A museum presenting America’s ideas and innovations mourns the passing of George Barris, “The King of Kustomizers.”
George grew up building models of cars and then working on cars during his youth. He had a spark of ingenuity in the way he looked at the world as well as in the world that he built. In the mid 1960s Barris Kustom City acquired a Lincoln Futura prototype that was built for the Ford Motor Company in Turin, Italy in 1955. George had been given a contract in August of 1965 by television show producers to build a batmobile for their upcoming television show. As the legend has been told many times, he had only three weeks to build the “winged mammal” car before filming started. George had the winged-like Futura in his shop and saw the possibilities immediately, and of course the result was the most iconic movie car ever built, the Batmobile. George’s ingenious creation appeared on January 12, 1966 to millions of television viewers experiencing the spoof and kitsch of Batman.
When you hear the phrase “Triple Crown,” the sport of horse racing generally comes to mind. However, the world of motorsport also has its own, unofficial Triple Crown title. To achieve this feat, a driver must win three specific titles during their career. Some enthusiasts contend the three titles are the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Monaco Grand Prix, while others replace the race in Monaco with the Formula One World Championship.
The Triple Crown of Motorsport has been possible since 1929, when the last race, the Monaco Grand Prix, was first run through the streets of the principality. (If you are using the Formula One World Championship title instead, the Triple Crown became possible in 1950.) In the last 86 years, many drivers have won one or two components of the Triple Crown, but only one man, Graham Hill, completed either trifecta. This accomplishment attests to Hill’s immense skill on the track, as each race or title corresponds to a different discipline of the sport.
In 2014, the Detroit News donated over 220 photographic negatives to The Henry Ford. They depict photos of and taken from various News aircraft between the mid-1920s and mid-1930s, including a Lockheed Orion and a Lockheed Vega. A substantial number relate to the 1931 Pitcairn-Cierva Autogiro, which has been in The Henry Ford’s collection for over 80 years and is currently on display within Henry Ford Museum in the Heroes of the Sky exhibit. The image shown here includes a hand-written note on the envelope: “Airplanes to ship newspapers.” We have just digitized the complete set of negatives, so you can now visit our online collections to browse the Autogiro-related images, or everything related to the Detroit News, including all of these images.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
Eva Tanguay was a showstopper—one of vaudeville’s most charismatic stars. Long before performers like Madonna made their mark, Eva Tanguay was wowing ‘em on the vaudeville stage.
The flamboyant singing comedienne was the highest paid performer for over a decade during the heyday of American vaudeville in the early 1900s. Known as the “I Don’t Care Girl” after her most famous song, Eva’s bold, self-confident songs symbolized a new, emancipated American woman.
For a few years starting at age seven, Henry Ford attended a one-room schoolhouse, the Scotch Settlement School, located on Warren Avenue in what was then Dearborn Township, Michigan. When he was developing Greenfield Village, Henry Ford acquired the school, relocated it to the Village, and opened it as a multi-grade classroom for the Edison Institute Schools in fall 1929. We’ve just digitized 75 images of the school on its original site, including this well-labeled image of the 1925 funeral of Mrs. Susie Chapman, wife of one of Henry Ford’s favorite teachers, John Chapman. (Chapman himself had died two decades earlier; his family home and another school at which he taught are also preserved in Greenfield Village.) Henry and Clara Ford appear at the far left. Visit our digital collections to view more images and artifacts related to the school.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
Season two of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation is well under way, and we’re doing research within our collections and digitizing material related to some of the upcoming storylines. One we worked on this week involves the Loranger Gristmill and American inventor Oliver Evans. The Gristmill was built in 1832 in Monroe, Michigan, and ground wheat and corn for local farmers into the 20th century; it was moved to Greenfield Village in 1928. The conveyor system that moved grain around inside the building was developed by Evans in the 1700s—but this was not his only creation. In the early 1800s, he developed a dredging machine called the “Oructor Amphibolis,” shown here in an image from our collections, that was powered by a steam engine he also invented. Visit our collections website to browse more artifacts related to Evans and to Loranger Gristmill—and keep an eye out to see the gristmill in action on The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
This is it – the future is now. For any self-respecting Child of the Eighties, October 21, 2015, has been circled on the mental calendar since November 1989 when Back to the Future Part II hit theaters. I was 13 years old when I first saw Doc Brown and Marty McFly take their time traveling DeLorean to the fantastically futuristic world of Hill Valley 2015 – old enough to realize that we probably weren’t going to get hoverboards and flying cars, but young enough to still hope that we might. The year 2015 seemed impossibly far off (like, as far off as 2041 seems today), and one could imagine that some of those wonderful things in the movie might just come to pass. Well, not so much…
Predicting the future is a fool’s errand. Any movie that tries to imagine future technologies will inevitably miss the mark. Back to the Future Part II’s creative team knew this well, so they chose to go all in and make their 2015 as over-the-top as possible. That tech optimism is a big part of the movie’s appeal. BTTF II gives us happy robots that pump our gas, serve our soft drinks, and welcome us home at the end of the day. They’re a pleasant contrast to the tortured replicants and cyborgs of Blade Runner and RoboCop.
Being a transportation curator, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the transport technologies featured in Back to the Future Part II. Let’s start with those flying cars. The dream of an aircraft in every garage is an old one. It shows up in books, magazines and – on rare occasions – in reality. (Even Henry Ford spent some time and money on the concept.) The flying cars in BTTF II are there because they have to be. It’s the future we all want! Needless to say, we didn’t get them by 2015. Personally, I think flying is well beyond the skills of the average driver (myself included). Flying cars aren’t a good idea until we can take most of the operation and navigation out of the driver’s hands. And that’s the good news here in the real 2015 – driverless cars are edging ever-closer to practical reality. Give me a car that operates itself, and then I’ll start clamoring for it to fly.
One of the key issues for the decision to begin the work on Number 7 was the availability of the skill sets and facilities required to accomplish a high quality restoration. This was a major undertaking and as one of the most respected transportation museums in the world it is necessary to only do things that you can do very well. Fortunately, The Henry Ford had a group in place (Railroad Operations) that was responsible to maintain two operating steam locomotives, rolling stock, tracks and signal system to provide historic railroad transportation on a daily basis.
The facility where the Railroad Operations personnel performed this maintenance was the Greenfield Village’s Detroit, Toledo and Milwaukee Roundhouse. Built in 2000 to closely replicate the 1880s DT&M facility in Marshall, Michigan; it was well equipped and had the necessary tools and machines to maintain the Village’s railroad operations.
The expertise to maintain this railroad goes well beyond the service and replacement aspects of a shop. Since there is no steam locomotive “AutoZone”; if something has to be replaced you make it. This requires extensive machining and fabrication capability. Additionally, since replacement of castings or other items sometimes requires detailed relationships with outside suppliers, extensive design and drafting skills were often required.
The physical aspects of Number 7’s restoration began in 2007 with the disassembly process. Disassembly of a locomotive is a time consuming and physically demanding process. Before the major assemblies could be removed many tubes, valves and ancillary systems had to be removed. The fact that these parts had not been touched for over 80 years made this especially challenging.
In September of 2007 the removal of the major components began with the separation of the cab (pictured below) from the chassis. In early December the boiler was removed so it could be worked on with unobstructed access to the areas that would need to be replaced (pictured below).
Early in 2008 the process of removing the sections of the boiler and firebox was started along with the removal of hardened scale from the boiler walls. Work on the boiler proceeding through the year removing the sections that would be replaced and preparing the surfaces for installation of the new ones.
After the preparation phase, fabrication of the new sections of the boiler began. One of the most complicated and demanding sections was the rear tube sheet. This is the part that faces the firebox and holds the heat tubes in place so that the heat generated in the firebox can be drawn through the boiler to heat the water and develop steam.
The first phase of the tube sheet forming began with the use of McCabe flanging tool. This pneumatically powered machine, built in 1921, was a common tool in roundhouses of that period. This machine has the capability of forming flanges on sheet steel up to ¾ of an inch thick. The flanging tool would save a significant amount of work but was limited as it could not flange the tight radius needed for the top corners. Forming those portions of the tube sheet would require hand forming.
To facilitate the hand forming an approximately 1.5 inch thick metal die had to be fabricated. This was done by an outside company to Train Operations developed drawings. The partially formed steel sheet was then rigidly attached to the die and the remaining forming was done after the immediate area being formed was heated to red hot by acetylene torches. The heated portion could then be formed by the use of special hammers. These hammers were made of reinforced hard wood that would not put dent marks in the metal when it struck the red hot steel. Dent marks would structurally weaken the metal. The upper corners of the sheet had be cut at the centerline of the curve so that, when formed, there would be a smooth joint that could be welded with integrity.
After the forming process was completed the sheet would have to be drilled to accept the heat tubes and stay bolts. Since the heat tubes were almost 12 ft. long and required a very close fit at each end to assure sealing; locating and drilling the holes had to be accomplished with complete accuracy.
Work on the boiler continued through the end of 2008 and into 2009 with fabrication of the firebox floor and door sheet. Throughout all of this fabrication the parts had to be very precise to provide accurate fitment. Repairs like these are critical to the safety of a trains operation. Boilers are very closely regulated by the government and all welding has to be done by a boiler certified welder. These welders will not compromise on flushness and alignment of the components to assure high quality welds.
The welded elements of the boiler are only part of the story. The non-cylindrical parts like the firebox and crown sheet have to be held in position inside the boiler by a device called a stay bolt. Stay bolts are threaded rods that hold the firebox and crown sheet into position while still allowing the water to circulate around it. New stay bolts would have to be sized and machined for each individual location by the roundhouse crew.
Once the stay bolts are installed (above) the exposed ends are “upset” like a rivet so they are sealed and fixed into position. When the stay bolt is fabricated it is drilled down its center (above)so that if it cracks or breaks during service, a small trail of water or rust will appear on the head indicating an internal failure of the stay bolt.
A locomotive boiler like the one in Number 7 has hundreds of these bolts that have to be individually machined to assure proper fit and sealing. Many of these would have to be replaced due to the new sections of the boiler.
Once the components of the boiler were installed it was painted with high temperature epoxy paint and the insulation blocks began to be installed. The “calcium silicate” insulator blocks (above) replaced the asbestos removed in 1997 and was necessary to help keep heat in the boiler and provide an insulated barrier to protect the “jacketing.” The “jacketing” was decorative but primarily served to keep the insulation blocks in place, heat inside the boiler and protect train personnel.
Parallel to the work on the boiler was the restoration of the tender. To ensure that Number 7 would have a tender that would hold up to daily use it was decided that a new frame would be required. Additionally, the original frames wooden construction would be replaced by a stronger all steel frame assembly, an option on the original factory builds.
The upper part of the tender was sand blasted to bare metal and the 3,350 gallon water tank was tested to assure integrity. After the sandblasting was complete, it was painted the “as delivered” green with the name Detroit & Lima Northern hand painted on the side along with the painted trim indicated by the Baldwin photos.
Although the Baldwin “as built” information identified a specific color name there were no color chips to tell exactly what that name actually looked like. The color established was the result of significant research and the color mix selected came from Chris Dewitt of the Nevada State Railroad Museum. A 1913 Baldwin in their collection had a small section that provided the only known “color chip” of the original paint. This sample was analyzed and they provided a chip from that analysis for our restoration. For the railroad purists it is important to note that each Baldwin painter mixed his own paint; it is unlikely that anyone could point to a replicated color and say “this was an exact match.”
The tender restoration was completed later in the year and the work on Number 7 locomotive started to show real progress.
Don LaCombe is Supervisor of the Transportation and Crafts Program at The Henry Ford.
Back in the late 1990s when The Henry Ford offered the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the Story of Ichabod Crane program in Greenfield Village, there was a need to flesh out some areas with unique, yet iconic “set dressing” that would augment the rural and spooky flavor of the story we were trying to tell. Scarecrows were ubiquitous fixtures of kitchen gardens and some field crops over the years to deter birds and other such creatures from unintentional feasting. “Scarecrows” are still used today although a variety of designs, materials and articulations are very few of which take on a human form or shape - a far cry from the days of old.
It didn't take long until our team was challenged with the premise that we needed something large enough to make a visual impact and yet manageable and nimble enough to be used as temporary structure. Inspiration began to pour in from various imagery, films and shows, and descriptive language from literature, along with my own imagination, I created a 16-foot tall scarecrow affectionately named Mr. Irving after author George Washington Irving. Since those autumn nights more than 15 years ago and still today, Mr. Irving has been a part of the Greenfield Village’s fall and Hallowe’en programming. He has been photographed by thousands of guests and his inspiration lives on with many Mr. Irving lookalikes popping up in yards all over southeastern Michigan.
New to Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village this year is the Top Hat Side Show. Led by Andrew D'Ascenzo, a professional circus and fire performer, the vaudeville-style show features unique acts in several fields including circus, fire, sideshow, magic, and comedy. Vaudeville performances aren’t new to The Henry Ford; every summer in Greenfield Village our dramatic programs in Town Hall combine music, comedy, and dance revues that pay homage to the great music and zany humor found in vaudeville.