In reference work you never know where your search might lead you. Simply looking for information on Fordson tractors for a patron one day, I came across some amazing photos of women riding, repairing, and learning about tractors and I wondered what the story was behind these photos. So, armed with subject information gathered from our collection database EMu, I dug into our archival holdings of publications, articles of association, and corporate papers to see what I could find out about these Land Girls of Boreham.
In 1930, Henry Ford was traversing the English countryside by train, when one morning, as he, Clara, and Lord Perry stopped to breakfast, he noticed an old estate near Chelmsford, Essex. Taking a keen interest in the land and buildings, he bought Boreham House and the 2,000 acres of land surrounding it. Things being in a dilapidated condition, he immediately set about to fix the place up in characteristic Ford fashion, bringing it into usable condition, fixing houses, and making the land profitable once again.
This lively scene from 1905 documents African Americans proudly parading through the streets of Richmond, Virginia, in celebration of Emancipation Day. The well-dressed marchers include many elders who were formerly enslaved, as well as many of their children and grandchildren born after the end of slavery. In 1905, forty years after the American Civil War ended, this life-changing event—Emancipation—continued to have deep, emotional meaning for African Americans.
During the height of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect on January 1, 1863. This Executive Order, aimed at the secessionist states of the fledgling Confederate States of America, declared their slaves to be free. (However, this proclamation did not include all enslaved people—slaves were not freed in slave states that had remained loyal to the Union. In December 1865, the 13th Amendment completed Emancipation by declaring slavery illegal everywhere in the United States.)
Henry Carter Johnson (1908–96) created tiny glass animals and other figures in western Michigan, on and off from the 1950s through the 1990s. His business was officially called “Fine Miniatures in Glass,” but many of his young fans, who could watch him shape the glass into his creations, knew it better as “The Glass Menagerie.” If you’ve looked in the cases that line the Promenade of the Henry Ford Museum, you’ve seen some of this collection, but we’ve just digitized close to 140 of these unique and charming figurines, such as the crane shown here. If you’d like to browse the whole menagerie, including (among many others!) fish, walruses, bears, mice, and rabbits, visit our digital collections.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
Small cars pack a lot into tight spaces. The Omni makes the most of its engine bay by mounting the unit transversely, with the crankshaft parallel to the front bumper. It’s a layout not widely used in American cars since the early 1900s, but particularly well-suited to compact front-wheel drive vehicles. Power is sent to the Omni’s front wheels via the transaxle, a combination gearbox-differential, on the driver’s side.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
The IMLS (The Institute for Museum & Library Services) Project team is plugging along, cataloging, conserving, and rehousing artifacts from our collections storage building, as we mentioned in our blog a few months ago. Thus far we have worked on radios, phonographs, computers, adding machines, and their components. We have found some interesting objects in our collection, like this Motorola Radiophone, pictured above, ca 1950.
While conserving these objects from our storage facility, we are discovering cadmium corrosion on many objects, including the Radiophone. Cadmium is a bluish gray metal and was first used as a pigment (cadmium yellow, red, and orange) in paint, plastics, and glass. It was also used as a stabilizer in plastics, a component in batteries, and as a plating to prevent corrosion. Even though it is used to prevent corrosion of an underlying metal such as steel or aluminum a cadmium coating will corrode in the presence of organic acids, sulfur compounds, and atmospheric pollutants. Organic acids and sulfur compounds are emitted as a result of the deterioration of many materials from which objects in our collections are made, such as rubber, wood and the plastic cases of radios and phonographs. Cadmium corrosion products can range from brown to bright yellow. In our case, we are often finding plates, screws, brackets, and other plated metal components coated in bright yellow powdery cadmium sulfide corrosion.
From its length, one might expect more than 8 cylinders under the Bugatti’s hood. But each of those cylinders displaces more than the whole of a Volkswagen Beetle’s power plant. Four air cleaners stand over the engine, fitted to the four carburetors installed by Charles Chayne after World War II. Two spark plugs protrude from each cylinder. The steering box sits just behind the right fender, in keeping with the car’s right-hand drive layout.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
Visitors to The Henry Ford often marvel at the number and variety of historical objects found here. Often, so does the staff. As a presenter in Greenfield Village, I have been surrounded by these rich collections--many of the objects having been gathered during the 1920s and 1930s, when Henry Ford was avidly collecting for his museum. An internship opportunity over the winter has given me a chance to further explore how a number of these objects—musical instruments--came to be part of The Henry Ford’s collections. As a violinist, the topic of music was a perfect match for me.
Christina Linsenmeyer, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of The Arts, Helsinki, is editing a book entitled, Themes and Trends of the Musical Instrument Collecting Boom, 1860-1940. As an avid collector of musical instruments during the early decades of the 20th century, Henry Ford is a perfect fit. Jeanine Head Miller, The Henry Ford’s curator of domestic life, and Robert E. Eliason, curator of musical instruments at The Henry Ford during the 1970s and 1980s, will be co-authoring a chapter of the book discussing Henry Ford’s musical instrument collecting.
Henry Ford grew up dancing to the lively music of country fiddlers—and even learned to play the fiddle a bit himself. Ford’s interest in traditional American music and in musical instruments, then, was personal one. Ford’s efforts built an impressive collection—instruments which tell the story of music made by town bands, fiddlers at country dances, wealthy people in music rooms, and everyday Americans who purchased mass-produced instruments from local stores or mail-order catalogs.
Housed at The Henry Ford amidst many large and significant acquisitions is a small collection of quirky and one-of-a-kind items. Located mostly in storage, this group of artifacts is unofficially known as the Henry Ford Tributes. The objects range in size, materials and creation methods, but all have one thing in common – they were gifts given as tokens of gratitude and appreciation to a single man whose innovative ideas changed the lives of so many. Corporations, farm wives, Ford dealers, immigrants and civic institutions were all contributors to this eclectic group of gifts and commendations.
This collection has never been considered for a museum exhibit, but thanks to The Henry Ford’s digitization initiative, we were given the opportunity to highlight just a few in this unusual collection. For members of the Historical Resources team, this was a long-sought-after opportunity; many of us have our ‘favorites’, and as the project began in earnest, the suggestions came in at a rapid rate. It was hard to keep the online exhibit to just 76 objects!