Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

 

Maybe it was the 16°F temperature outside, but I loved this Kia A1A Optima concept roadster – named for the Florida highway running south to Key West.

 

It's that time of year again when the eyes of the automotive world turn to Detroit. The North American International Auto Show attracts automakers, suppliers, press and enthusiasts from around the globe to the Motor City to revel in the industry's latest technologies and trends.

 

Our 1967 Mark IV helps Ford celebrate its return to Le Mans later this year.

 

If you're a racing fan, the fun starts the moment you enter Cobo Center's lobby. Ford Performance has set up shop with four significant Blue Oval racers. The headliner is the new GT that will return Ford to Le Mans in June, in celebration of its historic 1-2-3 finish over Ferrari 50 years ago. But visitors will also enjoy the 2017 NASCAR Fusion, the first-built 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350, and - my unabashed favorite - the 1967 Mark IV that Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt drove to an all-American victory at that year's Le Mans 24-Hour. (The latter, of course, is a part of The Henry Ford's collection.) Once you get inside the exhibition hall proper, don't miss Juan Pablo Montoya's winning car from the 2015 Indianapolis 500, displayed prominently with the Borg-Warner Trophy. Continue Reading

turbine-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.

turbine-car

Engines Exposed: 1963 Chrysler Turbine

Regenerative gas turbine engine, 130 horsepower

Chrysler’s experimental turbine engine had 80 percent fewer moving parts than a piston engine, producing a very smooth ride. Regenerative turbines used gasses twice – once to drive the car and again to heat new air drawn into the system. Fuel flexibility was terrific (it ran on anything from gasoline to peanut oil) but fuel mileage (around 11.5 m.p.g.) wasn’t so hot.

engines

mercury-cougar

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.

mercury-cougar-2

Engines Exposed: 1968 Mercury Cougar

V-8 cylinder engine, overhead valves, 390 cubic inches displacement, 335 horsepower

Unlike other pony cars, the upscale Cougar didn’t bother with 6-bangers. V-8 was the only available engine layout. This XR7-G model is equipped with Mercury’s 390-4V engine. The “V” is for Venturi, meaning that there’s a four-barrel carburetor under that air cleaner. And the “G” in the model name? That’s for Dan Gurney, who raced Cougars in Trans Am competition.

EI.1929.2383

Henry Ford collected many highly significant buildings for the historical and educational institution that would become Greenfield Village—Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Lab, the Wright Brothers’ Cycle Shop, and Luther Burbank’s Garden Office among them.  However, some of the buildings destined for the Village had a very personal connection to Henry Ford’s own history.  One such building is the Chapman Family Home, where John B. Chapman and his wife Susie lived during the 1870s.  Chapman was a teacher first at the Scotch Settlement School and then at Miller School—and at both schools was a favorite of one of his young pupils, Henry Ford.  We’ve just digitized a few photographs related to the home and to the teacher, including this portrait of Chapman himself.  Visit our digital collections to see more images of the Chapman home and the family and learn about the teacher who inspired Henry Ford.

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

digital collections

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