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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

lincoln-chair

Abraham Lincoln as President

At the time of his assassination in April 1865, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was considered by a majority of northerners as a competent president. Yet, this was not always the case. Lincoln was elected president at a critical time when the nation was at a breaking point over issues of states’ rights and slavery. As a direct result of his election, eleven states left the Union before his inauguration in 1861, touching off the Civil War.

During much of his first term of office, Lincoln was viewed by many as lacking the skills necessary for the role of President of the United States. He was lampooned as unsophisticated and criticized for tolerating ineffective generals. Lincoln, however, was a skilled politician—wise, tenacious, and perceptive—and learned from his mistakes.

Abraham Lincoln was committed to preserving the Union. He believed that the United States was more than an ordinary nation—it was the testing ground for a unique form of democracy. Many, including Lincoln himself, described one of his greatest achievements as the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which shifted the goal of the war from a fight to preserve the Union to one of freeing the enslaved. With Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln’s vision of an indivisible Union—and a more perfect one—was fulfilled. Continue Reading

furnishings, by Charles Sable, presidents, Abraham Lincoln

An early daguerreotype image of Abraham Lincoln originally taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd in Springfield, Illinois in 1846-1847. Early 20th-century print from a 19th-century copy negative. ID.00.1334.112

Take a look at images from The Henry Ford’s wonderful, eclectic collection of Lincoln-related photographs.  These images span the years from Lincoln’s career as an Illinois legislator during the 1840s to his tragic death in 1865.

The original daguerreotype of this image of Abraham Lincoln was taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd in Springfield, Illinois, shortly after Lincoln’s election in 1846 to the U.S. House of Representatives.  It is believed by many to be the earliest known image of Lincoln, who was 37 or 38 years old when it was taken.  At this time, Lincoln was a husband and father of two small boys, had a successful law practice in Springfield, and had just become a junior member of Congress.

Daguerreotypes like this one are one-of-a-kind photographs made on silver-coated copper plates.  In order to make photographic prints, copy negatives had to be made from the original daguerreotypes.  This photographic print was made in the early 20th century from a 19th-century copy negative.  In 1902, Frederick Hill Meserve, an early collector of photography, found glass negatives from Mathew Brady’s Washington, D.C., studio in a Hoboken, New Jersey warehouse.  Meserve carefully preserved the negatives and made the later photographic prints of the earlier images--including this photographic print in our collection. Continue Reading

by Cynthia Read Miller, presidents, Abraham Lincoln, photography

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Not long ago, Chief Archivist Terry Hoover popped his head into my office.  This isn’t unusual, as Terry and I sit next to each other, but in this case, he had something special to share.  He’d discovered a couple of late 19th century children’s books relating to Christmas in our rare books collection, and wondered if we could digitize them.  This week, just in time for Christmas, we have.  A Visit from Santa Claus retells the famous Clement Moore poem beginning “’Twas the night before Christmas,” with each page of text accompanied by a lovely full-color illustration by Virginia Gerson.  Or, check out Santa Claus's New Castle, written by Maude Florence Bellar and illustrated by Dixie Selden.  View all pages of both books on our collections website, or check out all of our digital collections related to Christmas.

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

by Ellice Engdahl, holidays, digital collections, Christmas, books

George DeAngelis sits at the tiller of his Quadricycle replica in 1963. He’s on Detroit’s Bagley Avenue, where Henry Ford built the original car in 1896.

George DeAngelis, a long-time Ford Motor Company employee and devoted student of Henry Ford and his automobiles, passed away on December 14, 2014. Mr. DeAngelis is remembered for his published works on the Ford Model A and the Ford V-8, as well as Henry Ford’s early 999 and Arrow race cars. Here at The Henry Ford, though, we especially remember him for a pair of three-dimensional contributions: his incredible 1963 and 1991 replicas of Henry Ford’s first car, the 1896 Quadricycle.

Regular visitors to Henry Ford Museum know that the Quadricycle – the original car built by Henry Ford himself – occupies a prominent place in our Driving America exhibit. While the original car was used frequently during Henry Ford’s life – indeed, he posed with it less than a year before he died – it was retired to Henry Ford Museum by 1963, the centennial of Henry Ford’s birth. DeAngelis set out to build a working replica for the celebration. DeAngelis had the perfect background for the task. He possessed the skills of a tool and die maker, but with the careful eye of an artist. He had a genuine love for antique automobiles, to boot.

There were no blueprints of the Quadricycle, so DeAngelis gathered every written description and photograph he could find. Of course, he also had the original Quadricycle as a pattern. The historic car sat in an enclosed display case, so DeAngelis estimated his initial measurements through the glass. Amazingly, when the original Quadricycle was removed for confirmation, DeAngelis found he had made only one error – and of just 5/8 of an inch!

What DeAngelis thought would be a one-winter project turned into three years of nights and weekends. He was able to source some of his parts from lawn mower catalogs, and some from antique shops, but most he made himself. While the replica stayed remarkably true to the original, DeAngelis made a few concessions to safety and reliability. Most notably, he gave his replica a brake – something Henry’s Quadricycle never had. The work was finished by June 4, 1963, when DeAngelis drove his replica along the same route Henry Ford took during the original Quadricycle’s first drive on June 4, 1896.

George DeAngelis rides in his 1963 Quadricycle replica at Old Car Festival in 2012.

When the festivities ended, The Henry Ford purchased the replica from George DeAngelis. Over the years, the 1963 copy became a staple of our annual Old Car Festival, thrilling visitors each year as museum staff drove it through Greenfield Village. In a neat coda to the story, we commissioned DeAngelis to build a second Quadricycle replica nearly 30 years later. DeAngelis’s 1991 replica now sits in the reconstruction of Henry Ford’s Bagley Avenue shed in Greenfield Village.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

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In October, we announced that The Henry Ford has acquired a functioning Apple-1, a major milestone in the history of computing.  However, in September, we acquired another significant computer, and we’ve just added it to our collections website.  When Pixar began as a department within Lucasfilm in 1979, it started developing its own computer system to support graphics and visualization.  The Pixar Imaging Computer became commercially available in 1986, and was adopted by other organizations with intensive graphic arts and animation needs, such as the Walt Disney Company and the United States Departments of Defense and Forestry.  Curator of Communication & Information Technology Kristen Gallerneaux notes about the P-II: “One of our goals at The Henry Ford is to document computing as applied to creative and expressive activities. The Pixar Image Computer II (P-II) is of particular interest not only as a graphics rendering tool … but also as a hugely significant element in the thread that connects the Apple-1 computer to the finely designed and engineered computing devices we all carry with us every day.”  See the P-II, as well as the rest of our digital collections related to computers, on our collections website.

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

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You might have heard that there are big changes afoot at the Ford Rouge Center: production has recently started on the all-new 2015 F-150, featuring an aluminum-alloy body and bed. As part of this change, we’ve been enhancing the Ford Rouge Factory Tour experience, and we’ve also taken advantage of the production line’s downtime to digitize the vehicles you’ll see in the Legacy Gallery.  You can now check out glamour shots of the 1929 Ford Model A Roadster, the 1932 Ford V-8 Victoria, the 1949 Ford V-8 Club Coupe, the 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible, and, last but not least, the 1956 Ford Thunderbird Convertible shown here—all part of the legacy of the Rouge.  Visit our collections website to see these vehicles, as well as much more material related to the history of the Rouge.

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

American society became more child-centered as the birthrate climbed after World War II. Like other aspects of American life during this “baby boom” era, Jewish ritual observances in the home became more child-focused, as reflected in this 1953 publication. (Object ID.2005.29.32) (Gift of Judith E. Endelman and William D. Epstein in memory of Miriam Ruth Epstein)

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the few and the weak over the mighty and the strong.  Legends and stories surround the holiday’s origins, whose name means “dedication” in Hebrew.

For centuries, Hanukkah was a modest occasion, a minor holiday. Jewish law and custom only required the lighting of candles for eight nights, with one candle to be used as the shamash (“guard” or “servant” in Hebrew) to light the others. The lighted candles were to be kept by a window where they could be seen by passers-by. In Eastern Europe, the celebration included eating latkes (potato pancakes), distributing small amounts of Hanukkah gelt (coins) to children, playing games with a dreidel (a spinning top), and playing cards. Continue Reading

This model was used to demonstrate the soybean extraction process at several world’s fairs in the 1930s. (THF 153893)

Soybeans: A New Hope for Farmers

In the 1920s, following his success with the Model T, Henry Ford increasingly turned his attention to transforming farming—the life he sought to escape as a boy.  He focused on finding new products and new markets for agriculture. (The charcoal briquette was an early result of this effort, made from surplus wood scrap.)

In 1928, Ford started the Chemical Lab (the building in Greenfield Village now known as the Soybean Lab), and asked Robert Boyer, a student at the Ford Trade School to run it.  Ford told Boyer to select good students from the Trade School to staff the Lab. Ford then set them to experimenting with all manner of agricultural produce, from cantaloupes to rutabagas. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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Like it or not, winter is just around the corner, and here at The Henry Ford, we are preparing. Curator of Photographs and Prints Cynthia Miller already selected some holiday-themed Thomas Nast material for digitization last month, and now she has added a selection of winter-themed prints, including this early 19th century engraving of an 18th century snowstorm. If you’re sure you’re ready for winter, check out some of her other selections, depicting sleigh racing, moonlit ice skating, a snowed-in Boston street, and woodlands in winter, or visit our online collections to browse all of our digitized collections relating to winter. If you’re not quite ready for snow and cold weather, we suggest this photochrom of a California orange grove instead, where the only snow to be seen is on a distant mountaintop.

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

digital collections, by Ellice Engdahl, winter

sikorsky

On this week's episode of The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation you'll learn about Igor Sikorsky. Want to learn even more? Take a look below.

Read

Igor Sikorsky Photos

Learn

Igor Sikorsky’s VS-300 Helicopter Transformed Aviation 75 Years Ago

 

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

flying, inventors, by Lish Dorset, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation