Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

imls-logo-newTimber Scribe: A small tool, a timber scribe, helps inform us about resourcefulness and entrepreneurship.

The Oxford English Dictionary confirms use of the term “timber scribe” by 1858 as “a metal tool or pointed instrument for marking logs and casks.” Another tool, a “race-knife” (also spelled rase knife) performed a similar function, “marking timber,” but the tools differed in detail.

The race knife had a “bent-over, sharp lip for scribing,” according to Edward H. Knight who compiled the Practical Dictionary of Mechanics, a nearly 8,000-page behemoth containing 20,000 subjects and around 6,000 illustrations, published in 1877. The timber scribe included two pieces with bent-over sharp lips as well as a point. The combination made it possible to scribe Arabic numbers, not just gouge Roman numerals, into logs and casks and timber, as shown below.

IMLS-toolThis tool has a wooden handle, a brass band that helped stabilize the wooden end where the forged steel was inset into the wooden handle, and the steel point with a cutter/gouge and separate “bent-over sharp lip”/gouge Dimensions: Length 7.25 inches; Height 2 inches; Width 1 inch. Object ID: 2017.0.34.625

Simply stated, a timber scribe included the components of the race knife. Lumbermen, shipbuilders, house wrights and carpenters, coopers, and surveyors, all used the timber scribe to make uniform marks on wood, but they could also use the elongated cutter/gouge to make free-hand marks. They used the race knife to make free-hand marks.

Appearances mattered. The timber scribe at The Henry Ford combines three natural materials – iron/steel, brass, and wood – all processed and refined in ways that make the tool pleasing to the eye, and useful to the woodsman or craftsman. The maker chamfered the edges of the wooden handle and scribed the brass collar.

An 1897 catalog from a Detroit hardware distributor, the Charles A. Strelinger Company, advertised a “rase knife or timber scribe.” The company sold three variations: a large size (though the catalog provided no dimensions), a small size, and a pocket rase knife. The large timber scribe included all three steel components (point with cutter gouge and “bent-over sharp lip” gouge) while the small version included just two of the three (point and gouge). The pocket rase knife likely consisted of just the gouge, which folded into the wooden handle of the knife, as seen below.

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Rase Knife or Timber Scribe. Detail from Wood Workers’ Tools: Being a Catalogue of Tools, Supplies, Machinery, and Similar Goods used by Carpenters, Builders, Cabinet Makers, Pattern Makers, Millwrights, Carvers, Ship Carpenters, Inventors, Draughtsmen, and [also] all “Wood Butchers” not included in Foregoing Classification and in Manufactories, Mills, Mines, etc., etc. Detroit Michigan: Charles A. Strelinger & Company, 1897, page 662. In the collection of the Benson Ford Research Center, The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Michigan. 

The tool in The Henry Ford's collection compares to the large timber scribe illustrated in Strelinger & Company’s 1897 catalog. The tool’s dimensions (7.25 inches long) inform us about the size of a “large” scribe.

Charles A. Strelinger was born in Detroit in 1856. The 1897 catalog Charles A. Strelinger Company indicated that the company had 30 years of experience in manufacturing and selling tools, supplies and machinery. Strelinger’s approach to advertising his wares through print media indicated how little change occurred in the tool business. The front page of the catalog had a blank space to write in the date, and, as he explained in “This Year’s Catalogue”: “our 1895 catalogue is also our 1896-’97-’98, and perhaps, 1899 catalogue. If we were selling Seeds and Plants, Ladies’ Hats and Bonnets, Patent Medicines, etc., we would, doubtless, find it necessary to issue a new catalogue every year, but our goods are of a stable nature, changes are comparatively few, and we are not warranted to going to the expense of printing a new book every year.”

The timber scribe and the Strelinger Company catalog confirm the need for specialized tools that serve many in various wood-working trades. The Company was resourceful in advertising, because the hand tools in woodworking were remarkably standardized by the late-nineteenth century and remained useful despite industrialization.

