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.
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.
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.
For many of us, the music of our youth holds special meaning. It was no different for successful industrialist Henry Ford (1863-1947).
Country fiddlers had provided the lively music for the rural dances of Henry Ford’s youth during the 1870s and 1880s. Ford loved the sound of a violin, even purchasing an inexpensive fiddle as a young man and teaching himself to play a bit.
In the mid-1920s, Ford—then in his early sixties—sought out this beloved instrument that had provided the “sound track” for Ford’s young adulthood in rural Michigan.
One day last fall, I encountered—by pure chance and good timing—a collection of early 20th century tattooing materials credited to “Professor Percy Waters” in the Benson Ford Research Center. The box had yet to be re-shelved, left over from a visiting school group earlier in the day. I was lucky to overhear my colleagues talking about the “tattoo collection,” and when they showed it to me, I was drawn to the contents like a moth to a flame. I had a hard time containing my excitement, showing the staff how some of my own traditional tattoos compared with the “flash” designs the box contained. This collection had an effect on me—a sort of giddy feeling of recognition—like I’d just been reunited with an old friend.
Last year, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded a two-year “Museums for America” grant to The Henry Ford to conserve, catalog, photograph, and rehouse some of our communications collections. We are nearing the halfway point of the grant, and have digitized more than 400 grant objects so far. Many items we’ve uncovered through this project have been one of a kind prototypes and innovations, but many others, like the pink Princess phone digitized this week, are mass market phenomena. Browse our collections website for radio receivers, computers and peripherals, loudspeakers, vacuum tubes, and calculators, many of which were digitized through this grant. You can also learn more about the grant and see some of the behind-the-scenes work it entails over on our blog, or peruse some of Curator of Communication and Information Technology Kristen Gallerneaux’s favorites here.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
Marion Served as Manager of The Henry Ford's First Educational Television Department
In the early days of television, we became a pioneer in producing TV shows for use in the classroom. It was a way to spark students' interest in the past, assist American history teachers, and fulfill our museum's educational mission. The first show, "Window to the Past" was broadcast by WTVS-Detroit television station beginning in the fall of 1955. A weekly 15-minute program shown live in the afternoon on television sets in Detroit Public School classrooms, it was also captured on kinescope film and made available to schools nationally. The museum's manager of educational television, Marion Corwell in a brochure described the programs as "designed to bring living American history into your classroom." She planned the programs based on objects in the museum and village chosen for their important historical themes. She then wrote the scripts, produced the program and performed as the on-air "storyteller" for the televised show. By 1956 she also co-produced and hosted a 30-minute program designed for an adult audience and broadcast by WSPD-Toledo, "Yesterday Lives Today".
Following the final "Window to the Past" show in 1959 Marion Corwell developed several new television programs, including a quiz show, "You Name It". She moderated this program which she described on-air as "a completely unrehearsed, unrigged quiz game built around objects of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village which have played an important part in the development of our country." It featured two teams of 5th through 8th grade girls versus boys, competing to name the objects one at a time by asking questions that helped them come up with the correct name. Can you guess what the object is in the photo shown above?
The calendar tells me that summer ended on September 23 this year. I know better. It really ended with the conclusion of our September 6-7 Old Car Festival, the traditional finish to The Henry Ford’s busy summer event season. But now that it’s fall by anyone’s measure, it seems like a good time to look back on this year’s show.
Approximately 900 cars, trucks and bicycles, none newer than 1932, turned Greenfield Village into a veritable motor museum – and one where most of the vehicles operated, at that! Steam and electric vehicles -- along with a few obscure marques -- offered variety, while the mass of Model Ts and Model As reminded us of how popular those Fords were in their time.