Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

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Bergmann & Company Edison Chemical Meter, Used at the City Hotel, Sunbury, Pennsylvania, 1883. THF164679

imls-logoAs work progresses on the Electrical Collection thanks to an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant, the fascinating context in which these objects were used is discovered. This Edison chemical meter used at the City Hotel in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, the first hotel commercially wired for electricity, and was part of the first three-wire power system in the world.

THF253939Following the success of the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York, the first central power station in the world, Thomas Edison sent his agent, P. B. Shaw, to find other ideal locations for more central power stations. The locations needed to have high gas prices to make the switch to electric lights appealing, and inexpensive fuel to help compete in the lighting business.

Shaw traveled the Coal Region of Pennsylvania to find a place that met the criteria, and organized multiple Edison Electric Illuminating Companies including Shamokin (1882), Sunbury (July 1883), and Mount Carmel (November 1883). The site selected in Sunbury backed up onto a stream flowing down from Shamokin, which would deposit coal on its banks after heavy rainfall or melting snow. Sunbury’s high cost of gas, free coal, and proximity to water meant that it was the perfect location for a power plant; however, the location was outside the town’s business center, which would add to the cost due to the length of wires needing to be strung from the power plant to potential customers.

To offset costs, Edison took a party of potential donors on his electric railway to demonstrate his innovative technology. After the demonstration, Edison was inspired to improve his two-wire system in use in New York by adding a third-wire to act as a neutral line, as well as using two dynamos to generate 220 volts while still allowing 110 volt lamp usage to ensure consistent distribution of power throughout the long wires. After a brief test, Edison applied for a patent and the three wires with conductors were strung to the City Hotel, thus making it the first building to be commercially wired for electricity and Sunbury the first city to have three wire commercial direct current incandescent lighting and overhead conductors.

On July 4, 1883, the City Hotel of Sunbury became the first building lit with incandescent carbon-filament light bulbs using the three wire system. To measure the electricity used by the hotel, an Edison Chemical Meter, one of the first electric wattmeters, was installed. These electrolytic meters measured electricity through electroplating, but needed to be removed and measured at the central station in order to bill customers. The meters were reliable, despite the cumbersome method for billing, but were phased out in the 1890s and replaced by mechanical meters, which were easier to read.

Laura Lipp Myles is Collections Specialist at The Henry Ford.

lighting, Thomas Edison, power, electricity, by Laura Myles, IMLS grant

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Needle Book, AAA of Michigan. THF204763

In 1902, nine regional automobile clubs joined together to create a national motoring organization called the American Automobile Association (AAA). Picking up where bicyclists had left off with their “Good Roads” movement in the 1890s, the earliest goal of AAA was to lobby for road improvements. Since then, AAA has devoted itself to all matters that concern American motorists—including driver safety, emergency services, and ensuring the best possible experiences for automobile travelers. 

The Michigan chapter of the American Automobile Association formed in 1916 (see Curator Matt Anderson’s blog post celebrating its 100th anniversary last year). In the following blog post, we focus on the many unique and innovative contributions of AAA and AAA Michigan to improve the overall travel and vacation experience. Many of the items shown here are drawn from a rich collection of materials that was donated to The Henry Ford by AAA Michigan in 1987. 

So, pack your bags, buckle your seat belts, and get ready for a road trip through time!

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American Motorist magazine, August 1909. THF202277 

In 1909, AAA began publishing this magazine for motorists—offering travel tips, club news, and road improvement updates. The inaugural issue was in February of that year.

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Photograph, Glidden Tour, ca. 1910. THF103996

When AAA first formed, the annual Glidden Tour was conceived as a way to raise public consciousness about the poor condition of America’s roads. These tours were grueling, several-hundred-mile tests of automobile reliability and endurance. Cars often got stuck in the mud, as in this ca. 1910 photograph of a “pathfinder” car—that is, one that traveled the roads before the official tour, measuring their distances and noting their condition and surface quality.

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Postcard, Public Auto Camp in Yellowstone, ca. 1920. THF128250 

By 1915, AAA’s advocacy of better roads could be seen in improvements along both extended stretches of cross-country roads and better road surfaces within national parks.  By 1915, so many motorists stopped at Yellowstone National Park on their way to the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, that automobiles were officially allowed entrance into the park for the first time. Motorists arrived at the park prepared to camp so public campgrounds were soon created to ensure safety, order, and control. (For more, see this post on automobiles and the national parks.)

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Guidebook, Motoring in and Out of New York, 1934. THF209528

AAA has long been known for its road maps. Roads were so poorly marked in the early years of motoring that maps had to include detailed written instructions or photographs of landmarks with arrows superimposed on them. As roads improved—and with the addition of identifiable highway names and numbers—road maps became easier to follow. This detailed 1934 book of maps to and from New York City came from the Lansing Branch of AAA Michigan.

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Toy truck. THF300268

In 1915, the Automobile Club of Missouri offered the first emergency road service for its members. This idea caught on quickly, and it soon became a service offered by all AAA affiliates to its members. This toy tow truck, made by the Wyandotte (Michigan) Toy Company about 1940, proudly sports an American Automobile Association decal on its side. It may have been a promotional item for AAA.

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Matchbook, Rest-Well Motel. THF150002

As the number of Mom-and-Pop motels increased after World War II, competition provided the impetus for motel owners to offer free giveaways as both souvenirs and easy advertising. This book of matches, which was probably neatly set in an ashtray in the motel room when the guest arrived, proudly indicates that the Rest-Well Motel, in western Wisconsin, was AAA-approved.

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1949 Green Book. THF77183

An intriguing item in The Henry Ford’s AAA Michigan collection is this 1949 “Negro Motorist Green Book.” The brainchild of black postal carrier Victor H. Green, this book contained listings of safe places (in both the South and the North) for African American motorists to stay, eat, and fill up with gas during the era of segregation. Green was passionate about distributing copies of the Green Book to places where African Americans were likely to encounter them, including AAA offices. See this post for more on “The Negro Motorist Green Book.”

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Trip-Pak. THF103426

This delightful “Trip-Pak” was a free giveaway of AAA Michigan during the post-World War II era. Look more closely and you’ll see Optrex eye wash, Burma-Shave shaving cream, razor blades, NōDōz tablets, TUMS antacid, Bromo-Seltzer antacid/pain reliever, and Vaseline hair tonic. Clearly created with male travelers in mind, perhaps this kit was designed for the traveling businessman.

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TripTik. THF205179

Those of us of a certain age fondly remember visiting the local AAA office before embarking on a long-distance vacation to pick up a TripTik. Before the days of MapQuest, GPS, and Google Maps, this was a collection of strip maps bound together in a spiral binding. Using a brightly colored marker, the knowledgeable AAA agent would map out the designated route—greatly alleviating our fears of getting lost in an unfamiliar setting. This TripTik, provided as a service to members of AAA Michigan, contains 14 separate strip map pages that mark out an early 1950s trip from Detroit to Lake Wales, Florida.

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The Road Ahead booklet. THF103981

AAA’s active lobbying for better roads included the push for the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, authorizing 41,000 miles of interstate expressways. This 1956 booklet, available at AAA Michigan offices at the time, described for eager readers the “Exciting Story of the Nation’s 50 Billion Dollar Road Program.”

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TourBook, 1992. THF205127

AAA began producing travel guides in the teens and 1920s, to help vacationers plan their trips. The first TourBook in its modern format appeared in 1959. By 1992, the date of this TourBook, these contained a sophisticated rating system as well as indications of accessible accommodations and non-smoking areas in restaurants. In the days before the Internet, having a TourBook in hand guaranteed a no-risk vacation.

Today, AAA Michigan is still continuing to create innovative solutions for their members to travel across the country. Their new AAA app pulls together many of their well-known member benefits into one convenient destination on your phone.

Donna Braden, Curator of Public Life, is looking forward to her vacation later this month, which includes a road trip along the historic Oregon Trail and a long anticipated return to Yellowstone National Park.

cars, travel, roads and road trips, by Donna R. Braden, AAA

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Marty in front of Disneyland exhibit (IMG.2749

I was saddened to hear about the passing of Marty Sklar on July 27, at age 83. 

Who is Marty Sklar, you may ask? 

He was one of the last people with a direct link to Walt Disney and the creation of Disneyland in the 1950s. Marty started working for Walt Disney as a young intern while still at UCLA, writing marketing copy for Walt’s newly planned theme park in Anaheim, California. Most of us can only imagine Walt Disney walking down Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. during the last frenzied months of construction. But Marty was actually there, learning from the master, helping Walt achieve his dream through his own talent for writing.  No wonder Marty later gained the nickname of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice!

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Disneyland brochure. THF207881

I met Marty in the early 2000’s, when he was Vice-Chairman and Principal Creative Executive of Walt Disney Imagineering. At The Henry Ford, we were working on a traveling exhibition, “Behind the Magic: 50 Years of Disneyland.” I had heard that Marty was the one who had generously “opened the vault” for us, given us unprecedented access to the amazing Imagineering art collection that had provided the basis for all the lands and attractions in Disneyland. All he asked for in return was to review our progress from time to time.

People who worked for Marty seemed to revere him. And were maybe a little intimidated by him as well. I found him to be down to earth, inquisitive at all the right times, and incredibly insightful. It helped that every review would inevitably wrap up with one of Marty’s humorous anecdotes about his experience working with Walt Disney. Then his serious demeanor would relax a bit and his eyes would twinkle.  Whew, the scrutiny was over.

But I realized that it wasn’t scrutiny, really.  What Marty was doing was assessing our ideas against a larger vision. Did they fit Disneyland? Did they fit Walt Disney Imagineering? Did they align with Walt Disney’s original vision? Marty was the keeper of the vision. His job at all times was to make sure that every new idea honed to the vision.

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Book Cover


As the curator of our Disneyland exhibit, I was asked to co-write a publication with noted historian and scholar Karal Ann Marling, and to speak at a symposium that was held in conjunction with the exhibit. I picked as my topic a question that had long intrigued me and was, coincidentally, one in which Greenfield Village had once played a role: What had inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland? Marty was also a speaker at the symposium that day, along with several others.   

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Marty at podium. THF12415


Of course, everyone was rapt with attention when Marty took the stage. In fact, that’s probably why all the people had showed up to begin with! After our presentations, Karal Ann and I kept busy signing our book for symposium attendees. It was reasonably crowded. But Marty’s line was miles long! 

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Marty signing books. THF12435

Everyone, it seemed, wanted to not only have him sign a book but also just to meet him, to have their picture taken with him. As for me, I tried to act nonchalant by not asking for a picture. But I did screw up my courage to ask Marty to sign my book. And what he wrote in it I still treasure to this day. 

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Inscription in my book.

In 2013, I picked up a copy of Marty’s just-published memoir, Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms. There I learned much more about the projects in which he had been instrumental, including behind-the-scenes stories of the four attractions that the Walt Disney Imagineers had worked on for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, the decision to continue Walt’s legacy after his death in 1966 with Walt Disney World in Florida, and the creation of many of the other Disney theme parks worldwide. 

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Magic Skyway. THF67947

webmedia
Walt Disney World brochure
(89.126.19 – THF344606)

Though I only knew him for a brief period of time, I will not soon forget Marty Sklar.  His insight, his wisdom, his dry sense of humor will live on in my memory. I will also take away from the experience an important lesson that I can apply to my work and my life every day—the skillful way in which he could somehow, simultaneously, both encourage wild creativity and make sure that everyone aligned with a larger vision. 

It sounds easy.  But it’s not. That to me was the mark of true genius.

Donna Braden, Senior Curator and Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford, enjoys both studying and visiting Disney theme parks.

popular culture, Disney, by Donna R. Braden, in memoriam

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This alphabet quilt, likely made in Berks County, Pennsylvania, dates from about 1910.   THF168579  (Purchased through the Eleanor B. Safford Memorial Textile Fund.)

“A, B, C, D, E, F, G—   H, I, J, K, L-M-N-O-P—.… Now I know my ABCs”

The alphabet song gave us a fun way to learn our ABCs—and the order of the letters.  (I don’t know about you, but I sometimes still find myself singing it as I alphabetize something.)  Even before kids head off to school, we not only sing the alphabet song to them, but surround them with images of alphabet letters—on building blocks, children’s dishes, and even, wallpaper—to help them learn their ABCs. 

Alphabet letters also appear on quilts. Quilt block patterns published in the 20th century made it easier to plan and create these quilts. In 1906, Ladies Art Company, a mail order business that published hundreds of quilt patterns, offered a series of alphabet block designs. The Henry Ford’s alphabet quilt was likely made using these patterns.

The letters on this alphabet quilt may look like they are curved—but they are actually made up of triangles, squares, rectangles and trapezoids.  The letter blocks were designed to avoid curved seams, which are more difficult to execute than these other geometric shapes. Yet, even using these Ladies Art Company patterns offered challenges.  Some letters, like the G and Q, required more intricate piecing.  Some quiltmakers simply deviated a bit in piecing the blocks for these, and other letters.  Our quiltmaker managed the Q, but made a few small changes in creating the G.

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Though working from the same pattern, each individual quiltmaker created her own unique quilt through her choice of fabric, the exact arrangement of the letter blocks, the design of the sashing and borders, and the quilt patterns used in the decorative corner blocks that complete the quilt. Some quiltmakers arranged the letter blocks in rows of three and five. Others placed them in four rows of five letter blocks—and then figured out what to do with the leftover Z! Our quilt maker tucked the Z into one corner, creating a delightfully whimsical effect.

We don’t really know who made this quilt, or who they made it for.  But it is easy to imagine a child cuddling with this charming alphabet quilt—and learning his or her letters at the same time.

Continue Reading

making, design, by Jeanine Head Miller, quilts

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 iPod nano MP3 Player & Earbuds, circa 2008. THF150173

What does "portable music" mean to you? This group of artifacts challenges what that notion has meant, from the early 20th-century to present day. Some objects may seem familiar--some may seem laughably large to be considered "portable" today.

An evolution of listening styles is also present: from the open channels of radio for news and top-40 music--to formats like the LP and MP3 that allowed people to take control of their listening experience, minus the DJ.
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Family Picnic, ca. 1935 THF101122
July. Mid-summer. Fresh mornings, hazy afternoons, balmy evenings.  It’s a chance to get outdoors and appreciate all that summer has to offer. At a time like this, it’s easy for our thoughts to turn to picnics. In fact, July is National Picnic Month!

As you can see from the selections included here, picnics have long been packed for family reunions, for camping trips, for road trips. Despite the potential for invading ants, the need for some planning beforehand, and a bit of inconvenience at the picnic spot, the rewards are well worth the effort. Because picnics promise good company, a chance to escape from daily cares, and is it me or does food just taste better outdoors?

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Trade card, ca. 1880; THF215172
This circa 1880 trade card, advertising Crown sewing machines and Florence oil stoves, suggests that a good time could be had by all if the picnic included food cooked on a Florence oil stove.

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Photo, ca. 1900; THF284849
The people seated at the picnic table in this circa 1900 photograph are enjoying a clam steam, a particular favorite in New England.  The meal often also included other shellfish and sweet corn.

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Collapsible cup, ca. 1920; THF104640
These circa 1920 collapsible paper cups, distributed at Socony (Standard Oil Company of New York) service stations, made it easy for travelers to drink a cold beverage they might pack for their picnics.

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Photo, Vagabonds, July 24, 1921; THF34544
Even the rich and famous could enjoy an outdoor picnic, especially if served at a large Lazy-Susan table under a shady canvas cover. This 1921 photograph, taken during a “Vagabonds” camping trip in Hagerstown, Maryland, includes: Henry Ford and his wife Clara, son Edsel, and Edsel’s wife Eleanor; Thomas Edison and his wife Mina; Harvey Firestone and his wife Elizabeth Parke; President Warren G. Harding; and several others.

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Wash-up kit, ca. 1925; THF150975

Decades before pre-packaged moist towelettes came on the market, this circa 1925 Wash-Up Kit allowed picnickers to wash and dry their hands before eating—with a paper sheet that magically turned into soap when moistened and a set of paper towels.

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Photo, ca. 1930; THF120736

The family in this circa 1930 photograph was undeterred by the lack of restaurants along the highway. Like other motorists, they stopped along the side of the road and ate a meal they had packed themselves.

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Box of FMC Charcoal Briquets, 1935-7; THF6000
Ford Motor Company’s charcoal briquettes, produced in the 1930s from the wood wastes of its lumber operations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, claimed to be safe, smokeless, and convenient—ideal for picnickers wanting to grill outdoors.

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Photo, 1955; THF113925

The picnickers in this 1955 publicity photograph are enjoying campstove-cooked hot dogs in the remote Colorado Rockies.

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Fisher-Price Picnic Basket, 1975; THF155302
Kids could enjoy their own “Teddy Bear picnic” with this 1975 Fisher-Price playset—complete with a plastic hinged-lid picnic basket, dishes, and a tablecloth.

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Herman Miller Poster, 1985; THF154517
This striking 1985 poster is one of a series of 20 that graphic designer Stephen Frykholm created for the annual company picnics of Herman Miller, Inc.—a company renowned for its “modern” furniture.

Donna R. Braden, Curator of Public Life, has fond memories of picnics growing up and continues to be a picnic aficionado.

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"Seedy Weeds," Fabric Sample Designed by Ruth Adler Schnee, 1953. THF169002

0062_019920170710_KMSPhotographyWalking through the House Industries "A Type of Learning" exhibit in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation you're sure to notice the attention given to printed textiles, from kitchen tea towels to handmade dolls.

The textiles created by the House Industries team are just one of their popular offerings and make us think about other well-known textiles that reside within our collections.

Another set of bold textiles that have broad appeal are those created by pioneering modern designer Ruth Adler Schnee. Her furnishing and drapery fabrics were favorites of the everyday consumer and leading architects alike, including Minoru Yamasaki, Paul Rudolph, and Buckminster Fuller. Adler Schnee’s textiles, which feature vivid color and abstracted organic forms, added whimsy and depth to the sleek, minimal aesthetic popular in the mid-century period.

Take a look at a few of Adler Schnee's pieces in The Henry Ford collections in this expert set.

women's history, furnishings, design

duster

Many of us like to keep our cars clean. Whether it’s with a trip through the automatic car wash, or a hosing and waxing in the driveway, we try to keep the mud, dirt and grime away. Some of us spend just as much time on the interiors, crawling over seats with a shop vac in hand. A car is a big investment and, the more expensive something is, the better care we’re likely to give it.

An automobile was no less an investment a century ago. Even at its absolute lowest price of $260 in 1924, a Ford Model T cost one-fifth of the average annual wage in the United States. Not surprisingly, many car owners took great pains to keep their cars neat and tidy – both to ensure that the vehicle remained in top condition, and as a more basic point of pride. We recently acquired one of the key tools for a fastidious flivver owner – an “Automobile Special” feather duster from the 1920s.

 A look at period mail-order catalogs reveals any number of cleaning products available to motorists in the 1910s and 1920s. Montgomery Ward’s 1916 supplemental automobile equipment catalog grouped its cleaning products under the breezy heading, “A Clean Auto Means a More Attractive Auto.” Its pages include a mix of waxes and polishes easily recognizable today, along with archaic products like “Neats Foot Oil Clutch Compound” (used to soften a leather-surfaced clutch that engaged too abruptly). The mail-order giant’s larger Catalog and Buyer’s Guide No. 93 from 1920 devotes most of page 894 to car cleaning. Ward’s offered waxes, enamels, rubber floor mats, horsehair washing brushes, and renewing compounds for leather roofs. The duster advertised on that page is captioned with a helpful – and persuasive – warning: “Do not let dust remain on the finish of your car as it quickly works its way into the paint which kills the luster.”

On that note, our “Automobile Special” duster likely wasn’t recommended for exterior surfaces. Those ten-inch turkey feathers – with their tendency to scratch – would scare off any discerning car owner, then or now. The choosy motorist would have selected a “dustless duster” with chemically-treated fibers designed to absorb dust rather than push it around. They were readily available 100 years ago but, naturally, they came at an extra cost – 35 cents versus 14 cents for a comparable feather duster. Nevertheless, a feather duster could have been safely used to tidy up an auto’s interior surfaces, and many surely were.

While we have other feather dusters in the collection, they likely were intended for use in the home. None is specifically labeled as being for automotive use. This newly-acquired “Automobile Special” duster is an important piece – rough on the paint or not – in that it gets us to the stories of automotive maintenance and pride of ownership in the 1920s, when automobiles were priced within reach of most Americans.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford. 

Lamys 4

Where can you get a real diner experience, especially here in Michigan? The answer is Lamy’s Diner inside Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation—an actual 1946 diner brought here from Massachusetts, restored, and operating as a restaurant in the Museum since 2012. 

Now Lamy’s Diner is more authentic, more immersive, and serving more delicious food than ever! What’s behind this makeover?

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In 1984, the Henry Ford Museum purchased the Clovis Lamy's diner. It took a crane to lift the diner in preparation for transporting it from Hudson, Massachusetts. Once here, it was restored to its original 1946 appearance. THF 25768

Back in the 1980s, museum staff worked with diner expert Richard Gutman to track down an intact vintage diner for the new “Automobile in American Life” exhibit. Gutman not only found such a diner in Hudson, Massachusetts (moved twice from its original location in Marlborough, Massachusetts) but also helped in its restoration and in interviewing its original owner, Clovis Lamy, about his experiences running the diner and about the menu items he served.

Diners are innovative and uniquely American eating establishments. Lamy, like other World War II veterans, was lured by dreams of prosperity and the independence that came with being an entrepreneur of his own diner. As he remarked, “during the war, everyone had his dreams. I said if I got out of there alive, I would have another diner—a brand new one.” 

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This photograph shows Lamy's Diner on its original site in Marlborough, Massachusetts, 1946. The diner moved three times, first to Framingham, Massachusetts, next to Hudson, Massachusetts in 1949, and finally to the Henry Ford Museum in 1984. THF88966


Sure enough, when he was discharged from the army, he ordered a 40-seat, 36- by 15-foot model from the Worcester Lunch Car Company, a premier diner builder at that time. It boasted a porcelain enamel exterior, 16 built-in stools, six hardwood booths, a marble counter, and a stainless steel back bar. Lamy could choose the diner’s colors, door locations, and outside lettering. He and his wife Gertrude visited the Worcester plant once a week, eager to check on its construction. 

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Clovis Lamy stands behind the counter of his diner in Massachusetts. His favorite part of running a diner was talking to his customers. THF 114397

Lamy’s Diner opened for business in April 1946, in Marlborough, Massachusetts. As Lamy remembered, business was brisk:

We jammed them in here at noon—workers from the town’s shoe shops—and we had a good dinner trade too… People stopped in after the show…[and] after the bars closed, the roof would come off the place.

During the long hours of operation (the place closed at 2 a.m.), the kitchen turned out everything from scrambled eggs to meat loaf. To Clovis Lamy, there was no better place than standing behind the counter talking to people. 

But the dream had its downside. The work day was long. He was seldom able to eat with his family. After moving the diner to Framingham, Massachusetts, he sold the business in 1950. The new owner moved it down the road to Hudson.

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Lamy’s Diner exterior as it looked in the Museum in 1987. THF 77241

When Clovis Lamy and his wife viewed the diner at the 1987 opening for “The Automobile in American Life” exhibition, they confirmed that it looked as good as new.  “Even the sign is the same,” he remarked later with a tear in his eye.    

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Lamy’s Diner interior as it looked in the Museum in 1987. THF 3869

For 25 years, no food was served at Lamy’s Diner in the museum. It was interpreted as a historic structure, until the opening of the new “Driving America” exhibit in 2012, when museum staff decided to once again serve diner fare there. Delicious smells of toast and coffee wafted out of its doors, while the place hummed with activity. Museum guests sat in the booths, on stools at the counter, or at tables on the new deck with accessible seating. They could choose entrees, beverages, and desserts from a menu that was loosely inspired by diner fare of the past.

Then, in 2016, Lee Ward, the new Director of Food Service and Catering, came to me and posed the question, what if we served food and beverages at Lamy’s that more closely approximated what customers would have actually ordered here in 1946? The diner is already an authentic, immersive setting. What if we took it even further and truly transported guests to that time and place?  I have always believed in the power of food to both transport guests to another era and to serve as a teaching tool to better understand the people and culture of that era. Over the years, I’ve helped create Eagle Tavern, the Cotswold Tea Experience, the Taste of History menu, the Frozen Custard Stand, and cooking programs in Greenfield Village buildings. So I excitedly responded, sure, we could certainly do that!

