Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

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We hope you enjoyed last week’s experiences all about Social Transformation. Were you inspired to create or invent something? Please share your photos with us on social media using #WeAreInnovationNation. If you missed the anything from our series this past week, check out the recordings by clicking on the links below. We hope that you will join us this week to explore our theme of Agriculture & the Environment.

What We Covered This Week
Theme: Social Transformation: How can ideas – big and small – have an impact on our world?

STEAM Stories
For our reading this week we shared What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamadav. (Thanks to Compendium Books for letting us share the book with our fans and followers.) You can try our hands-on activity ideas from  our early childhood curriculum, Innovate for Tots, too. Watch the video here.

#InnovationNation Tuesdays
See our social transformation segments here.

Innovation Journeys Live!
In this week’s Innovation Journey Live we learned how Henry Ford’s Model T changed the way people live, work and vacation. Watch the video here.

#THFCuratorChat
This week Donna Braden, our Curator of Public Life, explored the diner and its impact on American culture. See highlights from her chat in this blog post.

Kid Inventor Profile
Meet Charlotte from Idaho, inventor of the Emotional Emojis board game.  In this unusual time, kids are helping other kids get through. Charlotte’s invention helps kids (and adults) express their feelings with a fun game. Then explore some Invention Convention Curriculum activities to keep your child innovating. Watch the video here.

Resource Highlight: Innovate Curriculum
In our continued efforts to help parents, students and educators during these times of uncertainty, The Henry Ford is providing helpful tips that assist parents in adapting its educational tools for implementation at home. Last week we highlighted our Model i Primer+., a series of five lesson plans that give student opportunities to practice the Actions of Innovation and the Habits of an Innovator.

This week we are highlighting the Innovate Curriculum. Designed to accelerate core discipline performance, Innovate helps middle and high school students connect their subject matter to real-world applications through innovation understanding and skills development, unleashing every student’s potential to develop groundbreaking ideas. Students journey from learning the habits and actions of innovators to unleashing the innovator within.

Create your free account today to access four interactive courses featuring:

- Primary source digital artifacts from The Henry Ford’s Archive of American Innovation
- Dynamic lessons with real-life stories
- Learn-by-doing activities and interactive content that helps prepare students and their prototypes to participate in competitions.
- Exclusive interviews with past and present visionaries
- Celebrity-led tours of today’s most exciting start-ups
Facilitator guides that help educators and parents guide their students through the courses. Keep in mind that these courses were designed to be completed in a classroom setting, so feel free to adapt the courses for home use. These courses can be done on their own or in any order, but the recommended sequence is as follows:

INNOVATE 101: Inspire Our Future as an Innovative Thinker
Students learn about the unique qualities that make an innovator, and how innovative thinking can not only solve problems but create world-changing social transformation.

INNOVATE 102: Solve Our Problems
Students learn how innovators uncover insights, define problems, design prototypes and optimize solutions.

INNOVATE 103: Unleash Your Ideas as You Learn to Think Like an Entrepreneur
Students discover how to move ideas forward by identifying customers, what to do to protect their ideas, how to communicate with an audience and how to pitch to investors.

INNOVATE 104: Activate Your Potential
Students get to apply what they’ve learned and turn an idea into action. They’ll uncover an issue, come up with a solution, identify the users and create a unique prototype that they develop, showcase and pitch to others.

If your child is inspired to create an innovation of their own, check out Innovate 104: Activate Your Potential. Use the Innovate 104 facilitator’s guide and the tips below to guide your experience.

- Begin by discussing what “innovation” means, especially when creating something new leads people to change how they act and behave.

- Spend some time talking about the Actions of Innovation and the Habits of an Innovator – which ones have you used before? Which ones are less familiar? See page 13.

- Encourage your child to start keeping a “design journal” – see page 8 of the facilitator guide for more details.

- There is no set timeline for creating an innovation or invention. The process can span a few days or several months.

- Learning from failure is an important part of innovation – no one gets it right the first time! Encourage your child to keep trying new ways of doing things.

- Have your child think about how they would pitch their ideas to someone else. They can present their ideas to their families and can even share their pitch on a video call with friends.

educational resources, innovation learning

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Welcome to week two of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Learning Virtual Series. Were you inspired to create or invent something this week? We want to see what you’re making! Please share your photos with us on #WeAreInnovationNation. If you missed the series last week, check out the recordings by clicking on the links at the bottom of this post. We hope that you will join us this week to explore our theme of Design & Making. Keep reading for more details about what’s in store.

What We Covered This Week
Theme: Design & Making — How do we collaborate and work with others?

STEAM Stories
This week is all about sand and glass. Join us for a reading of The Sand Castle Lola Built by Megan Maynor and then get hands-on activity ideas from our early childhood curriculum, Innovate for TotsRegister here. 

#InnovationNation Tuesdays
See our design and making segments here.

Innovation Journeys Live!
How do artists use glass to create delicate works of art? Watch the story of studio glass unfold in a live innovation journey. Practice making your own journey using the Model i Primer activity. Register here.

#THFCuratorChat: Design & Making
Learn more about the evolution of luggage design from Curator of Charles Sable.

Kid Inventor Profile
Listen to serial inventor Lino as he discusses his three inventions: Kinetic Kickz, the String Ring and the Sole Solution. Then explore some Invention Convention Curriculum activities to keep your child innovating. Register here.

Resource Spotlight: Model i Primer+ Design Lesson
In our continued efforts to help parents, students and educators during these times of uncertainty, The Henry Ford is providing helpful tips to help parents adapt its educational tools for implementation at home. Last week we highlighted our Model i Primer, a facilitator’s guide that introduces the Actions of Innovation and Habits of an Innovator through fun, learn-by-doing activities.

This week we are highlighting the Model i Primer+. These five lesson plans, named after the Actions of Innovation, are designed as opportunities for students to practice the Actions and Habits introduced in the Model i Primer. Each lesson includes age-appropriate versions for grades 2-5, 6-8 and 9-12. In keeping with this week’s theme of Design & Making, we’ll focus on the Design lesson today. All you need for the lesson are some colored pencils or markers and paper.

We define designing as brainstorming solutions to a defined problem or need. This is one of the trickiest parts of any innovation journey for all inventors. In trying to solve a problem or need, kids can feel overwhelmed by a blank page, or they can get stuck on unfocused ideas. In order to help kids navigate these challenges, the Design lesson introduces two brainstorming techniques: the Zero Drafting technique and the Wishing technique.

Zero Drafting is an ideation technique that encourages kids to get their initial creative solutions out of their heads and on to paper, using information they already know. The Wishing technique encourages kids to frame solutions as wishes, making them more comfortable sharing ideas without pressure of producing real ideas. Combining Zero Drafting with Wishing, students focus on features of their creative ideas to trigger new, more realistic concepts to develop. By ideating feasible concepts, kids will be able to choose one solution to develop further.

When trying the Design lesson in your home, consider these adaptations for each of the lesson’s three parts:

Prep Activities: Begin by suggesting a problem that your kids may want to solve. This can be something simple, like a problem they have during their morning routine or always growing out of their shoes.

Core Activities: Use the Zero Drafting and Wishing techniques to brainstorm fantastical solutions, and then analyze these ideas to generate new, more realistic concepts. You can choose to just use one of the techniques. Brainstorm solutions along with your child.

Follow-Up Project: Have your child pick one of the solutions they came up with, and have them begin to write or draw ideas about how they would make that solution come true. You might be surprised by how your child begins to solve their own problems.

Take it further: Ask your child what Actions and Habits they practiced.

Please share your experience and follow others as they engage in our digital learning opportunities using the hashtag #WeAreInnovationNation.

Olivia Marsh is Program Manager, Educator Professional Development, at The Henry Ford.

by Olivia Marsh, Model i, educational resources, making, design, innovation learning

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To help parents, students and educators during these times of uncertainty, The Henry Ford is unleashing its educational tools for people everywhere. While our venues are temporarily closed, access to our digital learning content is wide open. To help you connect with these tools and resources, we’re launching an Innovation Learning Virtual Series starting Monday, March 30. It will highlight our digital learning resources for all ages, including live engagement and hands-on activities.

Look for a new blog post every Friday to check out the theme and virtual experiences planned for the coming week and to find a spotlight on one of our resources. These 20- to 30-minute virtual experiences will take place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

We believe innovation can be something completely new, but it also can be a significant improvement to an existing product, process or service. To be innovative, the contribution must address a true need and change the way we behave.

Drawing on the authentic objects and real-life stories we have collected, our Model i Innovation Learning Framework provides an interdisciplinary approach to learning based on the Habits of an Innovator and Actions of Innovation. These habits and actions come together, expressing any unique innovation journey. This framework underpins every innovation learning resource that we will showcase in the coming weeks.

What’s Coming Up Next Week?
The theme for the week of March 30 is MOBILITY. How do you get to where you’re going?

STEAMStorytime
Monday, March 30 at 10 a.m.
Pre-K-Grade 2
Join us as we read How Trains Work and learn how to access a lesson from our early childhood curriculum,Innovate for Tots that includes a lesson plan, activities, reading lists and coloring pages of The Henry Ford's artifacts.

Registration Link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ha6Vus7nQ8uz-gvqEHJTmA

Innovation Journeys Live!
Wednesday, April 1 at 1 p.m.
Grades 3-12
Ever wondered how our Allegheny Steam Locomotive came to be? Hear and see the story unfold in a live innovation journey.Practice making your own journey using the Model i Primer activity.

Registration Link:https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_BPY_gTGnRwuLh25Gqib_QQ

Supportive Resources
"What if a Locomotive Powered by Fire and Water Could Haul More Freight Than Ever Before?"
1884 Locomotive Roundhouse and 1941 Allegheny

Kid InventorDay
Friday, April 3 at Noon
All Ages
Hear from kid inventor Ariana as she discusses her face mask invention. Then explore some Invention Convention Curriculum activities to keep your child innovating.

Registration Link:https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_eHUdp6t1S4Si4wqBY84oPw

Resource Spotlight: Model i Primer
This week’s resource spotlight focuses on our Model i Primer, a facilitator’s guide that introduces the Actions of Innovation and Habits of an Innovator through fun, learn-by-doing activities that are easily implemented at home. You can download the free Model i Primer here.

How do I use the Primer?
Page 4: Begin by discussing what innovation means with your children. What everyday household objects could you change or adapt?

Page 5: Show your children the Model i framework, and talk about the Actions of Innovation and Habits of an Innovator. What do they mean? Which ones do they already use? Which ones do they want to work on? Work together to learn and practice them — consider documenting your progress in an innovation journey.

Page 6: Send your kids on a digital scavenger hunt. How many items can they find? Are they inspired by any of the innovators’ stories they found? Why?

Pages 9-10: Get inspired by reading the innovation journey of the Wright brothers, and then create your own. Have your children ever invented something? Solved a problem? Have them grab some markers and paper to draw their own journeys.

Check out the links to The Henry Ford’s digital collections and resources that are embedded in the primer, including digitized artifactsInnovation Nation video clips and stories written by our expert curators

Feel free to share your experience and follow others as they engage in our digital learning opportunities using the hashtag #WeAreInnovationNation.

Did you find these resources of value? Consider making a donation to The Henry Ford.

Model i, COVID 19 impact, educational resources, innovation learning

The Henry Ford acquired the Vegetable Building from Detroit's Central Farmers Market in 2003, saving it from demolition. Like the farmers markets of today, the Detroit Central Farmers Market was a gathering place – a commercial center, a hub of entrepreneurship and a community space where family, friends, and neighbors congregated and socialized. 

This farmers market can become a destination again, a resource for exploring America's agricultural past, present, and future. We need your help to make this happen. #PledgeYourPassion by making a gift this Giving Tuesday

Vegetable Building at Detroit Central Farmers Market, circa 1888.
Vegetable Building at Detroit Central Farmers Market, circa 1888. THF200604 

Learn more about the remarkable history of this important structure.  

The City of Detroit invested in a new permanent market building - this expansive vegetable hall - in 1860. Located at the east end of Michigan Avenue, just east of Woodward at Campus Martius, it was roughly four blocks square, extending from Woodward to Randolph. The major building in the market was the expansive vegetable building. Market gardeners, florists, orchardists, and nurserymen sold their produce from rented stalls between 1861 and 1893.  

The growth of Central Market reflects Detroit’s growth as a city. Much of Detroit’s early history revolved around its importance as a port and strategic location in the Great Lakes. During the 19th century, Detroit’s manufacturing base and its population grew rapidly, more than doubling every 10 years from just 2,222 people in 1830 to 45,619 in 1860. The Central Market was the first Detroit market not located by the docks, reflecting the city’s transition from a port town to a city. Farmers were now coming to Detroit to sell to city residents, rather than to ship produce to eastern cities.

1884 Sanborn insurance map of Central Market
This certified 1884 Sanborn insurance map shows the Central Market area, including the Vegetable Building and other shops. 

The Central Farmers Market began in 1843 as a simple shed built off the rear of the old City Hall building. Problems with traffic congestion caused by the market, along with the desire to make the prominent square more presentable, led newly elected Mayor Christian H. Buhl to pledge to build a new covered market building. The city hired local architect John Schaffer to develop plans. Schaffer’s design called for a “structure to be comprised of forty-eight iron columns supporting a wooden roof, [measuring] 70 by 242 feet from outside to outside.” The construction contract was awarded in June to Joel Gray at a cost of $5,312. In late September of 1860, the Detroit Free Press wrote: 

“The new market building in the rear of the City Hall is nearly competed and promises to be a fine structure. It covers the whole of the space occupied as a vegetable market, and consists of an open shed, the roof of which is supported on iron columns and a well-finished framework. The roof is of slate and cost about $1,500. It is designed in time to make a tile floor and erect fountains. The building will accommodate all the business of the market and will constitute an ornament as well as a great convenience to that important branch of city commerce.”

Carved wooden ornamentation on the Detroit Central Farmers Market building
Carved wooden ornamentation enhanced the appearance of the market building. THF113542 

In its first year, the market earned the city $1,127 in rent, covering 20% of the construction costs in one year. The building thrived as the vegetable market through the 1880s. The emergence of the Eastern Market, and the continuing desire to open the street to traffic, led the Common Council to decide to close the Central Market in 1892. In 1893 the Parks and Boulevards Commission, which operated Belle Isle, received approval to move the building to Belle Isle for use as a horse and vehicle shelter. The building was re-erected on Belle Isle in 1894. 

In later years it was converted to a riding stable – the sides were bricked in, the roof was altered to add clerestory windows to let in light, and an office and wash area was constructed in the south end. After the riding stable closed in 1963, the building was used to keep the horses of the Detroit Mounted Police, and then later used for storage. It was considered for demolition since the early 1970s. Over the summer of 2003, the building was dismantled and the parts from the original market building were preserved for re-erection in Greenfield Village.

Detroit Central Market building converted to a riding stable and moved to Belle Isle
After the market building was moved to Belle Isle, it was converted to a riding stable. It had been vacant for more than 20 years at the time of this photo. THF113549 

The Detroit Central Farmers Market vegetable building is a rare and important building. Because of fires and development pressures, wooden commercial buildings, particularly timber-framed buildings, rarely survive to the present in urban settings. This may be the only 19th century timber-frame market building surviving in the United States. Its move to Belle Isle saved it from demolition.

Historic view of the Detroit Central Farmers Market, taken in the late 1880s.
Historic view of the Detroit Central Farmers Market, taken in the late 1880s. THF96803 

The building is architecturally significant. It is an excellent expression of prevailing architectural tastes, as demonstrated by the Free Press review. It captures the rapidly changing world of building construction of the mid-19th century. The building represents the pinnacle of the timber framer’s craft; it is elegantly shaped and ornamented in a way that makes the frame itself the visual keystone of the design. It was built shortly before timber frame construction was eclipsed by the new balloon frame construction, which used dimensional lumber and nailed joints. The cast iron columns that support the timber-framed roof represent the newest in manufactured construction materials. Cast iron was the favorite material of the modern builder in the mid-19th century. It was easy to form into a variety of shapes, and ideal for adding ornamentation to buildings at a moderate cost. The columns in the market building have been formed to represent two different materials – the lower section resembles an elaborately carved stone column, while the upper section looks like the timber frame structure that it supports.

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Elegant joinery, supplemented by elaborated carvings, enhances the appearance of the timber frame. THF113530

Cast-iron columns on the Detroit Central Farmers Market building made to resemble stone below the capital and wood above the capital.
The cast-iron columns were made to resemble stone below the capital and wood above the capital. THF113505


The building captures the exuberance and optimism of the city of Detroit as it grew in its first wave from a frontier fort and outpost, to an important city. A “useful and beautiful” market building in the city’s central square was important to this image of this growing city – as evidenced by the fact that it took only nine months from Mayor Buhl’s inaugural address of January 11, 1860 promising a new market building, to its substantial completion. Few buildings survive from this first era of growth in the city of Detroit.  

For 30 years customers engaged with vendors at the Vegetable Building in Detroit's Central Market. For 110 years the building served the public in a variety of ways on Belle Isle. Your donation will help The Henry Ford rebuild this structure in the heart of Greenfield Village. There it will inspire future generations to learn about their food sources. Make history and #PledgeYourPassion this Giving Tuesday

Jim McCabe is former Collections Manager at The Henry Ford.

 

Detroit Central Market, shopping, philanthropy, Michigan, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, farms and farming, Detroit, by Jim McCabe, agriculture


Launching today from The Henry Ford, Innovate Curriculum helps students connect core subjects like STEAM, social studies and English to real-world applications through an interdisciplinary, hands-on online curriculum that accelerates 21st century skills development.

Innovate Curriculum leverages primary sources of The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation, an unparalleled collection of 26 million artifacts that sheds light on the way people have innovated across 300 years of history.

Learn more and register for a chance to win a free year of Innovate for your classroom here.

innovation learning, education, childhood, educational resources

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At The Henry Ford, we believe inside every person is the potential to change the world.

For 90 years, The Henry Ford has been a force for sparking curiosity and inspiring tomorrow’s innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs thanks to the generosity of our visitors, members, staff, volunteers and more. Their support helps us build on Henry Ford’s original mission to make this institution a hands-on learning resource for the visionary in all of us.

As we move closer to celebrating our 90th anniversary this October, here are nine ways you can go above and beyond to support The Henry Ford and our mission.

Visit
It may sound simple, but bringing your friends and family to The Henry Ford any day of the year is a great way to support our organization! When you’re here, make sure to post pictures and videos from your visit and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter and social accounts.

Shop at The Henry Ford
Consider supporting The Henry Ford by making a purchase at one of our retail locations. Gift cards can be used in any of our stores, as well as towards the purchase of a membership, handcrafted Liberty Craftworks piece or hands-on learning kit for all ages.

Become a member
Our members help make so much of what we do at The Henry Ford possible! If you’re already a member, you can always give the gift of membership, encourage your employer to become a corporate member or join the Donor Society.

Host an event
During many days of the week, when our doors close at 5 pm, we’re simultaneously opening our doors to evening event guests. Weddings, company picnics and holiday parties are all great ways to support our mission at The Henry Ford.

Volunteer your time
We love our volunteers! There are many ways to serve as a volunteer here at The Henry Ford. We are always looking for greeters, counselors with our summer camps and extra assistance at special programs throughout the year.

Donate to our Annual Fund
Donations to The Henry Ford Annual Fund go towards projects both big and small across our campus. You can make a monthly gift, apply for an employer-matched gift or leave a legacy through a planned gift.

Support local schools and students
Every year thousands of students visit The Henry Ford and are inspired by our collection. Help even more students learn from these stories of American Innovation by providing a school field trip scholarship, sending a child to summer camp or supporting a student in our Youth Mentorship Program.

Honor a loved one with a memorial gift
Memorial benches in Greenfield Village, named theater seats at the Giant Screen Experience and book plates in the Benson Ford Research Center are all wonderful ways to honor a family member, friend or special occasion.

Donate to The Innovation Project
The Innovation Project is a $150 million comprehensive campaign to build digital and experiential learning tools, programs and initiatives to advance innovation, invention and entrepreneurship. Gifts made to The Innovation Project will help us achieve greater accessibility, inclusivity and exposure to unlock the potential of the next generation.

Amanda Floyd is the Annual Fund Specialist at The Henry Ford.

THF90, philanthropy, by Amanda Floyd

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1950 Plymouth Deluxe Suburban Station Wagon. THF90908

The earliest station wagons hauled travelers and luggage between train stations and hotels. Wagons remained low-production specialty vehicles until the 1950s, when parents embraced them as ideal vehicles for transporting growing families. Packed with children, groceries, camping gear, or luggage, station wagons became the very symbol of the family car.

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Durant Motor Company, "The New Star Car," 1924. THF105552

Star, made by Durant Motor Company, became the first manufacturer-produced station wagon in 1923. Early wagons, also known as depot hacks, were utility vehicles, and not very family-friendly.

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"The New All-Metal Plymouth Suburban, the Car with 101 Uses," Chrysler Corporation Plymouth Division, 1949. THF105554


By 1949, when the Plymouth Suburban was introduced, families were growing and suburbs expanding. The utility of the modern Suburban appealed to parents, and the first all-steel body was a major upgrade from older wood-body wagons.

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1957 Ford Station Wagon Ad, "Nine's Fine!" THF105560


By 1957, all wagons had steel bodies. But designers applied wood—or fake wood—to “woody” wagons for many years.

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1961 Chevrolet Catalog, "There's a Chevy Wagon for Every Purpose, Every Family!" THF105556

Even compact cars like the Chevy Corvair had wagon versions. This 1961 Chevy sales brochure touted its rear-engine Corvair Lakewood, with storage in front and back.

 

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How does an 18th century teapot with a repaired spout relate to a hacked Speak n’ Spell?

Spontaneous design can be as trivial as using duct tape to fix a broken car bumper—or as critical as building a temporary survival shelter.

A new pop-up exhibit, Break, Repair, Repeat: Spontaneous & Improvised Design is the result of a collaboration between Curator of Decorative Arts Charles Sable and Curator of Communication & Information Technology Kristen Gallerneaux. The pair looked deeply into The Henry Ford’s collections, finding objects that had been broken, repaired, or created through improvisation—and acquired a few new artifacts along the way.

Some objects in this exhibit have been altered many times, have led multiple lives, and served various purposes. They have been intentionally modified to serve very specific practical needs, or to share an artistic vision.

From the traditional “make-dos” that originally inspired this exhibit to custom clothing—from pirate radios to handmade instruments—this exhibit exposes interesting collisions and connections, cutting across many of The Henry Ford’s collections areas.

Ultimately, this is an exhibit about unscripted innovation and the messiness of creative problem-solving. And the objects in it? They are intriguing because they are just the “right amount of wrong.”

See the artifacts included in this pop-up exhibit in this expert set. Break. Repair. Repeat. will be on exhibit in the cases outside The Gallery by General Motors in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation until September 15, 2019.

Though the various series and movies of Star Trek are set in the future, those crews and characters sometimes ended up crossing paths with historical figures familiar to those of us stuck here in the 21st century.  Image Services Specialist (and Trekkie) Jim Orr shares some objects from our collection that tie to those notables, and explains each Star Trek connection as we continue to celebrate our latest exhibit in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, "Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds."

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Life Mask of Abraham Lincoln by Clark Mills

In the 1966 Star Trek episode "The Savage Curtain," Captain Kirk and Commander Spock become unwilling participants in an alien experiment to determine which is stronger—good or evil.  Their allies included a doppelganger of Kirk's hero, President Abraham Lincoln.

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Relief Plaque of "The Last Supper"

In the 1969 Star Trek episode "Requiem for Methuselah," Kirk encounters an ancient, immortal being who claims to have been many notable figures from history, including Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci.  Another version of Leonardo da Vinci would appear in the 1997 Star Trek: Voyager episode "Concerning Flight," in which alien arms dealers steal the U.S.S. Voyager's holographic equipment.

jack
Bookplate of Jack London, circa 1905

In the 1992 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Time's Arrow," Lieutenant Commander Data finds himself stranded in the year 1893 after an encounter with time-traveling aliens.  There, he befriends hotel bellhop (and aspiring writer) Jack London.

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Portrait of Mark Twain, by Edoardo Gelli, 1904

While attempting to rescue a time-traveling Data from 1893 San Francisco in the 1992 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Time's Arrow," the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise accidentally returns with author Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain).

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Book, "Opticks: or a Treatise on Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light," by Sir Isaac Newton, 4th ed., 1730

Data played a hand of poker against holographic representations of "three of history's greatest minds" in the 1993 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Descent."  Sir Isaac Newton's works include Opticks: or a Treatise on Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light.

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Ford Motor Company Executive Ernest G. Liebold with Albert Einstein, 1941

Data's poker game with "three of history's greatest minds" also includes a holographic representation of Albert Einstein.  Ford Motor Company executive E.G. Liebold posed for this photograph with the real Albert Einstein in 1941.

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Amelia Earhart Speaking at the Elks Air Circus, July 11, 1929

Amelia Earhart's mysterious fate has figured into the plots of TV shows ranging from Night Gallery to The Love BoatStar Trek: Voyager featured Earhart in the 1995 episode "The 37's," explaining her 1937 disappearance as—what else—an alien abduction. (Thanks to Curator of Transportation and fellow Trekkie Matt Anderson for this contribution!)

Jim Orr is Image Services Specialist at The Henry Ford and has seen all 732 episodes (and counting) of every series of Star Trek.

space, popular culture, TV, by Jim Orr, Star Trek

We don’t generally associate Star Trek with historic automobiles (or, for that matter, with any automobiles). The classic original series is set circa 2265-2269, nearly 360 years after the first Model T rolled out of Ford’s Piquette Avenue Plant. By all evidence, Federation citizens in the 23rd century are content to get around by spaceship and shuttlecraft (with the notable exception of the Jupiter 8). But who can blame them for not driving? After all, we’re talking about a universe in which teleportation is a thing. But Star Trek isn’t an entirely auto-free zone. Through the clever storytelling devices of science fiction, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy encounter multiple 20th century American cars over the course of the show.

Ask fans to name their favorite episodes and you’ll likely hear “The City on the Edge of Forever” mentioned several times. The romantic yarn, which closed the first season, finds the crew of the Enterprise in a time-traveling misadventure. Dr. McCoy, less than lucid after an accidental overdose of medication, charges through a temporal gateway into New York City circa 1930. Kirk and Spock follow their ailing comrade and discover that McCoy has inadvertently altered history with serious consequences. Our heroes manage to put things right, but not without considerable anguish on Kirk’s part.

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Ford’s 1929 Model AA stake body truck, similar to one seen in “The City on the Edge of Forever.” (THF28278)

The episode features several period automobiles including a 1930 Buick, 1928 and 1930 Chevrolets, and a circa 1930 Ford Model AA truck. Most are in the background, but a 1939 GMC AC-series truck plays a crucial part in the story. In fact, it’s not too much to say that the whole plot depends on it. (Beware of the spoiler at this link.) No, a ’39 truck has no business being on the streets of New York in 1930, but we’ll just let that slide.

The crew returns to a circa 1930 setting in the memorable season two episode “A Piece of the Action.” But this time they’re not on Earth. The Enterprise arrives at the planet Sigma Iotia II, last visited by outsiders before implementation of the Federation’s sacrosanct Prime Directive – barring any interference with the natural development of alien cultures. Kirk and company discover that the planet was indeed contaminated by those earlier visitors. They left behind a book on Chicago gangsters in the 1920s, and the Iotians – a society of mimics – have modeled their planet on that tome, with the expected chaotic results.

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Cadillac, the choice of discerning Starfleet officers. (THF103936)

Those industrious Iotians somehow managed to replicate a host of 1920s and 1930s American cars. Look for a 1929 Buick, a 1932 Cadillac V-16, and a 1925 Studebaker in the mix. But the star car undoubtedly is the 1931 Cadillac V-12 used by Kirk and Spock. It’s one of the few times you’ll see Kirk drive, and it makes for one of the episode’s more amusing scenes. Give one point to Spock for knowing about clutch pedals, but take one point away for his referring to the Caddy as a “flivver.” One could quibble with ’30s cars appearing in a ’20s setting – but one should also remember that this isn’t Earth. We can’t expect the Iotians to get all the details right!

It’s also worth taking a look at season two’s final episode, “Assignment: Earth.” The Enterprise travels back in time to 1968 to conduct a little historical research on Earth. They cross paths with the mysterious Gary Seven, an interstellar agent on a mission of his own to prevent the launch of an orbiting missile platform that will – apparently – lead to nuclear war. It sounds like something right out of “Star Wars.” (No, not that Star Wars, this “Star Wars.”)

thf150740
Based on the Department of Defense cars seen in “Assignment: Earth,” it seems the Pentagon prefers Plymouths. Now why could that be? (THF150740)

It’s all very complicated, but it provides another opportunity to see some vintage wheels. (Well, vintage to us and to the Enterprise crew. To TV audiences in 1968, these were contemporary cars.) Pay attention and you’ll spot a number of government agency vehicles including a 1963 Plymouth Savoy, a 1967 Dodge Coronet, and a 1968 Plymouth Satellite (the latter being particularly apropos for a space series). For those who aren’t Mopar fans, look quickly and you’ll also spy a 1966 Ford Falcon in the episode.

Okay, so no one will ever confuse Star Trek with Top Gear. But, if you keep your eyes peeled, every now and then you’ll find a little gasoline to go along with all of that dilithium. After all, sometimes the boldest way to go is the oldest way to go.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

by Matt Anderson, cars, popular culture, TV, space, Star Trek