Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

The Dymaxion House inside Henry Ford Museum.

To some people it’s a giant Hershey’s Kiss, while others sense a kinship with the Airstream travel trailer—both, it should be noted, recognized as icons. Even the more general touchstones—retro-futuristic spacecraft themes seem to hold sway here—tie into something powerfully elemental. Either way, the Dymaxion house has over the last decade assumed an iconic presence in Henry Ford Museum, a presence that delights and provokes a wide range of visitors. Continue Reading

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The magnificent Great Hall, which welcomes visitors to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Maybe it creates a sense of legitimacy, maybe it’s a shrine to honor past heroes, or maybe it just provides a place for fans to congregate in the off-season. For whatever reason, every sport seeks to create its own Hall of Fame. Baseball devotees have Cooperstown, football followers have Canton, and, for NASCAR fans, there is Charlotte.

As Halls go, NASCAR’s is young. The building opened (and inducted its first honorees) in 2010 after a four-year site-selection and design process. While Daytona Beach and Atlanta were both considered, North Carolina – with its deep stock car racing roots and status as home to much of the present industry – was the clear favorite. I recently had a chance to visit the establishment. Continue Reading

Racing In America

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Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village is a time-honored tradition at The Henry Ford. But, this doesn’t mean we’re afraid of shaking things up a bit! Much in the spirit of the spooky holiday, our Productions team likes to trick guests and keep each year a surprise in and of itself. This year has been no different, and with just one weekend left to enjoy the sights and sounds of Halloween, guests have been, and will be this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in for a treat.

According to Senior Manager of Exhibitions & Program Production, Greg Harris, Hallowe’en is a staff favorite, so he’s constantly taking a look back and asking how they can upgrade and improve with each year.

This year that surprise has come in the form of a brand new route and some never-before-seen experiences. Continue Reading

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Many modern students and parents have been the proud recipients of notices or awards sent home from school recognizing any number of positive behaviors. However, this tradition is not new. We’ve just digitized about 60 examples of school rewards of merit, mainly dating from the late 18th through late 19th centuries, designed to be handed out by teachers to exemplary students. The colorful papers rewarded students for conduct such as academic achievement, good behavior, diligence in study, punctual attendance, correct deportment, and attentiveness.  You can imagine how excited young Jared Long must have been to have received two honors from the “Bank of Industry” in this example from 1853. Visit our collections website to browse the rest of the rewards.

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

“Mystically spooky.”

That’s how Jim Johnson described Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow.” The 1820s short story is the inspiration for the grand finale of sorts at Hallowe’en at Greenfield Village – where visitors cross the bridge and encounter the infamous Headless Horseman.

Irving’s story, Gothic literature, legends and other spooky tales are fundamental elements for much of the fun at Greenfield Village’s annual Halloween event.

“After the renovations to Greenfield Village, we decided to lift our Halloween event to a new level,” said Jim Johnson, who is senior manager of creative programs at The Henry Ford. “With the village as our backdrop, we wanted to find our own niche that had something for everyone and was family friendly.”

Just being in the village at night is a unique experience, and it provides the perfect setting for a Halloween event inspired by the past.

Graveyard at Greenfield Village

Jim said they looked at how the holiday evolved. “We found interesting things about how the celebration of Halloween changed over time,

“Customs started to take shape toward the at the end of the 19th century and almost click through a process that takes us to where we are today - where we decorate our homes and go house-to-house for trick or treating.”

Coming into the 20th century, Halloween wasn’t necessarily a kids’ holiday – other than they commonly pulled pranks like knocking over outhouses, putting wagons on rooftops, etc., Jim said. In order to curb the kids’ enthusiasm for a little mayhem, municipalities got into the action by planning themed parties and offering games and treats as a diversion from the destruction.

Halloween books at Greenfield Village

To meet the party trend, at the turn of the century and into the 1920s and 30s, there were a multitude of Halloween party guides and booklets published mostly by women, and candy and novelty companies.

Vintage Halloween party books

A popular inexpensive resource was Dennison’s Bogie Books. Dennison’s sold crepe paper used to decorate and make costumes. Jim Johnson keeps these reproductions on hand for reference and inspiration.

Frankenstein at Menlo ParkAdventure stories and Gothic literature were popular at that time and have sustained elevated interest at Halloween time. Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventures of buccaneers and buried gold in Treasure Island continues to inspire as seen in recent movie tales of tropical pirating. At Greenfield Village, pirates with sensibilities old and new populate the Suwanee Lagoon and walk among visitors, giving them a taste what it might be like conversing with an 1880s-style high seas treasure seeker.

With a nod to Gothic literature, Dr. Frankenstein has a perfect workspace - setting up shop in Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory.

Mary Shelley’s story of Frankenstein still holds the attention of audiences today, even though the book was first published in the early 1800s.

Another famous character from Gothic literature is making his debut at the village this year. A silent film based on Bram Stoker’s 1887 Dracula is shown near Sarah Jordan Boarding House.

Dracula

Visitors are captivated by the large projections of the 1922 vampire film Nosferatu (Dracula).

Works of the master of the macabre – Edgar Allen Poe – are highlighted in two prominent stops.

The ravens resting on the railing at Eagle Tavern are treated to the eerie tale twice: narrated once by a famous actor and once by a fictitious man. Visitors can hear the chilling story told by actor Christopher Walken and again by cartoon character Homer Simpson.

Tell-Tale Heart

Poe makes another appearance near Town Hall where actor Anthony Lucas provides a mesmerizingly haunting performance of the mad man at the center of the Tell-Tale Heart.

Hansel and Gretel

A first person account of the Brother’s Grimm tale of Hansel and Gretel (with a surprise twist) keeps audiences of all ages intrigued.

Red Riding Hood

Throughout the village – authentically or whimsically – many costume creations are inspired by characters from famous stories of old. Hunchbacks, witches, Little Red Riding Hood, mermaids, fortunetellers, strong men, Merlin the Magician... 

… and even a character from Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser.

Near the end of trick-or-treating through the village, visitors can take a seat and listen to the tale that sets the scene for the remainder of their journey – through the dark candle-lit tangles of the Mulberry Grove (not-too-hauntingly) transformed into Sleepy Hallow.

Sleepy Hollow

Actor Seth Amadei gives a riveting account of the series of events that led up to the mysterious disappearance of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hallow.

Scarecrow

Visitors just have to pass through the hallow and over the bridge …

Hallowe’en at Greenfield Village - inspired by old, new, mystical, whimsical and just the right amount of spooky.

Greenfield Village, Hallowe'en in Greenfield Village

Our violin collection

This week on “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation” you’ll learn about Henry Ford's impressive violin collection. Want to learn more about Henry's love of violins? Take a look below. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

Patricia Kane investigates a piece during her visit to The Henry Ford.

Just weeks before Henry Ford Academy students returned to their school inside Henry Ford Museum, one of their classrooms was transformed into a small furniture study gallery as The Henry Ford hosted visitors on a mission, hoping to bring clarity to a very important time in American furniture making.

Patricia Kane, the Friends of American Arts Curator of American Decorative Arts at Yale University Art Gallery, along with Marcia Brady Tucker Fellow, Jennifer Johnson, traveled to Michigan in August as part of an ongoing research project to identify pieces created by woodworkers from Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Furniture Archive seeks to document all furniture made in that small state from its beginnings into the early 19th century. To collectors and appreciators of 18th century furniture, the most important town in 18th century Rhode Island was Newport.  There, the craftsmen of the intermarried Goddard and Townsend families created furniture with a unique look and construction. Their work is not only sought after but tells us a lot about that fashionable Rhode Island town during the 18th century. Indeed, their distinctive style was emulated by craftsmen not only in Rhode Island, but also in neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut.  Continue Reading

"Today" show commentator Dick McCutcheon and museum curator, H. S. Ablewhite, discuss Henry Ford's race car "999," while Ken Schwartz waits patiently in the driver's seat. (THF116080)

As most of you who follow The Henry Ford know, television crews have begun filming the Saturday morning educational show, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation. Some visitors also may have actually seen the production crews in Henry Ford Museum or Greenfield Village several weeks ago as they shot footage for upcoming episodes. This has not been the first time The Henry Ford has played host to national television aspirations. Nearly 60 years ago in 1955, television crews invaded our campus on three separate occasions to broadcast live remotes. And like today The Henry Ford staff was there to help things run smoothly. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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October may seem a bit soon to be thinking about Christmas, but if you’ve ever visited Holiday Nights, you know The Henry Ford starts thinking about the holiday season early.  Curator of Photographs and Prints Cynthia Miller got into the spirit earlier this fall by selecting some of our Thomas Nast material for digitization. Thomas Nast (1840–1902) was an editorial cartoonist who is well known for his work for Harper’s Weekly and for creating the modern image of Santa Claus.  We’ve just digitized Cynthia’s selections, including this etching of Santa visiting a Union camp during the Civil War.  Visit our collections website to view all our digitized Thomas Nast material, including additional Christmas images along with some depicting Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, and no holiday at all.

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

Wright Airplane in Flight during Demonstration Flight by Wilbur Wright, Le Mans, France, August 1908. (Object ID: 2000.53.129)

This week on “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation” you’ll learn about the Wright Brothers. Want to learn more? Take a look below.

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  • Smithsonian 3D Wright Flyer
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    Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

    The Henry Ford's Innovation Nationi