Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Kitschy coin collectors convey Americans’ changing views of man’s ability to go where none had gone before.

There was a time when outer space belonged to the realm of fantasy and science fiction. Through movies, radio, television, comic strips and comic books, kids cheered as fantasy space heroes like Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Tom Corbett-Space Cadet safeguarded Earth’s inhabitants from evil forces. Futuristic space toys proliferated, from atomic ray guns and wind-up robots to toy spaceships. Then something happened. The United States and the Soviet Union began to explore outer space for real. When the Russians launched Sputnik I in October 1957, the “space race” took off, leading to a new era of more realistic space toys. 

The Henry Ford’s collection of space-themed banks, dating from 1949 to 1964, captures the span of these two perceptions of outer space — as just a fantasy world to being a real place into which humans ventured. These mechanical banks, produced by Detroit-based companies Duro Mold & Manufacturing and Astro Manufacturing, were offered at individual bank branches as incentives for kids to start bank accounts. Having the branch bank’s name affixed to the front of one of these futuristic coin collectors was a sure sign that the financial institution was modern, progressive and in step with the times.

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Atomic bank (c. 1949): co-opting a popular word of the Cold War era.

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Rocket bank (c. 1951): resembling comic-book-style rockets.

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Strato bank (c. 1953): the coin was shot through the “stratosphere” to the moon.

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Guided missile bank (c. 1957): the first type made by Astro.

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Plan-It bank (c. 1959): a play on words, depicting the sun surrounded by nine orbiting planets.

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Satellite bank (c. 1961): this time - resembling a real rocket.

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Unisphere bank (c. 1964): topped by the iconic centerpiece from the New York World’s Fair.

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Destination moon bank (c. 1962): featuring the moon atop a realistic-looking rocket.

See more mechanical banks in our digital collections. 

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

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

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The Space Race began in the 1950s, when both the United States and the Soviet Union attempted to launch ballistic missiles into outer space.  Americans were surprised when the Russians beat them to it, launching the Sputnik I satellite in October 1957.  But, when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited earth on April 12, 1961, Americans were downright shocked and not a little concerned.  As a response, President Kennedy pledged to support a more aggressive space program than President Eisenhower had initiated before him.

On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy laid out a bold vision—that America should commit itself to landing a man on the moon “before the decade is out.”  When astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin A. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. finally did set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, many people considered it America’s finest hour.

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Learn more about these artifacts below and then see them for yourself in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation during our pop-up exhibit now on display this summer.

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This pictorial souvenir card depicts President Kennedy awarding NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal to America’s first astronaut, Navy Commander Alan B. Shepard, Jr., on May 8, 1961, three days after his successful flight.
Souvenir Card, 1961.  THF230121

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Trading cards like these generated excitement among America’s youth about the achievements of the space program.
Topps Astronaut Trading Cards, 1963. THF230119

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This “Destination Moon” mechanical bank commemorates astronaut John Glenn’s achievement of orbiting the earth in 1962.
Mechanical Bank, 1962. THF173785. (Gift of Raymond Reines, Dedicated to the Berzac Family)

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Congress had to approve a massive budget increase for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to make Kennedy’s bold vision even a remote possibility.
Recruiting Advertisement for NASA, July 1962. THF230079

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NASA’s Apollo 11 lunar mission captivated audiences watching the drama unfolding on television. Some even documented the events with their personal cameras.
Photographic Print, July 20, 1969. THF114240

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Print made from slide, July 20, 1969. THF114242


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Four months before real men landed on the moon, Snoopy appeared in a Peanuts comic strip as the “World Famous Astronaut” walking on the moon.  This Peanuts Pocket Doll commemorates the 1969 moon landing.
Snoopy Toy, 1969. THF52. (Gift of CarolAnn Missant)

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This coloring book included the Mercury, Apollo, and Saturn vehicles and astronauts, as well as some history of the space program.
Coloring Book, 1969. THF292641

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Those who viewed the moon landing on TV on July 20, 1969, often have difficulty separating the historic occasion from the steadfast reporting of it by Cronkite—considered at the time “the most trusted man in America.”
Record Album, Narrated by Walter Cronkite, 1969. THF110908

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The cover story for this issue contained an in-depth report of the historic moon-landing mission.
Time Magazine for July 25, 1969. THF230050. (Gift of the Estate of Dr. and Mrs. Martin A. Glynn)

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This commemorative game, simulating the successful moon landing, had players collecting “moon rocks.”
Board Game, 1969-1975. THF91918

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This phonograph record comprises a “recorded history of space exploration and the triumph of the lunar landing.”
Record Album, 1969. THF154908. (Gift of the Estate of Dr. and Mrs. Martin A. Glynn)

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At the height of the Apollo space program, Marathon Gas Stations offered a series of promotional glasses featuring the Apollo 11, 12, 13, and 14 missions.
Tumblers commemorating Apollo 11 mission, circa 1969. THF175132 (Gift of Jan Hiatt)

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The Apollo 11 astronauts took pieces of the 1903 Wright Flyer—the first practical heavier-than-air flying machine—on their 1969 mission to symbolize the incredible progress made in those 66 years. Here, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong poses in front of the Wright brothers' home in Greenfield Village during a 1979 visit to The Henry Ford.
Photograph of Neil Armstrong in Greenfield Village, August 16, 1979. THF128246

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The iconic image on this poster depicts Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon’s surface, a photo taken by Neil Armstrong.
Poster, 1969. THF56899

Read more
John Glenn, Space Hero
John F. Kennedy's Enduring Legacy


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

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Looking Glass by Shelley Muzylowski Allen.

This month we’re excited to welcome Shelley Muzylowski Allen to the Greenfield Village Glass Shop at The Henry Ford as our July Artist in Residence. You can see Shelley in action July 9-13; get to know a little more about Shelley in this Q&A.

Tell us a little bit about you and your work.
I was born in Northern Manitoba in a small mining town. I believe that its open skies and barren landscape fostered imagination. I spent a lot of time outside in the long summer light playing outside - on the railroad tracks and on large rock slabs, sometimes finding fossilized stone. During the extreme winter days, my sister and I would dig tunnels through the snow and at night, I would watch the aurora borealis create light up shapes on the snow and on our curtains inside. Here I started to paint at a very early age and eventfully studied the medium at the Emily Carr Institute of Art.

My work then and now was directly influenced from my experiences and environment that surrounded me. I layer glass powder colors and use a reverse carving technique to achieve detail, texture and a painterly style on my blown sculpture. I hope that by leaving ambiguity and creating gesture in the recognizable natural forms, that they become universal, creating their own story and sparking an emotion or a memory in the viewer.

How did you get started with glassblowing?
After I finished my BFA, I worked at a nonprofit arts center in Vancouver, B.C. One of my co-workers saw my paintings and suggested that my work would translate really well to glass. She had been to the Pilchuck Glass School and gave me their catalogue. I had only seen perfume bottles and functional ware being created on the pipe, so I didn’t understand why she thought I should go there. I applied out of curiosity.

The second I walked in the Pilchuck hot shop my life changed completely. I became obsessed with the medium and that fall drove to Seattle to take lessons at night and then back to Vancouver the same night. In retrospect I realize that because I was so open to and intensely focused on working and learning this medium the path I was to follow unfolded before me.

I was extremely fortunate that both Rik Allen and Karen Willenbrink Johnsen (friendships that began during the Pilchuck session) asked me to assist them during that winter season. A couple of years later, Rik and I got married. I was regularly assisting Karen which led me to work with Bill and the Morris team. I was in awe of and had great respect for the passion and fearlessness that every member of that team had working with glass. It is a way of seeing and working that I strive to continue in my own shop and work.

What piece are you most proud of that you’ve created to date?
One of my most recent pieces, See, Swan, that is currently on exhibit at the Habatat Galleries, in Royal Oak, Mich., and focuses on a nearly life-size swan and its reflection, has opened up a new dialogue and direction with glass and my subject matter.

Focusing on a local and magnificent natural phenomena — the northern migration of the swans through the Skagit Valley — See, Swan, is a meditation on this fragile existence.

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See, Swan (2018) Blown, hand-sculpted, and engraved glass, steel, 39”w x 80”H x 12”d

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Inspiration is all around me in the natural world. I watch the weather and the seasons, the flora and the fauna, and how they respond to each other and connect to us as humans.

What are you most looking forward to as being an Artist in Residence this year?
I am looking forward to working and being in the presence of such a magnificent and important collection of history. Stepping out of my familiar work environment, I can let go of my everyday routine stimulating and allowing space for growth and ideas. I’m excited to work with more transparent pieces utilizing the shop’s color pots and am designing some new pieces regarding this. I’m also really looking forward to working with The Henry Ford’s team and exchanging skill sets and ideas.

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Lee Iacocca (right) lights a candle with Henry Ford II (center) and Don Frey to celebrate the Ford Mustang’s first birthday in April 1965. (THF113838)

A Born Salesman
Lee Iacocca, the charismatic corporate executive whose long careers at Ford and Chrysler made him one of the best-known businessmen in America, passed away on July 2 at age 94. With his passing, the automotive industry lost one of its most colorful figures of the last 60 years.

Born and raised in Allentown, Penn., Iacocca earned a degree in industrial engineering from Lehigh University in 1945. Given his location, one might have expected him to take a job in the steel industry. But Iacocca was one of those people with gasoline in the veins. He wanted to build cars – specifically, he wanted to build them for Ford Motor Company. He joined the Blue Oval in 1946 as an engineer. But for a born salesman like Iacocca, it was an awkward fit at best. He asked for a reassignment to sales in Ford’s Philadelphia district, and his career blossomed from there.

Iacocca first attracted attention from senior Ford managers with a novel promotion in the mid-1950s. He dreamed up a “’56 for 56” gimmick in which customers could buy a new 1956 Ford with 20 percent down and monthly payments of $56 dollars thereafter. It was simple, it was catchy, and it was a hit. The promotion earned him a transfer to Ford’s world headquarters in Dearborn.

