Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

corvair-engine

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

1960-corvair

Engines Exposed: 1960 Chevrolet Corvair

Horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine, overhead valves, 140 cubic inches displacement, 80 horsepower

Chevrolet took the engine to a place it had rarely been in an American production car – the rear. Much of the motor is hidden by a metal shroud directing air flow from the deck louvers. There are two carburetors, one for each cylinder bank, connected to a single air cleaner at center. Later models increased trunk size up front by moving the spare tire to the engine compartment.

engines

Painted Federal Pier Table after treatment, THF 62.139.1. The table is made of pine with a marble top. The painted motifs are gilded urns and horns with rope swags and also bell-flower festoons on alternating panels. The legs also bear free-hand designs incorporating gilded floral elements. The painted and gilded ornaments mimic more expensive metal ornaments that can be found on more expensive furniture of this period.

Museum Conservators don’t usually like stripping. But sometimes we need to do it.

I partially stripped a yellowed varnish from select areas of this fabulous table to restore a more period - appropriate contrast between the painted panels.

If you collect antiques or watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS, you already know that “original surfaces” are usually highly valued. Even when it is found in slightly damaged and worn condition, the original varnish on a piece of furniture may help prove the true age of a treasured antique.

However, what happens when the varnish has aged and yellowed, causing a color-shift in the object? This normal yellowing, which happens over time, may make the object hard to “read.” Continue Reading

conservation, restoration

quadricycle-engine

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

1896FordQuadricycleRunabout-2

Engines Exposed: 1896 Ford Quadricycle

Inline 2-cylinder engine, F-head valves, 59 cubic inches displacement, 4 horsepower (estimate)

Henry Ford based the Quadricycle’s engine on the Kane-Pennington motor he saw in American Machinist magazine. Ford brazed water jackets around each of the two horizontal cylinders and mounted wooden water tanks on either side of his engine. The tanks ultimately were replaced with a smaller under-seat reservoir.

engines, quadricycle

Members of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan experience what a Merino sheep feels like during a recent visit to Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village.

According to the 2010 Census, more than 56 million Americans, or over 20% of the U.S. population, have some type of disability. These numbers are likely to grow in the years ahead, as the U.S. population ages and as developmental disorders and diseases, such as autism and Alzheimer’s, affect an increasing number of people. When family members and companions of people with disabilities are included in these numbers, this becomes a significant audience – one that may have the desire and means to visit museums, but may not have their needs addressed sufficiently.

While the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provided guidelines for museums to become more physically accessible, there has been a growing trend in museums across the country recently to go beyond the legal obligations of ADA. This has led to an increasing variety of innovative new opportunities and programs for people with different physical, developmental and cognitive abilities. Continue Reading

access

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

2004.30.3.4

In the 1920s, the African American population in Detroit tripled as the automobile industry drew workers from southern states.  Housing options in a segregated city were limited, however, and many African Americans found themselves living in the poor and crowded neighborhood of Black Bottom.  In the adjacent Paradise Valley area, some residents of Black Bottom were able to make a living working in the many nightclubs and theaters providing entertainment options for audiences of multiple races.  Urban renewal projects and freeway construction in the 1960s almost completely razed both neighborhoods. Archivist Brian Wilson, intrigued by this story as one factor setting the scene for later race riots in Detroit, discovered some related photos in The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation, which we’ve just digitized. They depict various performers at Club Harlem in Paradise Valley in the 1930s, such as this group of finely costumed dancers.

Revisit this lost neighborhood by browsing the rest of these images on our collections website.

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

digital collections

Aluminum Christmas Tree, 1960-1965 THF162729

It was eye-catching, lightweight, and easy to care for. There was none of the fuss and muss of a real tree because the needles were attached. You could store it compactly in a box and reuse it year after year. It was completely safe unless you foolishly strung it with electric lights—potentially causing a fire hazard.

Photo of tree in living room, December 1962 THF126330

No, to make your aluminum Christmas tree shine with a dazzling brilliance, you didn’t use strings of electric lights. You turned a four-color, revolving color wheel onto it. And maybe added a few shiny blue or red balls to heighten the silvery aluminum effect. Any way you looked at it, the aluminum Christmas tree was a perfect symbol of the modern Jet-Age lifestyle people were dreaming about in the early 1960s. Continue Reading

 

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