Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about The Henry Ford is that we are “a car museum.” Certainly, automobiles and related material form one of our core strengths, but our collections also cover the entire breadth of American history.  Our ongoing project to digitize our collection and make it available online really demonstrates both sides of this coin: our vast and deep collections covering autos and auto racing, and then the wide breadth of other material documenting the American experience.

In that vein, instead of doing a typical “year in review” post for our digitization efforts in 2014, I played around with our collections database and came up with some interesting facts and figures about the portions of our collection that we digitized over the last year.  I hope you’ll agree that the details below reveal the deep strengths of our collections, as well as their breadth—and that they encourage you to spend some time browsing our digital collections as well! Continue Reading

Racing In America

P.189.1570

The first season of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation continues to air Saturdays on CBS, with staff, buildings, and artifacts from The Henry Ford showcased in every episode. For each and every segment set on our campus, our staff are working hard behind the scenes to provide additional context about the artifacts and stories covered. For example, this week, we’ve just digitized a collection of artifacts related to an upcoming episode that will feature some of the locomotives within Henry Ford Museum. This photo of Henry Ford riding shotgun on a locomotive at the Rouge is a reminder how vital these massive machines were, both to the auto industry and to the American economy in general. Keep watching Innovation Nation to catch this episode—but in the meantime, visit our collections website to browse more artifacts related to locomotives, or dig deeper into topics covered previously on the TV show by visiting our episode pages, each featuring staff-curated links to more information and different perspectives.

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

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

THF111028

Many of us know that Noah Webster was the creator of An American Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1828. But did you know that Mr. Webster was a teacher as well, and the author of the American Spelling Book? The early version was first published in 1783 and our copy is a 1845 edition called the Elementary Spelling Book, being an improvement on the American Spelling Book.

During this time, the English language was changing fast, and many new words were being added that were uniquely American. Mr. Webster wanted to create a spelling book that could help people understand and spell words that were actively used by the American public. Always published with a blue cover, the “Blue Backed Speller,” as it came to be known, was popular across the nation. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

64.167.721.186

If you’ve ever pulled into the parking lot of Henry Ford Museum from Oakwood Boulevard and looked to your left, you might have wondered what the large building behind the museum is. It has had several names and purposes over the years, but originally housed a new Experimental Department of Ford Motor Company. Designed by Albert Kahn, this engineering building also contained personal offices for Henry and Edsel Ford and a dance hall for Henry’s old-time dances. We’ve just digitized about 100 images of the construction of the building in 1923–24, as well as some later work; this panoramic image shows the state of affairs early on in the construction process. To see more of the construction images and other artifacts relating to the building, visit our collections website.

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

dia-fresco

In 1932 and 1933, Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo lived in Detroit, while Rivera was painting the Detroit Industry frescos at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). The frescoes, commissioned by the city Arts Commission led by Edsel Ford, celebrate Detroit’s industrial manufacturing power. They lie at the heart of the DIA, and also at the heart of Detroit.

From March 15 to July 12, 2015, the DIA will display nearly 70 works of art in an exhibit called Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit. The Henry Ford is pleased to be collaborating with the DIA and other Detroit-area community organizations to provide additional context for the exhibit. Over upcoming months, we will be digitizing parts of our collection that directly relate to Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, their relationship with Edsel Ford and Ford Motor Company, and the creation of the frescos themselves.  Because of the close involvement of Edsel Ford and Ford Motor Company in the project, our archives contain documents, photographs, and correspondence related to these subjects.

We've created a special page on the blog to house the items from our collections that relate to the exhibit, It will grow and expand over the period of the exhibit, providing pointers to these collections, so visitors to the exhibit, as well as those who may not have a chance to attend, can dig deeper.

If you’d like to dig in and start exploring right away, we’d suggest a visit to our collections website, where we’ve started to digitize our collections related to Diego Rivera, including the photograph below of the Detroit Industry frescos in progress.

dia-diego

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

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit

lincoln

On this week’s episode of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation you’ll learn about Abraham Lincoln. Want to learn even more? Take a look below.

