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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Political Button from the collections of The Henry Ford

The Henry Ford has hundreds of items in its collections related to American political campaigns, from 19th century examples to much more recent material (see this and/or this, depending on your personal political leanings). Earlier this year, we digitized some of our paper lanterns, and we’ve just added a number of our campaign buttons. This one shows support for Theodore Roosevelt and Charles Fairbanks in the presidential campaign of 1904. View close to 200 examples from our political campaign collections, including the recently added buttons, on our collections website.

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

Lord Mountbatten at The Henry Ford

Arriving, apparently via helicopter (Object ID: P.B.61779.6).

The Henry Ford has always attracted famous visitors—some of my favorites that are documented in our digital collections include H.G. Wells, Neil Armstrong, and Rosa Parks. But while searching our collections database for something else, I found a name I wasn’t expecting: Lord Mountbatten.

Lord Mountbatten (1900–79) is a fascinating and controversial figure in British and Asian history. The great-grandson of Queen Victoria, he was commissioned as a naval lieutenant in 1920, and held several naval posts during World War II. As supreme allied commander of the Southeast Asia Command, he took Burma from Japanese control, which resulted in an honorary title, Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Continue Reading

TV_N.B.34608

By now, you likely have heard the news that The Henry Ford has partnered with Litton Entertainment on a new national television show, coming this fall. But this isn’t the first time The Henry Ford has hosted TV crews—far from it. In preparation for the big announcement, we’ve just finished digitizing selections from our collections that document some of our previous broadcast adventures, such as this image showing the filming of an ABC-TV show in 1963. Watch for posts on this material coming soon on our blog; in the meantime, please browse our collections website to see some of the highlights, including various dates of the “Today” show; Gladys Knight and the Pips on "The Phil Donahue Show in 1973"; our first television show series, “Window to the Past,” dating back to 1955; and perhaps my favorite, a laser light show filmed at Menlo Park Laboratory in 1989.

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

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

ford-detail

Memorial Day, June 1, school letting out. It seems there are plenty of different dates that mark the beginning of summer for some people; the summer solstice on June 21 being far too late.

For me, summer has always begun with the flash of sunshine on chrome-heavy bumpers, the throaty roar of a high-performance engine, and the smell of barbecue tinged with a bit of exhaust – for me, summer begins on June 14 this year, and every year around this time, with our Motor Muster car show in Greenfield Village.

This event is the essence of summertime fun – distilled delight for all the senses. Just as novelist Ray Bradbury in his 1957 classic, Dandelion Wine, described the nostalgic summer wine made by the main character’s grandfather, Motor Muster is “...summer on the tongue...(it’s) summer caught and stoppered.” Continue Reading

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