Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

THF153478
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.

THF239803
Cunningham Drugs, Detroit, Michigan, 1976. THF 239803 

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

THF239044
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.

THF239001

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.


Marc Greuther is Chief Curator and Senior Director, Historical Resources at The Henry Ford.

photography

Part of the virtual visit you can now make to the Ford Rouge Factory Tour within Google Cultural Institute.

We're very pleased to announce that we are launching a new partnership between The Henry Ford and the Google Cultural Institute, available to anyone with Internet access here. The Google Cultural Institute platform features over 1,000 cultural heritage institutions worldwide, and more than 6 million total artifacts, “putting the world’s cultural treasures at the fingertips of Internet users and … building tools that allow the cultural sector to share more of its diverse heritage online” (in Google’s own words). Continue Reading

 

Maybe it was the 16°F temperature outside, but I loved this Kia A1A Optima concept roadster – named for the Florida highway running south to Key West.

 

It's that time of year again when the eyes of the automotive world turn to Detroit. The North American International Auto Show attracts automakers, suppliers, press and enthusiasts from around the globe to the Motor City to revel in the industry's latest technologies and trends.

 

Our 1967 Mark IV helps Ford celebrate its return to Le Mans later this year.

 

If you're a racing fan, the fun starts the moment you enter Cobo Center's lobby. Ford Performance has set up shop with four significant Blue Oval racers. The headliner is the new GT that will return Ford to Le Mans in June, in celebration of its historic 1-2-3 finish over Ferrari 50 years ago. But visitors will also enjoy the 2017 NASCAR Fusion, the first-built 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350, and - my unabashed favorite - the 1967 Mark IV that Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt drove to an all-American victory at that year's Le Mans 24-Hour. (The latter, of course, is a part of The Henry Ford's collection.) Once you get inside the exhibition hall proper, don't miss Juan Pablo Montoya's winning car from the 2015 Indianapolis 500, displayed prominently with the Borg-Warner Trophy. Continue Reading

HP-35 Scientific Calculator, 1973 THF159599

How did a shirt pocket lead to a feat of engineering?

The origins of Hewlett Packard’s HP-35 Scientific Calculator began with a challenge. In 1971, William Hewlett dared his engineers to prove their engineering prowess by miniaturizing the company’s 9100A Desktop Calculator—a forty-pound machine—into a device small enough to fit into a shirt pocket. The calculator’s target size of approximately 6x3 inches was supposedly arrived at by measuring one of Hewlett’s own shirt pockets.

The twelve or so experimental HP-35s that began as "company hacks" soon proved useful beyond the prototype stage. They were popular among the staff who built and tested them, and were presented for marketing studies. Despite a high manufacturing cost driving a retail cost of $395 (equivalent to $2200 in 2015), and research that warned of a limited market, Hewlett-Packard decided to proceed with production. The company’s 1972 sales goal of selling 10,000 calculators was quickly exceeded: they sold 100,000. Its rapid success made the slide rule obsolete practically overnight, as engineers, scientists, and mathematicians abandoned their analog calculating devices in favor of embracing the digital future.

The origins of Hewlett Packard’s HP-35 Scientific Calculator began with a challenge. In 1971, William Hewlett dared his engineers to prove their engineering prowess by miniaturizing the company’s 9100A Desktop Calculator—a forty-pound machine—into a device small enough to fit into a shirt pocket. Scientific American, Volume 227, July 1972-December 1972 THF126235

The HP-35 (named for its 35 keys) was the world’s first handheld scientific calculator. This advanced machine, with its full suite of features, was capable of processing more complex mathematical functions than any other calculator on the market at the time. It was also the company’s first product to use both integrated circuits and an LED display, which eased communication between the screen and keys. The HP-35 inspired others too—it caught the attention of a young Hewlett Packard engineer named Steve Wozniak. During the day, he worked at designing follow-up models of the calculator; in the evening, he developed his own electronic projects at home. All the while, he was percolating ideas towards the beginnings of the Apple 1 computer.

The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation™ opens the door to knowledge for lifelong learners by immersing them in stories of the greatest inventions and breakthroughs throughout history. Join us on our quest to spark innovation around the globe by giving a gift to The Henry Ford today.

The loom’s punch cards later inspired English mathematician Charles Babbage to revolutionize the process of creating mathematical tables.
THF124135

How did a weaving loom lead to one of the greatest technology innovations of the 21st century?

The Jacquard Loom was a significant breakthrough in the history of textile production, an essential manufacturing tool of the Industrial Revolution. Joseph Marie Jacquard, a silk weaver from Lyon, France, first demonstrated his improved drawloom at an industrial exposition in Paris in 1801. By 1803, a spark of genius inspired him to make another improvement to this loom—the “Jacquard attachment.”

This mechanism, mounted above the loom, uses a continuous chain of punch cards to control the lifting of individual threads. Each card on the loom corresponds to a hook, which can be raised or stopped depending on whether the hole is punched out or solid. The cards are mounted on a rotating cylinder and pressed against pins, which detect the presence of holes. The loom’s hooks are raised or lowered by a harness, which guides the thread to form a pattern in the fabric. Continue Reading

jacquard looms, looms

 

Darth Vader Action Figure Carrying Case, ca. 1980 THF1078

 

The reviewers thought it had no chance of becoming a hit. Even writer-director George Lucas wasn’t sure about it. Sure, he’d had a hit with “American Graffiti”—a film deeply rooted in nostalgia and American popular culture. But this was different. Maybe a little too wacky for the general public, he thought.

But moviegoers thought differently. They turned out in record numbers to see “Star Wars” over the summer of 1977. Lines stretched for miles outside movie theaters. Tickets sold out as soon as their box offices opened. This first “Star Wars” movie (later subtitled “Episode IV - A New Hope”) went on to not only win six Oscars but to become one of the most popular and highest-grossing films of all time. Continue Reading

star wars

Kenner’s original Millennium Falcon play set. She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid. THF1083

It’s an old museum-related joke: You don’t feel old until you see your toys exhibited as historic artifacts. Okay, so I felt a bit aged the first time I saw that Star Wars lunchbox in Your Place in Time, but I never questioned its right to be there. For us Gen X types, few things are so much of our time as Star Wars.

While I was around when all three of the original films were in theaters, most of my viewings came via videotapes recorded from HBO airings. (Heh, a Star Wars viewing still doesn’t feel quite right to me unless it starts with this.) Not until Return of the Jedi arrived in 1983 was I old enough to see one of the movies on the big screen. I still remember being thrilled by the sarlacc pit battle and the speeder bike chase, being saddened at Yoda’s death, and being generally grossed out by Jabba the Hutt. Disgusting or not, it was satisfying to finally see that vile gangster after hearing his name dropped ominously in the first two movies. All in all, it was a magical experience, and the reason that I don’t personally rate Jedi as a lesser work than its predecessors. Continue Reading

star wars, star wars toys

Lapel pin of the new Rosa Parks stamp introduced at Henry Ford Museum’s Day of Courage—a daylong event on February 4, 2013, that commemorated Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday and honored both her achievements and her impact. THF162760

In a rare moment, one person’s simple act of courage can change the world. On the 60th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, we pause to reflect on the impact and legacy of her courageous action.

Rosa’s awareness of social injustice started at an early age. As a girl growing up in Alabama, Rosa hated the disrespectful way that whites often treated black people. Her grandfather, a former slave, instilled a sense of pride and independence in her. Continue Reading

Civil Rights

Rosa Parks Bus in Henry Ford Museum - The Henry Ford

Our founder, Henry Ford, realized that not everyone learns best by reading books or listening to a lecture, the traditional modes of education he experienced 150 years ago which are still dominant today. One of Henry’s most important learning experiences was fixing pocket watches. He developed an understanding of engineering and science through hands-on, self-directed discovery. He founded The Henry Ford as a school, where children would learn by doing with the real stuff of history and science. He collected artifacts which showed hundreds of years of changes in technology and daily life, and allowed the children to use them.

Today, we still share with children the “real stuff” of history and science. Over 200,000 students are lucky enough to take a field trip to The Henry Ford each year. Although we’ve discovered we can’t allow many of our artifacts to be used to the degree they were in the 1930s, The Henry Ford has made historical artifacts more hands-on than most other history museums. On field trips, students literally go inside science and history when they fathom the overwhelming number of inventions at Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory or explore (and smell) the Firestone Farm barn. Of course, there is no experience more powerful for our student visitors than taking a seat in the actual Rosa Parks Bus.

You may be wondering, besides Mold-A-Ramas and selfies with cool historic cars - what do students come away with?

Yes, they see examples of the “real stuff” which they learn about in Social Studies, Science and English Language Arts every day. And, they have had fun learning, which is vital to becoming lifelong learners. But the most important thing they get is a profound understanding that real people did these things which they study in school. Real people, just like them, changed the world. And they can, too.

On this #GivingTuesday, we hope you will consider making a gift of at least $8 to The Henry Ford. Your contribution makes these important field trips possible and helps us to inspire the next generation of innovators and change makers. You can make your gift below.

 

Catherine Tuczek is Curator of School and Public Learning at The Henry Ford.