Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

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Abraham Lincoln as President

At the time of his assassination in April 1865, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was considered by a majority of northerners as a competent president. Yet, this was not always the case. Lincoln was elected president at a critical time when the nation was at a breaking point over issues of states’ rights and slavery. As a direct result of his election, eleven states left the Union before his inauguration in 1861, touching off the Civil War.

During much of his first term of office, Lincoln was viewed by many as lacking the skills necessary for the role of President of the United States. He was lampooned as unsophisticated and criticized for tolerating ineffective generals. Lincoln, however, was a skilled politician—wise, tenacious, and perceptive—and learned from his mistakes.

Abraham Lincoln was committed to preserving the Union. He believed that the United States was more than an ordinary nation—it was the testing ground for a unique form of democracy. Many, including Lincoln himself, described one of his greatest achievements as the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which shifted the goal of the war from a fight to preserve the Union to one of freeing the enslaved. With Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln’s vision of an indivisible Union—and a more perfect one—was fulfilled. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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From January 10 through March 15, we’re opening the hoods on more than 40 vehicles in Henry Ford Museum. Many will agree that the engine is the heart of an automobile – whether it’s the big V-8 in our 1956 Chrysler 300-B stock car, or the compact four-banger in our 1978 Dodge Omni. Over the next several weeks, I’ll use this space to share my thoughts on a selection of our exposed engines. Some are unconventional efforts, while others are mainstays produced by the millions. Each of them offers some special insight into more than 100 years of experimentation and improvement in how we power our cars.

First up - the 1907 White Model G.

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1907 White Model G

Inline 2-cylinder compound steam engine with condenser, 30 horsepower

The White’s steam engine was designed for efficiency. Steam first expanded in the smaller high-pressure cylinder at rear, then expanded again in the larger low-pressure cylinder at front. The condenser in front of the engine, resembling a radiator from an internal combustion car, captured exhausted steam and converted it back into water, to be used again. These devices gave the Model G a claimed range of 150 miles on a 17-gallon water tank.

Take a look at the opening of the White's hood over on Instagram.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Engines Exposed

An early daguerreotype image of Abraham Lincoln originally taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd in Springfield, Illinois in 1846-1847. Early 20th-century print from a 19th-century copy negative. ID.00.1334.112

Take a look at images from The Henry Ford’s wonderful, eclectic collection of Lincoln-related photographs.  These images span the years from Lincoln’s career as an Illinois legislator during the 1840s to his tragic death in 1865.

The original daguerreotype of this image of Abraham Lincoln was taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd in Springfield, Illinois, shortly after Lincoln’s election in 1846 to the U.S. House of Representatives.  It is believed by many to be the earliest known image of Lincoln, who was 37 or 38 years old when it was taken.  At this time, Lincoln was a husband and father of two small boys, had a successful law practice in Springfield, and had just become a junior member of Congress.

Daguerreotypes like this one are one-of-a-kind photographs made on silver-coated copper plates.  In order to make photographic prints, copy negatives had to be made from the original daguerreotypes.  This photographic print was made in the early 20th century from a 19th-century copy negative.  In 1902, Frederick Hill Meserve, an early collector of photography, found glass negatives from Mathew Brady’s Washington, D.C., studio in a Hoboken, New Jersey warehouse.  Meserve carefully preserved the negatives and made the later photographic prints of the earlier images--including this photographic print in our collection. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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We’re already missing the holidays here at The Henry Ford, and so have turned our thoughts to another upcoming occasion: Valentine’s Day. Curator of Photographs and Prints Cynthia Miller pored over our extensive collection of Valentine’s Day postcards and greeting cards, and selected a number that we’ve just digitized. One particularly interesting example is this card featuring a chubby-cheeked and large-hatted young suffragette. If you’re in the mood for love, visit our collections site to see more Valentines—or if you’re more interested in the political message than the romance, check out other objects from our collections related to women’s rights.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager

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This week, people around the globe will ring in the New Year. In the 18th century, some Pennsylvania Germans used to create frakturs, illuminated documents, for their friends and neighbors during this season, wishing them well in the upcoming year. The Henry Ford has a collection of frakturs that includes not only New Year’s wishes, but also family records, birth and baptismal certificates, and house blessings. We’ve just digitized a number of these, including this New Year’s wish, likely made by minister Daniel Schumacher for Jacob Grimm and family in eastern Pennsylvania in 1784. See more frakturs from our collection by visiting our collections website, and watch for more to come in 2015. All of us at The Henry Ford thank you for your interest in and support of our collections digitization efforts during 2014, and look forward to sharing more with you in 2015. Happy New Year!

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

Premier event photography by KMS Photography

Learn about one of our latest acquisitions, an Eames kiosk from the IBM Pavilion at the 1964 Worlds Fair, in this video from Henry Ford Museum.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

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Not long ago, Chief Archivist Terry Hoover popped his head into my office.  This isn’t unusual, as Terry and I sit next to each other, but in this case, he had something special to share.  He’d discovered a couple of late 19th century children’s books relating to Christmas in our rare books collection, and wondered if we could digitize them.  This week, just in time for Christmas, we have.  A Visit from Santa Claus retells the famous Clement Moore poem beginning “’Twas the night before Christmas,” with each page of text accompanied by a lovely full-color illustration by Virginia Gerson.  Or, check out Santa Claus's New Castle, written by Maude Florence Bellar and illustrated by Dixie Selden.  View all pages of both books on our collections website, or check out all of our digital collections related to Christmas.

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

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This year, many transformative things have been set into motion at The Henry Ford. One of the most rewarding projects has been all of the hard work that has culminated with the first season of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, an educational television show produced by Litton Entertainment. Perhaps you’ve been watching the episodes on CBS, Saturday mornings? If not, you can view them here.

When we entered into a partnership with Litton, we also took the opportunity to turn our gaze inwards, to research the history of our own involvement with broadcast media. A dive into the archives of the Edison Institute revealed some gems—photographic collections that captured the visual history of media events on our campus spanning 60 years. Previous blogs detail how in 1955, Marion Corwell began hosting Window to the Past, our first live television show. That same year, NBC filmed an all-day live event using the then-new medium of color broadcasting; episodes of The Howdy Doody Show were captured that day. Other discoveries revealed Gladys Knight and the Pips on the Phil Donahue Show in 1973. Continue Reading

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

Huntsville Center for Technology team Formula 24 car crosses the finish line.

Greenpower goes global

When high school drafting design instructor Mike Evans discovered Greenpower, the academic electric car competition, he had no idea how far it would take him and his students. In less than three years, the team from Alabama’s Huntsville Center of Technology’s (HCT) went from drafting Solid Edge models for the UK based competition, to becoming the first international high school team, and now starting the competition in America.

“It started with an introduction from Mike Brown who oversees Siemens’ mainstream engineering global academic programs,” said Evans. “We had a long relationship with Siemens so he asked us to reverse engineer the F-24 kit car in Siemens Solid Edge software for Greenpower’s UK CEO Jeremy Way. When Jeremy saw the students’ models he invited us to build a car and enter the race.”

Greenpower started back in 1999 with a dream of supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Building and racing the electric cars inspires and engages students of all ages to pursue STEM subjects. Continue Reading

George DeAngelis sits at the tiller of his Quadricycle replica in 1963. He’s on Detroit’s Bagley Avenue, where Henry Ford built the original car in 1896.

George DeAngelis, a long-time Ford Motor Company employee and devoted student of Henry Ford and his automobiles, passed away on December 14, 2014. Mr. DeAngelis is remembered for his published works on the Ford Model A and the Ford V-8, as well as Henry Ford’s early 999 and Arrow race cars. Here at The Henry Ford, though, we especially remember him for a pair of three-dimensional contributions: his incredible 1963 and 1991 replicas of Henry Ford’s first car, the 1896 Quadricycle.

Regular visitors to Henry Ford Museum know that the Quadricycle – the original car built by Henry Ford himself – occupies a prominent place in our Driving America exhibit. While the original car was used frequently during Henry Ford’s life – indeed, he posed with it less than a year before he died – it was retired to Henry Ford Museum by 1963, the centennial of Henry Ford’s birth. DeAngelis set out to build a working replica for the celebration. DeAngelis had the perfect background for the task. He possessed the skills of a tool and die maker, but with the careful eye of an artist. He had a genuine love for antique automobiles, to boot.

There were no blueprints of the Quadricycle, so DeAngelis gathered every written description and photograph he could find. Of course, he also had the original Quadricycle as a pattern. The historic car sat in an enclosed display case, so DeAngelis estimated his initial measurements through the glass. Amazingly, when the original Quadricycle was removed for confirmation, DeAngelis found he had made only one error – and of just 5/8 of an inch!

What DeAngelis thought would be a one-winter project turned into three years of nights and weekends. He was able to source some of his parts from lawn mower catalogs, and some from antique shops, but most he made himself. While the replica stayed remarkably true to the original, DeAngelis made a few concessions to safety and reliability. Most notably, he gave his replica a brake – something Henry’s Quadricycle never had. The work was finished by June 4, 1963, when DeAngelis drove his replica along the same route Henry Ford took during the original Quadricycle’s first drive on June 4, 1896.

George DeAngelis rides in his 1963 Quadricycle replica at Old Car Festival in 2012.

When the festivities ended, The Henry Ford purchased the replica from George DeAngelis. Over the years, the 1963 copy became a staple of our annual Old Car Festival, thrilling visitors each year as museum staff drove it through Greenfield Village. In a neat coda to the story, we commissioned DeAngelis to build a second Quadricycle replica nearly 30 years later. DeAngelis’s 1991 replica now sits in the reconstruction of Henry Ford’s Bagley Avenue shed in Greenfield Village.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Racing In America