Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

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1926 Rolls-Royce New Phantom Limousine
Inline 6-cylinder engine, overhead valves, 468 cubic inches displacement, 108 horsepower

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Rolls-Royce’s New Phantom engine, introduced in 1925, featured twin ignition with two spark plugs in each of its six cylinders. Those cylinders were cast in two sets of three, coupled by a one-piece cylinder head. Great Britain taxed automobiles based on cylinder bore. To reduce its tax penalty, the New Phantom engine was “undersquare” with its 4¼ -inch bore smaller than its 5½-inch stroke.


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
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1931 Duesenberg Model J
Inline 8-cylinder engine, double overhead camshafts, 420 cubic inches displacement, 265 horsepower

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The Duesenberg is a beautiful automobile, and under the hood there’s plenty of go to match the show. The straight-8’s four valves per cylinder and duplex carburetor helped it pump out an enormous amount of horsepower for the time. (Later supercharged versions produced an astounding 320 horsepower!) The Model J could break 100 miles per hour without breaking a sweat.


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
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In the summer of 2014 I had the opportunity to study at The Henry Ford through the National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop “America’s Industrial Revolution at The Henry Ford.” I had applied for two NEH programs that spring, one in Boston and the other at The Henry Ford. As a history major, I was very excited about the idea of Boston. Being a Michigan resident, I had been to The Henry Ford numerous times in my life and I "knew" what was there. I knew I would be happy with either location and a week of studying history is pretty much what history nerds want, right?! 

I was honored to get the letter inviting me to The Henry Ford even if I was a little disappointed that I would not spend three weeks in Boston. I was somewhat concerned because as I left school in June, I knew that my schedule for the next school year was World History and AP European History - not necessarily classes that I thought related to Michigan or the collection at The Henry Ford. 

Was I in for a surprise. My week at The Henry Ford blew me away. Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, and the Ford Rouge Factory offered social, economic, and political history for the US and technological artifacts that directly related to the worldwide Industrial Revolution. I came back to school with images of technologies that had propelled the world into the modern era and new ideas of how to share those images with my students. On top of the sheer number artifacts, the staff of The Henry Ford also put together a collection of speakers with expertise beyond any I had studied before. 

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Learning about steam engines with Chief Curator Marc Greuther.

That first year back I did not have the time or the resources to take my students to The Henry Ford, but I showed clips and shared my experiences. In 2015 I was given the opportunity to teach AP US History and my main goal was to get my students to the museum and village. With the help of a grant from The Henry Ford my first class of 40 AP US History students got to spend a day at both locations. We spent the morning in the rain wandering around the village and seeing the buildings and pieces of history.  The afternoon was warmer and drier and we were able to wander through the museum and see artifacts that we were reading about in the classroom. 

In 2016 the interior design teacher and I brought two buses of students to see the village and we wandered through time, seeing the changes in American life from the colonies to the 1920s. We rode the train and watched as The Henry Ford’s artisans showed how everyday items were created with past technology. With both visits, my time at the workshop came flooding back. I could share with my students details about the buildings, artifacts, and museum history that are not available to just any visitor.  I felt like I took them on a journey through time. Both years I was able to use the trip to make connections that would have been more abstract without those personal experiences. More than half of my students had never been to the village or museum before this trip.  

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NEH teachers learn by doing on the Weiser Railroad in Greenfield Village. 

I asked some students to share their experiences and here is what a few had to say.

"Throughout the field trip I enjoyed seeing many historical buildings that contributed to American History. I didn't think I would ever get a chance to see the laboratory where the Wright Brothers did their famous work. I had seen pictures of their workshop when I created a project on them in middle school. Overall a great experience."

"It was fascinating to actually see the stuff that we read about in textbooks. The Thomas Edison exhibit was interesting because there was indoor electricity but still had an outhouse. "

"I mean personally for me, it was just amazing to see things and stuff that didn't even originate in Michigan. The fact everything there is kept as detailed and accurate as possible amazes me. The old style homes were crazy and definitely reflected the location they belong in in their architectural design.  So simply put it was a fantastic opportunity to learn a lot about not just our state, but others and see the different technological advancements."

My last day at The Henry Ford my family came down to visit and we spent an extra day taking our daughters around the museum and village. Needless to say, we left with a family membership and have been back at least three times a year since. We have shared the experience with friends and family and watched the World Series of Historic Baseball and ice skated during the Christmas festivities. We saw Gridiron Glory and grooved to the Beatles in The Magical History Tour. It is our day trip destination of choice.  

