Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

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Dan Gurney possesses a wide-ranging curiosity and hands-on attitude that has resulted in a number of innovations including the downforce-increasing "Gurney flap." The only American to win a Formula One race in a car he built himself, Gurney also brought British race car builder Colin Chapman and Ford Motor Company together. The collaboration produced a Ford-powered Indy 500 winner in 1965. Chapman's Lotus chassis was the first rear engine car to the win the 500, and rear engine cars have won every race since. Although Gurney's California shop, All American Racers, no long produces Eagle race cars, they completed the prototype for the new Delta Wing race car in March 2012. In addition, Gurney continues to apply his talents and skills to the design and production of Alligator Motorcycles.

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2014 Edison-Ford Medal Recipient

On October 29, 2014 Dan Gurney received the Edison-Ford Medal for Innovation in a ceremony at The Henry Ford, with Charlie Rose as Master of Ceremonies.

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The prize honors individuals who fully leverage the creative, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that resides in every one of us. Gurney's many accomplishments, first as a driver and later as a designer, builder and team owner, exemplify the character of American ingenuity.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Racing In America

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The collections of The Henry Ford contain hundreds of clocks. Many of these are on display, either in the Clockwork exhibit in the Henry Ford Museum or as part of the recreation of daily life in the buildings of Greenfield Village, but many more are not. We’ve just added a number of clocks, dating from the late 17th through mid-20th centuries, to our digital collections, bringing the total number online to about 120. More than half of these are not currently on display, including this early 19th century novelty clock, which keeps time by rolling a steel ball down a zigzag track. Visit our online collections to view our growing digital collection of clocks and related artifacts.

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

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This week on “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation” you’ll learn about the Dymaxion House. Want to learn more? Take a look.

 Read

  • Tuning the Dymaxion House
  • Repairing the Dymaxion House
  • Gauging the Condition of the Dymaxion House
  • The Dymaxion House: The Same and Improved
  • The House of the Future
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    Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

    The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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    How would you like to live in a round house built of aluminum, steel, and plastic, suspended on a mast like a giant umbrella, with built-in closets and shelves and a bathroom the size of an airplane toilet?

    R. Buckminster Fuller thought this house, which he called the Dymaxion House, was just what the American public wanted. Fuller, an engineer, philosopher and innovative designer, conceived the house in 1927 and partnered with the Beech Aircraft Corporation in Wichita, Kansas, to produce prototypes in 1945. Although Fuller designed his house so that it could be mass-produced, only one was ever built and lived in. Continue Reading

    The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

    The Dymaxion House inside Henry Ford Museum.

    To some people it’s a giant Hershey’s Kiss, while others sense a kinship with the Airstream travel trailer—both, it should be noted, recognized as icons. Even the more general touchstones—retro-futuristic spacecraft themes seem to hold sway here—tie into something powerfully elemental. Either way, the Dymaxion house has over the last decade assumed an iconic presence in Henry Ford Museum, a presence that delights and provokes a wide range of visitors. Continue Reading

    The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

    The magnificent Great Hall, which welcomes visitors to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

    Maybe it creates a sense of legitimacy, maybe it’s a shrine to honor past heroes, or maybe it just provides a place for fans to congregate in the off-season. For whatever reason, every sport seeks to create its own Hall of Fame. Baseball devotees have Cooperstown, football followers have Canton, and, for NASCAR fans, there is Charlotte.

    As Halls go, NASCAR’s is young. The building opened (and inducted its first honorees) in 2010 after a four-year site-selection and design process. While Daytona Beach and Atlanta were both considered, North Carolina – with its deep stock car racing roots and status as home to much of the present industry – was the clear favorite. I recently had a chance to visit the establishment. Continue Reading

    Racing In America

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    Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village is a time-honored tradition at The Henry Ford. But, this doesn’t mean we’re afraid of shaking things up a bit! Much in the spirit of the spooky holiday, our Productions team likes to trick guests and keep each year a surprise in and of itself. This year has been no different, and with just one weekend left to enjoy the sights and sounds of Halloween, guests have been, and will be this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in for a treat.

    According to Senior Manager of Exhibitions & Program Production, Greg Harris, Hallowe’en is a staff favorite, so he’s constantly taking a look back and asking how they can upgrade and improve with each year.

    This year that surprise has come in the form of a brand new route and some never-before-seen experiences. Continue Reading

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    Many modern students and parents have been the proud recipients of notices or awards sent home from school recognizing any number of positive behaviors. However, this tradition is not new. We’ve just digitized about 60 examples of school rewards of merit, mainly dating from the late 18th through late 19th centuries, designed to be handed out by teachers to exemplary students. The colorful papers rewarded students for conduct such as academic achievement, good behavior, diligence in study, punctual attendance, correct deportment, and attentiveness.  You can imagine how excited young Jared Long must have been to have received two honors from the “Bank of Industry” in this example from 1853. Visit our collections website to browse the rest of the rewards.

