Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Located outside of the Benson Ford Research Center's reading room the past few weeks has been a case of birthday telegrams sent to Henry Ford on his birthday over the years. We asked Jake Hildebrandt, reading room assistant, a few questions about the telegrams in anticipation of Henry's birthday.

edselWhy did people send telegrams versus other forms of communication?

Speed was definitely the main draw to telegrams. Telephones were widespread by the time of these telegrams, but like today it was a lot easier to get a written communiqué to a VIP than a phone call. Telegrams cost a great deal more and in many cases took more effort to send than a letter or card through the post, so there was an element of importance and respect in that way.

How many Henry Ford birthday cards do we currently have in collections?

We have only a few dozen actual Ford's birthday "cards" in our collection, but hundreds of telegrams. Many of the cards are intricate and complicated, with layers of lace and metallic foil and such. Really beautiful things that are a world away from the printed stock we send today.

What is your favorite birthday card received by Henry Ford?

I couldn't choose a favorite, but there is a really neat scrapbook-type album of novelty cards that Ray Dahlinger put together for Henry Ford. The cards themselves are really fun, and the book shows an interestingly playful side to the two men.

Where can we look at more birthday cards?

Most of Mr. Ford's birthday cards can be viewed by anyone in the reading room of the BFRC!

Interview and photos by Krista Oldham, Marketing and PR Intern at The Henry Ford.

communicationis, telegrams

Not only was Henry Ford one of the most famous industrialists in the world, he was also one of the most photographed.

Our collections include thousands of photos of Henry’s activities and encounters, taken by friends, relatives, the Ford Motor Company, and other photographers.

Here are just 10 of my favorites...

Henry Ford

Henry Ford, then an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company, with his bicycle and his moustache, Detroit, Michigan, 1893 (THF95021).

Henry Ford

Henry Ford parking his Quadricycle, built in 1896, in New York City, 1910 (THF96913).

ford-kulick

Henry Ford and race car driver Frank Kulick seated in a Ford Model T during a flood, circa 1916 (THF97215).

Henry Ford and the Vagabonds

“The Vagabonds,” Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone during a camping trip near Lead Mine, West Virginia, 1918 (THF105476).

Henry Ford With a Fiddle

Henry Ford playing one of his “fiddles,” circa 1920 (THF108028).

Henry Ford and Model T

Henry Ford with a Model T, Buffalo, New York, 1921 (THF104072).

Henry Ford and Thomas Edison

Henry Ford and Thomas Edison at the dedication of the Menlo Park Glass House in Greenfield Village, 1929 (THF109769).

Henry Ford Tests Bumper Strength

Henry Ford demonstrating the strength of plastics made from soybeans, 1940 (THF91634).

Henry Ford and HG Wells

Henry Ford and author H. G. Wells touring the Cotswold Cottage in Greenfield Village, 1931 (THF108521).

Henry Ford and Celebrities

Edsel Ford, Henry Ford, actor Mickey Rooney and movie studio head Louis B. Mayer aboard the Ten-Person Oriten Bicycle in Henry Ford Museum, February 8, 1940 (THF109784).

Jim Orr, Image Services Specialist, would have gone around that puddle.

Henry Ford photos

Visitors to Henry Ford Museum can often be found gathering under the Douglas Auto Theatre “Driving America” sign for photo opportunities and to marvel at the larger-than-life artifact. But recently visitors and racing fans gathered by the sign to honor Henry Ford as a racing innovator.

In honor of what would have been Henry’s 150th birthday on July 30, 2013, Ford brands Motorcraft/Quick Lane and Ford Racing honored his legacy with a special paint scheme in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway July 26-28, 2013 race, with Wood Brothers Racing and driver Trevor Bayne.

Henry Ford and Spider Huff with the Sweepstakes Racer on a Detroit, Michigan Street, 1901 (Object ID: P.188.10038).

The car’s paint scheme features an iconic Henry photo – posed on top of the Sweepstakes with Spider Huff riding on the sideboard, the car that would take him to victory in 1901 at a race track in Grosse Pointe, Mich.

1901 Ford "Sweepstakes" Race Car (Object ID: 00.136.123).

Why was that race so important? To be honest, it was important because Henry already had one business flop on his hands, the Detroit Automobile Company. His win with the Sweepstakes against opponent Alexander Winton not only netted him the $1,000 prize but the investors needed to start Ford Motor Company.

Edsel Ford II

As Henry’s great-grandson, and special guest that morning, Edsel B. Ford II pointed out, if Henry hadn’t won that race, Ford Motor Company might not be here today to celebrate the innovator.

The Wood Brothers and Trevor Bayne.

In addition to Edsel, the Wood Brothers and driver Trevor Bayne were on hand to unveil the special car in Henry Ford Museum that morning, sharing some of their appreciation for Henry and his body of work.

2011 Ford Fusion Stock Car, Driven by Trevor Bayne, on Loan from Wood Brothers Racing (Object ID: IL.241.1).

While all of the morning’s guests were more than familiar with the collections of The Henry Ford, Trevor and the Wood Brothers are especially familiar and proud as their No. 21 2011 Ford Fusion Stock Car is in our Car Court, currently on loan to us. As Trevor pointed out his former car to the audience, while showing off his tuxedo-themed racing suit for the Brickyard race, he commented, “It’s pretty cool that they’re still celebrating his (Henry) birthday 150 years later!”

We like to think it’s pretty cool, too. Here’s to 150 years of celebrating our founder, Henry Ford, both on AND off the race track.

race cars, racing, Racing In America

Posing next to the life-size statue of Henry Ford (object ID 2003.117.1) outside of the Michigan Café.

On a Friday morning in March during my spring break my phone rang. I woke up and groggily answered the phone. The call was from The Henry Ford. It was one of my future mentors calling to ask me to interview for their Simmons Graduate Internship in the Curatorial Department. A few short hours, several cups of coffee, and a quick review of my resume later, I had completed my phone interview. I felt pretty good about how it had gone, but the waiting came next, and two weeks later I had a voicemail offering me the internship. I was ecstatic. I could hardly believe The Henry Ford wanted me for the summer, and that my project was research, something I never had the time to do. It couldn’t get much better.

As a Masters Candidate in the Eastern Illinois University Historical Administration program, I am required to complete six months of full-time internship work. The first three months I am spending at The Henry Ford. As a member of this year’s intern group of three, I work closely with the Curatorial Department. The other two interns and I are working on a project that involves the Adams House (also called the Adams Family Home—not to be confused with that Addams family!) in Greenfield Village, and it has been my job to do the research portion of this project. As I am halfway through this experience, I am reflecting on what I have learned thus far.

The core of my research focuses on the town of Saline, Mich., and the First Baptist Church, which in 1846 built the parsonage that now is in Greenfield Village. Through my research efforts I have developed new skills and honed ones I already possessed. For starters, I have mastered Ancestry.com, a tool that makes researching people a lot of fun; in fact, sometimes I get a little carried away. I also have access to the resources of the Benson Ford Research Center. Did you know if you put all the shelves together in the stacks of the research center it would be about five miles of shelving?

At work examining collection pieces.

Another skill I am learning is communication, as I send out research questions and requests and correspond with people across the country and even across the Atlantic Ocean, where I’ve been in contact with Oxford and the Bristol Baptist College. My daily tasks vary from week to week, and my “To-Do” list seems to be growing by the second. The weight of the job, and the expectations that come from it, are very real, as I have to meet deadlines, go to meetings, discuss the project, and present my work.

A few of my tasks have included researching different stories that might be told in the Adams House and developing those stories so they are applicable to the message The Henry Ford wishes to emphasize. My favorite part of researching is discovering the stories of the people – and I have come across some good stories. For example, the Reverend Charles Evans served as a missionary in Sumatra from 1819-1826 during a time of political unrest and tiger and elephant stampedes. Later on he is the minister in Saline, living in our parsonage with six children. These people are so real to me I feel I could sit down and have a conversation with them.

I have also had the opportunity to go collection hunting, which is possibly more difficult than buying jeans. Sometimes objects end up in the wrong place, without a number, or buried behind a giant papier-mâché foot—for example. But even with the odds stacked against us hidden treasures can be uncovered.

Some of the treasures we've discovered in storage:

Meridienne, circa 1830-1850 (Object ID 29.1664.1); Chinese tea box, 19th century (Object ID 23.44.93).

These “finds” are a thing of joy, especially when they create opportunities to enhance a storyline. This process so far has allowed me to utilize the information I learned in my schooling and apply it to my work at The Henry Ford. It has also given me access to brilliant minds and visions and has expanded my own ability to perform. This experience has proven difficult, fun, crazy, but most importantly, it is the reason I like to get up in the morning and come to work. I never know what I will find when I’m digging into the past!

Clarissa Thompson is one of the 2013 Simmons Graduate Interns at The Henry Ford.

++

education, interns

Some of you may have heard of or even visited the Ford Rotunda when it was here in Dearborn. But you may not know its true history.

It began when Henry Ford wanted his company to be featured in a show-stopping building at the 1934 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition. So he turned to his favorite architect, Albert Kahn—designer of the Highland Park Plant, the Rouge Plant, and the Dearborn Inn. Kahn was noted for his functional yet elegant architectural designs in Detroit and on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. He characteristically did not hone to one particular architecture style, but chose a style that best suited each building’s function.

Sketch of the Ford Exhibition Building for the Century of Progress Exposition, 1933-1934

For the Ford Exposition building in Chicago, Kahn broke completely from architectural styles and chose to symbolize Ford’s industrial might through an imposing cylindrical building whose outer walls simulated a graduated cluster of internally-meshed gears. The building was immense, rising 12 stories. Nine thousand floodlights, hidden around the circular exterior, bathed the building in a rainbow of colors. A torchlight effect emanated from the center of the building, sending a beam of light into the sky that, on a clear night, could be seen for 20 miles.

Noted industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague designed the interior of the Ford Exposition building—both within the gear-shaped cylindrical building and in the two wings that projected from each side. Teague’s streamlined designs brought drama and coherence to the building’s space and exhibits.

The “Out of the Earth” exhibit featured various natural materials that went into making Ford V-8’s, shown through a cutaway at top.

The Ford building became the attraction of the 1934 Century of Progress Exposition, revitalizing flagging attendance during the second year of the fair.

Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition closed its doors at the end of 1934. But Ford Motor Company decided to bring the central gear-shaped structure back to Dearborn. There it lived out its second life as the Ford Rotunda.

Ford Rotunda Construction Site, 1935

Where to locate the new Rotunda building? There was actually some thought of reconstructing it in Greenfield Village, but it found a comfortable home across from the Ford Administration Building. There, it served as the reception center for Ford’s highly visited Rouge Plant.

Postcard, "Ford Rotunda, Administration Building and the River Rouge Plant, Dearborn, Michigan," 1937

Albert Kahn supervised the reconstruction, suggesting that the original sheet rock walls—intended for temporary use—be replaced by stronger and supposedly fire-resistant limestone. Noted landscape architect Jens Jensen—another of Henry Ford’s favorites—supervised the landscaping around the building.

On the Rotunda’s opening day, May 14, 1936, 27,000 people visited the exhibits there. It would remain one of the top industrial attractions in the country for the next quarter century.

New Ford Cars for 1940 Displayed in Ford Rotunda, Dearborn, Michigan, 1939 (http://bit.ly/1axUGrU)

Courtyard inside Ford Rotunda Building, Dearborn, Michigan, 1937 (http://bit.ly/130S40k)

The Ford Rotunda began its third life in 1952, when Ford Motor Company executives decided that the now-outdated building and its exhibits needed a complete renovation.

Brochure, "The Ford Rotunda, Fifty Years Forward on the American Road" 1953 (http://bit.ly/14nWeou)

A significant addition was the new roof designed by Buckminster Fuller. The inner court, now put to more extensive and varied uses, needed a roof. But the building, originally designed to be open-air, would not support the weight of a conventional roof. Fuller’s geodesic dome design seemed to perfectly solve the problem, promising to be both durable and extra-lightweight.

Ford Rotunda with Newly Added Dome, Dearborn, Michigan, circa 1953 (http://bit.ly/13qAOFb)

Workers Assembling the Geodesic Dome Roof on Ford Rotunda Building, Dearborn, Michigan, 1954 (http://bit.ly/114UFJd)

On June 16, 1953, the Ford Rotunda re-opened to the public. Between 1953 and 1962, it became one of the Midwest’s principal tourist attractions, annually drawing more than one-and-a-half million visitors. Ford took advantage of the Rotunda’s popularity to call attention to new car models. But its biggest draw was the annual “Christmas Fantasy.”

Ford Falcon Automobile and Christmas Tree Inside the Ford Rotunda Building, Dearborn, Michigan, 1959

Sadly, the Ford Rotunda burned down on November 9, 1962, while the building was being prepped for the annual Christmas show. A waterproof sealer that was to be sprayed on the geodesic dome panels caught on fire. The company decided not to rebuild. Today, only Rotunda Drive in Dearborn serves as a reminder of this once-iconic and unique building.

Fire at the Ford Rotunda Building, Dearborn, Michigan, 1962

Donna R. Braden, Curator of Public Life, learned all about the Ford Rotunda when she put together the “Ford at the Fair” cases outside the “Designing Tomorrow” exhibition in Henry Ford Museum.

Dearborn, Ford Rotunda

Walt Disney World in Florida is certainly a fun place to visit. It opened in 1971, after Walt Disney realized the huge potential of an East Coast market at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. But if you want to experience the place where it all began, then go to Disneyland. Considered America’s first theme park, Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, in Anaheim, California.

To really “get” Disneyland, you must take a trip back in time to Walt Disney’s boyhood. Walt grew up during the rapidly changing years of the early 1900s. His boyhood experiences in Marceline and Kansas City, Miss., especially, inspired his later work in filmmaking and television, as well as his creation of the Disneyland park. Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A. is, in fact, a microcosm (albeit a cleaned-up one) of Walt’s boyhood memories of Marceline.

(Object ID: 86.13.27.3)

As Walt Disney relates it, his first interest in creating Disneyland dates back to the days he spent watching his daughters ride the carousel at Griffith Park, in Los Angeles, Calif. His wife credits the idea for Disneyland to Walt’s long-time fascination with the steam-powered trains that passed through Missouri when he was a boy.

train-disneyland

Whichever legendary “origin story” you want to believe, both of these strongly influenced the several-year evolution of his plan for the park. One of his early inspirations even included a visit to Greenfield Village.

Walt Disney and Ward Kimball Posing in the Greenfield Village Tintype Studio, 1948 (Object ID: 91.0.44.52, http://bit.ly/18paGvM

While most Hollywood moviemakers thought television was a passing fad, Walt Disney used it to his advantage. Disneyland the television show, which premiered in October 1954, helped fund Disneyland the park. The show featured live and animated features from each of four lands, with periodic peaks at the park construction. While tuning in to weekly episodes of Disneyland, American families were assured that Disneyland the park was going to be safe, wholesome, and predictable.

Lunchbox & Thermos, Disneyland, 1957 (Object ID: 99.12.19, http://bit.ly/1aYHiAT)

Special guests and the media were invited to Disneyland’s Opening Day on July 17, 1955. But things didn’t go quite as Walt Disney had planned. There were so many problems, in fact, that Walt later called it “Black Sunday.” Freeways were gridlocked, tickets were counterfeited, rides broke down, restaurants ran out of food, drinking fountains broke down. It was so hot that women’s high heels sank in the melting asphalt. Finally, a gas link almost shut down Fantasyland, the land in which most of the 22 attractions had been completed. On the next day, when the park opened to the public, things didn’t go much better.

Disneyland Cup & Saucer Set, 1955-1960 (Object ID: 2005.46.1, http://bit.ly/17qMU19)

Needless to say, the first reviews were quite negative. But Walt was determined to fix the glitches and by the end of the seventh week, more than a million guests had passed through Disneyland’s entrance. Visitation continued to exceed estimates from that time on.

Postcard, "Disneyland," 1975 (Object ID: 86.9.1.1500, http://bit.ly/1dKiecR)

With the consummate skill of a filmmaker, Walt’s vision for Disneyland was to have guests actually walk through popular American themes and stories. To accomplish this, he inspired his staff—Imagineers, he called them—to reduce these themes and stories to their essence.

Walt Disney's Adventureland Game, 1956 (Object ID: 2005.48.1, http://bit.ly/154K9T2)

For each land and attraction, the stories were unified through architecture, landscaping, signs, characters, food, merchandise, costuming, and even trash cans. This later came to be called “theming.”

Walt Disney's Tomorrowland Rocket to the Moon Game, 1956 (Object ID: 2005.47.1, http://bit.ly/154PkCr

Today, every themed environment—from theme parks to restaurants to retail stores—owes a debt to Walt Disney. And although The Henry Ford engages visitors through authentic artifacts and historically accurate stories, we can’t help but appreciate Walt Disney’s far-reaching vision, persistence in the face of obstacles, and genius for storytelling.

Good job, Walt! And happy 58th anniversary, Disneyland!

Donna R. Braden, Curator of Public Life, is looking forward to her family’s trip to Disneyland later this summer.

Disney, theme parks, tourism

From Daggett Farm to Maddox Family Home, a big part of the magic and history of The Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village is, without a doubt, the clothing. Visitors, members and new employees are often in awe of the amazing variety of period clothing items we produce. The scope of work is immense: clothing and textiles for daily programs, seasonal activities like historic base ball and Hallowe'en, and special events such as Motor Muster, Ragtime, Old Car Festival and Holiday Nights. How all of this wonderful clothing actually gets to Greenfield Village remains a bit of a mystery to the typical guest as well as to many employees of The Henry Ford!

Tucked away on the second floor of Lovett Hall behind a nondescript set of doors, The Clothing Studio is one of the well-kept secrets and hidden gems of The Henry Ford. Between period clothing and uniforms, The Clothing Studio covers over 250 years of fashion (from 1760 to present day) and is the premier museum costume shop in the country. No other museum does what we do at The Henry Ford. It's often surprising to visitors of The Clothing Studio that our own employees actually research, design, develop and create most of our period clothing and textiles onsite. Our talented, dedicated, and productive team with a passion for fashion and historical accuracy is comprised of two full-time staff members, 13 part-time staff members, and a small group of valued volunteers. Together we clothe nearly 800 people a year in multiple outfits of period clothing, costumes, and uniforms.

Ragtime at Greenfield Village

When it comes to work flow, there really is no downtime in The Clothing Studio. Work on the April opening of Greenfield Village begins before the Holiday Nights program ends with the sewing of hundreds of stock garments for period clothing sites to prepare for hundreds of fitting sessions of new and current employees. Once Greenfield Village is clothed for the opening, the preparation for summer programming begins with a big ramp up to mid-June, with Motor Muster and programs from “Simply Gershwin” to our summer stroller program. In addition to the regular workload, there are also unexpected requests, such as providing clothing for multiple Henry Ford characters for the 2013 North American Auto Show or sewing display curtains for Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s exhibit in the museum.

Every year we strive to not only maintain our high standard of period clothing and textiles, but to improve upon them with research and special training. The Studio staff works collaboratively with many internal departments to insure research, development, and execution of the best, most historically accurate clothing and accessories to help create an inspirational and authentic experience for our guests. While some clothing or textiles changes in Greenfield Village are quite noticeable, others are subtle. In addition to the typical clothing and accessories updates for new staff and replacement clothing for longtime employees, here are some of the new things you will see from the talented hands of the Clothing Studio staff:

Period Clothing

  • Games on the Green staff and Strollers will have new clothing items reflecting the targeted date change from 1900 to 1912. In this summer’s initial phase-in to 1912, look for new, narrower skirts and fancier white blouses for the women and new replacement linen suits, sweater vests and knickers for some of the men. Additional updates are planned for 2014.
  • New full aprons in J.R. Jones General Store. The aprons will provide more protection and thus increase the longevity of the period dresses underneath.
  • New button-front rain slickers for Firestone Farm in black and yellow – both historically accurate for 1885.
  • Carriage drivers will have the option of new wider brim hats with decorative ribbon trim for improved sun coverage.
  • New headwear options for women in the house at Susquehanna Plantation including head wraps and day caps (1860).
  • The female Greenfield Village Singers will have newly made, print dresses (same design) to replace worn dresses from previous seasons (1920s).
  • Town Hall hosts will have new uniforms and pianists will have new black and white outfits for the “Simply Gershwin” program (1930).
  • Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum Uniforms

  • New replacement Ranger uniforms (1912).
  • Improved functional and professional uniform clothing items for Creative Programs support staff.
  • Protective fire-resistant coveralls for Pottery Shop staff.
  • Graphic logo cotton t-shirts for Glass Shop staff.
  • New evening event museum uniforms with a dressier, more formal evening appearance, in a sophisticated color palette of black, charcoal, burgundy and white. The new uniforms were designed to complement yet differentiate evening museum staff from Catering and Visitor Services uniforms.
  • New/replacement Discovery Camp and Aspiring Innovators Camp counselor uniform polo shirts in a lighter weight material and with a new light aqua color.
  • Other textile products

  • New replacement puppets for Games on the Green summer programming.
  • New bat bags for historic baseball.
  • Whether on a farm, in a fine home or on the street, functional and fashionable clothing and textiles have consistently influenced the lives of people throughout history. In today’s world, with so much emphasis on fashion and home decor, we know our guests pay a lot of attention to our presentations and environments. From the second floor in Lovett Hall, The Clothing Studio is proud to be an important and dynamic part of The Henry Ford, playing a significant role in helping enrich educational experiences and delivering “wow” to millions of guests.

    Tracy Donohue is General Manager of The Clothing Studio at The Henry Ford

    costumes

    I had the distinct honor of being named one of the top 10 winners of the PBS/The Henry Ford national Teacher Innovators award in 2011. I spent a week that summer attending the Innovation Immersion workshop, at The Henry Ford, which was the actual award.

    PBS Learning MediaAs a master teacher of 26 years, with substantial experience in curriculum development (at both local and state levels) and educational technology integration, I have reached a point in my career where it can be very easy to coast or repeat what I have done in the past. I am lucky to have been involved in a new and substantial educational technology roll-out at my district, and act as one of the district Technology Integration Specialists. I end up leading a tremendous amount of professional development, and while this helps keep me motivated and “forces” me to be continually learning so I can train in a turnkey manner, sometimes its hard to find professional development that really gets me excited.

    Burn out (or sheer laziness) is always a worry for me.

    The Teacher Innovator award required me to really take a look at some of the ways I was teaching, and to do some serious reflection focused into a very specific direction. To be able to follow up that experience with a week of deep immersion at The Henry Ford was a truly outstanding and highly motivating professional development experience. The combination of meeting, talking and working with other highly motivated and innovative teachers (from all grade levels and subject areas), with added direction from Paula Gangopadhyay and the team at The Henry Ford, and with the amazing resources available at (and the wonderful setting of) The Henry Ford, was an incredibly stimulating (and led directly to my being involved in some very worthwhile online professional learning communities).

    It didn't take much reflection during the remaining days of my summer “vacation” to realize that The Henry Ford’s facilities, its resources and the philosophy of Henry Ford himself, embodied so well by The Henry Ford, were a perfect fit to, and a wonderful reinforcement, of many of the philosophies I have believed in for some time - philosophies that are quickly coming to prominence in many progressive areas of education. The ideas of project based learning, cross curriculum and multi-disciplinary approaches to education and the idea of a switch from STEM to STEAM education.

    Not only does The Henry Ford embody these ideas, but they have the resources, both educational and physical, to put these ideas into real world practice quite smoothly and effectively. I left with pages of ideas, and have only added to these over the course of the last year and a half, and the network of friends, colleagues and mentors created by a week at The Henry Ford has helped to keep the initial burst of enthusiasm burning.

    I am grateful to PBS and The Henry Ford for providing me this unique professional development and innovative leadership experience. I am extremely happy that PBS and The Henry Ford are continuing to encourage teachers each year to think out-of-the-box, use digital tools to reinvent education and provide rich contextual tools to further teaching and learning as part of the award. For anyone searching for real-life, exciting and effective 21st century professional development, Paula, The Henry Ford, Innovation 101 curriculum, the OnInnovation web resource and the Teacher Innovation Award are a combination well-suited to meet that need.

    By Keith Rosko, Fine Arts Department Chairperson and Technology Integration Specialists

    Chenango Forks School District, Binghamton, NY

    education, teachers, teaching

    History on the vine: all about the tomato

    It might sound funny to say, but historically tomatoes have had a bad rap. The classic staple condiment in today’s salads and hamburgers was once a mysterious food to many and couldn’t be found in the diets of early settlers.

    Thanks to Thomas Jefferson and his adventurous palate, tomatoes were being introduced into the White House’s kitchen at the beginning of the 19th century, according to old menus. However, it would be several years before Americans truly began experimenting with this versatile fruit.

    Around the 1840s, tomatoes really started to become part of Americans’ diets. Depending on where you lived in the United States, your approach to using and caring for the tomato in your kitchen varied. In southern states, a pine straw bed was used for growing plants, while other parts of the country used a trellis to stake for growing. East-coast states were first to experiment with the tomato in recipes as it arrived in the U.S., as evident from mentions in “The Virginia Housewife.” African-Americas also adopted the use of the tomato in their cooking early on, utilizing them for low-country cooking.

    Tomatoes at Firestone Farm

    About the same time the tomato began gaining popularity, American horticulturists began experimenting with breeding new types of tomatoes. Seed house catalogs provided countless species varieties, but most gardens tended to focus on one variety at a time. Unfortunately today, close to 99 percent of these historic, heirloom varieties are now extinct.

    Moving on to the 1850s, the tomato starts to become an important ingredient and sauces, like catsup. As Americans learned how to preserve their produce through canning, the tomato was a natural choice for preservation. The following years saw recipe after recipe with baking ideas for tomatoes.

    Here at The Henry Ford, tomatoes are an important of our gardens and food preparation. From Eagle Tavern entrees to appetizers at weddings inside Lovett Hall, our menus are a fan of tomatoes. Varieties like yellow pear and pink brandywine are just two of the tomatoes you can see growing at Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village.

    FMC Tomato Harvester, 1969: This massive machine, with 10 to 12 workers on it, performed the task of picking tomatoes off the stems of each plant in the field. Picking tomatoes by hand is a back-breaking, tedious job. Tomato harvesters, first introduced in 1959, reduced the time it took harvesting crews to pick one ton of tomatoes -- from 113 hours to 61 hours. (Object ID: 91.142.1, http://bit.ly/14WFP8k)

    Today Americans have a plethora of resources to choose from when setting up their gardens and getting their tomato plants ready. Seed houses concentrating on heirloom seed options help preserve surviving varieties; looking for the latest tomato news? There’s most likely a unique magazine to suit your needs.

    If you’re a tomato lover like we are, try this favorite recipe from The Henry Ford - Escaloped Tomatoes and Baked Tomatoes. Want even more tomato-based recipes? Check out our Historic Recipe Bank for recipes to make Fried Tomatoes and Tomato Soup.

    Escaloped Tomates

    (Escaloped Tomatoes recipe found on p. 344 of the "Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping", edited by Estelle Woods Wilcox, 1880)

    Modern adaptation may need additional adjustments as measurements and temperatures are estimates.

  • Bread crumbs
  • Butter, cut into small pieces
  • Salt, pepper and sugar
  • Onions, if desired
  • Grease a 2 qt. casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle a layer of bread crumbs, dot with few butter pieces. Then place a single layer of tomatoes on top of the bread crumbs. Season the tomatoes as desired. Top with a layer of bread crumbs and butter as before. Continue making layers of bread crumbs and tomatoes until the dish is full, finishing with the bread crumbs. Bake 45 to 60 minutes in a 350-oven.

    If desired, a layer of sliced, browned onions may be added on top of each layer of tomatoes. Slice the onions ½" thick and brown slices in butter over medium heat until light brown on each side. Place browned onion slices on top of tomato layers.

    Baked Tomatoes

    (Baked Tomatoes recipe found on page 272 of "The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book" by Fannie Merritt Farmer, 1896)

    Wipe and remove a thin slice from the stem end of six medium-sized tomatoes. Take out seeds and pulp, and drain off most of the liquid. Add an equal quantity of cracker crumbs, season with salt, pepper, and a few drops onion juice, and refill tomatoes with mixture. Place in a buttered pan, sprinkle with buttered crumbs, and bake twenty minutes in a hot oven.

    Modern adaptation may need additional adjustments as measurements and temperatures are estimates.

  • 6 medium sized tomatoes
  • Cracker crumbs
  • Few drops onion juice (hard to find, but available online)
  • 2 T butter, melted
  • ¾ c bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Clean tomatoes. Cut a thin slice off the stem end of the tomatoes. Take out the seeds, pulp and most of the liquid. Reserve ½ of the pulp and chop fine. To the chopped pulp, add an equal amount of cracker crumbs, salt and pepper to taste, and a few drops of onion juice. Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture and bake 20 minutes in a preheated 375° oven.

    World War I Poster, "Wholesome - Nutritious Foods from Corn, " 1918: During the First World War, all of the national governments of the warring nations used poster campaigns to encourage civilian and military support of the war effort. Artists widely used an innovative advertising technique for these posters that moved away from a factual depiction of a product’s material or event’s subject to an emphasis on appealing to the viewer’s emotions.
    (Object ID: 53.5.26.2, http://bit.ly/15KUh4e)

    History in the field: corn 101

    When you think of your favorite summer meal, what’s one dish you can’t live without? Does it happen to be corn on the cob? Chances are it might be, as corn is synonymous with summer dinners and fun.

    As a new American crop hundreds of years ago, the Spanish quickly adopted corn into their diets. In the early 18th and 19th centuries, recipes called for “green” corn (pre-ripe corn) to be roasted for optimal taste and palpability.

    Do you know the difference between different types of corn? Flint is a meal corn, not sweet and was often ground into flour. Dent has medium moisture content, so it was grown for animal consumption as feed, a perfect choice for hungry hogs. Gourd seed has soft kernels and high moisture content.

    Much like tomatoes, corn was a favorite of horticulturists in the 1840s as they discovered sweeter offerings and started breeding for them. The corn you’d find on the dinner table was white, not yellow, and for fancier homes was never eaten off the cob in front of mixed company! The proper serving suggestion was to roast it, boil it, dress it, and serve it at the table in the 1880s.

    Label, "Shoe Peg Country Gentleman Fancy Corn," circa 1918: Manufacturers of similar products sought ways to make their company's goods stand out on store shelves. Attractive labels, like this elegant design for President Brand "Shoe Peg Country Gentleman Fancy Corn," helped catch the attention of potential customers--hopefully encouraging them to purchase the company's product rather than that of a competitor. (Object ID: 89.311.68, http://bit.ly/12DOkWg)

    In 1910, golden bantam is introduced. As a small, very sweet corn variety, its popularity was hard to beat. Today there are numerous corn varieties to choose from and depend on the season and location you’re in.

    Growing corn might be a pastime for today’s amateur gardener, but for farmers and those needing to feed large families, corn is grown as a row crop for higher yields. Many of the same techniques to plant corn hundreds of years ago are still used today. When it comes to food technology, corn was one of the last foodstuffs to see big advancements in planting and care.

    Can all corn pop? You bet! Whether you eat it plain or drizzle it with butter, popcorn is a long-stranding snack favorite.

    At The Henry Ford, corn is all around. To try a favorite recipe of ours, try these tonight and make sure to tell us what you think. Need more inspiration? Try the "vegetables" category over at our Historic Recipe Bank.

    Corn Fritters

    (Corn Fritters recipe found on pages 222 - 223 pf "Kentucky Housewife" by Lettice Bryan, 1839)

    Having removed the shucks and silks from a dozen young tender ears of corn, grate or scrape the grains fine from the cobs, mix with it the beaten yolks of four eggs, two spoonfuls of flour, a salt-spoonful of salt, and a teaspoonful of pepper; mix the whole together, stirring it till it is well intermingled; then drop it by spoonfuls into a pan of boiling butter or lard, making them all as nearly the same shape and size as possible; turn them over once, and when both sides are of a light brown, serve them up. It is a breakfast dish, and is quite an agreeable relish.

    Modern adaptation may need additional adjustments as measurements and temperatures are estimates.

  • 1 doz. ears of corn
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 T flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil or butter for frying
  • Remove the shucks and silks from a dozen ears of corn. Using a sharp knife cut the kernels off the cob. Place kernels in a large bowl. Add beaten eggs and flour to corn kernels and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. In large frying pan heat the oil or butter until hot. Carefully drop mixture by spoonfuls into hot oil. Fritters should be the same size for even cooking. Turn them once. Fritters are done when both sides are nicely browned.

    Green Corn Pudding

    (Green Corn Pudding found on page 329 of "Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping," edited by Estelle Woods Wilcox, 1880)

    Draw a sharp knife through each row of corn lengthwise, then scrape out the pulp; to one pint of corn add one quart milk, three eggs, a little suet, sugar to taste, and a few lumps of butter; stir it occasionally until thick, and bake about two hours.

    Modern adaptation may need additional adjustments as measurements and temperatures are estimates.

  • 2 c fresh or frozen corn, cooked
  • 4 c milk
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 T sugar (more/less to taste)
  • 3 T butter, melted
  • Mix all ingredients well. Pout into a greased 2 qt. baking dish. Bake in preheated 300° oven. Stir occasionally and bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

    Pick up everything you need to make these recipes at Meijer

    Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

    corn, Food, tomatoes

    Henry Ford 150 year chrome sealAs we digitize the collections of The Henry Ford, we try to find and tell complete stories—for example, we don’t just digitize the race car, but also trophies it won, and photos from some of its most famous races. Because of our broad collecting approach and the resultant depth of our collections, we uncover these stories all the time.

    Sometimes fate and/or current events help us out. Though The Henry Ford is an independent institution, we do maintain a warm relationship with Ford Motor Company and often work together on projects. Recently we discovered a series of items in our collection that played a big role in Ford Motor Company’s history, both nearly 90 years ago and again just six years ago.

    The items include a number of paintings, magazine advertisement proofs created from those (and other) paintings, and correspondence that formed an impressive ad campaign. The campaign itself consisted of 16 ads that ran in the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines in 1924 and 1925. The ads, two-page spreads that contained both visually arresting artwork and a significant amount of text, explained the backstory of the Ford company at a time when, as Marc Greuther, Chief Curator and Curator of Industry and Design at The Henry Ford, states, the company was at “a certain kind of pinnacle” with their signature product, the Model T, but “the product is slipping.”

    1924 Ford Motor Company Institutional Message Advertising Campaign, "Opening the Highways to All Mankind"

    As fascinating as it is, this ad campaign might have disappeared into relative obscurity if it hadn’t been rediscovered by Ford Motor Company’s new President and CEO, Alan Mulally, in 2007. In a recent interview with Fast Company, Mulally said, “I was looking for a compelling vision, a comprehensive statement to deliver that strategy.” This ad campaign from the previous century provided just the fundamental sense of purpose that Mulally was after, and allowed him to create a new strategic vision that was embraced across Ford Motor Company.

    Blast Furnace, 1924

    As we discussed this backstory with Ford Motor Company, both organizations were extremely interested in highlighting the ad campaign. Marc Greuther conducted a one-on-one interview with Alan Mulally about the impact the earlier campaign had on today’s Ford Motor Company (you can view clips from that interview here and here). As discussions continued between our institutions, the Ford Motor Company Fund generously provided a grant to conserve and reframe some of the materials, as well as create videos covering the conservation process and interviews. We made plans to highlight some of the newly conserved paintings within our Driving America exhibit. The new exhibit was officially unveiled on June 24, with Alan Mulally and other luminaries (including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who checked in at the Museum on Foursquare) in attendance.

    The new and improved marketing section of our Driving America exhibit.

    The interactive kiosk within this section of the exhibit was updated to include new video clips featuring Marc Greuther’s interview with Alan Mulally, as well as additional analysis of the campaign by Marc. It also now features an electronic collections set containing all of the paintings, ad proofs, and correspondence connected to the campaign, as well as other related materials.

    1924 Ford Motor Company Institutional Message Advertising Campaign, "From Source to Service"

    In case you’ve ever wondered what it takes to pull this kind of historical story together, in both physical and digital formats, here are some of the groups that played a role:

  • Archivists from The Henry Ford combed the stacks, locating the ads and other materials related to the campaign
  • Registrars, archivists, and curators from The Henry Ford researched all of the materials as well as the backstory
  • Ford Motor Company provided access to Alan Mulally, Dean Weber (Manager of the Ford Archives), and other key corporate resources, both for interviews and project planning
  • The Ford Motor Company Fund provided a grant which underwrote conservation and reframing of some of the materials, as well as creation of videos covering the conservation process and interviews
  • Conservators, both at The Henry Ford and outside the institution, examined and conserved the artifacts
  • Curators at The Henry Ford planned the story, materials, and text for the new exhibit
  • Photographers and imaging specialists from The Henry Ford photographed and scanned of all the material
  • Digitization staff at The Henry Ford made sure all artifacts related to the campaign appeared online and on the interactive kiosk within this exhibit section
  • Museum and exhibits staff at The Henry Ford worked with contractors to update the Driving America exhibit with the new material
  • Events staff at The Henry Ford worked with Ford Motor Company to ensure the official unveiling went without a hitch
  • Ford Motor Company created a website to share photos, videos, and a press release relating to this project
  • And it continues to build… Staff at The Henry Ford have already fielded one loan request for some of the paintings and advertisements not used in Driving America (you can see them through October 2013 in the Michigan Modern exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.)
  • It certainly took a lot of time, effort, and funding to put this all together, but we hope you’ll agree that the resulting exhibit in Driving America within the Museum—as well as the digital assets, available to anyone around the world—are worth it. Let us know what you think.

    Ellice Engdahl, Digital Collections Initiative Manager at The Henry Ford, is always trying to integrate the physical and the digital.

    artifacts, research, research center