Leah Markey is a Social Studies Teacher at Heritage High School in Saginaw. Mich.

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Last summer, our 2016 Edsel B. Ford Design History Fellow, Meredith Pollock, investigated materials in our collection related to Edsel and Eleanor Ford’s philanthropy, including a thread concerning the NAACP. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded February 12, 1909, on the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.  The goal at the time, as the NAACP’s website notes, was to “secure for all people the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, which promised an end to slavery, the equal protection of the law and universal adult male suffrage, respectively.”

Judge Ira W. Jayne of the third judicial circuit of Michigan reached out to Eleanor Ford for a donation to the Detroit branch of the NAACP in 1922.  In a letter we’ve just digitized, Jayne calls the organization “the most intelligent and wholesome effort for and in behalf of the betterment of race conditions in the country today” and notes that his “knowledge of [Eleanor’s] interest in fair play for the under man has prompted this letter.”  Jayne did succeed in his goal—a reply two weeks later from Edsel Ford calls the NAACP’s goals “commendable” and includes a donation for $100.

Visit our Digital Collections to view more artifacts related to the NAACP

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

Corvettes in the Car Court

January 31, 2017
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Visitors to Henry Ford Museum will notice something new in the Car Court at the center of our Driving America exhibit: a striking Chevrolet Corvette C6.R race car, on loan from our friends at the GM Heritage Center.

America’s sports car has a long and successful history on the race track, and this model – adapted from Corvette’s sixth styling generation – is no exception. From 2005 through 2013, C6.R racers racked up victories at France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as at the 12 Hours of Sebring and numerous other American Le Mans Series events.

Through May 2017, we’ll have the C6.R on display in a spot where it ought to feel right at home, between our own collection of record-setting race cars and our production version of Chevrolet’s 1955 Corvette. It’s a proud addition to Driving America.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

With Henry Ford Museum now being called Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, it brings about some reminiscing thoughts of the artifacts that stand out as the most innovative. While the name of the overall destination remains The Henry Ford, the organization is extending Henry Ford Museum’s name to better convey the core idea of innovation that threads throughout its key collection.

Some of the curators at Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation had the same reminiscing thoughts, and each chose an artifact that stood out to them as the most innovative. When asked to choose an artifact from the museum that symbolized innovation, a lot of the curators had trouble picking just one.
Debra Reid - Curator of Agriculture and the Environment 
The manure spreader displayed in the agriculture exhibit inside Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation looks more like a work of art than a piece of farm equipment. Laborers painted the wooden box yellow and red, added pinstripes, and stenciled the manufacturer’s name and model number prominently on its exterior. This made the spreader a moving advertisement during the Golden Age of agriculture, roughly 1900 to 1920.

During this time some farmers profited from high market prices paid for the commodities that they grew. The spreader symbolized their investment in new ways of doing business. They purchased more land, built new farm buildings including corn cribs and dairy barns, and bought pure-bred livestock and new agricultural equipment to help them do their jobs. The spreader reduced the labor required to move increasing amounts of manure from barns and stables and apply it to their arable land. The machine distributed the organic manure and its three essential elements (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) more evenly than pitching manure from a cart onto the fields. Not all farmers practiced such intensive animal husbandry, and thus, they had little use for such innovations,but the spreader answered the prayers of other farm families with livestock housed in barns and stables and fields in need of nutrients.


Jim Johnson - Curator of Landscaping and Historic Structures
My favorite innovative object is the Newcomen Steam Engine. Though it is not the actual very first one, it is among the first design generation of the world’s first steam engine and in essence, represents the birth of the Industrial Revolution and the beginning of the machine age. By having this direct association with the Industrial Revolution, the Newcomen is at the foundation of what would become the world we live in today.


Donna Braden - Curator of Public Life

Among my favorite innovative artifacts in the museum are the small and often-unnoticed plastic dishes in the 1950s (“Buying the Future”) case in Driving America, part of the raised timeline. Dishes made of the chemical melamine (sometimes referred to as Melmac) became wildly popular during the 1950s because industrial products like this were considered a sign of progress and modernity; their minimal design was thought to be“sleek” and “modern”; they were marketed as unbreakable and thus were considered perfect for Baby Boomer kids; and their bright colors, as shown in the case and the exhibit, perfectly matched the colors of other consumer products of the time, like cars. I also chose these dishes because they are so darned ordinary-looking and because, growing up in a large family of Baby Boomer kids myself, my mom always opted for anything that didn’t break and we had a set of these ourselves.


Charles Sable - Curator of Decorative Arts 
I have many "favorite" objects in the Museum. One that I am particularly fond of is Victor Schreckengost's "Jazz Bowl" (1931) located in "Your Place in Time." What I find fascinating about it is how Schreckengost was able to adapt the cubist aesthetic found in European and American high art to a punch bowl. Further, he made cubism serve as a narrative of New Year's Eve in New York City.


Matt Anderson - Curator of Transportation
Ah, that’s always the question a curator dreads most. The truth is, my favorite object tends to change on a daily basis! That said, I have a soft spot for Henry Ford’s 1896 Quadricycle. In and of itself, the vehicle really isn’t innovative, but it represents Ford’s all-out devotion to his dream – spending so much of his free time (and even a little work time) putting this little car together in the shed behind his house. It’s also a fine example of Ford’s philosophy to learn by doing. He certainly could read plans and blueprints, but Ford was most comfortable working in three dimensions. What does it take to build a working automobile? Henry Ford thought the best way to answer that question was to just go ahead and build one! Of course, without the Quadricycle, we never would’ve gotten Ford’s signature innovation: the well-designed, well-built and affordable Model T.


Kristen Gallerneaux - Curator of Communication & Information Technology 
My favorite artifacts change all the time, but lately on my daily walks through the museum, I’ve been stopping to visit the Eames kiosk that originally appeared at the IBM Pavilion in the 1964 New York World’s Fair. I love this piece because its connections to innovation are invisible or hidden in plain sight, waiting to be revealed. It might seem like an unlikely-looking thing to have been witness to computing history—but it was. Kiosks like this one were used by IBM at the World’s Fair to demonstrate new technologies—including one of the first public demonstrations of optical character recognition, and a new computer-based language translation service. Our particular kiosk was used as a canopy to protect elements of the Mathematica exhibit. As for the “hidden in plain sight” moment, if you stoop down and peek under the canopy, you’ll find an image of a bouquet of flowers printed underneath. These wildflowers were picked in Zeeland near Herman Miller’s offices, shipped on dry ice to the Eames Office in California, artfully arranged by Ray Eames—and finally photographed by Charles.

These are just a few of the artifacts that showcase different types of innovation here on the floor of Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation; what's your favorite?

Halie Keith is a Media & Film Relations Intern at The Henry Ford.

Math Book Reimagined

January 30, 2017 Think THF
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"Flatland" book image by James Han

When Chris Lauritzen at YouTube in October 2014 to start a book design and publishing studio called Epilogue, he expected to have a working version of his first title — a reissue of Edwin A. Abbott’s cult classic "Flatland" — ready by the holidays. So much for expectations: The launch party was held in April 2016. 

Not that Lauritzen was slacking off in the intervening year and a half. Independently publishing a print book these days, especially one conceived as a beautiful art object, takes a serious, long-term commitment. Lauritzen didn’t just have to design
"Flatland" — to conceptualize it, typeset it, illustrate it and prototype it. He also had to crowdfund it and then look all over the country (plus Canada) for those few remaining specialty shops that would suit his various printing, binding and shipping needs. All of which raises the obvious question: Why? Who would want a meticulously crafted print edition of a 130-year-old public-domain text in 2016? Especially when print is, if not dead, then certainly struggling?

Lauritzen’s answer is to question the question: He believes it’s a glorious, singular time for the print medium.

SMALL BOOK, BIG IMPACT
At one time, everything was printed on paper: ads, fliers, brochures, pamphlets, notes. Or, as Lauritzen characterizes that stuff: “Junk. Ephemeral noise.” But over the years, much of that material has gone digital, clearing the printed world of clutter.

“By choosing to do something in print, you’re saying this thing is worth a damn,” Lauritzen said. “Print is starting to become its own quality filter.”

Lauritzen knew he wanted to apply that filter to something in the public domain, a vast collection of works that anyone can use, print and distribute without permission. But he
wasn’t aware of "Flatland" until a friend suggested he check it out.

Written in 1884 by the English scholar Edwin A. Abbott, "Flatland"
is a small book about a big subject: multiple dimensions. The narrator, a square
named (fittingly) A. Square, lives on a flat 2-D plane, but he’s forced to consider what the 3-D world of Spaceland might look like when a sphere from there pays him a visit.

Ian Stewart, an emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick in England who published an annotated version of "Flatland" in 2002, considers Abbott’s book one of the earliest works of popular science. “There’s really nothing
else like it,” Stewart said. “It was completely original and unusual.”

The book wasn’t just about having fun in multiple dimensions, though. Abbott used geometry to challenge Victorian norms about the role of women in society — math as a tool for social progress. Some didn’t get it; many did. The first edition sold out quickly, and it has been in print ever since, a favorite among a wide range of readers who wonder about their place in the world.

Lauritzen was an immediate convert — it was exactly what he was looking for. Given its largely two-dimensional setting, he felt it would play nicely with his skill set as a graphic designer. But more than that, "Flatland" had a following, not huge but passionate, that was rather unhappy with the editions of the book currently available.

NOT JUST FOR SHOW
Because works in the public domain can be accessed for free, there’s not much financial incentive for a publisher to put out nice editions. "Flatland" is no exception. It exists in a variety of terrible formats, from websites and PDFs to cheesy print runs that feel more like pamphlets than books. “It’s really unsatisfying,” Lauritzen said.

So, when he launched a Kickstarter in April 2015, that was his selling point: the chance for a beloved classic to get the makeover it deserved. The goal was $24,000; he raised well over three times that ($81,777, to be exact). Then the real challenge — making
the book — began. Even though Lauritzen intended the reissue to be something of a collector’s item, he didn’t want a finished product that was destined for a coffee table,
untouched and unread.

“It shouldn’t be a fetishized object,” he said. “The sooner you throw it on the ground, the better.”

To that end, he chose to make it softcover, with thick paper and extra-wide margins for writing in. The floating spine means you can bend the pages back as much as
you want and the binding won’t crack. Lauritzen also appended a visual guide, full of exquisite black-andwhite illustrations that illuminate various concepts in the text. He’s
now working on a supplementary online library of shapes — “an education/ art experience for students of geometry,” he said. Finally, to add heft, he designed an elegant gray slipcase, stamped with a silver tesseract.

This wasn’t a solo production, of course. At last year’s launch party, held in a small shop in San Francisco, Lauritzen thanked all of the people who helped him along the way — friends, family, the workers in Vancouver and Phoenix and Oakland who printed and bound and shipped the books. Of the 2,000 copies Lauritzen printed, roughly half were sent to Kickstarter backers, and the remainder are now available for $65 each, a price Lauritzen hopes will decrease in subsequent print runs.

You can tell Lauritzen is proud of the result. He flips through it lovingly — though he’s not afraid to bend a corner or mark up a page. The whole point is to get people to read it.

“Time was spent writing this thing, time was spent designing this thing, time was spent producing it, time was spent getting it into your hands,” he said. “That’s contagious. That’s something you can sense. It gives you permission to take time with it, to sit down and really delve in.”

Jason Kehe is a writer for The Henry Ford Magazine. This story originally ran in the March-May 2017 issue of the magazine
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Green Book 1949 front cover. THF77183

“Where Will You Stay Tonight?” 
Freedom. Independence. Hitting the open road without a care in the world. After years of being tied down to railroad schedules, motorists in the early 20th century used words like these to describe the joys of cross-country travel by automobile.

African Americans were as eager to purchase automobiles as anyone, to escape the indignities of “Jim Crow” laws that dictated segregated waiting rooms and railroad cars in the South, and to avoid more subtle—yet equally humiliating—forms of discrimination elsewhere. But the joys of motoring without care did not apply to them.

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Sign from segregated railroad station, 1921. THF93445

For, once they stopped along the road—anywhere along the road in virtually any part of the country—segregation, discrimination, and humiliation returned in force. It was at hotels and tourist cabins that denied them lodging for the night; at restaurants, where they were turned away for meals or a cup of coffee; and at service stations, where requests to fill up with gasoline, repair a vehicle, or use the restroom were denied.  According to Civil Rights leader Julian Bond, “It didn’t matter where you went—Jim Crow was everywhere.” Constantly alert to situations that might be humiliating, African-American motorists took to packing food, blankets, pillows, portable containers with gasoline, and old coffee cans or buckets to use as toilets. They made prior plans to stop overnight with relatives or friends, sometimes driving miles out of their way.

Even worse than segregation laws and customs, Black travelers had to constantly navigate a minefield of uncertainty and risk on the road. Would this place be safe to stop? Could my children use the bathroom here?  African-American motorists faced the potential of physical violence, racial profiling by police (targeting individuals for crimes based upon their race), or forcible expulsion from whites-only “sundown towns” in both the North and South, with their laws insisting that non-whites leave city limits by dusk or face the consequences. Some African-American travelers did not make it to their destinations, they just disappeared. It is no wonder that the question, “Where Will You Stay Tonight?” was always top of mind.

Victor Green Addresses a Need
“The Negro Motorist Green Book” was the brainchild of Victor H. Green, a black postal carrier in Hackensack, New Jersey, who later moved to Harlem in New York City. As Green tells it, the idea for this guidebook came to him in 1932, when he decided to do something about his own frustrating travel experiences as well as the constant complaints he heard from friends and neighbors about difficult and painfully embarrassing experiences they had while traveling by automobile. Green modeled the guide after those created for Jewish travelers, a group that had long experienced discrimination at vacation spots. The first edition of The Green Book, produced in 1936, was limited to listings in New York City. But the demand for the guide was so great that, by the following year, it became national in both scope and distribution.

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Green Book 1937 ed. THF99195

Although often including longer editorial features, at its heart The Green Book was a directory of safe places for African-American travelers, including hotels, motels, tourist homes (the homes of private individuals who were willing to offer a room for the night), restaurants, beauty and barber shops, service stations, garages, road houses, taverns, and nightclubs. The most prolific listings were in metropolises with large populations of black Americans, like New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Perhaps more valuable to travelers were the listings in smaller towns far removed from these cities.

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The Los Angeles listings in the 1949 Green Book were quite extensive compared to other California towns and cities. THF77190

Green collected the listings through his contacts in the postal workers’ union, as well as by asking Green Book users to submit suggestions. As the book became more popular, Green commissioned agents to solicit new business listings as well as to verify the accuracy of existing ones.

From his small-scale publishing house in Harlem, Green distributed the books by mail order, to black-owned businesses, and at Esso (Standard Oil) service stations—a rare gasoline distributor that franchised to African Americans. He sold copies at black churches, the Negro Urban League, virtually anywhere that African Americans were bound to encounter them.

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The Michigan listings in the 1949 Green Book were most extensive in Detroit and the black resort of Idlewild. THF77203 

Rise and Decline
Publication of The Green Book was suspended between 1942 and 1946, because of World War II, but it started up again in earnest with the postwar travel boom in 1947.  Ever the entrepreneur looking for ways to aid African American travelers, Green branched out that year to create a Vacation Reservation Service, a travel agency that booked reservations at any hotel or resort listed in the book. That same year, he also issued a supplementary directory of summer resorts that welcomed black vacationers, called the Green Book Vacation Guide.

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Left: An ad for The Green Book Vacation Guide in the 1949 Green Book. 
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In 1952, Green retired from the postal service and became a full-time publisher. He renamed the guidebook “The Negro Travelers’ Green Book” to reflect the increasing popularity of international travel by ship and airplane. By 1955, the book was endorsed and in use by the American Automobile Association and its hundreds of affiliated clubs throughout the country, as well as travel bureaus, bus lines, airlines, travelers’ aid societies, libraries, and thousands of subscribers.

The market for The Green Book began eroding in the 1960s, especially after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that legally prohibited racial segregation. Increasing numbers of middle-class African Americans began to question whether the book was actually doing more harm than good because it continued to encourage Jim Crow practices by steering black travelers to segregated businesses rather than encouraging integration.  New, interstate-highway hotels, which were integrated, became preferable to detouring to black-owned lodgings in remote locations. The Green Book continued until 1966, published by Victor Green’s family after his death in 1960. Until the last year of publication, the book maintained that listing black-friendly businesses guaranteed hassle-free vacations for African-American families.

For 30 years, The Green Book protected African Americans from difficulties, indignities, and humiliation during their travels. Green charged only enough to make a modest profit. He never became rich; it was really all about helping out. In publishing this book, Green not only helped thousands of African Americans take more enjoyable vacations but also gave a tremendous boost to black-owned businesses across the country during the challenging Jim Crow era.

Peruse the entire 1949 “Negro Motorist Green Book” in our digital collections.


Donna Braden is Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.

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We bring hundreds to thousands of new artifacts into our collection every year, and many of those enter our digitization stream so visitors can access them online. We’ve just digitized a series of posters that came into the collection in September 2016.

Created around 1960 by the Ford Motor Company Research and Information Department, the educational works depict a number of ways humans have measured length, including the fathom, and how these measurements have increased in precision over time.

View all eight of these new additions by visiting our Digital Collections.


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

digital collections

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1989 Honda Accord

Inline 4-cylinder engine, overhead camshaft, 119 cubic inches displacement, 98 horsepower

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Using a front-wheel drive layout in a front-engine car allows for a compact design, but it requires some clever packaging under the hood. The Accord’s automatic transmission is combined with a differential into a single unit called a transaxle, mounted on the passenger side of the engine. The transverse-mounted engine has three valves per cylinder – two intake and one exhaust.


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Engines Exposed