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

    “Mystically spooky.”

    That’s how Jim Johnson described Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow.” The 1820s short story is the inspiration for the grand finale of sorts at Hallowe’en at Greenfield Village – where visitors cross the bridge and encounter the infamous Headless Horseman.

    Irving’s story, Gothic literature, legends and other spooky tales are fundamental elements for much of the fun at Greenfield Village’s annual Halloween event.

    “After the renovations to Greenfield Village, we decided to lift our Halloween event to a new level,” said Jim Johnson, who is senior manager of creative programs at The Henry Ford. “With the village as our backdrop, we wanted to find our own niche that had something for everyone and was family friendly.”

    Just being in the village at night is a unique experience, and it provides the perfect setting for a Halloween event inspired by the past.

    Graveyard at Greenfield Village

    Jim said they looked at how the holiday evolved. “We found interesting things about how the celebration of Halloween changed over time,

    “Customs started to take shape toward the at the end of the 19th century and almost click through a process that takes us to where we are today - where we decorate our homes and go house-to-house for trick or treating.”

    Coming into the 20th century, Halloween wasn’t necessarily a kids’ holiday – other than they commonly pulled pranks like knocking over outhouses, putting wagons on rooftops, etc., Jim said. In order to curb the kids’ enthusiasm for a little mayhem, municipalities got into the action by planning themed parties and offering games and treats as a diversion from the destruction.

    Halloween books at Greenfield Village

    To meet the party trend, at the turn of the century and into the 1920s and 30s, there were a multitude of Halloween party guides and booklets published mostly by women, and candy and novelty companies.

    Vintage Halloween party books

    A popular inexpensive resource was Dennison’s Bogie Books. Dennison’s sold crepe paper used to decorate and make costumes. Jim Johnson keeps these reproductions on hand for reference and inspiration.

    Frankenstein at Menlo ParkAdventure stories and Gothic literature were popular at that time and have sustained elevated interest at Halloween time. Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventures of buccaneers and buried gold in Treasure Island continues to inspire as seen in recent movie tales of tropical pirating. At Greenfield Village, pirates with sensibilities old and new populate the Suwanee Lagoon and walk among visitors, giving them a taste what it might be like conversing with an 1880s-style high seas treasure seeker.

    With a nod to Gothic literature, Dr. Frankenstein has a perfect workspace - setting up shop in Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory.

    Mary Shelley’s story of Frankenstein still holds the attention of audiences today, even though the book was first published in the early 1800s.

    Another famous character from Gothic literature is making his debut at the village this year. A silent film based on Bram Stoker’s 1887 Dracula is shown near Sarah Jordan Boarding House.

    Dracula

    Visitors are captivated by the large projections of the 1922 vampire film Nosferatu (Dracula).

    Works of the master of the macabre – Edgar Allen Poe – are highlighted in two prominent stops.

    The ravens resting on the railing at Eagle Tavern are treated to the eerie tale twice: narrated once by a famous actor and once by a fictitious man. Visitors can hear the chilling story told by actor Christopher Walken and again by cartoon character Homer Simpson.

    Tell-Tale Heart

    Poe makes another appearance near Town Hall where actor Anthony Lucas provides a mesmerizingly haunting performance of the mad man at the center of the Tell-Tale Heart.

    Hansel and Gretel

    A first person account of the Brother’s Grimm tale of Hansel and Gretel (with a surprise twist) keeps audiences of all ages intrigued.

    Red Riding Hood

    Throughout the village – authentically or whimsically – many costume creations are inspired by characters from famous stories of old. Hunchbacks, witches, Little Red Riding Hood, mermaids, fortunetellers, strong men, Merlin the Magician... 

    … and even a character from Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser.

    Near the end of trick-or-treating through the village, visitors can take a seat and listen to the tale that sets the scene for the remainder of their journey – through the dark candle-lit tangles of the Mulberry Grove (not-too-hauntingly) transformed into Sleepy Hallow.

    Sleepy Hollow

    Actor Seth Amadei gives a riveting account of the series of events that led up to the mysterious disappearance of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hallow.

    Scarecrow

    Visitors just have to pass through the hallow and over the bridge …

    Hallowe’en at Greenfield Village - inspired by old, new, mystical, whimsical and just the right amount of spooky.

    Greenfield Village, Hallowe'en in Greenfield Village

    Our violin collection

    This week on “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation” you’ll learn about Henry Ford's impressive violin collection. Want to learn more about Henry's love of violins? Take a look below. Continue Reading

    The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation