Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

mustang

The 1965 Ford Mustang, the right car at the right time. (Object ID: 66.47.1)
 

Fifty years on, it’s almost impossible to imagine the American road without the Mustang. What would actor Steve McQueen have raced through the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt? What would singer Wilson Pickett have regretted buying for “Mustang Sally?” What would the 11,000 members of the Mustang Club of America celebrate? The Mustang is more than a car. It’s an icon, an image and a lifestyle.

Of course, none of this was predicted when Henry Ford II unveiled the Mustang at Ford Motor Company’s pavilion at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964. Ford was taking a chance with an unprecedented concept pitched at an untested market. How and why the company took that gamble is a fascinating story of vision, determination and luck. Continue Reading

Racing In America

margolies-sign

John Margolies has spent decades traveling the roads of America and photographing roadside attractions, restaurants, shops, and motels. Many of them are in varying states of abandonment and decline, but harken back to the excitement of 20th century road trips and the unique commercial designs they spawned. The Henry Ford recently acquired about 1,500 slides by John Margolies, and is digitizing selections by Chief Curator and Curator of Industry & Design Marc Greuther, including this drive-in cleaners’ sign photographed in 1987 in Oregon. View more selections from the Margolies collection on our collections website.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections Initiative Manager at The Henry Ford.

continental

Visitors to Henry Ford Museum will see a new vehicle in Driving America. Edsel Ford’s 1941 Lincoln Continental convertible is now in the exhibit’s “Design” section, located just behind Lamy’s Diner. The original Lincoln Continental, built between 1939 and 1948, is regarded as one of the most beautiful automobiles ever to come out of Detroit. It’s an important design story that we’re delighted to share.

The Continental’s tale began in the fall of 1938 as Edsel Ford returned from a trip to Europe. While overseas, Ford was struck by the look of European sports cars with their long hoods, short trunks and rear-mounted spare tires. When Ford got home, he approached Lincoln designer E.T. “Bob” Gregorie and asked him to create a custom car with a “continental” look. Using the Lincoln Zephyr as his base, Gregorie produced an automobile with clean, pure lines free of superfluous chrome ornaments or then-standard running boards. Continue Reading

Charles Francis Jenkins and the Radio Facsimile

Descending on a flight to Portland, Maine, via Detroit, I see spotty islands and stacked heaps of stone blocks forming cliffs below. Boats slice through the butter sea, raising triangles of white foam in their wake. The plane banks sharply north, angling toward a half-round castle structure, secluded on its own island--a prison, a sanctuary, a quarantine bunker--or perhaps just an old garrison fort whose presence is rendered ominous by its utter inaccessibility. Fort Gorges, as I would later come to know it, was in fact part of a triangulated defense line active during the American Civil War, working alongside Fort Preble and Fort Scrammel, a sod-roofed sneak camouflaging itself as a hillside. These two stone guardians of Casco Bay likewise emerge into view as the commuter plane lurches through a patch of turbulence and aligns itself with the landing strip. Continue Reading

Ford's 1963 Mustang II, the car that bridged the gap between the concept Mustang I and the production 1965 Mustang.

It’s probably no surprise that Motor Muster, our annual car show celebrating 1933-1976 automobiles, is spotlighting the Ford Mustang for 2014, given all the excitement surrounding the car’s 50th anniversary. Likewise, it’s no great shock that The Henry Ford’s 1962 Mustang I roadster and 1965 Mustang Serial Number One convertible will be in Greenfield Village among the approximately 900 registered cars. What will come as a pleasant surprise is the appearance of a third special Mustang, for one day only, on Saturday, June 14. The Detroit Historical Society is bringing its 1963 Mustang II concept car to the show, making Motor Muster the only chance this year to see Mustangs I, II and Serial Number One together in the same place.

The 1963 Mustang II (not to be confused with the Ford Pinto-based production Mustang II of the 1970s) surely is one of the most unusual concept cars ever built. Industry practice (and common sense) tells us that an automaker builds a concept car as a kind of far-out “dream car” to generate excitement at car shows. Most never go past the concept stage, but a few do make it into regular production. (Chevrolet’s Corvette and Dodge’s Viper are notable examples.) The Mustang II previewed the production Ford Mustang we all know and love, but the concept car was designed and built after the production Mustang project already was well underway! Why? It’s a case of managing public expectations.

Most Mustang histories start with the 1962 Mustang I, but devoted pony fans know that Mustang I was an entirely separate project from the production car. Ford built the “Mustang Experimental Sports Car” (its original name – the “I” was a retrospective addition) to spark interest in the company’s activities. Ford was going back into racing and looking for a quick way to create some buzz about the exciting things happening in Dearborn. The plan worked a bit too well. When Mustang I debuted at Watkins Glen in October 1962, and then hit the car show circuit, the public went crazy and sent countless letters to Ford begging the company to put the little two-seater into production.

At the same time Mustang I was being built, another team at Ford was working on the production Mustang that would debut in April 1964. Mustang I’s popularity created a problem: Everyone loved the two-seat race car, but would they feel the same about the four-seat version? The solution was to build a new four-seat prototype closely based on the production Mustang’s design.

Enter the 1963 Mustang II.

The new concept car wasn’t just based on the production Mustang’s design – it was actually built from a prototype production Mustang body. Ford designers removed the front and rear bumpers, altered the headlights and grille treatment, and fitted Mustang II with a removable roof. While the car looked different from the production Mustang, a few of the production car’s trademark styling cues were retained, including the C-shaped side sculpting and the tri-bar taillights. Mustang II also consciously borrowed from Mustang I, employing the 1962 car’s distinct white paint and blue racing stripes. Conceptually and physically, the four-seat Mustang II formed a bridge linking the 1962 Mustang I with the 1965 production car. Mustang II was a hit when it debuted at Watkins Glen in October 1963, and when the production version premiered six months later, there were few complaints about the four seats instead of two.

Fortunately, Mustang II is one “link” that isn’t “missing.” The Detroit Historical Society acquired the car in 1975 and has taken great care of it ever since. We’re grateful to them for sharing it at our 2014 Motor Muster, where visitors can see first-hand the Mustang’s evolution from I to II to Serial Number One.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford

Race Days in Detroit

June 5, 2014

While others might welcome the start of summer with the Memorial Day weekend, those of us in the Motor City know that the season begins when racing returns at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. The early-June event just completed a successful third year since its 2012 revival, and the drivers, venue and city all shined. Several races took place over the three days, giving fans a chance to see IndyCars, sports cars, and even Baja-style trucks compete on the 2.36-mile, 13-turn Belle Isle circuit.

The Cadillac V-Series Challenge, a part of the Pirelli World Challenge Series, pitted production-based cars against each other in two races. Fans saw some of Detroit’s best compete with foreign marques. The Grand Touring Sport class featured Camaros and Mustangs against Nissans, Kias, and Aston Martins. The Grand Touring class put Cadillacs against legendary names like Audi, Ferrari, Lambroghini, McLaren and Porsche. The “home” cars did well this year. Dean Martin won the GTS events in a Ford Mustang Boss 302S, while Johnny O’Connell took the GT events in a Cadillac CTS-V.R. Continue Reading

Racing In America

INN_LOGO


It’s with much excitement today that I announce that The Henry Ford has partnered with Litton Entertainment, a leading independent production and distribution company, on a new national television series. The show will be called The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation and it will premiere on CBS this coming fall.

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation will be a weekly half-hour news magazine hosted by Mo Rocca, of CBS News broadcasting, and two correspondents. The show will present inspiring and often untold stories using The Henry Ford’s archive of American Innovation to showcase present-day change-makers and the possibilities for future progress. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

Toy automobiles have been around since the very early days of the automobile, though trends in these toys have changed over time. One category that reached a peak of popularity in the 1960s and 1970s is slot cars, scale vehicles run on a slotted track that both guides them and provides electrical current to power them. The Henry Ford received a donated collection in the early 1990s that contains about a dozen and a half slot cars, plus supplies, track pieces, and other accessories. We’re in the process of digitizing these, including this Indy slot car. Visit our collections website to view the remainder of the recent additions, and watch for more to come over upcoming weeks!

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections Initiative Manager at The Henry Ford.

In this late 1800s trade card, a young girl in her Sunday best demonstrates the ease of operating a Chadborn & Coldwell Manufacturing Co. lawn mower. (Object ID.89.0.541.430).

A large expanse of manicured lawn was once something only the wealthy could afford. It was necessary to have full-time gardening help to cut the grass evenly by hand with a scythe and then roll the grass flat to achieve a perfect look.

An automatic sprinkler, like this one shown in an 1877 Beardsley & Co. catalog, would have appealed to those living in large cities rather than in smaller towns and on farms. In the 1870s, few American communities had the municipal water systems needed to operate a device like this. (Object ID: 88.423.2)
The introduction of a practical automatic lawn mower in the 1870s made it much easier for the average homeowner to maintain his or her own neatly trimmed lawn with minimal labor. Soon, a flawless lawn became a sign of the arrival into the middle class.

Keeping a lawn lush and green in the hot summer months could be accomplished with a range of sprinkling devices. Sprinklers were very popular when they first became common in the late 1800s. Of course, only people living in cities and towns that had water systems could use these “lawn fountains,” since they required constant water pressure to operate. By the 1930s, lawn sprinklers came in a variety of imaginative shapes. The iron figures helped to anchor the device, while being amusing as well as decorative.

This American fascination with a well-kept, velvety green lawn would develop into a near-obsession after World War II, as suburban homeowners spent many weekend hours and much money on fertilizers and herbicides—trying to create the perfect lawn.

By Henry Prebys, Former Curator at The Henry Ford.

Summertime is fast approaching, and that means it is ice cream season. The Henry Ford’s collections contain ice cream containers, ice cream makers, sundae dishes, and more related to this icy treat. We’ve just digitized some of our holdings related to ice cream, including this mid-20th century tub intended to hold Velvet ice cream.