Debra A. Reid is Curator, Agriculture and the Environment at The Henry Ford.

The Henry Ford received funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in 2017 to support a three-year project to conserve, rehouse, and digitize thousands of objects. This is work, supported through IMLS’s Museums for America Collections Stewardship project, will continue over three years as The Henry Ford consolidates offsite collections into a new location on campus. The work “will improve the physical condition of the project artifacts through conservation treatment, rehousing, and removal to improved environments.” Finally, IMLS funding “will facilitate collections access through the creation of catalog records and digital images, available to all via THF's Digital Collections.”

A series of blogs shares the stories of small items that tell big stories of innovation, ingenuity, and resourcefulness, and that relate to other collections and interpretation at The Henry Ford.

Have you ever wondered how we photograph quilts at The Henry Ford? While the answer is probably no, you might be surprised to find out that it is quite a process. Most quilts are quite large, ranging from 7ft x 4ft to even 9ft x 5ft. With that being said, our photo studio in the museum only has a ceiling that is 10ft tall, but to get an accurate picture of the quilt we would need the camera to be pointing at the quilt at a 90-degree angle. How do we accomplish that in a room that’s only 10 ft tall? We find higher ground!

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Since our studio is on the back wall of the museum, we need to be somewhere elevated, but relatively nearby so we aren’t hauling our equipment all over the place. So, the Highland Park Engine is our answer. We mount the camera on the top railing of the stairs closest to the entrance to Conservation.


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Then, with the help of 2-3 people, we lay the quilts on a large 10 x 10 wooden board that has a layer of muslin cloth on it (to protect the quilts and stop them from sliding down the board), We hoist the quilt board up onto stands to hold it in place at about a 60-degree angle which allows us to angle the camera to shoot straight at the quilt, giving us the correct perspective as if it were lying flat.

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Here are a few examples of the finished images that go online on our Digital Collections website.

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Looking at them, you wouldn’t think that they were photographed any other way than lying down, right? That’s the magic of photography - with a little bit of resourcefulness and ingenuity added in.

You can view all the quilts from our collection that we’ve photographed on our Digital Collections here.

Jillian Ferraiuolo is a Digital Imaging Specialist at The Henry Ford.



I'm very pleased to announce that The Henry Ford has launched a $150 million comprehensive fundraising campaign to help advance the workforce of tomorrow.

At The Henry Ford, we believe that access to the ideas and innovations that have shaped our country should be available to everyone, regardless of backgrounds and barriers. We want to aggressively and intentionally leverage our unique assets, both physically and digitally, to educate, influence and inspire tomorrow's leaders.

This campaign, The Innovation Project, will help The Henry Ford provide the resources necessary for us to build digital and experiential learning tools, reimagine existing exhibitions and programs, and create new opportunities to advance innovation, invention and entrepreneurship. All of this has the ultimate goal of unlocking the most powerful resource on earth: the next generation.

logoTo date, we have raised more than $90 million toward our goal. Over the course of the next five years, the work of The Innovation Project will positively impact all of our venues. From new programs and activities across the campus to cutting-edge digital enhancements to existing exhibitions, we will make connections through our Archive of American Innovation to usher in new immersive experiences that will inspire learners of all ages.

Already, we have realized enhancements made to Heroes of the Sky in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, courtesy of Delta Air Lines, and the new Davidson-Gerson Gallery of Glass in Greenfield Village and the Davidson-Gerson Modern Glass Gallery in the museum.

Another early success of the campaign was the recent acquisition of The STEMIE Coalition, a nonprofit global consortium of invention education stakeholders and education change agents best known for its National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo (NICEE), which we hosted this past June connecting more than 400 students from 21 states to our collection.

We are pleased to have already made so much progress, blog_COLLAGE but there is much more to do! We need your help. We want YOU to be a part of our future and join us in providing equal and unfettered access to the collection, programs, exhibitions and STEM-based learning curriculum that will help us grow the workforce of tomorrow.

Please visit theinnovationproject.org to learn how you, too, can be a part of The Innovation Project. Your belief in The Henry Ford and our mission means so much to us, and I thank you for your continued support.


Patricia E. Mooradian is President & CEO of The Henry Ford.

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Members of Detroit’s Houghton School safety patrol listen attentively to traffic safety officer Anthony Hosang in 1950. (64.167.536.16)


Like clockwork, fall’s arrival brings with it a return to school for children throughout the United States. Whether they walk, ride a bike, take a bus, or get dropped off by an adult, the students’ daily trips to and from class will be safer thanks to the dedicated efforts of the AAA School Safety Patrol. Established by the American Automobile Association in 1920, the program’s core mission – to encourage safety awareness among young people – remains unchanged.

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Automobile Club of Michigan Safety Patrol Armband, 1950-1960. THF153486

AAA School Safety Patrol members generally are chosen by their teachers or principals and, with their parents’ permission, given training in traffic safety – typically over the summer, so they’re ready to go as soon as the school year starts. These young patrollers are then stationed near the school at crosswalks, bus unloading areas and carpool drop-off locations to ensure that their fellow students remain cautious near motorized traffic.

More experienced patrollers may be promoted to officer positions like captain, lieutenant or sergeant. These ranks bring with them additional responsibilities like keeping daily records, writing regular reports, or assigning other patrol members to specific duties or stations.

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AAA School Safety Patrol Lieutenant Badge, 1950-1965. THF151056

It’s important to note that safety patrol members work together with – not in place of – adult crossing guards and traffic officers. Nevertheless, the patrollers play an important role in keeping students safe. And they learn early and important lessons about responsibility, too. Not surprisingly, many safety patrol alumni go on to careers characterized by public service or proven leadership. Former patrollers include Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and notable Michiganders like Governor William Milliken, Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, and Detroit Tiger Al Kaline.

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The Official Song of the Safety Patrol, 1937. (87.135.1661)

The Henry Ford’s artifact collection includes armbands and badges worn by AAA School Safety Patrol members over the years. Our archival collection includes a copy of the sheet music for “Song of the Safety Patrol,” written by Lucille Oldham in 1937.

We salute these conscientious students working tirelessly throughout the school year to keep their classmates safe. Today, there are more than 654,000 children serving as patrollers in schools across the United States. Thanks to the program these students are empowered with a sense of responsibility and leadership as they protect their classmates going to and from school each day. 


To learn more about what AAA’s Safety Patrol offers to students today and how to get your child involved, take a look at their website.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

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968 World Series Official Souvenir Program, Tiger Stadium. THF 136034

It happened after the darkest year in Detroit’s history, 1967. What had started out as a police raid on an after-hours club early Sunday morning, July 23, 1967, escalated into five days and nights of uncontrolled violence, looting, and arson that left 43 people dead, 1,189 injured, and over 7,200 arrested. While civil unrest had occurred in many other cities before and during that summer, this event stood out as the largest of these uprisings to date. 

The Detroit Tigers’ season ended on a dark note that year as well, with the team losing the pennant on the final play of the final game of the season.

When the baseball season returned in 1968, everyone wondered whether the violence of the previous summer would return. Detroiters expected the worst. But, when the Tigers started winning games—in dramatic fashion with new heroes emerging daily—people had something to look forward to. They rediscovered fun. And joy. And pride.  

Exuding confidence from the start, the 1968 Detroit Tigers never lost a beat through the season. They clinched the American League pennant on September 17, 1968, with 103 wins and 59 losses—including a record-breaking 31 wins by pitcher Denny McLain. 

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1968 World Series poster, produced by Hudson’s and the Detroit Free Press, with a satirical caption referencing the popular 1963 film of that name.

Before the days of wildcard teams and inter-league division playoffs, the Tigers moved directly on to the World Series—pitted against National League (and defending World Series) champions, the St. Louis Cardinals. After a 3-1 deficit in the Series and the feeling of impending defeat, a masterful throw to home plate by Willie Horton in Game 5, a gutsy managerial decision to move centerfielder Mickey Stanley to shortstop, and three complete-game victories by pitcher Mickey Lolich (Games 2, 5, and 7) helped the Tigers stage a comeback during the last three games. On October 10, 1968, they clinched the Series. A city-wide celebration ensued, lasting until dawn. The memory has never quite been forgotten.   

This marked the first time the Tigers had won a championship since 1945, only the third time in their history, and something they have not accomplished since 1984. This was also the final Major League Baseball World Series before the 1969 team expansion and the introduction of divisional play with the League Championship Series.

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1968 World Series Souvenir Bumper Sticker, a supplement in the Detroit News. THF289559

As the donor of this bumper sticker (who was in eighth grade at the time) recalled, “Though I didn’t follow sports, I knew about the World Series, of course, and was SO proud that our hometown team would be participating. This was such a big thing that we students were allowed to watch the final game on a television rolled into our classroom (at Sacred Heart in Roseville, Michigan). That kind of thing very rarely happened—in fact, this is the only time I can recall that it did.” 

Donna R. Braden, Senior Curator & Curator of Public Life, missed the 1968 World Series but was fortunate enough to attend the last game of the Tigers World Series in 1984.

What's Your Fifth Freedom?

October 8, 2018
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When we planned the “With Liberty & Justice For All” exhibit in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, we wanted to set aside an area for visitor reflection and response.  We decided to pose four questions there and allow visitors to respond to them by writing upon a simple Post-It note and placing their comment under one of the questions. The questions were intended to be timeless—like what does freedom mean to you? But the visitor responses over time have been fascinating in their reflection of changing social and political issues.

We have never seen as many Post-Its as at this year’s free-to-visitors day held on Jan. 15, the day that officially commemorated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.  That day, post-it notes ran up, down, and sideways across the walls of this exhibit area.  Each comment built upon previous ones, creating a long, continuous idea chain. We had never seen anything like that before so we decided to save these comments in our archives.

This month we're opening the doors to our latest traveling exhibition in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation - “Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms.” The exhibition, organized by Norman Rockwell Museum, presents the Four Freedoms paintings created by Norman Rockwell in 1943, based on the Four Freedoms President Franklin Roosevelt believed all people should be able to benefit from in 1941: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from fear, and freedom from want.

In celebration of our latest exhibition, we'll be sharing a selection of those responses  from our Martin Luther King, Jr. Day each week on our Instagram account in honor of “Enduring Ideals” now through January. They appear in their original form, just as visitors wrote them as they reacted to the questions. As we look at the original Four Freedoms in 2018, we ask you to not only think about what freedom means to you, but which freedom you believe should be the fifth freedom today.

We hope they encourage your own reflection on the continued relevance of freedom and the role it plays in your own lives.

Donna R. Braden is Senior Curator and Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.

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Factory-built trucks, like this 1931 Ford Model A pickup, were the highlight at this year’s Old Car Festival in Greenfield Village.

Another summer car show season has come and gone, but it was capped off in spectacular fashion with the 68th annual Old Car Festival. More than 750 bicycles, automobiles and trucks filled Greenfield Village with the sights and sounds of motoring circa 1900-1932.

This year’s theme commemorated a century of factory-built trucks. Chevrolet introduced its first half-ton and one-ton trucks in 1918. Ford technically built its first Model TT trucks in 1917, but TT production that first year was so small that it seems fair to celebrate the Ford truck centennial in 2018, too. Regular Old Car Festival attendees know that – despite the show’s name – trucks have long been a part of the event, but this year the spotlight was theirs. In addition to the many participant trucks, our friends at the GM Heritage Center kindly provided a 1926 Chevrolet Superior Series X pickup for display, while we pulled out a 1925 Ford Model TT stake truck from The Henry Ford’s collection.

OCF2A group of eight Sears high wheelers heads through Pass-in-Review – with the non-runner towed by a 1921 Fordson Model F tractor.

Old Car Festival always brings together a mix of the rare and the common, the strange and the standard, and this year was no exception. Among the highlights was a group of eight Sears high wheelers. From 1909 to 1912, aspiring motorists could order complete cars (along with just about everything else) from the Sears catalog. Priced around $400, the cars were solid if not spectacular, but their arrival was something of a cultural milestone. If *Sears* was selling them, then surely these horseless carriages were here to stay!

OCF3Even 130 years after “safety” bicycles supplanted them, high-wheel “ordinary” bikes continue to fascinate.

Not every vehicle at Old Car Festival had a motor. Once again members of the Michigan Wheelmen brought a variety of period bicycles, from a replica of a circa 1817 draisine (the bicycle’s earliest, peddle-less ancestor), to intimidating high wheelers of the 1870s, to more conventional “safety” bikes of the sort Wilbur and Orville Wright sold in the 1890s. Throughout the weekend, the Wheelmen wowed the crowds with their displays of skill – from bicycle games, to stunts, to simply managing to climb aboard something with a front wheel 58 inches high.

OCF4Visitors enjoyed an additional musical treat this year as organist Dave Wagner performed hit songs of the early automobile era on the newly-restored pipe organ in the Menlo Park Laboratory.

Our decade vignettes, so popular last year, returned for 2018. For the Aughts, we had a group of Civil War veterans enjoying a G.A.R. reunion picnic (with a period-appropriate blend of horse-drawn and motorized transportation). For the 1910s, we had a Ragtime street fair complete with fast-fingered pianists, vintage games, and tasty foods along Washington Boulevard. At the other end of the village near Cotswold Cottage – “over there,” if you will – a group of World War I reenactors commemorated the centennial of the Armistice. The Roaring ’20s were recalled with a concert and dancing at the bandstand near the Ackley Covered Bridge. And the somber early years of the Great Depression came to life through the blues guitar of the Rev. Robert Jones.

OCF5Another rare sight: five Model K Fords attended the show. Today the big six-cylinder K is unfairly dismissed as a failure. In truth, it sold well – and quite profitably – between 1906 and 1908.

Whether it was your first visit or your 21st, Old Car Festival surely offered something to bring a smile to your face or a tap to your toe. It’s a car show like no other, and one we’ve been proud to present year after year.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

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Stemie Coalition Logo-jpegI’m pleased to announce that The Henry Ford and the STEMIE Coalition have officially joined forces to strengthen our invention education offerings across the country and around the world. Several members of the STEMIE Coalition are now part of The Henry Ford organization.


For those of you who don’t know, The STEMIE Coalition is a non-profit, umbrella membership organization of youth invention and entrepreneurship programs across the U.S. and globally and is best known for producing NICEE, the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo.

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We held the 2018 NICEE for the very first time here in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation this past June, and now we will be the permanent home of that program during which more than 400 students from 20 states and two countries qualified to attend.   

In fact, when we started the conversations around the planning and hosting of NICEE here at The Henry Ford, it was then that we realized how similar our missions are, that both organizations shared a vision of creating the next generation of innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs and it was apparent to us that combined, we could reach significantly more students and make a greater impact.

I see this as a marriage of missions. The STEMIE Coalition’s mission to train every child in every school in invention and entrepreneurship skills aligns with The Henry Ford’s quest to move our country forward through innovation and invention. This expands the pipeline of products available to address kids preK-12 and to increase the accessibility of invention education for students of all backgrounds. This is an investment in unleashing the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and creating tomorrow’s workforce.

Thank you, as always, for helping The Henry Ford activate our mission and for your continued support. See you soon.

