Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

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The collections of The Henry Ford contain over a thousand examples of footwear of all types: boots, sandals, pumps, slippers, and more.  We’ve just digitized another six dozen or so pairs from our collections, in a variety of styles dating from the early 19th century through 2008.  One set designed for a very specific purpose is these size 5 1/2 “Nymph” bathing shoes, likely dating from the 1920s.  View close to 300 more pairs of shoes and related artifacts by visiting our digital collections!

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

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1960 Chevrolet Corvair Sedan

Horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine, overhead valves, 140 cubic inches displacement, 80 horsepower.

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The compact Corvair reimagined the American automobile. Not least among its peculiarities was its rear-mounted, air-cooled aluminum engine. The air cleaner is prominent, with two hoses leading to carburetors mounted on each cylinder bank. Much of the engine is hidden by a metal shroud that directed the air flow around the unit. With its light weight and air cooling, the Corvair power plant proved popular with home airplane builders.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Engines Exposed

Buick's 2016 Cascada convertible, one of the many new cars vying for attention at the 2015 North American International Auto Show.

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) has rolled into Detroit to give us our annual look at the technologies and trends shaping the automotive industry. The two words that might sum up the 2015 show best are “power” and “performance.” On the former, nearly every manufacturer features some form of alternative fuel vehicle, while some – I’m looking at you, Tesla – offer nothing but. To the latter point, hot new cars from Cadillac, Ford and others promise old fashioned excitement behind the wheel.

Toyota’s innovative Mirai. Powered by hydrogen fuel cells, its only tailpipe emission is water vapor.

Toyota wasn’t the first automaker to market with a hybrid car, but its Prius went on to define the type. The company hopes to do the same for fuel cell vehicles with its remarkable Mirai sedan. The car is powered by an electric motor, but the electricity itself is generated by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen that takes place in a fuel cell. The only emission from the car is water vapor. The Mirai is about as green as it gets but, while gas pumps and electrical outlets are a dime a dozen, hydrogen fueling stations are harder to come by outside of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Clearly, Toyota is betting on that to change. Interestingly, one of Toyota’s NAIAS displays includes a pair of faux hydrogen pumps. Visitors will be surprised and, Toyota must hope, reassured to see that they’re not much different from gasoline pumps. Continue Reading

Racing In America

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about The Henry Ford is that we are “a car museum.” Certainly, automobiles and related material form one of our core strengths, but our collections also cover the entire breadth of American history.  Our ongoing project to digitize our collection and make it available online really demonstrates both sides of this coin: our vast and deep collections covering autos and auto racing, and then the wide breadth of other material documenting the American experience.

In that vein, instead of doing a typical “year in review” post for our digitization efforts in 2014, I played around with our collections database and came up with some interesting facts and figures about the portions of our collection that we digitized over the last year.  I hope you’ll agree that the details below reveal the deep strengths of our collections, as well as their breadth—and that they encourage you to spend some time browsing our digital collections as well! Continue Reading

Racing In America

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The first season of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation continues to air Saturdays on CBS, with staff, buildings, and artifacts from The Henry Ford showcased in every episode. For each and every segment set on our campus, our staff are working hard behind the scenes to provide additional context about the artifacts and stories covered. For example, this week, we’ve just digitized a collection of artifacts related to an upcoming episode that will feature some of the locomotives within Henry Ford Museum. This photo of Henry Ford riding shotgun on a locomotive at the Rouge is a reminder how vital these massive machines were, both to the auto industry and to the American economy in general. Keep watching Innovation Nation to catch this episode—but in the meantime, visit our collections website to browse more artifacts related to locomotives, or dig deeper into topics covered previously on the TV show by visiting our episode pages, each featuring staff-curated links to more information and different perspectives.

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

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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Many of us know that Noah Webster was the creator of An American Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1828. But did you know that Mr. Webster was a teacher as well, and the author of the American Spelling Book? The early version was first published in 1783 and our copy is a 1845 edition called the Elementary Spelling Book, being an improvement on the American Spelling Book.

During this time, the English language was changing fast, and many new words were being added that were uniquely American. Mr. Webster wanted to create a spelling book that could help people understand and spell words that were actively used by the American public. Always published with a blue cover, the “Blue Backed Speller,” as it came to be known, was popular across the nation. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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If you’ve ever pulled into the parking lot of Henry Ford Museum from Oakwood Boulevard and looked to your left, you might have wondered what the large building behind the museum is. It has had several names and purposes over the years, but originally housed a new Experimental Department of Ford Motor Company. Designed by Albert Kahn, this engineering building also contained personal offices for Henry and Edsel Ford and a dance hall for Henry’s old-time dances. We’ve just digitized about 100 images of the construction of the building in 1923–24, as well as some later work; this panoramic image shows the state of affairs early on in the construction process. To see more of the construction images and other artifacts relating to the building, visit our collections website.

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

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In 1932 and 1933, Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo lived in Detroit, while Rivera was painting the Detroit Industry frescos at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). The frescoes, commissioned by the city Arts Commission led by Edsel Ford, celebrate Detroit’s industrial manufacturing power. They lie at the heart of the DIA, and also at the heart of Detroit.

From March 15 to July 12, 2015, the DIA will display nearly 70 works of art in an exhibit called Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit. The Henry Ford is pleased to be collaborating with the DIA and other Detroit-area community organizations to provide additional context for the exhibit. Over upcoming months, we will be digitizing parts of our collection that directly relate to Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, their relationship with Edsel Ford and Ford Motor Company, and the creation of the frescos themselves.  Because of the close involvement of Edsel Ford and Ford Motor Company in the project, our archives contain documents, photographs, and correspondence related to these subjects.

We've created a special page on the blog to house the items from our collections that relate to the exhibit, It will grow and expand over the period of the exhibit, providing pointers to these collections, so visitors to the exhibit, as well as those who may not have a chance to attend, can dig deeper.

If you’d like to dig in and start exploring right away, we’d suggest a visit to our collections website, where we’ve started to digitize our collections related to Diego Rivera, including the photograph below of the Detroit Industry frescos in progress.

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

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit

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On this week’s episode of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation you’ll learn about Abraham Lincoln. Want to learn even more? Take a look below.

Look

Abraham Lincoln Flickr Set

Read

John and Barney Litogot: Henry Ford’s Uncles in the Civil War

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

Lithograph, "Mr. Lincoln, Residence and Horse As They Appeared On His Return from the Campaign with Senator Douglas," 1858. THF8178

It is fascinating to connect with objects that were a part of his Abraham Lincoln’s world. The Henry Ford owns a number of furnishings from Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, where they lived before Lincoln was elected president.

The Lincoln furniture from their Springfield home tells us about the tastes of the Lincolns in the decades before Lincoln’s election to the presidency in 1860.  Stylistically, the furniture represents the middle-class, early Victorian aesthetic of the 1840s and early 1850s.  The Lincolns selected sturdy and comfortable, yet stylish furnishings for their home. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation