description of the object within our collections database. Collections documentation specialists within our registrar's office enter the material the hubcap is made of, noting its color, dimensions, any inscriptions it might have and any other information about it or its origin that they can glean, which often entails some research and consultation with curators.

Meanwhile, other collections documentation specialists and curators write brief narratives for many of the objects, explaining how and when they were used and their historical significance. When all this information is entered into our collections database, it looks like this:

Once the object is described within our collections system, and once it has at least one good photograph, it is ready for prime time!

Right now, each digitized object goes to three different digital homes: our collections website

…our digitized collection on the interactive touchscreen kiosks within the Diving America exhibit…

You can save favorite items into sets and share them back and forth across all three of these venues, adding new favorites as you go!

What hubcaps (or other collections items) will make it into your sets?

Ellice Engdahl, Digital Collections Initiative Manager at The Henry Ford, finds hundreds of hubcaps surprisingly compelling.

antique car parts, antique hubcaps, hubcaps

As they’ve demonstrated before, being a curator often involves some sleuthing – see how a simple search uncovered the puzzling life of a 20th-century portrait painter for our curator of decorative arts.

Recently, while searching through our painting collection for portraits of Henry and Clara Ford, I came across two created in 1926 by an artist named Carl Bennett Linder. Displayed at Henry and Clara Ford’s Fair Lane home, these portraits came to Henry Ford Museum in 1951, following Clara’s death. A search of our collections database revealed that we actually own nine canvases by Mr. Linder – all portraits of the Ford family. Curious, I searched the Ford family papers, where I found letters and receipts spanning from 1924 to 1936 for an even larger group of paintings of the extended Ford family: Henry and Clara’s son, Edsel, and his wife, Eleanor; the Ford grandchildren; and even a portrait of Mrs. William Clay, Eleanor Ford’s mother. Mr. Linder was apparently a favorite artist of Henry and Clara, as he produced several portraits of them over the years.

 

Mrs. William Clay, 1924, by Carl Bennett Linder - from the collections of The Henry Ford

 

The Ford papers also contain catalogues of Linder’s exhibits, including the prestigious Knoedler Gallery in New York, where Mr. Linder exhibited in 1920, 1926 and 1942; several catalogues feature photos of the Fords as well as other industrialists. Clearly, Mr. Linder – although little known today – was an important society portrait artist in the 1920s and 1930s.

 

Henry Ford, 1926, by Carl Bennett Linder - from the collections of The Henry Ford
The accompanying exhibit catalogue essays indicated that Mr. Linder was born in Helsinki, Finland, and lived in New York City but spent significant time each year traveling in Europe. His name appears in most online art databases and biographical dictionaries – but interestingly, no death date is listed. This was turning out to be quite a mystery! I knew I had to explore further. After a string of online search failures, Carl Bennett Linder surprisingly turned up on a Jewish genealogy website as Sam Linder – born in Helsinki, Finland, on the same date as Carl Bennett Linder. At age nine, Sam Linder immigrated to Chicago in 1895 with his family (which included seven siblings). Now we were getting somewhere. Tracing Sam proved fascinating. He appeared in the 1900 census at age 13, as an office clerk in Chicago. By 1910, at age 23, he was still in Chicago but was now listed as a portrait painter. In 1920, at age 33, his name changed to Carl Bennett Linder – and his new residence? New York. Mr. Linder’s last exhibition was at the Knoedler Galleries in 1942. A copy of the exhibit brochure is included with the Ford family papers in our collection; on the cover, Linder handwrote a personal note to Clara Ford, inviting her to the show in New York and concluding by wishing her and Mr. Ford well.

C. Bennett Linder catalogue

The note reads: "Dear Mrs. Ford - I am holding a small exhibition of portraits - are you likely to be in New York this spring - I would enjoy seeing you. I often think of you and Mr. Ford and hope you are both well - P.S. I came across the enclosed snapshots of Mr. Ford which I took many years ago."

 

The snapshots of Henry Ford that Linder mentions in his note, above; he had been using them to create a new portrait for Ford (which is also part of our collections).

 

The last letter in the Ford papers dates to 1943, when Ford’s secretary, Frank Campsall, wrote to Mr. Linder, inquiring about the dates of Linder’s many portraits of the family. In his response, Mr. Linder apologized for any delay as his mail was being forwarded to his new home in Rye, New York. He apparently remained in Rye, as the online Social Security Death Index reveals that Sam Linder died there in 1981. What emerges from this sleuthing is a 20th-century American immigrant story. To achieve success, Linder gave up some of his past, thereby creating a bit of a mystery for researchers. But for me, as a curator interested in studying objects for what they say about the past, solving this mystery is a great satisfaction.

Charles Sable is curator of decorative arts at The Henry Ford; he enjoys a good mystery, whether in a book, movie, but especially in the museum’s collections.  

paintings, portraits

Dotting the landscape of places like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York are numerous Colonial-era homes and taverns where George Washington is said to have spent the night. Some of these claims are true; some are likely only wishful thinking. But the desire to claim a tangible connection to our Revolutionary War hero and first president runs strong.

As commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, General George Washington usually did sleep and eat in the nearby homes of well-to-do people during the eight years he led the American military campaign. But among George Washington’s camp equipage were tents, this folding bed, cooking and eating utensils, and other equipment that he used when encamped on the field with his troops.

George Washington's 1783 camp chest, which is on display in the With Liberty And Justice For All exhibit inside Henry Ford Museum. (From the collections of The Henry Ford)

Yet the George Washington camp bed in The Henry Ford’s collections is more than just a humble cot, used when no better option was available. This object symbolizes George Washington as a leader who cared more about his men and the cause of democracy than he did for himself.

In Henry Ford Museum’s With Liberty and Justice for All exhibit, visitors stand in quiet contemplation before the Washington camp bed on display, gazing at a humble cot where the great general took some weary rest during the struggle for American independence.

A great many stories of American ingenuity and innovation abound in Henry Ford Museum. But these stories generally do not involve military history. Why, then, display a bed associated with war?

With Liberty and Justice for All explores the proud and painful evolution of American freedom, from the Revolutionary War through the struggle for civil rights. This exhibit, then, is about social innovation:  new ideas that render old ways obsolete and radically alter how people think about themselves, their interactions with others, and the larger world.

The Revolutionary War became about more than just American independence from Britain. It evolved into a new way of thinking:  that it was possible for a people to govern themselves through a democratic system of elected representatives. The Revolutionary War also launched Americans on the road toward a newfound sense of national identity as Americans, rather than British subjects, New Englanders or Virginians. And George Washington was at the center of that new way of thinking.

Jeanine Head Miller is the Curator of Domestic Life at The Henry Ford.

antique camping equipment, camping, presidents

Since Thomas Edison’s birthday happened to be this past Saturday (February 11), it made me think of this first known portrait of him.

Even after 35 years of working with the museum’s photograph collections, this 3 x 2-3/4 inch daguerreotype still gives me goose bumps when I look at it. Made at the dawn of photographic technology, it serves as a powerful reminder of the unique connection between Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

Because of Henry Ford's friendship with Edison, many objects, photographs and manuscripts became part of the museum's collections, including Edison's Menlo Park Laboratory.

Menlo Park employees, 1880-1881, in front of the laboratory. (From the collections of The Henry Ford)

This daguerreotype was a gift to us from Edison’s widow, Mina, probably in the 1930s. The depth of Henry Ford’s admiration for Thomas Edison was so great that he named his museum and village "Edison Institute" in honor of the inventor.  The dedication ceremony occurred on October 21, 1929, to coincide with Light's Golden Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of Edison's invention of the electric incandescent light bulb.

Menlo Park Laboratory inside Greenfield Village. (Photo by Michelle Andonian, Michelle Andonian Photography)

I find it fascinating to view this photographic image of the famous inventor when he was just a child. Daguerreotypes, invented in 1839, became very popular in theUnited Statesfrom the 1840s through the mid 1850s. The process took about 20 seconds, and Edison, shown at age 4, had to sit completely still! His seriousness and look of concentration go beyond the need for stillness. It seems to me that he is thinking about how and why the camera is working as much as obeying the adult admonition not to move.

Cynthia Read Miller, Curator of Photographs and Prints, is continually fascinated with the museum’s over one million historical graphics.

antique photographs, antique photos, Edison, vintage photographs, vintage photos