Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

imls-logoWhile researching the many electrical objects being digitized as part of the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences grant, a few stories have stood out to me. These stories sometimes involve the people behind the scenes: manufacturers, inventors, etc., and other times are about how the object was used. Below are four such objects and their stories.

This Jenney Electric Motor Company rheostat has uncovered an interesting story about the company’s namesake. It was designed by Charles G. Jenney who was awarded a patent for it in 1892. Jenney, originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana with his father to design and produce electrical equipment for the Fort Wayne Jenney Electric Light Company. On February 27, 1885, Jenney, who had been contracted to the Fort Wayne Jenney Electric Light Company by his father while still a minor, successfully petitioned to be removed from the company, and, a month later, he founded the Jenney Electric Light Company later the Jenney Electric Company. The Jenney Electric Company was demonstrating Jenney’s dynamos, arc lamps, and incandescent lamps by August that same year. This company was bought out and Jenney started again, this time with the Jenney Electric Motor Company in 1889 for which he produced electrical equipment like this rheostat, filed for more patents, and wired and lit the streets of Indianapolis.

Designed by Fredinand Buchhop optician and the optician Emil B. Meyrowitz this uniquely shaped motor powered electric drill was used for nasal surgeries including septum operations and electro cautery. On March 3, 1891, Meyrowitz and Buchhop patented the motor, but were only able to patent the globular shape. Even though the motor was crudely constructed, it was portable enough to be useful in the operating theater and at the patient’s bedside.

During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Professors William E. Ayrton and John Perry collaborated on many electrical device inventions including electric railway devices, and electrical measurement instruments including this ammeter. Ayrton and Perry personally certified the accuracy of their meters, and they were touted as being among the most reliable meters during a test in 1886. The London, England-based company, Latimer Clark, Muirhead, & Co., Limited manufactured this Ayrton and Perry Ammeter made between 1883 and 1890.

Last but not least, an electric contactor that required a bit of sleuthing to uncover the correct patents and court cases. According to a tag on this electric contactor, it was used as part of General Electric’s defense when they were on trial for infringing on Sundh Electric Company’s patents. The contactor was part of patent 969,738, which described a new method of operating and controlling electrically controlled switches with an electric motor. This contactor would have been provided in conjunction with the auxiliary switch arrangement to be used on the resistance controlling contactors during operation. Sundh Electric Company thought General Electric’s switch mechanism was too similar to their own, but their patent did not include a contactor resembling this object. Additionally, Sundh Electric Company improved upon an already existing patent prompting the court to side with the defendants, which allowed both patents to remain valid. 

Laura Lipp is Collections Documentation Specialist at The Henry Ford.

IMLS

Glass Gallery x2

February 15, 2017 Archive Insight
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With the Davidson-Gerson Modern Glass Gallery opening in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation last fall, Greenfield Village is the site for the next chapter in this exhibit's story.

The Davidson-Gerson Modern Glass Gallery is in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. It opened in October 2016. The Davidson Gerson Gallery of Glass is in Greenfield Village’s Liberty Craftworks District. Its grand opening is set for spring 2017.

Both galleries provide an in-depth look at the American glass story. The museum gallery focuses specifically on the studio glass movement of the 1960s, while the village gallery, supported by the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, surveys the history of American glass, ranging from 18th-century colonial glass through 20th-century mainstream glass as well as studio glass.

Charles Sable, curator of decorative arts, was tasked with updating and reinterpreting The Henry Ford’s American glass collection. He envisioned creating an all-new gallery adjacent to the museum’s Glass Shop in the Liberty Craftworks District of Greenfield Village — a place to exhibit portions of the institution’s 10,000 glass artifacts currently in storage. His vision intersected with that of collectors Bruce and Ann Bachmann, who were seeking to donate their 300-piece studio glass collection.

According to Sable, the studio glass movement, which began in the early 1960s, is recognized as a turning point in the history of glass, as artists explored the qualities of the medium in a studio environment. Their goal was to create fine art. Evolving over a 20-year period, the movement matured in the 1980s with artists producing a myriad of unique works.

While other museums were interested in the Bachmann collection, it was The Henry Ford that garnered the collectors’ full attention and eventually their generous donation. “The Bachmanns had very specific criteria for their collection,” said Sable. “They were looking for an institution that was in an urban area, preferably in the Midwest where they live, had a large visitation, and was capable of exhibiting and maintaining the collection.

“As Bruce told me, it was a good marriage. He felt his collection would live here in perpetuity,” added Sable. 

The story of the studio glass movement is now on permanent exhibition in the DavidsonGerson Modern Glass Gallery, which is located in the museum space that once showcased The Henry Ford’s silver and pewter collections. “Our exhibit is a deep dive into how studio glass unfolded,” said Sable. “It’s the story of the combination of science and art that created a new and innovative chapter in the history of glass.” 

The exhibition also looks at the impact of studio glass on everyday life and includes a section on mass-produced glass influenced by studio glass and sold today by retailers such as Crate and Barrel, Pier 1 Imports and others. 

Once the new Davidson-Gerson Gallery of Glass in Greenfield Village opens this spring, thousands of visitors will have an added opportunity to see larger-scale studio glass pieces from the Bachmann collection as well as the evolution of American glass. 

DID YOU KNOW?
The Bachmann studio glass collection includes representation of every artist of importance in the movement, including Harvey Littleton, Dominick Labino, Dale Chihuly, Lino Tagliapietra, Laura Donefer and Toots Zynsky.

The gallery is a careful redesign of the McDonald & Sons Machine Shop in the Liberty Craftworks District.

BY THE NUMBERS

180: The number of glass artifacts on display in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation’s Davidson-Gerson Modern Glass Gallery.
155: The number of artists represented in the Bachmann studio glass collection.
300: The number of studio glass pieces in the Bachmann collection .

The Henry Ford Magazine

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In the “With Liberty and Justice for All” exhibit in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, you’ll see a number of Civil Rights–related buttons, including one from the 1963 March on Washington, one declaring “Black is Beautiful,” and one featuring a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the slogan “Practice Nonviolence.” These all come from the Kathryn Emerson and Dr. James C. Buntin Papers, a collection we’ve recently been digging into.

Kathryn Emerson and Dr. James Buntin were interested and active in social causes such as welfare rights, Civil Rights, and education, among others, during the 1960s and 1970s, and the collection contains dozens of buttons that we’ve just digitized, including this one proudly declaring “Be Black Baby.” We’ve also recently digitized some of the couple’s clothing, books, and other materials.

Browse all of the digitized material from this fascinating and still-very-relevant collection by visiting our Digital Collections, and watch for an upcoming blog post from Curator of Public Life Donna Braden exploring Dr. Buntin’s library.

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

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1913 Scripps-Booth Rocket
V-2 cylinder engine, air-cooled, 35 cubic inches displacement, 10 horsepower

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Inexpensive cyclecars, as the name suggests, often used motorcycle engines like the V-2 in this Scripps-Booth prototype. The air-cooled motor meant there was no need for water or a radiator, while the splash lubrication system eliminated the necessity for an oil pump. The prototype’s engine is mounted with its crankshaft parallel to the rear axle, simplifying the belt connections between transmission and wheels.


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
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I’ve already shared some thoughts on the 2017 North American International Auto Show, but one important new car wasn’t yet revealed during my visit last week. Of course, I’m talking about the Lego Batmobile from Chevy.

My tastes in bat-transportation run more traditional, but Chevy has something going for it here. The Lego Batmobile’s 20,000-horsepower rating makes it eight times as powerful as the Goldenrod land speed racer. Likewise, the V-100 engine’s 60.2-litre displacement is more than eight and a half times what it took for the Mark IV to win at Le Mans fifty years ago. The Lego Batmobile’s styling achieves that rare combination of aerodynamic and exquisite, certain to turn heads on every street corner. Be sure to order the optional bat hood ornament – superior to anything by Lalique. (Besides, everybody knows that bats eat dragonflies.)

Granted, the Lego Batmobile’s $48,000,000 price tag is roughly 1,116 times larger than that of the Bugatti Royale, but choose the extended 84-month financing plan and your monthly payment is a reasonable $571,430. (Pro tip: Take advantage of the 0% financing – trust me on this.) The Lego Batmobile is a personal car for every personality – whether you’re feeling vengeful, groovy, hoarse, or just plain indefensible.

Indeed, the Chevrolet’s Lego Batmobile may only have one strike against it – I’m told that it handles like a ton of bricks.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

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1930 Ford Model A
Inline 4-cylinder engine, L-head valves, 201 cubic inches displacement, 40 horsepower

Painting engine blocks is a long-standing tradition among automakers. In the 1960s, Ford favored blue while Chevrolet preferred orange. But green was Ford’s color of choice when this Model A came off the line. The black enameled pipe, running diagonally along the block just below the carburetor, returns surplus oil from the valve chamber back to the crankcase.


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
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Life is often a juggling act of work, play and family. While current-day clothiers experience the trials and tribulations of being small-town entrepreneurs in the big business of fashion, more than 100 years ago many women were facing similar circumstances, leaning on their sense of style to furnish a living.

In the late 1800s, Elizabeth Cohen had run a millinery store next to her husband’s dry goods store in Detroit. When he died and left her alone with a young family, she consolidated the shops under one roof. Living above the store, she was able to run a business and earn a living while staying near her children.

Cohen leveraged middle-class consumers’ growing fascination with fashion, using mass-produced components to create hats in the latest styles and to the individual tastes of customers. To attract business, resourceful store owners like Mrs. Cohen displayed goods in storefront windows and might have advertised through trade cards or by placing advertisements in newspapers, magazines or city directories.

“While Mrs. Cohen was more likely following fashion than creating it, it did take creativity and design skill,” Jeanine Head Miller, curator of domestic life at The Henry Ford, said of Cohen’s millinery prowess. “She was a small maker connecting with local customers in her community — a 19th-century version of Etsy, perhaps, but without the online reach.”

And she certainly gained independence and the satisfaction of supporting her family while selling the hats she created from the factory-produced components she acquired. “People can appreciate the widowed Elizabeth Cohen’s balancing act,” added Miller, “successfully caring for her children while earning a living during an era when fewer opportunities were available to women.” 

Jennifer LaForce is a writer for The Henry Ford Magazine. This story originally appeared in the June-December 2016 issue.
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One of the challenges of digitizing our collection is that we can’t just work on brand-new artifacts—we’re also always updating our records for already-digitized items.  A change might be as “simple” as refining a date based on new research, or adding a description of the artifact for context.  For imagery, we have to account for the fact that camera technology advances at an astounding rate. Photos that we considered top of the line 10 or 15 years ago now may not meet today’s baseline standards.

An artifact we’ve just rephotographed, in honor of Black History Month, is the Rosa Parks Bus. Using the latest lighting, photography equipment, hardware, and software, Photographer Rudy Ruzicska and Digital Imaging Specialist Jillian Ferraiuolo recently took new images of the bus, including this shot, which features Rosa’s seat right in the middle of the picture. 

To see all of the new images, visit the Rosa Parks Bus record in our Digital Collections.  You’ll also be able to check out two new 360-degree views of the bus, one from Rosa’s seat, and one from the driver’s seat, to get up close and personal with this iconic Civil Rights artifact.

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

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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.