Look

Abraham Lincoln Flickr Set

Read

John and Barney Litogot: Henry Ford’s Uncles in the Civil War

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

Lithograph, "Mr. Lincoln, Residence and Horse As They Appeared On His Return from the Campaign with Senator Douglas," 1858. THF8178

It is fascinating to connect with objects that were a part of his Abraham Lincoln’s world. The Henry Ford owns a number of furnishings from Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, where they lived before Lincoln was elected president.

The Lincoln furniture from their Springfield home tells us about the tastes of the Lincolns in the decades before Lincoln’s election to the presidency in 1860.  Stylistically, the furniture represents the middle-class, early Victorian aesthetic of the 1840s and early 1850s.  The Lincolns selected sturdy and comfortable, yet stylish furnishings for their home. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

lincoln-chair

Abraham Lincoln as President

At the time of his assassination in April 1865, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was considered by a majority of northerners as a competent president. Yet, this was not always the case. Lincoln was elected president at a critical time when the nation was at a breaking point over issues of states’ rights and slavery. As a direct result of his election, eleven states left the Union before his inauguration in 1861, touching off the Civil War.

During much of his first term of office, Lincoln was viewed by many as lacking the skills necessary for the role of President of the United States. He was lampooned as unsophisticated and criticized for tolerating ineffective generals. Lincoln, however, was a skilled politician—wise, tenacious, and perceptive—and learned from his mistakes.

Abraham Lincoln was committed to preserving the Union. He believed that the United States was more than an ordinary nation—it was the testing ground for a unique form of democracy. Many, including Lincoln himself, described one of his greatest achievements as the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which shifted the goal of the war from a fight to preserve the Union to one of freeing the enslaved. With Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln’s vision of an indivisible Union—and a more perfect one—was fulfilled. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

15620458583_a79b707c56_b

From January 10 through March 15, we’re opening the hoods on more than 40 vehicles in Henry Ford Museum. Many will agree that the engine is the heart of an automobile – whether it’s the big V-8 in our 1956 Chrysler 300-B stock car, or the compact four-banger in our 1978 Dodge Omni. Over the next several weeks, I’ll use this space to share my thoughts on a selection of our exposed engines. Some are unconventional efforts, while others are mainstays produced by the millions. Each of them offers some special insight into more than 100 years of experimentation and improvement in how we power our cars.

First up - the 1907 White Model G.

whitemodelg-engine

whitemodelg

1907 White Model G

Inline 2-cylinder compound steam engine with condenser, 30 horsepower

The White’s steam engine was designed for efficiency. Steam first expanded in the smaller high-pressure cylinder at rear, then expanded again in the larger low-pressure cylinder at front. The condenser in front of the engine, resembling a radiator from an internal combustion car, captured exhausted steam and converted it back into water, to be used again. These devices gave the Model G a claimed range of 150 miles on a 17-gallon water tank.

Take a look at the opening of the White's hood over on Instagram.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Engines Exposed

An early daguerreotype image of Abraham Lincoln originally taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd in Springfield, Illinois in 1846-1847. Early 20th-century print from a 19th-century copy negative. ID.00.1334.112

Take a look at images from The Henry Ford’s wonderful, eclectic collection of Lincoln-related photographs.  These images span the years from Lincoln’s career as an Illinois legislator during the 1840s to his tragic death in 1865.

The original daguerreotype of this image of Abraham Lincoln was taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd in Springfield, Illinois, shortly after Lincoln’s election in 1846 to the U.S. House of Representatives.  It is believed by many to be the earliest known image of Lincoln, who was 37 or 38 years old when it was taken.  At this time, Lincoln was a husband and father of two small boys, had a successful law practice in Springfield, and had just become a junior member of Congress.

Daguerreotypes like this one are one-of-a-kind photographs made on silver-coated copper plates.  In order to make photographic prints, copy negatives had to be made from the original daguerreotypes.  This photographic print was made in the early 20th century from a 19th-century copy negative.  In 1902, Frederick Hill Meserve, an early collector of photography, found glass negatives from Mathew Brady’s Washington, D.C., studio in a Hoboken, New Jersey warehouse.  Meserve carefully preserved the negatives and made the later photographic prints of the earlier images--including this photographic print in our collection. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation