Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

To celebrate the completion of the first six months of work on our 2022-2024 IMLS Museums for America – Collections Stewardship Program, the Conservation staff are highlighting some standout objects we have cleaned and repaired. This grant began late last year as part of a two-year project to conserve, rehouse, relocate and create fully digital catalog records for 1,800 objects related to agriculture and the environment that have resided in the Collections Storage Building. Many of these objects will be used to support our Edible Education and Green Museum initiatives.

View of the Staff working in the Conservation Lab
Stop by the back of the museum, near the steam engines, to get a peek through the windows of the Conservation lab and see what staff are currently conserving.

Dolphin Mold during the cleaning process
One of the first objects chosen for the grant was this entertaining dolphin-patterned culinary mold that received a thorough cleaning. The image above was taken during cleaning.

Dolphin Mold after cleaning process is complete
The inscription reads: “OF ALL Y FISHES IN Y SEA / I AM DOLPHIN EAT OF ME” / THF192318

Glass washboard before cleaning
This glass washboard was cracked in nine places and previously mended, but the glue was discolored from aging. The tin soap tray mounted in the wooden frame was  corroded.

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IMLS grant, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford

My friend Jennifer introduced me to Marian Morash’s The Victory Garden Cookbook (Alfred A. Knopf, 1982) in 2022. She explained that the cookbook was her mother's go-to wedding present. When Jennifer and her daughter saw a feature article about Mrs. Morash and her husband in Better Homes & Gardens (2017) they wrote her. They thanked her for the inspiration the cookbook provided three generations of cooks in Jennifer's family, and the modest Beard-Award-winning chef, author and TV personality wrote back, amazed that the cookbook could still be found.

Marian’s inspiration came from none other than Julia Child who passed along partially cooked foods from a cooking show that Marian’s husband, Russell Morash, piloted in 1962. The following summarizes the connections that laid the groundwork for the influential Victory Garden Cookbook.

The Victory Garden Cookbook 1982
Dust jacket, The Victory Garden Cookbook (1982). / THF708642

The Victory Garden Cookbook 1982 Inside Cover
Hardcover, The Victory Garden Cookbook (1982). / THF708645

Morash’s husband, TV producer Russell Morash, first encountered Julia Child, co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1962), on the WGBH-TV show I’ve Been Reading, in an episode likely broadcast on February 19, 1962. Child captivated WGBH-TV staff and viewers with her cooking demonstration, and the station decided to produce three pilot episodes of The French Chef. These aired in 1962 on July 26 (the omelet), August 2 (coq au vin) and August 23 (the souffle). The new series, The French Chef, debuted February 11, 1963. Marian’s husband, Russell Morash, produced the new series. The half-prepared recipes that Russell salvaged from the show, along with Julia Child’s directions written to Marian so she could complete the cooking, nurtured the nascent chef. In 1975, Marian co-founded Straight Wharf Restaurant in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and ran it as executive chef.

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recipes, gardening, by Debra A. Reid, agriculture

The current What We Wore exhibit in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, on display through August 2023, features clothing worn for some of life’s milestones.

Milestones mark a significant change or stage in life. There are many milestones — though type and timing may be a bit different for everyone. For some milestones, we wear special clothing (marriage), for others, we do not (first driver’s license). The customs and traditions that mark these milestones may evolve over time.

The clothing we wear for a particular milestone may reflect religious symbolism or cultural identity. It may mirror tradition or follow fashion trends. And it often becomes immortalized in photographs.

Dress, Worn by Megan Mines on Her First Day of Kindergarten, 1980
Dress worn by Megan Mines, 1980. Gift of Cindee Mines. / THF169506 

Megan Mines in Her First Day of School Dress, 1980
Megan Mines in her first-day-of-school dress, 1980. Gift of Cindee Mines. / THF128552

First Day of School
Heading to school for the first time often brings excitement, curiosity and, for some, a little anxiety. Preparing for the big day usually means fresh school supplies — crayons, pencils, notebooks, backpacks — and often a brand-new outfit to wear. Though kindergarten doesn’t mark the distinct transition to formal schooling it once did — as more kids go to child-care or attend preschool — it’s still a significant moment in a child’s life. They join the bigger kids in a setting of more structure and responsibility. It’s an emotional milestone for parents too.

Who wore this dress?
Megan Mines donned this plaid dress and set off for her first day of kindergarten in Warren, Ohio, in 1980. For Megan, the transition from home to school was not entirely smooth, seen in the uncertain look in her eyes and lack of a smile as she posed for the photographer in her first-day-of-school dress.

Boy's Suit, Worn by Richard R. Johnson to his First Communion, 1941 Continue Reading
Motor Muster
The flathead Ford V-8 engine, like the one in this 1953 Indy 500 pace car, was our Motor Muster feature for 2023. / Image by RuAnne Phillips 

It was another wonderful Motor Muster at The Henry Ford on June 17-18, 2023. Under beautiful sunny skies, we welcomed nearly 700 cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and even a few boats into Greenfield Village. The annual show, held each Father’s Day weekend, celebrates motor vehicles from 1933 to 1978 — some of the auto industry’s most innovative and exciting years. 

Motor Muster
The valves on Ford’s V-8 were on the sides rather than overhead, hence the “flathead” nickname. / Image by RuAnne Phillips 

Each year we spotlight a particular make, model or special theme. For 2023, our focus fell on “Flathead Fords” — the groundbreaking V-8 engines (and the vehicles powered by them) produced by Ford Motor Company from 1932 through 1953. Unlike overhead-valve designs used by Chevrolet and some other automakers, Ford placed the V-8’s valves inside the block and alongside the cylinders. With no valves on top, the Ford engine had a “flat head” — a nickname that stuck. 

Motor Muster
Sixteen Ford V-8 vehicles, all dating from 1932 to 1953, filled Detroit Central Market. / Image by RuAnne Phillips 

It’s an engine worth honoring in any year, but 2023 is especially appropriate as it marks the 60th anniversary of the Early Ford V-8 Club of America. This long-standing club has more than 9,000 members and 125 regional groups across the world. We are proud that the club chose to hold its 60th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee Celebration Grand National Meet in Dearborn concurrent with Motor Muster. (And yes, though Motor Muster’s time period officially starts with 1933, we made a special exception for the club and allowed some 1932 Ford V-8 cars into the show.) 

Motor Muster
Bob Thompson posed with the 1960 Slingshot Dragster he built all those years ago with his racing partner Sam Buck. / Image by Matt Anderson 

We pulled a few related objects from our own collection and staged them in a special display at the Detroit Central Market. Naturally, we started with a flathead 1937 Ford V-8 engine. Our version is one of the 60-horsepower units Ford introduced for that model year. The “60” was advertised as a more economical alternative to the standard 85-horsepower Ford V-8. Our featured cars — all powered by flathead Ford V-8s — included a 1935 Ford Sedan, a 1953 Ford Sunliner convertible and a 1960 Slingshot Dragster built by a couple of young racers from Lockport, Illinois. One of those racers, Bob Thompson, was in the Motor Muster crowd this year. He stopped by the market to share stories and pose for a few photos with his dragster. It was a special treat for those who saw him. 

Motor Muster
These two MG cars, a green 1938 Tickford Drophead and a red 1948 TC, were among several that helped celebrate the British marque’s centennial. / Image by RuAnne Phillips 

In an unusual twist, Motor Muster had something of a second feature this year. MG, the British company whose two-seat sports cars were popular in the U.K. and in the U.S., was formed in 1923. MG collectors and fans gathered at Motor Muster to celebrate the marque’s centennial on the Greenfield Village green.  

Motor Muster
Greg Ingold, editor of the Hagerty Price Guide, gave instructions to an eager team of youth judges. / Image by Christy Sherding 

Our friends from Hagerty joined us again this year. The leading collector car insurance provider brought a display of two vintage Ford Broncos, copies of the company’s Drivers Club magazine and a Polaroid picture experience allowing visitors to pose for retro instant photos. Greg Ingold, editor of the Hagerty Price Guide, was especially busy over the weekend. On Saturday, he led a team of youth judges — the next generation of car collectors and enthusiasts — as they selected a car for special honors. (The young judges chose a 1938 Packard Super Eight convertible for their prize.) Later that day, Greg was on stage to help narrate our popular Pass-in-Review program, where historians comment on participating cars. Then on Sunday, he presented a talk on current trends in the collector car market. We’re grateful to Greg and the whole Hagerty team for their continuing support.

Motor Muster
This gull-winged 1975 Bricklin SV-1 was among the more unusual vehicles at Motor Muster 2023. / Image by RuAnne Phillips  

Visitors enjoyed a variety of historical vignettes and special programs throughout the weekend. The 1930s were represented by a period Emancipation Day celebration at the Mattox Family Home, complementing the Juneteenth holiday on Monday, June 19. A wartime homefront vignette symbolized the 1940s. The 1950s were recalled by a suburban-style lawnmower and yardwork display at the Chapman Family Home. Fans of the 1960s could view a period roadside camping vignette near the Scotch Settlement School. Last but far from least, the Disco Decade was acknowledged with a bicentennial-themed picnic straight out of the summer of ’76. 

Motor Muster
France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans race turns 100 in 2023, twice as old as this 1972 Pontiac Luxury LeMans named for it. / Image by RuAnne Phillips 

Charley Harper’s unique approach to wildlife art — a style he called “minimal realism” — delighted popular audiences and earned the admiration of the scientific community. Best known for his simplified, geometric depictions of natural subjects (especially birds), his later work conveyed powerful messages about the environment. Harper credited early commissions from Ford Motor Company with encouraging both his focus on wildlife subjects and his signature style.

"Ford Times", July 1952
This updated take on a Grand Canyon landscape painted during Charley Harper’s honeymoon was the first in his “Horseless Carriage Adventures” series, which commemorated Ford Motor Company’s 50th anniversary in 1953. / THF706499


Charley Harper (1922-2007) began his career as a commercial artist in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the late 1940s. He’d just returned from a cross-country honeymoon funded by a traveling art scholarship. A portfolio Harper had assembled during the trip caught the attention of the Ford Times, a promotional magazine published by Ford Motor Company. Ford Times featured a mix of travelogues and general interest stories, with Ford advertising sprinkled throughout. Several pages near the back of each issue spotlighted noteworthy American restaurants. Charley Harper’s first Ford Times illustration appeared here, in the December 1948 issue.

detail "Ford Times," December 1948
Charley Harper’s first Ford commission was printed in the “Favorite Recipes of Famous Taverns” section of the December 1948 issue of Ford Times. / Detail, THF706474

Harper’s painting of the Gourmet Room, a restaurant atop the new Terrace Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati, was the first of many restaurant illustrations by Harper that appeared in Ford Times and its sister publication, Lincoln-Mercury Times. Some were later reprinted in a series of recipe books (of which Harper also illustrated two covers).

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Roald Amundsen
Roald Amundsen, 1906. / Detail, THF621173

The list of Norwegian Roald Amundsen's polar accomplishments is impressive. From 1903 to 1906, Amundsen and a crew of six navigated the first ship through the famed Northwest Passage. In 1911, he became the first person to set foot at the South Pole. Following this history-making dash, Amundsen returned to the Arctic. In 1918, he set off to drive a ship into the polar ice cap and drift over the Arctic Ocean and perhaps the North Pole. The expedition ended in 1921 — unsuccessful. Though he failed, Amundsen and his crew joined the few people at the time to have traversed the Northeast Passage — the route along the Arctic coasts of Europe and Asia.

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 Massey-Harris Model 20 Self-Propelled Combine
1938 Massey-Harris Model 20 Self-Propelled Combine in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. / THF110572 

Combines loom large on the floor of Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, but they loom even larger on the physical and historical landscape of America’s agricultural heartland. Standing high on the horizon, combines both symbolize and represent the reality of the mechanization of modern agriculture. The 1938 Massey-Harris Model 20 self-propelled combine, a designated landmark of American agricultural engineering, was the first commercially successful self-propelled combine to make its way through an American harvest. 

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1930s, 20th century, Henry Ford Museum, food, farms and farming, farming equipment, by Jim McCabe, agriculture

New Holland TR70 Axial Flow Combine
New Holland TR70 Axial Flow Combine, 1975. / THF57471 

The combine — a piece of agricultural machinery — gets its name because it combines the three major tasks of harvesting grain:

  • Harvesting: cutting and gathering the crop in the field.
  • Threshing: removing the kernels or seeds of the crop from the rest of the plant.
  • Separating: separating the kernels from other plant material such as stalks, chaff or straw.

Combines save large amounts of time and labor because they combine many activities into a single task. Self-propelled combines culminated 150 years of monumental changes in farming technology.

A Combined Harvester in a California Grain Field
Efforts to perfect combine technology date to the early 1800s, but horse-drawn — and later tractor-drawn — machines were large and unwieldy. This combined harvester operated in California grain fields around 1900. / THF702847 

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Roast chicken. Mashed potatoes. A simple chocolate cake. Some foods have a sense of timelessness about them — they are reliable standbys that seem or stand the test of time with little to no alteration. Other foods, however, drift in and out of the public consciousness — and our refrigerators and stomachs. These foods are fads — practices followed for a time with exaggerated zeal, per the Merriam-Webster dictionary — and they reflect the values and preoccupations of the times in which they were popular.

As the 19th turned into the 20th century, domestic science and home economics arose as formally taught disciplines. Many domestic scientists espoused a view of women and women’s work that emphasized “feminine virtues” like beauty and daintiness. This changed the way women were expected to cook, as more emphasis was placed on presentation and nutritional value, rather than on creating culinary experiences that delighted the senses and filled the stomach.

This emphasis is readily apparent in the popularity of aspics — gelatinized dishes — in the first decades of the 20th century. Recipe booklets — most often produced by gelatin companies like Knox Gelatine and Jell-O — gave home cooks a myriad of ways to incorporate gelatin into their meals, in ways both savory and sweet. These dishes were often served on beds of iceberg lettuce, or in hollowed-out halves of fruit, providing a compact way of serving all of a meal's component parts in one tidy package.