Our collections include Presidential artifacts and memorabilia, from George Washington to Barack Obama, but Henry Ford actually met several Presidents of the United States himself. In honor of Presidents' Day, here are snapshots of those encounters.
President William Howard Taft spoke to the Detroit Board of Commerce in 1910. Taft also visited Henry Ford’s office at the new Highland Park plant, which opened that year (THF96601).
Henry Ford rode with President and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson during a visit to the Highland Park Plant. Wilson encouraged Henry to run for the United States Senate in 1918 (THF113675).
President Warren Harding joined Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone (“the Vagabonds”) on a camping trip in Maryland in 1921 (THF105486).
Henry Ford and the Vagabonds visited President Calvin Coolidge's farm in Vermont in 1924. Coolidge presented Henry with a bucket used in collecting maple syrup (THF108551).
President Herbert Hoover visited Greenfield Village with Henry Ford and Thomas Edison for Light’s Golden Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of Edison’s incandescent light and the dedication of the Edison Institute, in 1929 – just days before the stock market crash (THF98981).
President Franklin Roosevelt toured the Willow Run Plant with Henry Ford and production manager Charles Sorensen in 1942, as B-24 bomber production began. They rode around the factory in the Presidential limousine, the "Sunshine Special," which was also used by President Harry Truman (THF93105).
Jim Orr, Image Services Specialist at The Henry Ford, and Mr. Ford have met a combined total of six United States Presidents.
Love Tokens in the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries
As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, many of us eagerly anticipate tokens of affection from our loved ones. These may take the form of a simple Valentine card, flowers or perhaps, chocolates. The luckier among us may receive something more expensive and lasting, such as a piece of jewelry. Jewelry presented as an expression of love has a long historical precedent and is well represented in the collections of The Henry Ford.
The most fascinating form of jewelry created as a love token started as what we would describe as a “fad” in the late 18th century. Today we might consider these disembodied eye portraits as bizarre or jarring. But they get at the heart of the very private nature of the intensity of feelings between two people, by means of an individualized portrait of a beloved’s eye. The idea was that a sweetheart would be reminded of their lover’s watchfulness. Throughout human history eyes have always symbolized mirrors to the soul. They are as intimate a token as two people could find.
The story begins with British royalty. In 1784, George, the Prince of Wales, son of George III, later to become the Prince Regent, eventually George IV, became enamored of a young Catholic widow, Maria Fitzherbert, whom he was forbidden to marry, both by law and by his father. Against her wishes, he pursued her. Recognizing the impossibility of the match, she fled to France for a year, believing that her absence would lessen the Prince’s amorous feelings. To the contrary, the Prince became more infatuated and more determined to marry Mrs. Fitzherbert. At the end of the year he sent her a marriage proposal. Instead of including a ring, he sent a miniature portrait of his eye. Apparently, she was so taken with his gift that she immediately returned and married the Prince in a secret ceremony, late in 1785. Shortly after the marriage, Maria commissioned the same miniature artist to paint a portrait of her eye for her new husband. This created a fashion among British aristocrats for eye portraiture. Of course, when King George III discovered the illegal marriage, he immediately annulled it. Thus, the eye portraits became even more important as symbols of intimacy and perhaps, forbidden love. As a coda to the story, although forced to marry another, George remained in contact with Maria for the rest of his life. It is said that George is buried with Maria’s eye portrait.
The popularity of eye portraits extended beyond the shores of the British Isles. In France, they took on political connotations and were said to function as discreet symbols for meetings of revolutionaries. Few eye portraits were made for Americans – they were associated with the hated British monarchy in the decades following the Revolution. Today, scholars estimate that there are no more than 1,000 of these tiny pins extant.
This eye portrait, when magnified, appears to be a male. The carelessly drooping hair of the eyebrow appears to be a characteristic associated with a man. A lady would have presented herself in a much more genteel manner. We will never know the identity of this person. That is the essential enigma of the piece – and of eye portraits in general.
The Henry Ford jewelry collection holds a number of other, less obvious love tokens. Roughly contemporaneous with the eye portrait, these tokens were likely shared between lovers while alive, and after the death of one likely served as a memorial pin. This oval pin portrays a young lady carrying a wreath, a symbol of eternity, to an altar with the inscription “To Love.” On the altar are two cups, perhaps loving cups. Above, two birds hold a loosely knotted ribbon or string binding them together. Perhaps the most telling element of the piece is the inscription on the back reading “My love is true to none but you.”
The imagery on these pins also seems to relate to love tokens, visually suggesting that “my heart burns for you.” They are painted in different styles; the image at the left is much more finished. The image at the right has the inscription “Sincerity” on the altar.
In the centuries before the development of modern medicine, death came quickly and often. Because of this fact, the line between tokens of affection and mourning pieces became blurred. In most cases, love tokens hold signs and symbols legible only to the couple. We will never fully understand the meaning of these pieces. Unlike mourning jewelry, they do not give us names, initials or dates of the deceased.
Moving somewhat forward in time, snake motifs were popular with Victorians and are often seen on bracelets. Like wreaths, the snake was a symbol for eternity. The fact that this piece holds a plaited snippet of human hair indicates that it may have served as a memorial. The red cut stone, perhaps a garnet, was a favorite of the Victorians in both mourning and non-mourning jewelry. Consequently, it is likely that the piece was produced as gift and continued as a memorial piece.
In all, The Henry Ford’s jewelry collection holds some remarkable tokens of affection, most notably the eye portrait, but also several enigmatic pieces of the early 19th century.
Courage is a word we hear a lot. Sometimes it feels appropriate – when a newscaster talks about a soldier departing for a tour of duty or a first responder enduring personal risk to help others. Sometimes it seems overblown – like a sports announcer describing a coach’s call at the end of a game. Its usage has become so commonplace; in fact, it’s a word that can be easy to ignore.
On Monday, February 3, I was among the 400 people who heard Jessica Buchanan tell her story at the second annual National Day of Courage at The Henry Ford – an event to commemorate the extraordinary courage of the civil rights icon, Rosa Parks. Jessica was a young aid worker teaching children in Somalia how to avoid the dangers of land mines and unexploded munitions when she and a co-worker were kidnapped and held in captivity for 93 days. Their ordeal ended in January 2012 when they were rescued by the brave men of the U.S. Navy, Seal Team 6.
Without question, Jessica’s survival and rescue were acts of courage. Her strength and resiliency kept her alive then and keeps her moving forward now. But to me, her tale of courage began long before her kidnapping.
From all accounts, Jessica was a bright, capable young woman. Fresh out of college, she could have chosen a career in any field she wanted. She chose to commit her time and her talents to helping improve the lives of people half a world away. Working first in Kenya and then in Somalia, Jessica put herself in danger to make the world a little bit safer for others.
Nelson Mandela once said that “courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” Jessica Buchanan knew the risk she was taking when she chose to work in war-torn Africa. She wasn’t naïve or fearless. But she went anyway. And she almost paid the ultimate price.
When asked by a student at Monday’s event, Jessica said she’d still go again, even knowing what she knows now. Her belief in making a difference in this world is that strong. Her willingness to sacrifice for that belief has not wavered.
To me, that’s the real courage in this story – standing strong in your conviction to do the right thing, even if it means sacrificing your own comfort and safety for the greater good. I don’t know of a better way to honor the conviction and sacrifice of Rosa Parks than in remembering a similarly selfless act of courage by another young woman nearly 50 years later.
Matthew J. Wesaw is Executive Director Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
Usually a copy of a copy isn’t always a great thing. But if this copy happens to be a copy of a “A Domestic Cook Book,” written by America’s first African-American cookbook author Malinda Russell, it IS a great thing.
As the beginning of Janice’s introduction reveals, Malinda was a free woman of color in the 1800s. At the age of 19 she was to travel to Liberia, but after having money stolen from her she had to stay in Virginia. She worked as a cook and traveled as a companion, serving as a nurse. After her husband’s death, Malinda moved to Tennessee and kept a pastry shop. A second robbery forced her out of Tennessee into Paw Paw, Michigan, “...the garden of the west.” As Janice notes, the “receipts” in her book are incredibly diverse on account of her travels near and far. Malinda’s personal account of her life’s story takes you back into history, making you realize just how important her life’s work was then and is now.
Not only does the facsimile contain more than 250 recipes from Malinda, but it also houses medical and household hints, too. In the Clements Library at the university, the preserved original copy joins the ranks of other early African-American cookbooks, including “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,” a name very familiar to guests at Greenfield Village.
Like so many of the historic recipes found in the collections here at The Henry Ford, this copy of A Domestic Cook Book provides great inspiration for our programming team in Greenfield Village. Cathy Cwiek, Manager of Historic Foodways and Domestic Life Programs at The Henry Ford, especially enjoys pouring over the book reading about Malinda’s fascinating story and her favorite recipes. Here are two of Cathy’s favorite recipes from the book, shared just as Malinda wrote them, that you can try at home.
A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen
By Malinda Russell, an experienced cook.
Printed by T.O. Ward at the “True Northerner” Office
Paw Paw, Mich., 1866
Ginger Pop Beer
Five and a half gallons water, 3-4ths lb ginger root bruised, half ounce tartaric acid, two and 3-4ths lbs white sugar, whites of three eggs well beaten, one teaspoonful lemon oil, one gill yeast. Boil the root thirty minutes in one gallon of water. Strain off and put the oil in while hot. Make over night; in the morning kim and bottle, keeping out the sediment.
Take the shank bone, boil until tender; chop fine, potatoes, onions, and cabbage, and boil until done; season with salt, pepper, parsley, rosemary, or sweet margery. Rub the yolk of one egg into the three tablespoons flour, rubbed into rolls and dropped into the soup to boil.
Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.
Nearly as long as there have been automobiles, dealers and enthusiasts have been decorating them with hood ornaments. As you might suspect, the collections of The Henry Ford contain a few hood ornaments, and we’ve just added a number of them to our digital collections. View this Lalique dragonfly and other hood ornaments by visiting our online collections.
Jeanne Theoharis’ definitive political biography of Rosa Parks sets out to correct the popular myth of Rosa Parks as the quiet, tired seamstress who refused to give up her seat on Montgomery City Lines Bus #2857. Through extensive and intricate research, Theoharis asserts that Rosa Parks spent years working courageously for civil rights. She prepared herself with an assured readiness, which she could rely on when an opportunity occurred as it did on the bus on December 1, 1955.
As Theoharis points out, Parks started her political activist career at an early age, decades before she refused to give up her bus seat. Parks and husband Raymond, who met in 1931, shared a passion for taking action against segregation laws. She joined the Montgomery NAACP in 1943 as a volunteer advocate organizing black youth groups and trying to bring justice for young black women raped by white men. A few years later, she became the secretary of the NAACP — working with E.D. Nixon, president of the Montgomery NAACP chapter — to advocate for anti-lynching laws and overcoming the formidable process of registering black people to vote.
Rosa Parks also was a strong advocate for integrating whites and blacks. In 1947, the Freedom Train, carrying historic copies of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights and the original Gettysburg Address and Emancipation Proclamation, “was scheduled to stop in Montgomery and Parks published a report objecting to Montgomery’s all-white train committee,” according to Theoharis. The national requirement that the exhibit be racially integrated was highly controversial in Montgomery, Birmingham and Memphis. Parks and her colleagues were instrumental in bringing the Freedom Train to Montgomery as they pressured city officials to ensure all children would actually enter on a first-come, first-served basis. As the Montgomery NAACP secretary, she created several campaigns for racial integration, wrote numerous press releases countering white arguments for segregation and continued to mount successive and tireless campaigns for black voter registration.
Theoharis brings us through six decades of Parks’ courageous life as a political activist, which had serious consequences for her and her family. Great economic stress, constant harassment and people threatening physical harm and even death were now part of her life. Despite the private toll, Parks continued to publicly urge perseverance for the civil rights movement, never retiring as an advocate for racial justice.