But, as the chefs and food service managers at The Henry Ford began to ply me with endless questions about the correct menu, recipes, and serving accoutrements for a 1946 Massachusetts diner, I realized I needed help.

Dick Gutman
Dick Gutman talking to Lamy’s staff.

Fortunately, help was forthcoming, as Richard Gutman—the diner expert who had found Lamy’s Diner for us in the 1980s—was overjoyed to return to the project and give us ideas and advice. And the 300-some diner menus he owned in his personal collection didn’t hurt either.  In fact, they became our best documentation on diner foods and what they were called in 1946, as well as the graphic look of the menus.

Cookbooks of the era offered actual recipes for the dishes we saw listed on the menus, while historic images of diner interiors provided clues as to what the serving staff might wear, what kinds of dishes customers ate on, and what was displayed in the glass cases on the counter.

All of these are reflected in the current Lamy’s Diner experience. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll encounter when you visit Lamy’s after its recent makeover:

Lamy's Menu

Lamy's menu inside
New Lamy’s Diner menu, front and inside

Kids Menu
Kids’ menu

Clam Chowder
New England Clam Chowder
, a signature dish in New England diners and here at Lamy’s

Lamys 7
Chicken salad sandwich
, using a recipe from the 1947 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook, a pioneering cookbook that offered practical recipes for the average housewife.

Meat Loaf 
Meat loaf plate, using Clovis Lamy’s original meatloaf recipe

Milkshake
Milkshake, which in Massachusetts is a very refreshing drink made of milk, chocolate syrup, and sometimes crushed ice (no ice cream), shaken until it is creamy and frothy.

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Toll House cookies
, invented by a female chef named Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938, at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. 

Lamys 11
Peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich
, a New England specialty based upon Archibald Query’s original marshmallow creme invention and later called “Fluffernutter” 

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Prices are, by necessity, modern, but typical prices of the era can be found on the menu boards mounted up on the wall, based upon Lamy’s original menu and prices.

So, for a fun, immersive, and delicious experience, check out the makeover at Lamy’s Diner!

In Other Food News...
A Taste of History: Now featuring recipes and menu items guests might see prepared in Greenfield Village historical structures, such as Firestone Farm and Daggett Farmhouse.

Mrs. Fisher's Southern Cooking:
The menu is based solely on Mrs. Fisher's 1881 cookbook or authentic recipes.

American Doghouse: New regional hot dog options are available, from the Detroit Coney and Chicago dogs to the California dog wrapped in bacon and avocado, tomato and arugula.

Donna R. Braden, Senior Curator and Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford and author of this blog post, has decided that her new favorite drink is the refreshing Massachusetts version (without ice cream) of the chocolate milkshake. She thanks Richard Gutman and Lee Ward for their enthusiasm and support in making this makeover possible.

#Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford, food, Driving America, Henry Ford Museum, by Donna R. Braden, restaurants, diners

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Jacket, Worn by Robert H. Hendershot, circa 1890. THF 155871

In the 1880s and 1890s, Civil War veteran Robert Hendershot wore this elaborate jacket when he played his drum at Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) events and at other community gatherings. The accompanying “souvenir” card is actually an advertisement, letting interested parties know Hendershot was available for hire.


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Trade Card from Major Robert H. Hendershot, "The Original Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock," circa 1895. THF 115938

Since the 1860s, Hendershot had billed himself as “The Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock.” But was he? In December 1862, during the fighting at Fredericksburg, Virginia, reports had come of a brave young drummer boy who had crossed the Rappahannock River with the 7th Michigan Infantry under a hail of Confederate bullets. The 12-year-old Hendershot was indeed with a Michigan regiment at Fredericksburg at this time. But so were several other young drummer boys.

The controversy over who really was “The Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock” raged for decades among Civil War veterans—reports from members of Michigan units engaged at Fredericksburg offered conflicting stories. But Hendershot used his savvy promotion skills to keep his name before the public, receiving recognition from some G.A.R. members and even from prominent men like newspaper editor Horace Greeley.

Hendershot may or may not have been “The Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock.” But throughout his life, he certainly used his celebrity to his advantage.

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

Michigan, Grand Army of the Republic, music, veterans, Civil War, by Jeanine Head Miller