Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

89.0.540.701

It’s February, and with Valentine’s Day around the corner, many people’s thoughts turn to expressions of undying love and devotion delivered via beautiful and touching cards.  However, from the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries, some cards took a different slant.  Known commonly as “vinegar valentines,” these satirical cards delivered insults ranging from the mild to the extremely offensive.  We’ve just digitized about 10 examples of vinegar valentines from our collection, including this highly unflattering rejection note.  Watch for an upcoming post on our blog from curator Donna Braden for more information about this phenomenon, or peruse the digitized vinegar valentines now by visiting our digital collections.

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

vinegar Valentines, vintage Valentines

mazda-engine

Engines Exposed: 1985 Mazda Wankel Rotary Engine

Two rotors, turbocharged, fuel-injected, 80 cubic inches displacement, 182 horsepower

This cutaway brings new meaning to “Engines Exposed!” Felix Wankel’s motor eliminated up-and-down pistons, developing its power directly in rotating motion. Fewer parts, less weight and a smaller package were advantages of the design. Imperfect seals, poor fuel economy and dirty emissions were drawbacks. Mazda put rotaries in several production models in the 1960s and 1970s, but the fuel-hungry Wankels are now largely relegated to performance vehicles.

engines

2015.78.2

If you’ve visited the Fully Furnished exhibit in Henry Ford Museum in the last month or two, you might have noticed a new and perhaps surprisingly humble addition to the rest of the furniture.  The distinctive burnt-orange-and-plaid 1961 chair (shown here) represents the first La-Z-Boy product to feature both a built-in ottoman and rocking functionality.  The chair was just one of a number of chairs, other artifacts, and corporate archives donated to The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation™ by La-Z-Boy in 2015, which in their totality tell compelling stories about the iterative development of comfortable seating, as well as product sales and marketing.  Visit our online collections to peruse a number of these just-digitized materials, including (in addition to the chair on display) a telephone stand designed in 1928, a 1929 recliner, and “Jake,” a life-size mannequin used in testing ergonomics in the early 1980s.

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

turbine-engine

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

turbine-car

Engines Exposed: 1963 Chrysler Turbine

Regenerative gas turbine engine, 130 horsepower

Chrysler’s experimental turbine engine had 80 percent fewer moving parts than a piston engine, producing a very smooth ride. Regenerative turbines used gasses twice – once to drive the car and again to heat new air drawn into the system. Fuel flexibility was terrific (it ran on anything from gasoline to peanut oil) but fuel mileage (around 11.5 m.p.g.) wasn’t so hot.

engines

mercury-cougar

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

mercury-cougar-2

Engines Exposed: 1968 Mercury Cougar

V-8 cylinder engine, overhead valves, 390 cubic inches displacement, 335 horsepower

Unlike other pony cars, the upscale Cougar didn’t bother with 6-bangers. V-8 was the only available engine layout. This XR7-G model is equipped with Mercury’s 390-4V engine. The “V” is for Venturi, meaning that there’s a four-barrel carburetor under that air cleaner. And the “G” in the model name? That’s for Dan Gurney, who raced Cougars in Trans Am competition.

EI.1929.2383

Henry Ford collected many highly significant buildings for the historical and educational institution that would become Greenfield Village—Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Lab, the Wright Brothers’ Cycle Shop, and Luther Burbank’s Garden Office among them.  However, some of the buildings destined for the Village had a very personal connection to Henry Ford’s own history.  One such building is the Chapman Family Home, where John B. Chapman and his wife Susie lived during the 1870s.  Chapman was a teacher first at the Scotch Settlement School and then at Miller School—and at both schools was a favorite of one of his young pupils, Henry Ford.  We’ve just digitized a few photographs related to the home and to the teacher, including this portrait of Chapman himself.  Visit our digital collections to see more images of the Chapman home and the family and learn about the teacher who inspired Henry Ford.

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

school, home life, teaching, Scotch Settlement School, Henry Ford, Greenfield Village, Greenfield Village buildings, by Ellice Engdahl, digital collections

corvair-engine

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

1960-corvair

Engines Exposed: 1960 Chevrolet Corvair

Horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine, overhead valves, 140 cubic inches displacement, 80 horsepower

Chevrolet took the engine to a place it had rarely been in an American production car – the rear. Much of the motor is hidden by a metal shroud directing air flow from the deck louvers. There are two carburetors, one for each cylinder bank, connected to a single air cleaner at center. Later models increased trunk size up front by moving the spare tire to the engine compartment.

engines

Painted Federal Pier Table after treatment, THF 62.139.1. The table is made of pine with a marble top. The painted motifs are gilded urns and horns with rope swags and also bell-flower festoons on alternating panels. The legs also bear free-hand designs incorporating gilded floral elements. The painted and gilded ornaments mimic more expensive metal ornaments that can be found on more expensive furniture of this period.

Museum Conservators don’t usually like stripping. But sometimes we need to do it.

I partially stripped a yellowed varnish from select areas of this fabulous table to restore a more period - appropriate contrast between the painted panels.

If you collect antiques or watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS, you already know that “original surfaces” are usually highly valued. Even when it is found in slightly damaged and worn condition, the original varnish on a piece of furniture may help prove the true age of a treasured antique.

However, what happens when the varnish has aged and yellowed, causing a color-shift in the object? This normal yellowing, which happens over time, may make the object hard to “read.” Continue Reading

conservation, restoration

quadricycle-engine

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

1896FordQuadricycleRunabout-2

Engines Exposed: 1896 Ford Quadricycle

Inline 2-cylinder engine, F-head valves, 59 cubic inches displacement, 4 horsepower (estimate)

Henry Ford based the Quadricycle’s engine on the Kane-Pennington motor he saw in American Machinist magazine. Ford brazed water jackets around each of the two horizontal cylinders and mounted wooden water tanks on either side of his engine. The tanks ultimately were replaced with a smaller under-seat reservoir.

engines, quadricycle

2004.30.3.4

In the 1920s, the African American population in Detroit tripled as the automobile industry drew workers from southern states.  Housing options in a segregated city were limited, however, and many African Americans found themselves living in the poor and crowded neighborhood of Black Bottom.  In the adjacent Paradise Valley area, some residents of Black Bottom were able to make a living working in the many nightclubs and theaters providing entertainment options for audiences of multiple races.  Urban renewal projects and freeway construction in the 1960s almost completely razed both neighborhoods. Archivist Brian Wilson, intrigued by this story as one factor setting the scene for later race riots in Detroit, discovered some related photos in The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation, which we’ve just digitized. They depict various performers at Club Harlem in Paradise Valley in the 1930s, such as this group of finely costumed dancers.

Revisit this lost neighborhood by browsing the rest of these images on our collections website.

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

Michigan, Detroit, African American history, by Ellice Engdahl, digital collections