Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Objects pulled from just two shelves.

The Henry Ford is busy with many projects right now, including an ongoing two-year grant awarded to us by The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to digitize and rehouse our communication collections - things like TVs, radios, phonographs, computers and typewriters. We have about 1,000 artifacts to process. With a project of this size, it’s important for the many people contributing to this project to coordinate and organize each step to make sure every artifact is processed correctly. Here is an overview of the steps that we are using:

Discovery: The artifacts are currently stored in our Collections Storage Building, so the team must first pull all the objects off of shelves systematically. Once that is done, our Curator of Communication and Information Technology, Kristen Gallerneaux, determines which objects are considered part of the grant using our proposal for reference. Continue Reading

Campaign Lantern for Democrat George McClellan running against Republican Abraham Lincoln, 1864. (Object ID: 72.31.53)

The Henry Ford holds an extensive collection of late 19th century political campaign lanterns, dating from the 1860 to 1900.  These paper, accordion-folded lanterns usually held candles and were used in processions and rallies in support of the candidates. They are screen printed in patriotic colors - some contain images of the candidates and/or slogans.  In an age before television and radio, processions were a method of attracting attention for a political race.  As paper objects these are truly ephemeral objects.  Their survival for more than 100 years is remarkable.   Continue Reading

Thomas Edison Perfecting His Wax Cylnder Phonograph, 1888 (Object ID: P.B.34600).

All eyes have been on Menlo Park in Greenfield Village recently, both here at The Henry Ford and across the nation. Menlo Park kicks off the first episode of our new television series, “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation” on September 27 as Mo Rocca tours the building to learn more about Thomas Edison and the work he researched in that very space. This weekend members of the American Chemical Society (ACS) will be joining staff from The Henry Ford to bestow a special honor upon the building: National Historic Chemical Landmark. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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Lillian Boyer (1901–89) was a young waitress in 1921 when two customers took her for a ride in their airplane.  The same week, she took another ride and climbed out of the cockpit onto the wing, thus beginning a career as an aerial exhibitionist.  In her eight-year career, she was featured in 352 shows throughout the United States and Canada, performing stunts including wing walking, parachuting, and transferring herself from moving automobiles to flying planes.  We’ve just added a selection of photos of Boyer to our collections website, including this one-handed hang from around 1922.  View more death-defying photos of Lillian Boyer by visiting our collections website.

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

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Though Molly Malcolm’s summer internship with the Historical Resources department at The Henry Ford has sadly ended, we are continuing with the project she initiated and digitizing materials related to some of our historic buildings.  This week, we’ve digitized over 80 photographs of Daggett Farmhouse on its earlier sites.  Daggett wasn’t moved to Greenfield Village until 1977—so this photo depicts a television and mid-century furnishings from the house’s stay in Union, Connecticut, from 1951 through 1977.  Visit our collections website to view all the recently added material related to Daggett Farmhouse, and keep an eye out for additional photos to be added soon.

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

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Back in June, we announced the digitization of selections from our collection of slot cars, model race cars most popular in the 1960s and 1970s.  Recently, we’ve been digitizing a collection acquired last year of spindizzies, an earlier type of model race car.  Spindizzies were popular in the 1930s and 1940s, incorporating model airplane engines powered by gasoline, and were either raced together on grooved tracks or tethered to a pole and run singly on circular tracks.  Our new collection, donated by Eric Zausner and the E-Z Spindizzy Foundation, includes cars, tools, and accessories.  You can now view a number of these, including this 1939 “Silver Streak” model, on our collections website.  Check out all the cars and accessories we’ve digitized from this collection so far, and keep watching as we add more over coming months.

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

Racing In America

Clara Ford took her model of a roadside market to major garden and flower events across the country. Here she poses with it at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City (THF117982).

Buying fresh produce direct from local farmers is a key to our efforts today to “eat local.” Nearly 90 years ago, Clara Ford was advocating the same thing, to improve on diets that were undermined by too much processed food and--more importantly to her--to improve the situations of rural farm women. Continue Reading

A Gothic Novelty

September 5, 2014 Archive Insight

Steam engine with Gothic ornamentation by Novelty Works of New York, New York manufactured about 1855. (Object ID: 30.489.1).

The great Novelty Works steam engine in the Henry Ford Museum is arguably the finest surviving example of mid-19th century ornamented American machinery. Built in about 1855, the 30 foot tall, 50 ton gothic-style engine is a true visual emblem of the collision between traditional society and the modern industrial world taking place in this country just prior to the Civil War. Victorian engineers oftentimes covered their creations with ornament in a vain effort to harmonize these alien objects with the world about them. In the process, they unconsciously left a record of their own inner struggle to adapt to a new and alien world. Continue Reading

Henry Ford and Edsel Ford Introducing the 1928 Ford Model A at the Ford Industrial Exposition in New York City (Object ID: P.O.4083).

It’s that time of year again, and Old Car Festival inside The Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village is the place to see Ford Model As. The beloved automobile will make up almost a quarter of the sweet rides on display this year. But wait, Old Car Festival covers 42 years of vehicles, 1890-1932, so why are there so many from the four years the Model A was produced? After some research and talking with our Curator of Transportation Matt Anderson, here’s why. Continue Reading

Old Car Festival

Henry Ford and Thomas Edison at Dedication of Menlo Park Glass House in Greenfield Village, 1929.

Later this month the first episode of our new television series, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation, will debut on CBS as part of the Saturday morning Dream Team programming block. Members and visitors to The Henry Ford will recognize a familiar building in the first episode: Thomas Edison's Menlo Park Laboratory.

We've collected a handful of our digital resources for you to immerse yourself in. Make sure to check the blog every week this fall for more episode resource posts.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation