From its length, one might expect more than 8 cylinders under the Bugatti’s hood. But each of those cylinders displaces more than the whole of a Volkswagen Beetle’s power plant. Four air cleaners stand over the engine, fitted to the four carburetors installed by Charles Chayne after World War II. Two spark plugs protrude from each cylinder. The steering box sits just behind the right fender, in keeping with the car’s right-hand drive layout.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
Visitors to The Henry Ford often marvel at the number and variety of historical objects found here. Often, so does the staff. As a presenter in Greenfield Village, I have been surrounded by these rich collections--many of the objects having been gathered during the 1920s and 1930s, when Henry Ford was avidly collecting for his museum. An internship opportunity over the winter has given me a chance to further explore how a number of these objects—musical instruments--came to be part of The Henry Ford’s collections. As a violinist, the topic of music was a perfect match for me.
Christina Linsenmeyer, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of The Arts, Helsinki, is editing a book entitled, Themes and Trends of the Musical Instrument Collecting Boom, 1860-1940. As an avid collector of musical instruments during the early decades of the 20th century, Henry Ford is a perfect fit. Jeanine Head Miller, The Henry Ford’s curator of domestic life, and Robert E. Eliason, curator of musical instruments at The Henry Ford during the 1970s and 1980s, will be co-authoring a chapter of the book discussing Henry Ford’s musical instrument collecting.
Henry Ford grew up dancing to the lively music of country fiddlers—and even learned to play the fiddle a bit himself. Ford’s interest in traditional American music and in musical instruments, then, was personal one. Ford’s efforts built an impressive collection—instruments which tell the story of music made by town bands, fiddlers at country dances, wealthy people in music rooms, and everyday Americans who purchased mass-produced instruments from local stores or mail-order catalogs.
Housed at The Henry Ford amidst many large and significant acquisitions is a small collection of quirky and one-of-a-kind items. Located mostly in storage, this group of artifacts is unofficially known as the Henry Ford Tributes. The objects range in size, materials and creation methods, but all have one thing in common – they were gifts given as tokens of gratitude and appreciation to a single man whose innovative ideas changed the lives of so many. Corporations, farm wives, Ford dealers, immigrants and civic institutions were all contributors to this eclectic group of gifts and commendations.
This collection has never been considered for a museum exhibit, but thanks to The Henry Ford’s digitization initiative, we were given the opportunity to highlight just a few in this unusual collection. For members of the Historical Resources team, this was a long-sought-after opportunity; many of us have our ‘favorites’, and as the project began in earnest, the suggestions came in at a rapid rate. It was hard to keep the online exhibit to just 76 objects!
Henry Ford is sometimes referred to as a “folk hero”: he was such a prominent figure in public life during his day, and had such a significant impact on the entire world, that many people felt compelled to send him gifts to show their appreciation. Some of these are machine-made items, but many were laboriously hand-created. We’ve just digitized some staff favorite tributes to Henry from our collection, including this 1935 diorama created in a gallon jug and featuring Henry Ford, Ford V-8 automobiles, young women, flags, flowers, and cotton chicks. Check our blog later this week for a post from Collections Specialist Patrice Fisher highlighting more of these honorifics, or if you can’t wait, you can check out sets on our collections website related to love of Ford automobiles, likenesses of Henry Ford, and awards and trophies—or view all 70+ items.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
Mechanical simplicity was one of the secrets behind the Model T’s success. The engine has no fuel pump, relying on gravity to feed the carburetor. There is no water pump either, as a thermosyphon effect was used to circulate cooling water. The cylinder head removes in one piece for easier servicing. Electric start was first available in 1919. The electrical system’s generator is just visible at the front of the engine.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
When I joined the staff of The Henry Ford, if someone had offered me a glimpse into the future—a bird’s eye view of the events that one short year would bring—it would have taken some time for me to suspend my disbelief. I would have been skeptical if anyone told me I’d play a part in bidding on and acquiring a rare, key, artifact in the history of computing. And if someone told me that this auction would break world records? This is information that I’m still trying to reconcile. Nothing could have prepared me for the anticipation I felt while sitting next to Marilyn Zoidis, former Director of Historical Resources, at Bonhams auctions in just a few short weeks ago. I’ll always remember the excitement in the room as we waited for Lot 285 to end—and for Lot 286 to arrive: the 1976 Apple 1 Computer.
On Wednesday, October 22, 2014 The Henry Ford achieved a major acquisition goal. Perhaps you’ve noticed the recent flurry of press: “The Henry Ford Acquires a 1976 Apple-1 Computer at Bonhams History of Science Auction.” Variations on this headline reveal a record-breaking bid amount of $905,000 – but they also hint at the importance, rarity, originality and provenance of this incredible piece of computing history. At the time of this writing, over 1200 news mentions of the Apple 1 have appeared in print, television, radio, and social media outlets.
How does a curator of communication and information technology who doesn’t drive experience her first North American International Auto Show? First, I took advantage of the convenient shuttle bus running into downtown Detroit from Dearborn. And when I arrived for press day at Cobo Hall, catching up with my colleagues after weaving through the maze of exhibits and crowds, they said I arrived looking a little… shell-shocked. My apparently palpable sense of wonder wasn’t directed towards the cars or the crowds, however—I was in awe with the technological cocoons in which they were displayed, and the surreal screen-world that I had stepped into.
Enormous and pristinely crisp LCD screens provided backdrops for automobiles. Touchscreen kiosks were everywhere. Each company seemed to be offering its own branded wireless hotspot. The usual standby of the printed brochure with specs had been replaced by download hubs for smartphone apps and kiosks to email yourself information from. The crowds of press were using cameras to share content through traditional broadcast and social media sites alike. Also, drones were buzzing around overhead at the Ford exhibit, tracking and delivering small models of the Raptor pickup truck to attendees who texted a special code. As the day went on, I kept thinking: what would a guest from 1907 (the year the Detroit Auto Show was founded) think of this spectacle?
Events & Exhibits
Midwest Premiere Exhibition. Thousands of characters. Hundreds of creators. One experience beyond imagination.
Special Exhibits at The Henry Ford
Take a look at some of our resource roundups for past exhibits and special events at The Henry Ford: