Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

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Visitors to the 1964 New York World’s Fair’s IBM Pavilion were submerged in a futuristic world made possible by computers. A world imaginatively conjured up by an intricately detailed fake newspaper with the headline “Computer Day at Midvale!” 

The one-of-a-kind aluminum panel was created by the Eames Office, the studio of famed designers Charles and Ray Eames. Hand-painted with imagined newspaper headlines and draped with patriotic bunting, it hung on the back of one of the pavilion’s “Little Theatres” and was surrounded by lights, intended to lure visitors.

“The themes in the Midvale panel, and the IBM Pavilion on the whole, document a critical moment where people were being exposed to the culture of computing on a mass scale,” said Kristen Gallerneaux, The Henry Ford’s curator of communications and information technology. “Accessible systems like the IBM/360 were just around the corner, whose adoption would touch (and potentially disrupt) the lives of information and office workers. IBM needed to address this wariness of technology — they needed to humanize computers. The company found their solution in the playful visual communication skills of the Eames Office.” 

Last year, The Henry Ford acquired the aluminum panel from its original owners, whose father, Robert Charles Siemion, had worked as an engineer and manager at the 1964 IBM Pavilion. 

“The ephemeral nature of those fairs was such that most of the displays — and even the architecture — would be dismantled after the fair was over,” said Gallerneaux, who learned about the panel in an article on antique pricing. “But Siemion, as a manager, was invited to take home part of the pavilion as a memento. We’re lucky that he chose to salvage this panel and that his children knew to hold onto it all these years.”

The Eames Office employees who designed the pavilion are listed on the newspaper’s left in a credits area. The panel is among several IBM Pavilion-related objects The Henry Ford has acquired and the third such artifact associated with Charles and Ray Eames. 

“Charles and Ray Eames were fascinated with the circus and early Americana, and there’s a wonderful sense of these themes coming together with high technology in the panel,” Gallerneaux said. “The IBM Pavilion was designed to send you into another head space so you could synthesize the concepts coming together at the time. It was an interesting collision of computing history and design history happening in one place.”

From a conservation standpoint, the panel, well maintained by its owners, only required minimal treatments. “It’s interesting to think about the public as stewards of material culture,” Gallerneaux said. “We acquire a lot of interesting collection items that way.”

The “Computer Day at Midvale” panel will appear in a future exhibit at The Henry Ford about communications and information technology. 

DID YOU KNOW?
The 1964 New York World’s Fair featured 140 pavilions spread over 646 acres. 
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newspapers, technology, computers, world's fairs, Eames

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AAA of Michigan Reflector Badge. THF153478

This month, AAA of Michigan commemorates 100 years of serving motorists in the Great Lakes State. It’s an impressive milestone. The first automobile clubs were founded in 1899, not long after the automobile itself debuted on American streets. These original groups were social and political organizations that arranged auto tours, lobbied for car-friendly legislation, and encouraged road and highway improvements throughout the United States. Their work did much to change the car from a plaything for the wealthy into an everyday necessity.

In time, these clubs evolved into non-profit service organizations that, under the national umbrella of the American Automobile Association (established in 1902), printed road maps, created hotel guides, sponsored driver safety programs, offered automobile insurance, and provided roadside assistance to their members. Until the mid-1950s, AAA even sanctioned automobile races, including the Indianapolis 500.

As of 2016, AAA is comprised of 69 member clubs across the country. AAA of Michigan is located right here in Dearborn, not far from The Henry Ford’s campus. In honor of the anniversary, enjoy a few of the AAA of Michigan-related pieces in our collection.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

roads and road trips, travel, Michigan, cars, by Matt Anderson, AAA

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This month, we recognize 150 years of a phenomenon that started in Detroit but has become a national icon: Vernors. In 1866, pharmacist James Vernor began serving his zippy ginger ale at his pharmacy’s soda fountain, and it became first a local, then a regional favorite.  Today, Vernors is owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group, a major North American beverage company, and can be found throughout the United States. Many Detroiters retain a particularly strong loyalty to the fizzy concoction, swearing by both its taste and its ability to soothe an upset stomach—so much so that the
Detroit Historical Society has organized a week-long anniversary celebration.  In recognition of the milestone, we dug through our collections for some Vernors-related artifacts, and turned up labels, signs, photos of delivery trucks, a recipe booklet, and, perhaps most intriguingly, several photos like this one of James Vernor III sitting in a Vernors-branded Ford amphibious jeep.  We haven’t yet been able to turn up the full story behind these images, but suspect they might relate to clearing surplus inventory of such vehicles after World War II.  We invite you to pop open a refreshing ginger ale of your own and browse the rest of the Vernors-related items we found in our Digital Collections.

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

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Cunningham Drugs, Detroit, Michigan, 1976. THF 239803 

It is with great sadness that we hear of the passing of John Margolies.

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Elwood Bar, Detroit, Michigan, 1986. THF 239044

John was motivated the same way many photographers with a deep appreciation for history are: he wanted to capture things that had become overlooked, structures that were endangered, vulnerable, and on the brink of destruction. But rather than choosing a neighborhood, or town or region he chose what could be found along the edges of all the old roads, the pre-interstate routes stretched throughout the United States—like a local historian of endless highways. His finest images look like stills from a perfect road movie, and they capture an element of the nation’s essence and identity—mom and pop businesses, motels, diners, crazy signage and attractions, clamoring for the attention of motorists, played out against distance and motion.

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Sands Motel, Grants, New Mexico, 2003. THF 239001

A large selection of John’s photographic slides were acquired by The Henry Ford in 2013; John also donated a great many roadside-related souvenirs and other items.

The museum’s exhibit Roadside America: Through the Lens of John Margolies ran from June 2015 to January 2016. Continue Reading

roads and road trips, popular culture, Roadside America, John Margolies, photography, photographs, in memoriam, by Marc Greuther

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Since 1929, The Henry Ford has hosted a steady stream of celebrity visitors, eager to see our iconic artifacts. In 1961, French artist and iconoclast Marcel Duchamp and his wife visited Henry Ford Museum. If you know Duchamp’s history, you might find it an interesting contrast that the man who rejected art that was merely beautiful in favor of art “in the service of the mind” stopped to pose for
this photo in front of the Bugatti. The large, luxurious, and beautiful car seems a far cry from “Fountain,” created by Duchamp more than four decades before. We’ve just digitized dozens of images featuring celebrities of all stripes visiting our campus over many decades—browse more by visiting this Expert Set we’ve created within our Digital Collections.

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

Driving America, Henry Ford Museum, cars, luxury cars, art, by Ellice Engdahl, digital collections

THF159776Confederate Bass Drum, Captured at Missionary Ridge, 1860-1863. Gift of the Jewell Family. THF159778

A Battlefield Souvenir Preserved by G.A.R. Members of Fulton County, Ohio


This drum was likely left behind by fleeing Confederates as Union soldiers drove them from the hill at the battle of Missionary Ridge in Tennessee on November 25, 1863. The astonished Confederates panicked, broke rank, and fled pell-mell. A Union victory. In less than a year and half, the Civil War would end and the Union preserved.

The abandoned drum was probably picked up from the battlefield by a member of the 38th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a Union unit that participated in the Missionary Ridge assault.

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This battlefield souvenir was then taken to Fulton County, Ohio, where it was preserved by members of the local Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), an organization of Union veterans. By the 1880s, Fulton County had about 11 G.A.R. posts. To these Union veterans, this drum symbolized victory over Confederate forces. The drum was likely displayed in the G.A.R. hall at Wauseon in Fulton County.

A few days before the Missionary Ridge battle, Abraham Lincoln gave his eloquent Gettysburg Address in Pennsylvania. For us today, this drum symbolizes the end of the Civil War and the “new birth of freedom” spoken of so memorably by Abraham Lincoln on that day.

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

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Detroit's Bagley Memorial Fountain stands amidst a banner and festive decorations in its original location at Woodward Avenue and Fort Street. This photograph may have been taken during a Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Memorial Day celebration. A society for Union Civil War veterans, the G.A.R. began observing the holiday - originally called Decoration Day - in 1868. THF 202914

When Civil War veterans returned home after the conflict they established their own fraternal organizations, helping one another remember and heal from their shared experiences. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) in Decatur, Illinois. The G.A.R. was a fraternal organization made up of Civil War veterans who fought and served for the Union. 

Veteran Robert Burns Beath, writing in 1888 of the returning home of veterans said, “They were soon to part, each in his own way to fight the battle of life, to form new ties, new friendships, but never could they forget the sacred bond of comradeship welded in the fire of battle, that in after years, should be their stimulus to take upon themselves the work confided to the people by President Lincoln ‘to bind up the Nation’s wounds,’ ‘to care for him who shall have borne battle, and for his widow and his orphan.”

This unique “bond of comradeship” would be the catalyst for veterans to join together in influencing a nation still reeling from the aftermath of war. Under the watch-words “Fraternity, Loyalty, and Charity” the G.A.R. set out to serve their brothers in arms as well as loved ones left behind by the fallen through charitable initiatives.

Steve LaBarre is the head of adult services and reference for a public library. He is a historian, researcher, and author of Mid-19th Century United States History and the American Civil War.  Becky Young LaBarre is Assistant Director at Glessner House Museum (1887) in Chicago’s Prairie Avenue Historic District. They reside in the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.

Did you know?
The G.A.R. helped establish May 30 as Memorial Day—or Decoration Day as it was then known—asking members to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades with flowers on May 30, 1868.

Confederate veterans who fought for the South formed their own organization, called the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), in 1889.

Grand Army of the Republic, veterans, Civil War, by Steve LaBarre, by Becky Young LaBarre

limo-collage

The Henry Ford was excited to once again welcome author and former Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, along with journalist Lisa McCubbin, to Henry Ford Museum this spring in celebration of his latest book,
Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. 

More about Mr. Hill and our presidential limousines:
Clint Hill on Presidential Limousines
Presidential Vehicles
Looking Back: JFK Remembered at Henry Ford Museum
Protecting our Presidents
Turning Point

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In honor of Mr. Hill's visit to The Henry Ford, Curator of Transportation Matt Anderson put together this overview of the presidential limousines found within on exhibit at Henry Ford Museum. Learn more below.


A presidential parade car provides two things: visibility and security. Those concepts are often at odds. The Henry Ford’s presidential Lincolns illustrate the difficult and changing balance between the chief executive’s need to be seen and need to be safe.

“Sunshine Special,” the 1939 Lincoln Model K most often associated with Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the first parade car specifically modified for presidential use. Coachbuilder Brunn & Company focused more on utility than luxury, deleting armrests for maximum seating capacity and adding wide running boards for Secret Service agents. The car was not armored until Pearl Harbor, when bullet resistant tires, glass and armor plating were installed.

In 1950, Harry S. Truman took delivery of a new Lincoln with a body by Raymond Dietrich, but the car was used most often by successor Dwight D. Eisenhower. Again there was no armor, but in 1954 the limo received the weatherproof plexiglass roof that inspired its nickname, the “Bubbletop.” Security features did not extend much beyond riding steps on the rear bumper and flashing red lights at the front.

Planning for the next car started under Eisenhower, but the 1961 Lincoln Continental limo is forever tied to John F. Kennedy. Once again, armor was not considered necessary, and Kennedy preferred to travel with the top removed whenever possible. But his assassination ended the tradition of open cars. Ford and custom car builder Hess & Eisenhardt rebuilt the 1961 Lincoln with a permanent roof, titanium armor and bullet-resistant glass five layers thick.

The 1972 Lincoln limousine was the first presidential parade car designed and built as an armored vehicle from the start. Security was now of prime importance – a point dramatically underscored when Ronald Reagan suffered an attempt on his life while getting into the limo in 1981.

The Henry Ford’s presidential Lincolns were leased to the White House. As the leases ended, the cars returned to Ford Motor Company and the firm gifted them to the museum. Currently, Cadillac supplies the president’s state cars. Each is custom-built – most recently on truck platforms – and each is typically destroyed at the end of its service life.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Clint Hill, presidential limos, presidential vehicles

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Official Program of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 27th 500 Mile International Sweepstakes Race, May 30, 1939. THF 122945

Over the years, sporting events have become traditions in our lives: the Super Bowl in the winter, the Kentucky Derby every May, and the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day Weekend. Iconic events such as these develop their own customs over time, and the Indianapolis 500 is no exception. As we celebrate the 100th running of the race on May 29, here is a look at a few of the traditions that have developed over the years.

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Start of the 1911 Indianapolis 500. P.O.2703

Some of the current Indy traditions started in the early days of the race. Since the inaugural running on May 30, 1911, the contest has always been held on Memorial Day or that weekend. As a tribute to horse racing practices, only the winner of the race (and his team) are honored in Victory Lane, without a podium for the top three finishers. Speaking of victory celebrations, Lewis Meyer began another triumphal tradition in 1936.  After winning that year's race, Meyer grabbed a bottle of buttermilk to cool himself down, as he typically did on hot days. After an executive from the Milk Foundation saw a photograph of the celebration, it became a yearly occurrence.  Although there have been a few years without milk in Victory Lane, this appears to be a tradition that will last for years to come.


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Bobby Unser drinking milk in Victory Lane, 1968, 2009.158.317.5507

The 1940s saw the start of more traditions at the Indianapolis 500. In 1946, the song "Back Home Again in Indiana" was first played in pre-race festivities. Numerous artists have been enlisted to perform the song over years, including Jim Nabors, who sang it 36 times between 1972 and 2014. (Singer Josh Kaufman will fulfill the duty for this year.) In 1947 Grace Smith Hulman, the racetrack owner's mother, suggested balloons be released before the start of the race. Since 1950, 30,000 multicolored balloons, now made of biodegradable latex, have been let loose coinciding with the final notes of "Back Home Again in Indiana."

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Di Gilmore and Jim Nabors at the 1977 Indy 500 

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Balloon release at the 1963 Indy 500. 2009.158.317.1729

The next decades brought more long-lasting traditions to the Indianapolis 500.  In 1953, Wilbur Shaw first gave the starting call of "Gentlemen, start your engines!"  Some variation of this call has been used every year since then, with the opening periodically changing to "Lady and Gentlemen" or "Ladies and Gentlemen" for the years when female drivers are competing. A few years later, the 500 Festival Parade developed after local newspaper columnists noted the community festivities that accompanied the Kentucky Derby. The 2016 festival includes a mini-marathon, parade, children's activities, and the Snakepit Ball. It was 1960 that was the first year that the winner was adorned with a wreath, drawing from Grand Prix traditions.  The current wreath design contains 33 white cymbidium orchids representing the 33 cars and drivers on the starting grid.

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Jim Clark draped in victor's wreath at the 1965 Indy 500. 2009.158.91

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1968 Indy Festival Queen with the Borg Warner Trophy, 2009.158.317.5261

Since the 1970s, more traditions have been added to the Indy 500. The Last Row Party, started in 1972, is a charity function held the Friday before the race. In addition to raising scholarship funds for local students, the party also serves as a roast for the last three competitors to make the starting grid. A few years later, in 1976, Jeanetta Holder created and presented her first quilt to the winner of the race.  Over the years, she has crafted more than 40 hand-stitched quilts, with Bobby Unser's 1981 quilt now in the collection of the Henry Ford. More recent additions to the Indy traditions include concerts on Carb Day and Legends Day, and the kissing of the bricks, which actually started in NASCAR tradition in 1996. Gil de Ferran was the first Indy driver to do it at the conclusion of the 2003 race.

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Jeanetta Holder quilt for Bobby Unser, 1981. 2009.171.18

Tradition and ritual are a part of our everyday lives, and will certainly be an integral part of this year's Indianapolis 500. Over the last 99 contests, drivers, owners, and even fans have created new customs that add to the history and lore of the race. As you watch the 100th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing on May 29, keep your eyes open for the existing traditions and perhaps some new ones in the making.

Janice Unger is 
Digital Processing Archivist for Racing, Archives & Library Services, at The Henry Ford.

by Janice Unger, racing, race cars, race car drivers, Indy 500

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In 1902, the U. S. adopted Rural Free Delivery. Americans in the countryside would no longer need to go to town to get their mail -- the mail would be brought to them. Rural letter carrier, Orville J. Murphy, pictured here circa 1905, used a bike to deliver mail to outlying households around New London, Iowa. THF 201311

Since 1956, May has held the honor of being designated as National Bike Month. The holiday celebrates cyclists of all kinds across the United States and encourages everyone to get outside and hit the road on two wheels. Within the month of May one week is all about biking to work. This year National Bike to Work Week is May 16-20 and today, May 20, is Bike to Work Day.

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Here at The Henry Ford, bicycles are a big part of our staff members' work day, from our employees arriving by bike to our campus in the morning to using antique bikes to travel around Greenfield Village during the day as part of their daily routines. Online, our digital collections offer hundreds of artifacts all related to bicycles, from photos of bicycle races to a shot of  Walt Disney trying out a high-wheel safety bicycle inside Henry Ford Museum in the 1940s, shown above, to this 1869 miniature bicycle used by Tom Thumb. 
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by Lish Dorset, bicycles