Theoharis’ The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks is an exceptional scholarly work that offers a great story for its readers and should be part of every library and classroom. This work provides a new awareness of the importance of an American icon whose real history is better and far more relevant to move our society forward than the myth of a tired seamstress.
Review by Christian W. Øverland, Executive Vice President of The Henry Ford.
In early 1964, young Beatles fans might have listened for their favorite hits with an inexpensive, hand-held transistor radio like this “Zenette” model, made by the Zenith Radio Corporation. THF102582
For those who had been paying attention, the groundwork for the Beatles’ conquest of America had actually been laid before President Kennedy’s assassination in November. Through the summer and fall of 1963, the Beatles had slowly gained a following. A few radio deejays, intrigued by the Beatles’ sound and the attention they were getting over in Europe, occasionally managed to veer from the usual playlist to sneak in an airing of an imported copy of one of their British hits.
At the end of 1963, listener interest reached a crescendo with airplay of the Beatles’ British hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Taking notice, Capitol Records decided to move up its own U.S. release date of this record. Rather than mid-January 1964 (to coincide with the Beatles’ Ed Sullivan Show appearances), Capitol debuted this single on December 26, 1963. The timing was perfect. In New York City alone, this single sold 10,000 copies every hour over the first three days of its release! In only 10 days, a million copies of it had been sold. Four additional Beatles singles and two albums were hastily produced and were flying off the record shelves just in time for the Beatles’ visit.
A Day in the Life
Certainly the most memorable and significant part of the Beatles’ visit to America in February 1964 was their appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” As story has it, Sullivan, who had great instincts as a talent scout, happened to be at London’s Heathrow Airport on October 31, 1963, when the Beatles returned from Stockholm, Sweden, to a mass of screaming fans. Intrigued, he investigated further and ended up negotiating with the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein for not just one, but three shows.
The first of these aired live on Sunday, February 9 in New York City. An estimated 74 million viewers turned on their TVs to watch Ed Sullivan’s show that night—the largest recorded audience for an American television program to date! While Beatles music was becoming familiar to the public through both the radio and their records, television had the power to add visuals—and to bring these visuals directly into people’s living rooms.
And what visuals they were! The Beatles were like no other performers Americans had ever seen. They dressed and acted like courtly gentlemen, wearing matching suits with collarless jackets and bowing together at the end of each song. But their defining feature was their shockingly long hair, which shook and bounced around their faces as they sang.
The American press was not kind to the Beatles after that first Ed Sullivan Show appearance. An article in The New York Times called them “young men with heads like unmade beds.” The audience was “filled with wild-eyed girls” who “bounced like dervishes and began a wild screaming as if Dracula had just appeared on stage.” But, not surprisingly, young people—especially girls—thought very differently about the experience. Historian Susan Douglas, who—as a teenager—had watched the Beatles on TV during that first Ed Sullivan Show, captured the thoughts of many like her:
While I didn’t scream (because I was recording them on my dad’s reel-to-reel tape recorder), I sure felt like it. I was elated—actually filled with joy. I couldn’t stop smiling while they performed. They made me so happy, the kind of happy that overflows all the breakers in your neural system and makes you feel free. This was a happiness I could barely contain, the kind that made me want to shake my best friends and jump for joy.
The Beatles’ second appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” took place the following Sunday, February 16—live from the Deauville Hotel’s Napoleon Ballroom in Miami Beach, Florida. It drew an estimated 70 million television viewers. During this show, Ed Sullivan described the Beatles as “four of the nicest youngsters we’ve ever had on the show.”
Their final appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” was back in New York City on February 23, a show pre-recorded on February 9. By this time, the Beatles had already returned home to England.
The Beatles’ 15-day visit to America also included press conferences, rehearsals, and concerts. At their first American concert—which took place in the Coliseum in Washington, D.C.—the Beatles had to turn and reorient themselves after every few songs because the stage was at the center. At their two concerts in New York City’s Carnegie Hall—considered America’s great shrine to classical music—they appropriately started off with Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.”
This souvenir button was purchased by Stephen Majher, who happened to share an elevator with the Beatles at the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, during their stay there to prepare for their second appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Stephen Majher was in Miami attending a convention and was unaware of the famous quartet's identity until the elevator landed and the Beatles were met by screaming fans. He commemorated the occasion by purchasing some Beatles-related souvenirs—including this button—to take home to his 14- and 7-year old daughters back in Bay City, Michigan. THF8627
Here, There and Everywhere
The Beatles’ conquest of America in February 1964 was, in fact, thoroughly planned and strategized—even if the Beatles themselves were pleasantly surprised by it all. In the end, victory was soundly declared.
But during their brief visit, the Beatles had opened a door that would forever change American musical tastes, fashion, group behavior in public places, and teen culture. The conquest was complete. But the invasion had just begun.
Donna R. Braden is Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.
Was there a group better than The Beach Boys to write so longingly about the automobile? (Object ID: 87.170.1)February is upon us and, with Valentine’s Day in the offing, our thoughts turn to love. Red roses and paper hearts are fine, but to me nothing is quite as romantic as a love song. Whether it’s from an old master of the Berlin-Gershwin-Porter variety, or from one of today’s stars, a simple love song communicates emotion in a wholly unique way. Anyone who has explored the “Car Tunes” activity in Driving America knows that automobiles have been a staple in popular songs from the start. It was inevitable, then, that the car song and the love song would blend. In the spirit of the holiday, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.
Many words have been written on the automobile’s effects on our courtship rituals. (See John Heitmann’s The Automobile in American Life for a good discussion.) Prior to the car, a young man “called” on a young woman at her home under her mother’s watchful eyes. The couple might find a few moments of privacy on the front porch, but that was about it. The automobile threw the old rules out the window and gave couples a literal escape from the confines of the home. It either took them somewhere where they could, ahem, be affectionate, or was itself the place for their amorous activities.
Kenny Roberts, the Yodeling Cowboy, voices this shift in his 1949 hit “I Never See Maggie Alone.” As the title suggests, Kenny can’t get a private moment with Maggie – her large family is always there. He buys a car for a little seclusion, takes Maggie for a ride, but… Well, I won’t spoil it for you, but you probably know what happens. Fast forward 30 years and you’ll find Robbie Dupree covering the same ground in “Hot Rod Hearts” from 1980. Times have changed, though. While Kenny and Maggie were merely “huggin’ and kissin,” Robbie has “young love born in a backseat.” One suspects there’s more than innocent necking at play.
How do you listen to your favorite song in your car today? (Zenith "Zenette" Transistor Radio, 1960-1963, Object ID: 92.46.2).
When the car isn’t providing young lovers with a means to get away together, it’s often the means to bring them together. Many tunes tell of someone driving through the night to reach a significant other. Cyndi Lauper made a big hit out of this very scenario with 1989’s “I Drove All Night.” It’s been an enduring song, with subsequent hit versions from Roy Orbison and Celine Dion. (Celine’s version even backed a series of Chrysler commercials in the early 2000s.)
Classic Rock fans recognize the “drive to romance” concept from Golden Earring’s 1973 smash “Radar Love.” While the title refers to the lovers’ seemingly telepathic connection, the opening couplet is pure road song: “I’ve been drivin’ all night, my hands wet on the wheel / there’s a voice in my head that drives my heel.” Country fans, meanwhile, might be reminded of Dave Dudley’s 1963 cut “Six Days On the Road.” In this case, the narrator is a professional truck driver longing to get home, but the sentiment is the same: “Well it seems like a month since I kissed my baby goodbye… My hometown’s comin’ in sight / If you think I’m happy you’re right / Six days on the road and I’m a gonna make it home tonight.”
Tom Waits puts a nice spin on the situation with his 1973 song “Ol’ 55” (memorably covered by the Eagles in 1974). Instead of driving his car to his lover, he’s driving back home from his lover. So warm is the afterglow that traffic is a “parade” as he rides “with lady luck.” In the song itself, Waits never identifies his vehicle beyond a model year. In subsequent interviews, he’s pegged it as a 1955 Buick Roadmaster, but I still picture a Chevrolet.
Chuck Berry is often cited as “rock and roll’s poet laureate.” His witty lyrics helped to establish rock’s very structure during the formative 1950s. It’s no surprise that Berry created some memorable car songs. His very first hit, 1955’s “Maybellene,” is one of the genre’s best. We find Chuck cruising in his hot rod Ford V-8 when he spies the eponymous Maybellene in her Cadillac Coupe de Ville. They race down the highway, “bumper to bumper, rollin’ side to side.” An overheated engine threatens to end Chuck’s race, but a well-timed cloudburst cools his flathead and allows him to catch the Caddy at 110 miles per hour. While the race goes Chuck’s way, the “Why can’t you be true” chorus suggests that the romantic relationship doesn’t work out so well.
Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys are rightfully credited as the masters of the car song. They gave us “Little Deuce Coupe,” “I Get Around,” “Custom Machine,” “This Car of Mine,” “Shut Down” and a host of other hot rod hits. (And really, who else but the masters could have written a song – and a good one at that – inspired by engine displacement?) But Wilson & Co.’s genius with the genre is perhaps most evident in the haunting “Don’t Worry Baby.” Casual listeners will hear the oft-told tale of a man who draws strength and support from his significant other. Those who listen more closely, though, will hear a song about… a car race! Brian boasts about his car, talks himself into a race, and shares his apprehensions with his love. She reassures him – makes him come alive, makes him want to drive – when she shares the titular advice. One of my favorite things about the song – apart from that deft modulation from E to F# between verse and chorus – is the ambiguity in the ending. We never do find out if Brian wins his race, but I suppose that’s beside the point. “Don’t Worry Baby” is the rare track that thick-skinned gear heads and sensitive poets can both embrace.
Among the most atmospheric car/love songs has to be 1984’s “Drive” by the Cars. (And, by the way, how’s that for title/artist synergy?) While the song is open to wide interpretation, I think of it as being about a relationship strained by chemical dependency. The central question, “Who’s gonna drive you home,” is rhetorical. The narrator pleads that his lover “can’t go on / thinkin’ nothing’s wrong” as he watches her self-destruct. If he leaves, then who will be left to care for her? “Drive” isn’t a roll-down-the-windows and rock-down-the-highway hit, but it is a reminder that car songs can be subtle.
Maybe the best twist on the car song/love song style is when the car itself is the object of the singer’s affections. Dan Seals’s 1985 country hit, “My Old Yellow Car,” is the perfect example. It’s a sentimental ballad in which, despite all of his fame and fortune (he’s “got a Mercedes-Benz with a TV and bar”), the thing Dan pines for most is his first car. Even though “she weren’t much to look at / she weren’t much to ride,” this yellow car made young Dan the king of the world: “There was no road too winding / there was nowhere too far / with two bucks of gas in my old yellow car.” It’s emotional stuff, and by the end of the song we realize just what that first car represents. It’s more than empowerment and independence; it’s a talisman of lost youth. There’s a reason we all get nostalgic about our first rides, no matter how humble they were.
Enjoy your Valentine’s Day everyone. Light a few candles, open a bottle of wine, and put together your own playlist of favorite car-related love songs. It’ll put you in a romantic mood – and tide you over until its time to pull the classic out of winter storage.
Like the songs you heard here? Watch them on YouTube or log into Hypster and listen to the whole list.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford
The collections of The Henry Ford contain not only much of the history of the Ford Motor Company and Henry and Clara Ford, but also records related to Henry’s son, Edsel, as well as Edsel’s children. We’ve just digitized a number of photographs of one of Henry’s grandchildren, William Clay Ford, Sr. Before he retired from Ford Motor Company in 1989, William Clay Ford was involved in many capacities with the company his grandfather founded, and also served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Edison Institute (e.g., The Henry Ford) for nearly 40 years, plus 25 years as our Chairman Emeritus. In addition, he has also had a controlling interest in the Detroit Lions NFL football team for the past 50 years. In this photo, young William walks among moss-covered trees at Richmond Hill, Georgia, with his grandmother, Clara. See more images and objects related to William Clay Ford, Sr., in our online collections.