Total Performance
Lee Iacocca made no small plans. Barely into his 30s when he moved to Dearborn, Iacocca resolved that he’d be a Ford vice president by age 35. Though he climbed up the ranks quickly, he missed his goal – Iacocca wasn’t named Vice President and General Manager of the Ford Division until he’d turned 36. By a twist of fate, Ford President Robert McNamara left to become President Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense soon after Iacocca’s appointment. Iacocca’s influence at Ford Motor Company increased accordingly.

Young, enthusiastic, and a car guy to the core, Iacocca was the polar opposite of McNamara, whose major accomplishments at Ford included turning the sensuous two-seat Thunderbird into a four-seat family sedan. (Though to be fair, McNamara nearly doubled Thunderbird’s sales as a result.) Iacocca wanted his company to think young. He remembered the Ford V-8 of his own youth which, with help from legions of hot rodders, gave Ford a performance image. Chevrolet snatched that image in the mid-1950s with its small-block V-8 and its classic “Tri Five” Chevys of 1955-57.

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Iacocca (right) with Jimmy Clark (center), Benson Ford, and the double overhead cam V-8 that Ford developed for the Indianapolis 500. (THF110520)

Among Iacocca’s first moves were to get Ford Motor Company back into racing. He greenlit a striking mid-engine sports car prototype and then – with Henry Ford II, Leo Beebe, Carroll Shelby, Jacque Passino, and others – launched an all-out assault in nearly every form of racing under the banner “Total Performance.” By decade’s end, Ford had racked up victories in NASCAR, on drag strips, at Indianapolis, and at Le Mans. But Iacocca’s tenure at Ford is forever tied to one car.

The Youth Car
Working in secret with a select team, Iacocca pitched the need for a “youth car” targeted at the up-and-coming Baby Boomers. He wanted something with the appeal of a Thunderbird, the look of a Ferrari, and the economy of a Volkswagen – a tall order to be sure. But Ford’s designers and engineers rose to the challenge. In one of the automotive industry’s great triumphs, they put a sporty body on the existing Ford Falcon compact car chassis, produced a seemingly endless menu of options and accessories that encouraged customers to personalize, and dubbed their new creation “Mustang” – a name that evoked freedom, open spaces, and, in the words of one marketing expert, “was American as all hell.”

Ford optimistically hoped to sell 200,000 Mustangs in the first model year. But the car’s splashy launch – at the 1964 New York World’s Fair – and a savvy marketing campaign kicked off a mania rarely seen in automotive showrooms. By the end of the 1965 model year, more than 680,000 buyers had taken a new Mustang home.

Mustang’s success made Iacocca a household name. But his rising star contributed to growing tensions between Iacocca and Henry Ford II, the company’s chairman and ultimate authority. After several difficult years, their strained relationship foundered and, in 1978, led to an acrimonious parting of the ways between Iacocca and Ford Motor Company.

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Iacocca found the perfect pitchman for Chrysler – himself. His print and television ads made him one of the best-known business figures in the United States. (THF103024)

A Second Act
No one could have blamed Iacocca if he’d retired then and there. The Mustang alone was enough to secure his legacy. But retirement wasn’t Iacocca’s style. He missed being at the center of the action. When the failing Chrysler Corporation offered him the job of CEO, he couldn’t resist. Iacocca’s second act was even more impressive than his first.

Iacocca took over a company in ruin. Chrysler was losing millions with little hope of recovery. His first and most important act was to secure a loan guarantee from the U.S. Congress. He then set about rebuilding the automaker’s product line. First came the K-Car, a highly-adaptable front-wheel drive platform that Chrysler offered under any number of makes, models and designs. Then came another vehicle that, like the Mustang before it, transformed the industry. The minivan, manifested in the Plymouth Voyager and the Dodge Caravan, was born of an idea Iacocca had toyed with at Ford to no avail. At Chrysler, the innovative minivan became a best-seller that redefined the family car for a generation of Americans. To top off his achievements, Iacocca added an evergreen marque to Chrysler’s lineup when he acquired American Motors and its enduring Jeep brand in 1987.

Eager to restore faith in Chrysler vehicles, Iacocca personally vouched for his products in a series of memorable television and print ads. He ended many of them with a simple, straightforward challenge to his audience: “If you can find a better car, buy it.” The ads were effective, and he enjoyed making them. In truth, he enjoyed the limelight. Through the 1980s, Iacocca added to his celebrity by writing two best-selling books, leading a successful effort to restore the Statue of Liberty, and appearing in a bit part on the popular TV series Miami Vice. For a time, there was even serious talk about Iacocca as a candidate for President of the United States.

Enough for Two Lifetimes
Iacocca retired from Chrysler in 1992. He’d returned the company to profitability, restored its reputation, and repaid its government loan. But even then he didn’t really retire. With billionaire Las Vegas developer Kirk Kerkorian, Iacocca launched an unsuccessful takeover attempt of Chrysler in 1995. Ten years later, he returned to Chrysler – by then under German ownership as DaimlerChrysler – to shoot a few commercials, reprising his trademark “If you can find a better car…” slogan.

Lee Iacocca seemed to live two lifetimes in his 94 years. He enjoyed success at two car companies, and he fathered two groundbreaking vehicles. Iacocca lived to see the Mustang turn 50, and to see Chrysler fall into bankruptcy once more before remerging as a part of FCA. He will be remembered as long as there are people who love cars like he did.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

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“I was angry at the world, but The Henry Ford changed my life. 
Every time I felt like giving up, the people here have encouraged me to do better. Because they saw something in me I couldn’t see for myself.” - Sylvia Maddox, 19 years old. Graduate of the Youth Mentorship Program, June 2019

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“Celebration” was a word that echoed through the Youth Mentorship Program office frequently over the 2018/2019 school year, and with good cause. Going into its 30th year of existence next year, the YMP celebrated not only the accomplishments of 14 student participants, but four graduates; Ann Odom of Tinkham Educational Center in January, and Natalie Wilkie of Wayne Memorial High School, Sylvia Maddox and Jada Shorter of Tinkham Educational Center in June. All four graduates were accepted to colleges of their choice prior to graduation and are preparing to begin this upcoming fall.

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The Youth Mentorship Program, a direct partnership between The Henry Ford and the Wayne-Westland Community School District, gives high school students the chance to earn additional credits and life experience by spending the second half of each school day working with a full-time employee of The Henry Ford, who volunteers to serve as a mentor. People learn in different ways and normal schooling isn’t for everyone; the YMP provides an atmosphere where students can succeed in an environment different from the traditional classroom. When the students graduate, they leave with strong communication and interpersonal skills, responsibility, and the awareness that they can succeed, reflecting the goal of the YMP to provide positive changes in young lives. This past year students have participated in placements at the William Ford Barn, Firestone Farm, Pottery Shop, Glass Shop, Call Center, and Institutional Advancement, Photography, and Food Services departments.

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Over the past two years, with the assistance of our committed and generous donors, we have expanded the framework of YMP to increase educational and engagement opportunities for our students specifically catered to their interests. Our students have participated in campus tours of local colleges, with career guest speakers in employment fields of their interest, and Employment Boost workshops where they are thoroughly trained in resume writing and job interview skills. The YMP aims to ease the transition of life after high school for our students, and these new opportunities assist whether our students are heading to college, a school of trade, or the workforce.

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Thirty years is an incredible feat for a program such as the YMP. The longevity of this program is a result of the strong partnership between The Henry Ford and the Wayne-Westland Community School District and their overwhelming commitment to student success. A phrase we hear time after time from present and past students is how the YMP is like a second family and further, home. We are incredibly honored to serve the students of the Wayne-Westland community and be a part of their journeys. The past 30 years of YMP has had a huge impact on not only the students it serves, but The Henry Ford as a whole. We look forward to seeing what the next 30 years bring!

Emily Koch is Program Director of the Youth Mentorship Program at The Henry Ford. The Youth Mentorship Program at The Henry Ford is made possible thanks to our partners at the Comerica Charitable Foundation and the Applebaum Family Compass Fund.

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Tailfins, like those sprouting from this 1956 Ford Fairlane, were in the spotlight for 2019.

Gearheads descended on Greenfield Village again this June for our popular Motor Muster car show, featuring more than 600 automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and military vehicles from the 1930s through the 1970s. By our count, this year marked our 30th time presenting this one-of-a-kind event. Based on the crowd, Motor Muster is as popular – and as active – as ever.

Our theme this year was “Fabulous Fins,” those towering tailfins that defined 1950s American automotive design. After several years marking golden anniversaries for 1960s muscle and pony cars, we were overdue for a return to the decade that gave us rock and roll, hula hoops, Corvettes, and Thunderbirds.

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A pair of CCC recruits at work in front of the McGuffey School.

Once again we staged a series of historical vignettes around Greenfield Village that complemented each of the five decades represented in the show. The Depression years of the 1930s were recalled at the McGuffey School, where we staged a 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps camp. The three million young men who participated in the program over its nine-year run helped to plant forests, build parks and roadways, manage floodwaters and erosion, and stock streams and rivers with fish.

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Nothing says “1950s suburbia” like a well-trimmed lawn.

We remembered the war years of the 1940s with a victory garden, a scrap drive, and a live radio drama staged in front of visitors. There was food, too, with few menu items more popular than the spam sandwiches made with everyone’s favorite spiced canned ham. The postwar boom brought an exodus to the suburbs as returning GIs bought new homes for their young families. We saluted the proverbial “crabgrass frontier” with a display of vintage lawn mowing equipment. (If you think cutting in the hot sun with a gasoline mower is tough, try doing it with a genuine ’50s push mower!)

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Far out ’70s rock, courtesy of the band Classic Gold, livened up the gazebo near the Ackley Covered Bridge.

For the 1960s, we remembered the classic kids-in-the-station-wagon cross-country family road trip, with an American nuclear family camped around their travel trailer. Interstate highways and economic prosperity opened the country to many families longing to see the U.S.A. in their Chevrolets (or Plymouths, or Fords) that decade. Those looking for a little pre-Fourth of July patriotism had only to wander over to the gazebo near the Ackley Covered Bridge, where we staged a bicentennial-themed picnic straight out of 1976 – complete with a classic rock concert.

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This 1959 Corvette lured customers into Bill Fold’s Chevrolet, our vintage dealership vignette.

Perhaps the most immersive vignette this year was another set in the 1950s. For one weekend only, the Village Pavilion became home to Bill Fold’s Chevrolet, a period dealership showcasing Chevy’s new models for 1959. Entering the showroom, visitors encountered a classic family car in the form of an Impala, a tantalizing “new for ’59” model in the form of an El Camino (generously loaned to us from our friends at the GM Heritage Center), and a dreamy halo car in the form of a Corvette. The showroom was complete with a dedicated staff including a receptionist and two eager – make that too eager – salesmen. If those new cars were beyond your budget, Bill Fold’s also had a nice selection of “used” 1955, ’56, and ’57 models parked out front.

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Visitors to The Henry Ford’s tent were treated to (left to right) a Ford Mustang II, a pair of one-of-a-kind Budd Company concept cars, and a 1957 Chevrolet Nomad wagon.

Every year, Motor Muster gives us a chance to display some treasures from The Henry Ford’s own automotive collection. This year we pulled out a pair of concept cars built by the Budd Company in the early 1960s. The XT-Bird was pitched by Budd to Ford Motor Company as a possible revival of the beloved two-seat Thunderbirds of 1955-57. (Though the XT-Bird has a back seat – barely.) Budd took the XR-400 to American Motors Corporation, hoping the company might bite on the idea of a sporty car built on a Rambler chassis. Both were intriguing ideas – each anticipating Ford’s Mustang – but neither went beyond these singular prototypes.

Given our Fabulous Fins theme, we had to have at least one pair of tailfins in our tent alongside the Budd cars. Our friends at the GM Heritage Center came through for us again with a beautiful 1957 Chevrolet Nomad. The sporty two-door station wagons weren’t popular enough to sell in big numbers at the time, but they’re certainly popular with collectors today. We also had one more little jewel from our collection on view, our 1977 Ford Mustang II. It’s one of those cars with no middle ground – you either love it or you don’t. The car received many wide-ranging reactions over the weekend.

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Another look inside Bill Fold’s Chevrolet, with its eager – and slightly smarmy – sales staff.

All in all, a fantastic Motor Muster for everyone who participated – whether they brought a vehicle or just brought themselves. We’ll look forward to seeing you at show number 31 next year.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

We recently got together a number of our curators and staff, who are Star Trek fans and frequent visitors to our current exhibit "Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds," to brainstorm the many connections we might make between the collections of The Henry Ford and the media empire that is Star Trek. During that discussion, someone threw out an example of a name shared across both—but as we dug deeper, we also discovered the artifact had an interesting parallel to (or contrast with) the ship or character. Locating more of these seemed a fitting tribute to Star Trek’s characteristic combination of humor and seriousness.

Below are some similar examples we came up with. What other artifacts can you think of from our collection that share a name with—and perhaps a philosophical tie to—Star Trek

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1984 Plymouth Voyager Minivan

Chrysler boldly went where no carmaker had gone before when it introduced the minivan for 1984. With taller interiors and flatter floors (front-wheel drive eliminated that pesky driveshaft tunnel), minivans generally had more interior room than station wagons, and soon supplanted them as the ideal family car. And, at around 20 miles per gallon, the Plymouth Voyager probably got better fuel mileage than the U.S.S. Voyager of the eponymous series! –Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation

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Gondola Landing after Piccard Stratosphere Balloon Flight, Cadiz, Ohio, October 23, 1934

Four hundred thirty years before Captain Jean-Luc Picard would command the U.S.S. Enterprise, Jean and Jeannette Piccard engaged the stratosphere in a metal gondola attached to a hydrogen balloon.  –Jim Orr, Image Services Specialist

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Vulcan Brand Appliances Advertisement, 1905, "Vulcan- Handy Things for Every Home"

Star Trek’s half-Vulcan, half-human science officer, Spock, represented the polar opposite of the Roman god of fire, Vulcan. While the Roman god served as a harbinger of volcanic destruction, Spock modeled cool composure. In 1905, Vulcan Brand Appliances embraced the Roman mythology and marketed their toasters and curling-iron heaters as handy things for every home. What would Spock think?  –Debra Reid, Curator of Agriculture and the Environment

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Google Nexus Q, 2012

It didn’t sweep you into an extra-dimensional fantasy realm like the Nexus that trapped Kirk and Picard in Star Trek Generations, nor did it use omnipotent powers to tease your crew like the meddlesome Q of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the Google Nexus Q could keep you entertained for hours on end with music, movies, and TV shows.  –Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation

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Scot Towels, circa 1937

Montgomery Scott, known as "Scotty," is the Chief Engineer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise in the original Star Trek series. The heavy Scottish accent adopted for the role by Canadian actor James Doohan became one of Scotty's hallmarks, as did his intense pride in the Enterprise, his sense of humor, his complaints when the ship encounters yet another tight spot, and the way he always tells Captain Kirk repairs will take longer than they actually will. Still, like this roll of Scot Towels in our collection, which would have facilitated quick and easy cleanup of mid-20th-century messes, Scotty always comes through when the 23rd-century Enterprise is in need of a quick fix.  –Ellice Engdahl, Digital Collections and Content Manager

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Trade Card for "White Cloud," "Mechanic," "Coronet," and "Mikado" Soap, James S. Kirk & Co., circa 1885

James S. Kirk was born in Scotland (not Iowa, like Enterprise captain James T. Kirk) and established his soap company in Utica, New York. He relocated the business to Chicago in 1859 and, by 1900, had built it into one of the largest soap manufacturers in the world, producing 100 million pounds of the cleaner each year.  –Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation

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Tread Power, circa 1885

Gene Roddenberry (1921–1991) considered the United Space (or Star) Ship Enterprise as the main character of Star Trek. But why the name "enterprise"? In response to 1960s counterculture, veterans of World War II, including Roddenberry, did not want anyone to forget the need to ally against evil. The name "enterprise" conjured up associations with action that changed the course of human events. Decades before Star Trek, companies used the term to imply initiative and progress. The Enterprise Manufacturing Company produced an endless-belt tread power, on which a dog, goat, or sheep walked to generate power for myriad uses on family farms.  –Debra Reid, Curator of Agriculture and the Environment

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1896 Riker Electric Tricycle

Andrew L. Riker was a pioneer builder of both electric and gasoline-powered automobiles. He may not have served as first officer aboard a starship like Will Riker of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Andrew Riker did serve as first president of the Society of Automotive Engineers!  –Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation

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Steam Engine Lubricator, 1882

Star Trek's Leonard McCoy would remind you that he's a doctor, not a locomotive fireman. This steam engine lubricator was patented by African-American mechanical engineer Elijah McCoy, who may have had more in common with Bones' shipmate Scotty.  –Jim Orr, Image Services Specialist

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Trade Card for Excelsior Botanical Company, circa 1885

The Latin root, excello, meaning "to rise," inspired many companies with aspirations. Excelsior Botanical Company marketed cure-all preparations and "excelsior" became the synonym for packing material made from wood chips or pine needles. All of this happened more than a century before the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, in which Hikaru Sulu commanded the U.S.S. Excelsior starting in 2290.  –Debra Reid, Curator of Agriculture and the Environment

Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds

Though the various series and movies of Star Trek are set in the future, those crews and characters sometimes ended up crossing paths with historical figures familiar to those of us stuck here in the 21st century.  Image Services Specialist (and Trekkie) Jim Orr shares some objects from our collection that tie to those notables, and explains each Star Trek connection as we continue to celebrate our latest exhibit in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, "Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds."

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Life Mask of Abraham Lincoln by Clark Mills

In the 1966 Star Trek episode "The Savage Curtain," Captain Kirk and Commander Spock become unwilling participants in an alien experiment to determine which is stronger—good or evil.  Their allies included a doppelganger of Kirk's hero, President Abraham Lincoln.

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Relief Plaque of "The Last Supper"

In the 1969 Star Trek episode "Requiem for Methuselah," Kirk encounters an ancient, immortal being who claims to have been many notable figures from history, including Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci.  Another version of Leonardo da Vinci would appear in the 1997 Star Trek: Voyager episode "Concerning Flight," in which alien arms dealers steal the U.S.S. Voyager's holographic equipment.

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Bookplate of Jack London, circa 1905

In the 1992 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Time's Arrow," Lieutenant Commander Data finds himself stranded in the year 1893 after an encounter with time-traveling aliens.  There, he befriends hotel bellhop (and aspiring writer) Jack London.

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Portrait of Mark Twain, by Edoardo Gelli, 1904

While attempting to rescue a time-traveling Data from 1893 San Francisco in the 1992 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Time's Arrow," the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise accidentally returns with author Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain).

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Book, "Opticks: or a Treatise on Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light," by Sir Isaac Newton, 4th ed., 1730

Data played a hand of poker against holographic representations of "three of history's greatest minds" in the 1993 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Descent."  Sir Isaac Newton's works include Opticks: or a Treatise on Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light.

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Ford Motor Company Executive Ernest G. Liebold with Albert Einstein, 1941

Data's poker game with "three of history's greatest minds" also includes a holographic representation of Albert Einstein.  Ford Motor Company executive E.G. Liebold posed for this photograph with the real Albert Einstein in 1941.

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Amelia Earhart Speaking at the Elks Air Circus, July 11, 1929

Amelia Earhart's mysterious fate has figured into the plots of TV shows ranging from Night Gallery to The Love BoatStar Trek: Voyager featured Earhart in the 1995 episode "The 37's," explaining her 1937 disappearance as—what else—an alien abduction. (Thanks to Curator of Transportation and fellow Trekkie Matt Anderson for this contribution!)

Jim Orr is Image Services Specialist at The Henry Ford and has seen all 732 episodes (and counting) of every series of Star Trek.

Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds

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Lighting and Communications Exhibits at Henry Ford Museum, 1979. THF112161 

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Home Arts Exhibit at Henry Ford Museum, 1979. THF112157 

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Transportation Exhibit at Henry Ford Museum, 1979. THF112159 

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Inaugural Run of the Torch Lake Steam Locomotive and Passenger Train in Greenfield Village, August 9, 1972. THF133929 

With an unmatched treasury of America’s past already at their fingertips, the staff at Henry Ford Museum continued Henry Ford’s vision as they began to add to the collection.  

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1939 Douglas DC-3 after Move from Ford Proving Ground to Henry Ford Museum, June 2, 1975. THF124077
 

In 1974, North Central Airlines (known today as our partner Delta after a series of mergers) donated a 1939 DC-3 Douglas airplane that, at the time of its donation, had flown more than 85,000 hours, more than any other plane. In 1978, the Ford Motor Company donated the limousine President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy rode in when he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. The car, leased by the government from Ford Motor Company, was extensively rebuilt and then used by four presidents after Kennedy. The Ford Motor Company donation stipulated that the car could not be displayed until the Kennedy children reached adulthood. 

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Decorative Arts Gallery in the Henry Ford Museum Promenade, 1976. THF271166 

In the 1970s, museum staff began to place more emphasis on collection decorative and fine arts, such as furniture and paintings. The museum’s research library began to acquire engravings, rare books, and documents associated with the early history of the country, such as an original Paul Revere engraving of the Boston Massacre and a copy of the famous “Stamp Act,” published in London in 1761. In the early 1970s, the museum purchased an extraordinary collection of 19th century quilts made my Susan McCord, an Indiana farmwife.  

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Fire Damage, Henry Ford Museum, August 9, 1970. THF111720a 

As the museum staff worked to make significant improvements to the museum experience, they faced another challenge. In August 1970, as more than 1,000 visitors toured the exhibits, a fire broke out in the museum. It was one of the worst fires to ever hit an American museum, destroying hundreds of artifacts, including major portions of the textile collections. Though the museum reopened to the public in just two days, it was a full year before the building was completely repaired.  

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Torch Lake Locomotive at Main Street Station in Greenfield Village, July 1978. THF133933 

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Let Freedom Ring Parade, Greenfield Village, 1976. THF112250 

This decade witnessed a flurry of planning and construction, with a steady stream of improvements designed to broaden the appeal and educational impact of Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. (Attendance at historic sites was climbing during the early 1970s as the nation moved toward the bicentennial of its founding.) The expansion was intended to attract new audiences and set the institution on a path to self-sufficiency. In Greenfield Village, the most dramatic changes were the new railroad and period amusement park. The railroad line, completed in 1972, circled the village perimeter. Visitors rode in open cars, pulled by a steam locomotive. The train quickly became a visitor favorite.  

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Suwanee Park and Steamboat, Greenfield Village, 1975. THF95455 

Suwanee Park, located alongside the Suwanee Lagoon, opened in 1974 as a recreation of a turn-of-20th amusement park. The complex was designed to be a “focal point fun,” offering a “nostalgic look at how American amused themselves in bygone days.” The centerpiece of the new amusement park complex was a restored, fully operational, 1913 Herschell-Spillman Carousel. 

The village received an important new building in the 1970s, a mid-18th-century rural Connecticut saltbox house (now Daggett Farmhouse). In Henry Ford Museum, the vast Hall of Technology underwent a total redesign. New restaurants and gift shops further improved the visitor experience. In 1972, the museum opened its first professional conservation lab and staffed it with trained conservators. A year later, the Tannahill Research Center (now incorporated into the Benson Ford Research Center) opened and held the institution’s remarkable collection of historical manuscripts, books, periodicals, maps, prints, photographs, music, and graphic collections.  

Additions Made to the Collections: 1970s 

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“Brewster” Chair, 1969 
In 1970, the Museum purchased what was believed to be a rare and remarkable 17th century armchair. In 1977, a story broke about a woodworker who attempted to demonstrate his skill by making a similar chair that would fool the experts. Analysis proved the Museum's chair was the woodworker's modern fake. Today we use this chair as a teaching tool in understanding traditional craft techniques. - Charles Sable, Curator of Decorative Arts 

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Susan McCord Vine Quilt 
In 1970, a fire in Henry Ford Museum destroyed many objects on exhibit and in storage--including much of the quilt collection. Curators soon began to fill the void. An exceptional acquisition in 1972 brought ten quilts made by Indiana farmwife Susan McCord--an ordinary woman with an extraordinary sense of color and design. This distinctive vine pattern is a McCord original, made by sewing together fabric scraps to create over 300 leaves for each of the thirteen panels. McCord’s quilts remain among the most significant in the museum’s collection. - Jeanine Head Miller, Curator of Domestic Life 

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1961 Lincoln Continental Presidential Limousine 
For years, the White House leased Lincoln parade limousines from Ford Motor Company. When the leases ended, Ford Motor reclaimed the cars and generously gifted them to The Henry Ford. This arrangement enabled our unmatched collection of presidential vehicles. None is more significant than the 1961 Continental that carried President Kennedy through Dallas in November 1963. Following the assassination, the open car was rebuilt with a permanent roof, armor plating, and other protective features and put back into service. The Henry Ford acquired the limo in 1978 and first exhibited it -- alongside its 1939 and 1950 Lincoln predecessors -- in 1981. - Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation 

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Black & Decker Type AA Circular Saw, 1930-1931  
In the 1970s, curators worked to bring Henry Ford Museum’s considerable tool collection into the 20th century. As part of that effort, staff wrote to power tool manufacturer Black & Decker for information about its history and most important products. The company responded with a donation of five electric power tools, including this example of Black & Decker’s first portable circular saw. -Saige Jedele, Associate Curator, Digital Content 

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Self-Propelled Cotton Picker, 1950  
John Rust invented a wet-spindle system for mechanically picking cotton in 1928. By 1933 his machine picked five bales per day (2,500 lbs). Peter Cousins, Curator of Agriculture, wanted one of Rust’s machines, and Allan Jones agreed to donate his 1950 picker, named "Grandma," in 1975. Twenty years of life intervened before the picker arrived at The Henry Ford in January 1995. -Debra Reid, Curator of Agriculture and the Environment 

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When it came time to name a new model, or even a new company, automakers often found inspiration in the stars. Astronomical phenomena, planets, and whole galaxies have all found their way onto fender badges and hood ornaments. Here are just a few examples.

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Harry Grant #27 Sunbeam, Indianapolis Speedway, 1914. 2009.103.P.5027.5


Great Britain’s Sunbeam Motor Car Company traces its roots to a bicycle manufacturer founded in 1887. Sunbeam cars raced in Grand Prix events and competed for land speed records. Harry Grant finished seventh in a Sunbeam at the 1914 Indianapolis 500. The company closed during the Great Depression, but the Sunbeam name survived a while longer under new ownership.

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1923 Star Station Wagon. 83.16.1

After being driven out of General Motors for a second – and final – time, Billy Durant founded Durant Motors in 1921. He christened his low-priced model Star and set his sights on Ford’s Model T. While Star never seriously threatened the T, it did introduce the first factory-built station wagon.

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Moon Motometer, circa 1925. 81.99.94

Strictly speaking, the Moon Motor Car Company of St. Louis was named for its founder, Joseph W. Moon, but a crescent Moon logo turned up in its advertisements from time to time. The automaker remained in business from 1905 to 1930. Its name is proudly featured on this motometer – a device for measuring engine coolant temperature.

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1960 Ford Advertisement, “The Silver Curve of Success – Galaxie by Ford.” 87.14.14.19

When the Russians launched Sputnik – the first artificial Earth satellite – in 1957, it kicked off a “Space Race” between the Soviet Union and the United States. In turn, that competition inspired a series of space-inspired car names like Ford’s Galaxie. When introduced for 1959, Galaxie was the company’s top trim level for its full-sized models.

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Ford Starliner Nameplate, 1960-1961. 2011.316.1

For 1961, Ford introduced a fastback version of the Galaxie, appropriately named Starliner. Studebaker had previously used the Starliner name on a series of striking coupes designed by Robert E. Bourke of Raymond Loewy Associates and produced from 1952 to 1954.

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1961 Mercury Meteor Advertisement, “Priced to Compete with Low-Price Field!” 64.167.19.225

Mercury (itself a celestial name – though inspired by the Roman god and not the planet) introduced its Meteor model for 1961. Never a strong seller, Meteor was discontinued after the 1963 model year. The name enjoyed a longer life in Canada, where Ford used it to denote a distinct brand of cars – not just a model – from 1949 to 1976.

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Brochure, “Comet Performance for ’65” 2007.1.1930.25

Ford introduced the Comet – initially a distinct brand – for 1960 as an upscale version of the compact Falcon. For 1962, Comet became a Mercury model. In the mid-1960s, Comets were offered with special options packages tailored for NHRA drag racing.

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1966 Toyota Corona Sedan. 87.120.1

Corona – named for the plasma aura surrounding the Sun – was the perfect name for the first truly successful car imported to the United States from Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun. Unlike Toyota’s first attempt for the American market – the overpriced and underpowered Toyopet – the Corona did well with stateside buyers.

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Plymouth Satellite Custom Nameplate, 1968-1969. 2011.239.1

Like the Dodge Polara before it, the Plymouth Satellite brought cosmic lexicon to Chrysler’s product line when introduced for 1965. Satellite denoted the top trim level for Plymouth’s mid-sized Belvedere line until 1967, when the GTX designation superseded it. The Satellite name was phased out completely after 1974.

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Chevrolet Nova Dashboard Emblem, 1968-1972. 2011.291.3

To astronomers, nova refers to a star that shows a sudden, temporary increase in brightness. To gearheads, it’s a compact car built by Chevrolet from 1962 through 1979. Initially, Nova was merely the top trim-level designation while the model itself was called Chevy II. Nova replaced Chevy II as the model name in 1969.

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1990 Saturn Advertisement, “A Different Kind of Company. A Different Kind of Car.” 91.83.13

In 1985, General Motors launched a new automobile division intended to compete with Japanese imports. To GM executives, the ambitious project was akin to NASA’s venerable Apollo program, so they named their new division Saturn in homage to the Saturn V rockets that launched American astronauts toward the Moon. After some early success, GM dissolved Saturn in 2010.

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Subaru Sales Brochure, “The Beauty of All-Wheel Drive,” 1996. 2000.16.3

In the United States, stargazers refer to the Pleiades star cluster as the Seven Sisters, after the seven sisters of Pleiades in Greek mythology. In Japan, it’s called Subaru – namesake of the carmaker known for its boxer engines and rugged wagons. According to mythology, one of the seven sisters is invisible, so you’ll count just six stars in Subaru’s logo.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.