Patricia E. Mooradian is President & CEO of The Henry Ford.

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Thanks to all of this year's makers, volunteers, and guests who made Maker Faire Detroit, presented by GE Digital, 2018 a success. Take a look at this year's highlights below as well as our 2018 Blue Ribbon Winners.


2018 Blue Ribbon Winners
Lip a dee doo dah (Maker #902) 

501st Legion, Rebel Legion and R2 Buddies (673) 
Detroit Area Modern Quilt Guild (775) 
Vulcan Fire Protection Tech Sisters (845) 
Camp Pencil Point (679)
Frib (742) 
Hammerhead Robotics (843) 
Maglev Propulsion (709) 
Novi Robotics (825/826) 
LT Simulator Landon (729) 
Labor of Love (727)  
GE (989) 
University of Michigan Dearborn (997) 
American Welding Society Careers in Welding (768)
Tesla Coil (685) 
Society of Women Engineers Detroit (858)
Needle Arts Zone (973) 
Metal and Soul Stem Zone (917)
Underwater Robotics (895) 
Girl Scouts of SE Michigan (757)
Game of Fire (1120)
Mega Tetris (886) 
Factory Two (812)
Lansing Makers Network
GenX Chrono (1042)
SME (992)
Hitachi Scanning Electron Microscope (1026)
Ghostbusters Detroit
Technochic
Lego Drawing Robot (686)
Maker Works - The Great Maker Race
Novi High School
Darkroom Detroit 
Oxymoronatron

imls-logo-newSusan Bartholomew, Collections Specialist here at The Henry Ford, is busy cataloging objects from The Henry Ford's Collections Storage Building (CSB). A three-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Museums for America Collections Stewardship project, supports conserving, rehousing, and digitizing thousands of objects currently housed in several bays of the CSB.

As the grant narrative explains, the IMLS funding supports a “critical element in a major institutional project: the consolidation of The Henry Ford's off site collections into a new location on campus.” The work “will improve the physical condition of the project artifacts through conservation treatment, rehousing, and removal to improved environments.” Finally, IMLS funding “will facilitate collections access through the creation of catalog records and digital images, available to all via The Henry Ford's digital collections.”

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Occasionally Susan comes upon an artifact that needs additional explanation to accurately catalog it, such as this one. Here's what we knew upon examination:

  • It's 16" long, 7" wide
  • Has a smooth wooden handle
  • Is bent and welded iron
  • There's a ringed brass flange positioned to reduce wear where the metal is imbedded into the organic material.

The questions we then ask: What is this instrument? What purpose does it serve?

We turned to our horse experts with the Ford Barn team in Greenfield Village to help us understand its use.

A steady diet of oats, grass, and hay wears a horse’s teeth down as they age. Persistent grinding of food can leave sharp burrs or edges on the outside of their molars. Untreated, this causes pain when the horse chews, and they lose weight.

Farmers and veterinarians used this instrument (called a “gag” or speculum) to hold a horse’s mouth open as they floated the horse’s teeth to balance their bite. Floating helps a horse maintain a healthy bite in their senior years.

A person (farmer or veterinarian) would insert the “gag” into the horse’s mouth, holding it by the handle. Then, the farmer/veterinarian would pull downward on the handle which “encouraged” the horse’s mouth to open. The oval area provided a window through which to place the float (a rasp used to file down the sharp edges).

The device proved useful when treating younger horses with other dental issues, too. Today caring for aging horses still requires floating and balancing their teeth. Caregivers still use a speculum to hold the horse’s mouth open, and to keep their head steady during floating and balancing, but the instruments today have padding to reduce stress on the horse’s jaw during the procedure.

Thanks to the IMLS for providing the invaluable funding to help make this exploration of animal care possible.

Debra A. Reid is Curator of Agriculture and the Environment at The Henry Ford. Jim Slining is Curator of Museum Collections at Tillers International.