As a homeschooling teacher of 11 years and a middle school teacher before that, it has been clear to me for sometime that children learn not nearly as much from textbooks and tests as they do from reading, writing, seeing, and doing. And so, when I saw that The Henry Ford was putting on a writing contest, I knew that this was a great opportunity for learning--to learn about innovative Americans who began as just shop keepers and, through perseverance, became the first in flight.
John Burroughs (1837–1921) was an American naturalist who wrote frequently and with a literary sensibility on nature and the environment. He joined the Vagabonds, and as a result took a number of camping trips with Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone. Henry Ford also provided his friend Burroughs with multiple Ford vehicles, including a Model T touring car, to assist him in his nature studies. We’re currently digitizing selections from our collections related to Burroughs, such as this photograph of a sculpture of Burroughs created by C.S. Pietro. You can see Pietro working on what appears to be the same sculpture in another photograph. Thus far, we’ve digitized over 250 photographs, letters, writings, and postcards documenting Burroughs’ life, including his travels, famous friends, and retreats—browse them all on our collections website.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections and Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
Barns are one of the best ways to tell where you are when you are traveling—especially if you happened to be traveling through the United States 150 years ago.
Barns are generally the largest man-made feature of the rural landscape. They can tell you a lot about the type of farming that is going on, as well as the cultural background of the family that built them. Unlike houses or commercial buildings, barns generally lack stylistic adornment. Since building a barn was often a community undertaking, the general form and the details of barn construction often changed slowly—barn-builders were limited to construction techniques that everyone in the community knew how to do. As a result, until the late 1800s, barns tended to differ more from place-to-place, than they did over time.
The barn at the Firestone Farm tells us that the Firestone family was of German ancestry, that people from the Germanic sections of Pennsylvania settled the community where the family lived in Ohio, and that their farm was the typical mix of livestock and grain crops found in the northeast and upper Midwestern United States.
What physical clues tell us this?
The Firestone barn is of a type known as a Pennsylvania-German bank barn, or “Sweitzer” barn, one of the primary barn types found in the United States before 1880. Bank barns are large, multi-purpose structures that combined several farm functions under a single roof. Two-story and rectangular in form, they have a gable roof with a ridgeline running the length of the building. They are called bank barns because one side of the barn is built into the bank of a hill, allowing wagons to be driven into the upper floor of the barn. The opposite side of the barn has an overhang, known as a projecting forebay. Livestock were kept in the lower story of the barn.
As Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford, one thing that I find particularly fascinating is how our collections intersect with those of other cultural institutions. Sometimes these connections pop up unexpectedly.
Recently, I was searching in our collections database for items related to Mexican artist Diego Rivera. This 1930s image of Ford Motor Company employees collecting their wages from a payroll truck, pictured above, was one of the items I got back in my search.
We’re back from another great Car Week on California’s Monterey Peninsula. For those who don’t know, Monterey Car Week is arguably the world’s premier event for historic automobiles. Car owners and enthusiasts come in from around the globe for six days of driving tours, auto art shows, car auctions and races, all culminating with the incomparable Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on the shore of Carmel Bay. This year being the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, The Henry Ford’s one-of-a-kind 1962 Mustang I concept car was invited to participate in three of Monterey Car Week’s signature events.
Jenny Young Chandler (1865–1922) was a 25-year-old widow in 1890, when she began to support herself and her infant son by working as a photojournalist for the New York Herald. Her images were captured on glass plate negatives via a heavy camera, and intimately depict everyday life on the streets of Brooklyn, New York. We’ve just digitized over 200 images from the collection, including this one of marionette-makers at work. Other noteworthy subjects for Chandler include children at play and work, ethnic minorities (such as gypsies), and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (which still exists today, though undoubtedly in much different form). See all the Chandler images digitized thus far on our collections website, and check back in as we add more over upcoming months.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford
We are continuing on our summer project with intern Molly Malcolm to digitize photographs and other materials related to the structures in Greenfield Village. Over the last few weeks, it’s been the turn of Farris Windmill, originally constructed in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the mid-seventeenth century. This photograph, which appears to capture a newspaper clipping, shows that not every community wanted Henry Ford to purchase and relocate their architectural treasures to Dearborn. On a cheerier note, you can also review close to 100 images showing crowds of Ford dealers at the dedication of the windmill in the Village, and some surprisingly atmospheric shots of the windmill in its earlier locations. Visit our collections website to see all items in our digital collections related to Farris Windmill.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
In the classic baseball movie, The Natural, one of Roy Hobbs’ (played by Robert Redford) most memorable lines comes as he is sitting in a hospital bed, realizing that his final game is just days away.
“God, I love baseball,” Hobbs declares softly with a tilt of his head and a sincere look in his eyes that tells you how much he really means it. Watching that scene, you know Hobbs doesn’t care about the money that can be made playing baseball. He only cares about the pure joy of playing.
Well, Roy Hobbs would certainly fit right in with those who play Historic Base Ball at Greenfield Village.
Many people are familiar with the numerous literary connections at Greenfield Village: poet Robert Frost, lexicographer Noah Webster, and textbook author William Holmes McGuffey. But a little known literary relationship is that between Sir John Bennett, a clock and watchmaker and jeweler--whose storefront was moved from London, England to Greenfield Village in 1931--and one of his most prestigious customers, author Charles Dickens.