Earlier this month, we at The Henry Ford were excited to participate in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas, held in Detroit’s Cobo Center from April 9-12. More than 1,000 high school and college students, representing the United States, Canada, Brazil and Guatemala, competed to determine which of their 113 teams produced the car capable of the best fuel mileage.
Shell, the global energy company, sponsored fuel-mileage competitions as early as 1939, but more recently the Eco-marathon has evolved into three events held annually in Europe, Asia and the Americas. This year marks the first time that the Americas competition took place in the Motor City. Teams may enter cars in one of two classes. Prototype cars strive for maximum fuel efficiency with exotic materials and designs. Urban Concept cars resemble street vehicles complete with lights, signals and working horns. Teams using internal combustion engines may power their vehicles with gasoline, diesel, natural gas or ethanol. Those using electricity can choose between lithium-based batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. Whatever the fuel, the goal is the same: squeeze as much distance out of it as possible.
"Adequacy is sufficient: everything else is irrelevant."
Adam Osborne, founder of the quintessential boom-and-bust Silicon Valley tech company, built the first portable computer in 1981. The Henry Ford holds examples of the few products the ill-starred Osborne Computer Corporation ever developed. What can Osborne’s innovative products and boom-and-bust company history tell us about computing and the high-tech economy?
What's new on The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation this weekend? Host Mo Rocca shows us the hardware store robot; the incredible patent models from Thomas Edison that show us the beginning of our electronic world; how the USG Corp. is leading the way with grooming the next generation of engineers and mathematicians; the Israeli inventors of a printer that fits in your pocket. Learn more here and see a sneak peek below.
Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.
The broad iconic power of steam engines is maintained by the continued appeal of steam locomotives—an appeal kept fresh no doubt by Thomas the Tank Engine or the Hogwarts Express of the Harry Potter series. The visual impact of the earliest stationary steam engines, while less defined in the popular imagination, is undeniable when encountered in person: early beam engines exert a powerful presence, whether through their immense scale, exposed mechanical elements, or general complexity. And there is often a note of recognition—they are often identified by visitors as distant relatives of the familiar bobbing pumps found in oilfields.
The Henry Ford has an active program through which we loan artifacts from our collection, particularly those that we are not actively displaying, to other museums and institutions. We currently have more than 200 objects out on loan, and we digitize each object before it leaves our campus. This week, we’ve digitized a couple of renderings of the Lincoln Futura, including this one. These drawings will be included in a short exhibition at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich., along with an already-digitized scale model of the Futura from our collections, beginning in mid-April. If you’re in the metro Detroit area, be sure to check out these artifacts at Lawrence Tech, and if you’re not, keep an eye on our collections website to see what other treasures from Henry’s attic are going on loan.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
Before the Age of Steam, American farmers hand-threshed wheat or oats with a flail. Threshing machines powered by horses or portable steam engines increased daily production of threshing by a hundred times.
In the 1800s, the large number of horses required for farming consumed a lot of grain. Starting in the 1860s, farmers began threshing grain to feed those horses with a cousin of the "iron horse" - a steam traction engine like the Port Huron Thresher shown above.
As a Michigan farm boy, Henry Ford recorded his first sight of a traction engine: "I remember that engine as though I had seen it only yesterday, for it was the first vehicle other than horse drawn that I had ever seen. It was intended to drive threshing machines and power sawmills and was simply a portable engine and a boiler mounted on wheels." The steam traction engine inspired Ford to design and manufacture automobiles. To other rural people it represented a grand transition in American agriculture, and a new community activity.
Many people know that The Henry Ford has in its collection the rocking chair in which President Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated. This chair is currently on display in Henry Ford Museum.
But our Lincoln-related collections encompass much more than this rocker. They include materials that relate to such topics as his two presidential campaigns, life before his Presidency, his efforts to preserve the Union during the Civil War, his assassination, the public mourning after his death, and the ways in which he has been remembered over time.
The 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination gave us the unique opportunity to assess, study and organize these collections into digital galleries we call “Expert Sets.” Links to these are included below, along with links to five essays written by curators that delve more deeply into some of these topics.
Over the last couple of months, we’ve digitized a couple of groupings from the John Margolies Roadside America collection: slides and travel-related pennants, both documenting the strange and interesting sights one would have found along the American roadside in the mid-20th century. This week we’ve added one more category from the same collection: do-not-disturb signs from hotels and motels, collected by John Margolies and mostly dating between 1920 and 1970. The example shown here, likely from the late 1930s or 1940s, advises hotel staff to “go ‘way and let me sleep.” Selections from this collection will be featured in the upcoming Margolies exhibit in the Henry Ford Museum a bit later this year. In the meantime, visit our collections website to browse additional “do not disturb” signs.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
It was time once again for four days of education and fellowship as the National Association of Automobile Museums (NAAM) convened for its annual conference from March 17-20. Our host this year was the wonderful National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio, some 50 miles southeast of Cleveland. Approximately 65 volunteers, administrators, curators and board members, representing institutions from Maine to California, gathered to discuss the state of the automobile museum world.
Session topics covered most aspects of museum management. There were presentations on grant research and writing, exhibit planning, marketing and merchandising, and non-profit tax codes. Few talks could match the session on disaster planning for pure drama, though. Wendell Strode, Executive Director of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, updated us on his institution's infamous sinkhole disaster of February 2014. Though five vintage Corvettes were damaged beyond repair, the museum was featured in more than 2,000 media outlets around the world, and visitation jumped astronomically due to the coverage. I continue to be impressed by the speed and style with which Wendell and his staff responded to the crisis.