Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

In honor of Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday and our Day of Courage celebration earlier this year, the education team at The Henry Ford developed a special educational activity book for children that focuses on social innovation and how the civil rights pioneer took a stand against injustice. Writing and designing the book “Be an Innovator Like…Rosa Parks,” gave us an opportunity to learn more about Rosa Parks and extend the legacy she left on our country.

To prepare ourselves for writing the book, we read about Rosa’s family, especially her grandfather, who instilled a sense of pride in her, and her husband Raymond, who encouraged her to fight for equality. We researched the many other individuals who challenged segregations laws on buses in the South. And we looked into other social innovators who were inspired by Rosa Parks, like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. When we finally sat down to write, we knew we wanted to make Rosa Parks relatable to young students through this book, to show them that they can do extraordinary things, too.

Rosa Parks Bus

In order for the book to stand out from other activity books on the shelf we designed it to be shaped like the real Rosa Parks bus on display inside Henry Ford Museum. The book, which is geared towards children in grades K-5, uses the “learning by doing” strategy and is broken down into fun activities that teach children milestone historic events in the life of Rosa Parks, and other past and present social innovators. The book includes colorful photographs from our collections, vocabulary building and mapping activities, and creative visualization and writing opportunities.

This activity book is the second in a series of innovation-themed children’s activity books. The first book in the series on Henry Ford became extremely popular last year among teachers and students nationwide.

“Rosa Parks’ story is such an inspiration for children,” said Paula Gangopadhyay, Chief Learning Officer for The Henry Ford. “The book is filled with critical information around Rosa Parks’ life and the iconic bus, but it is packaged in a kid-friendly format which will make learning fun.”

The book is aligned to Michigan and National Curriculum Standards, including the Common Core, and can be used in the classroom or at home. We know that social innovation is a complex topic for children, but it was our hope to inspire young readers to think about how they can make a difference in their own life, and how that difference could someday change the world.

You can purchase the book in any of the museum stores or through our online gift shop. We’re also offering a special discount if you buy 20 or more books together, which is great for teachers and youth service providers!

By Erin Milbeck Wilcox

Civil Rights

Henry Ford 150 Years Chrome SealDid you know that Henry Ford’s uncles fought in the Civil War? In fact, John and Barney Litogot served with Michigan’s most celebrated regiment, the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, part of the famed “Iron Brigade.”

The Litogot Children

John and Barney were Henry Ford’s mother’s brothers. But the four Litogot children spent only their earliest years together—both of their parents had died by 1842. So the young Litogots, who also included oldest brother Saphara, were divided among friends or relatives. The youngest child, 2-year-old Mary (Henry Ford’s mother), was adopted by Patrick and Margaret Ahern, a childless couple living on a Dearborn, Mich., farm. While all the Litogot children found homes in Wayne County, they likely saw each other infrequently as they were growing up.

This photograph of John Litogot was probably taken soon after he enlisted in August 1862 (Object ID 64.167.1.454, Gift of Ford Motor Company).

Off to War

The Litogot brothers, 27-year-old John and 24-year-old Barney, enlisted in the 24th Michigan in the summer of 1862. John went as a paid substitute for another man. Barney left a wife and infant son. Soon after the Litogots joined up, the brothers headed to a photographer’s studio to pose together in uniform. When Barney and John left Detroit with their regiment for Washington. D.C., the 24th was briefly assigned to aid in the defense of the nation’s capitol. By mid-December, their unit was at Fredericksburg, Va., preparing for battle.

John Litogot’s first battle was also his last. He was killed on Dec. 13, 1862, the second day of the battle of Fredericksburg, hit by a cannonball when the 24th came under attack from Confederate artillery. John was buried where he fell, and later moved to Fredericksburg’s national cemetery.

Barney sat for this photograph in a Springfield, Ill., studio in the spring of 1865, about the time that the 24th served as honor guard for Abraham Lincoln’s funeral in Springfield (Object ID 64.167.1.455 , Gift of Ford Motor Company).

Barney continued to serve with the 24th through Chancellorsville, Gettysburg (where he was wounded in the arm), the Wilderness (where he received a hand wound), Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. At war’s end, one of his regiment’s last duties was to serve as honor guard at Abraham Lincoln’s funeral in May 1865.

During “Michigan Day at Gettysburg” on June 12, 1889, survivors of the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry gathered at on the Gettysburg battlefield to dedicate their regiment’s monument. Then they posed for a photograph with the monument. But Barney is not pictured among those veterans, having died of tuberculosis in 1873.

So where was Henry Ford during the Civil War? Henry was born on his family’s Dearborn farm on July 30, 1863, about four weeks after his uncle Barney fought at Gettysburg. Henry never knew his uncle John, who lost his life at Fredericksburg the December before Henry was born.

Join us this Memorial Day Weekend to reflect and celebrate with our annual Civil War Remembrance program.

Jeanine Head Miller is Curator of Domestic Life

Civil War

Walk into Greenfield Village and 300 years of American history is in motion. Model Ts chug along the streets, the smells of open-hearth cooking and canning fill the air at working century-old farmhouses, Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory and the Wright Brothers Cycle Shop are charged with activity and excitement. And all are waiting for you to step inside, make yourself welcome and experience longtime traditions.

In one quiet corner sits Cohen Millinery, moved to Greenfield Village from its original location in Detroit, Michigan’s Corktown, where it was operated in the 1890s by Mrs. “D.” Elizabeth Cohen. The young widow lived upstairs and supported her four children by selling “fancy goods, dry goods and gents’ furnishings” on the first floor. Cohen became best known, however, for her fabulous hats, which she bought wholesale and trimmed with a wide assortment of silk flowers, colorful ribbons, feathers and even whole stuffed birds.

Thanks to celebrities such as Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, more and more women are experimenting with hats again. But for ladies in the late 1800s, hats weren’t optional accessories worn for fun. A respectable woman never left home without one — the more frills, the better.

“The more you had on your hat, the wealthier you were thought to be,” said Greenfield Village historic presenter Anora Zeiler, one of seven milliners working at Cohen Millinery today.

Greenfield Village guests visiting the charming shop can browse a colorful array of authentic antique hats and other accessories, such as ornate hair combs and hatpins, delicate ladies’ gloves, and men’s suspenders and ties. They can also chat with the milliners — all dressed in period costume — as they layer a variety of adornments on felt or straw hats, always keeping with the style of the 1880s and 1890s.

“We sew on each piece separately and in the proper order, careful to hide the stitches,” Zeiler said.

Last year, Cohen Millinery brought another part of history forward to the current day, allowing visitors to not only admire the milliners at work and the headwear on the shelves but to purchase handmade beauties on site as ladies did more than a century ago. Each properly packaged in period hatboxes tied with bows.

“We’re making hats in style again,” said Zeiler proudly.

fashion, hats, Mrs. Cohen

In 1971 Henry Ford Museum Administration Management began to implement a new master plan program for significant improvements to support the Museum and Village's upcoming celebration of the United State's Bicentennial. Greenfield Village improvements included construction of a new area called Riverfront Street (later known as Suwanee Park), new or improved visitor amenities, and a railroad that would circle the perimeter of Greenfield Village.

The Perimeter Railroad element of the project included the requirement for two operational locomotives, three new passenger cars, building a train maintenance facility (train shed), and the construction of 2.5 miles of track.

One of the major influences in deciding to develop a Perimeter Railroad was a 1968 presentation given by Edison Institute employee Tom Urban. Urban independently developed a plan and went as far as hiring an airplane with his own money to take aerial pictures of the Village. The photographer for this venture was a young man by the name of Rudy Ruzicska - our current photographer. These pictures were used by Urban in a presentation to Finance Director Lyle Hughes to demonstrate the feasibility for the routing of the railroad. Hughes was so impressed he set up a meeting with other members of senior staff to present the proposal.

Hughes’ proposal was well received and a study was started to see how to make the plan a reality. Leslie Henry (Curator of Transportation) began a study that included a number of options. Some of those options were: purchasing and moving a complete functioning railroad (with four miles of track), leasing the locomotives and cars or obtaining our own locomotives and building a railroad from scratch.

One of Henry’s inquiries during his study was to contact the Northern Peninsula mining company about an 1873 Mason-Fairlie locomotive. The Calumet & Hecla Mining Company was in the process of celebrating their 100th anniversary and had the 1873 locomotive on display in Calumet, Mich. After the celebration ended C&H agreed to donate the locomotive to The Edison Institute where it would be restored and maintained in running condition.

The restoration of the Torch Lake was to be completed in 1971 for exclusive use in an interim ride known as the One-Way Railroad. For the following year it would become the secondary locomotive for the next phase of the plan, the Perimeter Railroad.

For the primary locomotive it was decided to take the Mason #1 locomotive out of the museum and make it operational.

The Mason #1 was originally a wood-burning 0-4-0 locomotive built by the Manchester Locomotive Works in Manchester, N.H., in the 1870s. Ford purchased the locomotive and tender from the Edison Cement Corporation in 1932.

After the purchase, Ford had the locomotive sent to the Ford Rouge Shops were it was rebuilt and significantly modified to its current 4-4-0 configuration. Additionally, the boiler was enlarged and the sand dome was moved forward. The tender was rebuilt and appears to be in its original configuration.

After the restoration/modification of the locomotive and tender was completed, it was moved into Henry Ford Museum and put on display with the number plate and designation of “Mason #1.”

The Edison Institute did not have the facilities to complete the work necessary to make Mason #1 functional, so bids were requested. Keystone Products of Pittsburgh, Penn., was selected to repair the Mason #1 (Edison) locomotive and tender as well as construct three passenger cars that would be built on used chassis that Keystone would purchase.

The Mason #1 (Edison) and tender were transported by trailer to the Keystone plant in December of 1971. The contract called for replacement of the boiler, rebuilding of the compressor, governor gauge, locomotive/train valves and brakes on the tender. The Edison at that time was oil fired and the fire pan, burner, damper, fire clay lining and oil tank were to be rebuilt. The schedule for the Mason #1 restoration was that all work would be completed and the locomotive and tender would be operational by March 31, 1972.

The construction of the three-passenger cars was a less-than-straight forward process with many design options being discussed throughout the construction. Two of the cars were to be built from existing chassis and a third was going to be built on a soon-to-be purchased obsolete caboose. These cars were to be added to the three already built by Crown Metals for the 1971 One-Way Railroad.

In October of 1971 the landscaping architectural firm of Ecbo, Dean Austin & Williams (EDAW) was given approval to begin developing landscaping plans for the new track. EDAW, located in Los Angeles, Calif., was a highly respected firm with national recognition for their cultural landscaping efforts with universities and national parks.

The architectural firm of Nordstrom-Sampson & Associates from Dearborn was contracted for development of the track layout and grading. Additionally, an engineer from the DT&I railroad was acting as a consultant to N-S&A. Thomas P. McEvilly of N-S&A was chosen as the field superintendent for the project.

The Edison Institute retained Herb Rosenthal and Associates, Inc., as the designers for the new Perimeter Railroad. This project included the track system, a covered platform near Main Street (now Firestone Station), a covered platform at the Riverfront Street area (this platform is now a part of the Henry Ford Academy campus) and a platform at the east end of the Village area. The later platform was removed from the contract just as overall construction was to begin.

The Walter L. Couse Company of Detroit was awarded the contract to build the roadbed and lay the track. In all 12 companies were involved in the project’s construction.

The master plan called for the railroad to be fully functional no later than July 4, 1972. It is unclear if the original intent was to have the new platforms completed by this date, but their actual construction would not be completed until the 1974 season.

Work progressed on the tracks and the roadbed throughout the spring and early summer. Existing water lines, sewers, and gas lines had to be moved as well as filling in some soft clay areas with compacted sand backfill. Several weeks of exceptionally wet weather served to slow progress and put the scheduled July 4 completion date in jeopardy.

In late June track and roadbed construction had progressed to the point where a trial run from Smiths Creek over to the Main Street area was conducted. This run served to identify a number of issues with the curves, rails and switches and the contractors were instructed to make immediate corrections. It was also determined that the public opening of the railroad would need to be postponed to Aug. 23, 1972.

By early August work had progressed to the point where a test trip of the complete 2.5 miles could be conducted. On Aug. 9 the Torch Lake was fired up, cars were attached and a small crew of employees and management rode around the complete perimeter of the Village. (Although the original plan called for the Mason #1 to be the primary locomotive, for some reason the Torch Lake was given that role for the inaugural run even though Mason #1 was on the grounds.) There were a number of issues with the rails, ties and ballast, but not enough to postpone the rescheduled public opening.

Chairman William Clay Ford and President Dr. Donald Shelly drive the last spike on Aug. 22, 1972. (PB63405.5)

The inaugural trip for the Perimeter Railroad was on Tuesday, Aug. 22, when the three cars were loaded with specially invited guests at Smiths Creek Station. The Torch Lake then pulled the consist up to the Main Street crossing were it waited while then-Edison Institute President Dr. Donald Shelley and Board Chairman William Clay Ford drove in the final spikes (painted gold) with chrome plated spike mauls.

The Perimeter Railroad began regular service the following day offering 18 trips around Greenfield Village with each trip lasting about 20 minutes. This schedule provided for a capacity of 3,500 riders per day. For at least the first year of operation, Smiths Creek would be the only stop.

The Torch Lake with three cars loaded with visitors on its inaugural run of the Perimeter Railroad of Greenfield Village. (P.B.62316)

Engineers Frank Petroski (formerly New York Central) and Ivan D. Mead (formerly Grand Trunk Western), who were engineers for the One-Way Railroad, were back to alternate duties on the Perimeter Railroad.

The total number of riders for that first year was 154,761, which were 66,516 more rides than the One-Way railroad had the previous year.

Don LaCombe is Supervisor of Transportation & Crafts Programs at The Henry Ford.

railroads, trains

This year we're proud to celebrate what would have been the 150th birthday of our institute's founder, Henry Ford. Throughout the year we'll be sharing content and stories here on The Henry Ford's blog about one of America's greatest innovators.

Henry Ford 150 Years Chrome SealAt The Henry Ford, we often think and talk about Henry Ford, our institution’s founder. This is particularly true this year, which marks 150 years since Henry Ford was born. To commemorate this major milestone, we wanted to tackle a digitization project in Henry’s honor.

When it comes to our Henry Ford–related collections, the problem is narrowing down our vast holdings on all of Henry’s interests, activities, and businesses. A team of curators and educators from The Henry Ford had a series of meetings and discussions earlier this year, and came up with 17 topics that represent major themes in Henry’s life. After that, they made selections from our collections that best represent each of those themes. Their selections have now been digitized and are up on our collections website for anyone to browse.

The thing most identified with Henry Ford is the Model T, a car introduced in 1908 that was reasonably priced, reliable, and effective on the bad roads of the day. Three sets of collections items help tell this story. On the Way to the Model T shares some artifacts that show how Henry’s career progressed, such as the 1896 Quadricycle, the first car Henry ever built, and a 1901 photograph showing the race (featured above) that helped Henry gain notoriety and financial backing for his auto ventures. The Model T set shows a few of the Model T’s in the collections of the Henry Ford, including an early 1909 version, and also shows how quickly the Model T was assimilated into all aspects of daily life, from rural families to ingenious work applications. Post-Model T covers many of Henry’s business activities following the Model T, including the introduction of the V-8 engine and war production at Willow Run.

There was more to Henry Ford and Ford Motor Company than the Model T. A set represents the Assembly Line, from early inspirations for the idea (such as this slaughterhouse line) through many gradual refinements to the system, and another tackles the related $5 Day, which Ford implemented to win over critics of the assembly line system, like this outraged wife of a line worker. Two sets cover some of Ford’s non-automobile output: Tractors, including this experimental model from 1907 and the first production model of the popular Fordson tractor from a decade later; and Aviation, from the Ford Tri-Motor to the radio beacon.

Fordson Tractor, 1917, Used by Luther Burbank

One thing that makes Henry Ford such a fascinating figure 150 years after his birth was his wide breadth of interests, many of which tied back to his business activities. A set explores Henry’s interest in Soybeans, from an extremely dramatic presentation of the strength of soy plastics to photos of his working Soybean Laboratory in Greenfield Village (which still stands, now displaying agricultural artifacts). Another set discusses participation by Henry and the Ford Motor Company in various World’s Fairs, from the massive edifices erected to the exhibits inside.

Henry Ford Hitting Soybean Plastic Trunk with an Axe, 1940

A set on Village Industries, Henry Ford’s vision for small factories set in rural locations, shows the geographic coverage of these plants and also covers individual plants such as Nankin Mills. Another of Henry’s lifelong interests was social engineering, as demonstrated by the Sociological Department he established at Ford Motor Company. This is a story also covered on our website; the collections set we’ve created supplements the story with some of the statistics Ford collected on its employees and photographs taken during visits to employee homes.

Undesirable Home Surroundings Found on First Investigation, Ford Sociological Department, 1914-1915

Some of the sets give you a deeper glimpse into Henry’s life. A set covering his Youth demonstrates that from an early age Henry showed a fascination with both the mechanical and the natural world. His love of nature would persist and can later be seen in his frequent camping trips; a set on the Vagabonds, as he and his comrades called themselves, covers both stereotypical camping activities and objects that might lead one to suspect the Vagabonds were not exactly roughing it, like a photo of their extensive entourage.

Pocket Watch, 1850-1875 (Repaired by Young Henry Ford)

Not everything Henry did was a success. A set on his Failures covers some of the areas where Henry struggled, such as the Detroit Automobile Company and the Ford X-8 engine. Conversely, if you want to know where Henry got inspiration, check out some of his Heroes, from his mother to William Holmes McGuffey to Thomas Edison. To see Henry’s likeness captured at various seminal points in his life, from his teenage years through his final decade, check out our set of Portraits.

Portrait of Mary Litigot Ford, circa 1865

Finally, no review of our Henry Ford collections would be complete if we didn’t talk about ourselves just a bit. You can get a concise story of the founding of The Henry Ford, aka the Edison Institute, on our website, but we have now created a set of collections items related to the Founding of the Edison Institute as well. From the construction of the Museum building to our cornerstone, inscribed by Thomas Edison himself, these artifacts will give you a glimpse into the early days of The Henry Ford.

Cornerstone of Edison Institute Signed by Thomas A. Edison, Sept. 27, 1928

Check out all our Henry Ford collections sets via the list below and let us know what you think!

Henry Ford: On the Way to the Model T
Henry Ford: Model T
Henry Ford: Post-Model T
Henry Ford: Assembly Line
Henry Ford: $5 Day
Henry Ford: Tractors
Henry Ford: Aviation
Henry Ford: Soybeans
Henry Ford: World's Fair
Henry Ford: Village Industries
Henry Ford: Sociological Department
Henry Ford: Youth
Henry Ford: Vagabonds
Henry Ford: Henry Ford's Failures
Henry Ford: Heroes
Henry Ford: Portraits
Henry Ford: Founding of the Edison Institute

Ellice Engdahl, Digital Collections Initiative Manager at The Henry Ford, wishes Henry a happy 150th and thanks him kindly for founding this amazing collection.

Henry Ford anniversary

As a public researcher who has spent many hours using the archival holdings of the Benson Ford Research Center, I am always amazed by what I find among the papers and photographs of Henry, Clara and Edsel Ford. Perhaps I am a history geek, but many a time my research has led me to very memorable and enjoyable experiences, as was recently the case.

A good deal of my work takes me to Accession 1, the Fair Lane papers, comprised of the documents, photographs and ephemera found throughout Fair Lane, the Fords' home, after Clara passed away in 1950. Among the 74 cubic ft. of the Fair Lane papers, you will find documents related to the Fords' various activities beyond Ford Motor Company.

These are the records of the Fords' everyday lives—from drawings made by their young son, Edsel, to the sympathy cards they received upon his early death. The boxes include receipts of purchases they made, correspondence from famous friends, like the Edisons, and itineraries from trips abroad. The accession also includes dozens of compelling letters sent to Clara Ford from people asking her for money, and from others asking her to speak to her husband on their behalf to buy a family heirloom for his museum or employ a family member during the Depression. Thank goodness the Fords saved so much, for it gives us an insight into the forgotten details of their experiences, times they shared, decisions they had to make, and the heartaches and challenges they faced.

During a recent research project, I came across a letter from Helen Keller to Clara Ford, dated March 29, 1949, written two years after Henry's death. In the letter, Helen Keller (1880-1968) thanks Clara for her donation to the American Foundation for Overseas Blind. The Fords, Henry and Clara, as well as Edsel, had begun in the 1920s to donate to causes led by Helen Keller. Ford Motor Company's job training and placement for blind workers was one of the catalysts that began their association.

But the 1949 letter is so much more than an organizational thank you. As I read the three-page typed letter, it made me pause, as I imagined this extraordinary woman, penning this beautifully composed letter to Clara, sharing personal moments she experienced traveling the world and providing a personal window into her life.

Letter from Helen Keller to Clara Ford, 1949 (Object ID 64.167.1.453)

Although this letter was not the primary focus of my research, it lured me on to new directions, causing me to ask more questions about the relationship of Helen Keller and the Fords, and the work of Helen Keller. It was a long time ago, back in elementary school, that I had read Helen Keller's autobiography, The Story of My Life, but I recalled how remarkable a life she had led. Visiting a few websites allowed me to put the time the letter was written into a better context and learn more about the American Foundation for Overseas Blind, the organization referenced in the letter.

The new search engine available internally at the BFRC allowed the archivist to provide me with a list of all known items related to Helen Keller in other boxes. This is a wonderful new tool for researchers that is just getting launched. With so many records, this will assist researchers with finding material that before relied on a lot of work, skill and sometimes luck, to find related documents throughout the collection.

We located several letters that spanned the decades, sent to Henry, Clara and Edsel. Helen Keller traveled all over the world, speaking and raising money for various organizations that supported research and assistance for blind citizens. I learned that Edsel Ford was one of the lead organizers for one such visit to Detroit in 1930.

Francis Jehl, Edsel Ford, Helen Keller, and Polly Thompson on Porch of Menlo Park Laboratory, Greenfield Village, 1930 (Object ID P.188.3074)

I recalled that during an earlier research project I had seen a photograph of Helen Keller on the porch of the Menlo Park Laboratory in Greenfield Village. Reviewing the search results, we located a few photos of Helen Keller with her secretary and companion, Polly Thompson, along with Edsel Ford and Francis Jehl, Thomas Edison's assistant. If you look at Helen Keller's hand, you can see it placed in Polly Thompson's.

During this research period, I happened to mention the Helen Keller letter to a friend, Sandy North, who is the former Director of the Redford Union Oral Program for the Hearing Impaired. Sandy has long been a great admirer of Helen Keller, even posting quotes of Keller in her classroom for many years. Sandy has been a member of The Henry Ford for many years, but had never visited the Benson Ford Research Center. I invited her to join me to see the Keller letter and photographs.

As Sandy later wrote to me:

Because of my vocation, I have always admired Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind. She learned language through feeling the fingers of her interpreter. She communicated to others through her oral speech…and spoke and wrote in several languages. She was a champion of the poor and women's rights at a time when women did not have the right to vote. She is my role model.

I had read Helen's speeches, but I had never read any of her personal correspondence. Here I was holding it! Her vocabulary far exceeded mine and her beautiful descriptive language brought tears to my eyes. Although the letters were typed, her signature was hand-printed by Helen! Best of all, I had copies made of the letters and could bring them home with me!

To think that all of this extensive collection of the Benson Ford Research Center is available to people of our community and people everywhere doing research!

It was a memorable experience for both of us and this blog post has been the result of this very interesting research project.

Along the way, I discovered another path of inquiry as I was researching the American Foundation for Overseas Blind. This organization is now named Helen Keller International. It was founded in 1915 by Helen Keller and George Kessler, a wealthy New York merchant, and is among the oldest non-profits dedicated to preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition. During the World Trade Center terrorist attack, their New York headquarters were destroyed; gratefully no employees were injured, but their collection of Helen Keller papers was lost. This circumstance makes this document even more valuable, not only to The Henry Ford’s collection, but also to Helen Keller International and to scholars studying Helen Keller's life and legacy.

So I hope that with more and more relevant archival materials being digitized and made freely available online, and with the sharing of expertise among these and other organizations as well, the association of the Fords with Helen Keller and their support for her causes can continue to be preserved and made better known.

Susan McCabe is the former curator of Henry Ford Estate, Dearborn. Shevholds an MA in history museum studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY at Oneonta. She has researched extensively and lectured on the life of Clara and Henry Ford.

Editor's note: Another organization with which Helen Keller was associated is the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). The AFB holds of the main body of Helen Keller papers, called the Helen Keller Archives, which includes personal papers that she bequeathed to them as well as professional papers from her tenure with AFB.

Clara Ford, research, research center

Donna Braden, Curator of Public Life, had the pleasure of delving into our vast collections to develop the “Ford at the Fair” display, our complement to the traveling exhibition “Designing Tomorrow” that is currently in Henry Ford Museum. Take a trip back in time with her in today's blog post as we head to to the fair.

Welcome to the Ford Building at Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition here in the year 1934! We hope that our exhibits will inform and inspire you, along with the millions of other visitors we expect to attend the fair and see our exhibits this year. Henry Ford has a passion for world’s fairs and he is always enthusiastic about showing the public how we do things at Ford Motor Company.

Sales Brochure, "Know the Thrill of Driving the New Ford V-8," 1934

How far we’ve come since Mr. Ford invented his first car, the Quadricycle. And although we are currently deep in an economic depression, our exhibits will surely impress upon you how busy we are developing new products for your current and future enjoyment.

Brochure, "Ford at the Fair," Century of Progress Exposition, 1934

We are proud to boast the largest corporate exhibition at the Century of Progress Exposition this year—11 acres in all! Our stunning Exposition Building was designed by Albert Kahn, who has designed many buildings for us, including the exceptional Ford River Rouge Plant. Mr. Kahn cleverly planned the circular court in the center of our Exposition Building to simulate a graduated cluster of gears.

Now come inside for a closer look at how our exhibits present the fascinating story of the Ford motor car.

Globe in Court of the World, Ford Exhibition Building, Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Ill., 1934

First off, you’ll see our centerpiece exhibit, “Ford Industries Cover the World.” This huge rotating globe identifies the locations of our company’s production plants around the world. Our company is truly international in its reach.

Presenter inside the Rotunda of the Ford Exhibition Building, Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Ill., 1934

Circling the outer edge of the center court we present “The Drama of Transportation,” showing the evolution of horse-drawn and horseless carriages leading all the way up to our modern 1934 Ford V-8.

Quadricycle inside Replica of Henry Ford's Workshop, Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Ill., 1934

Now let’s turn left and enter the smaller wing of the building. Here you’ll find the “Henry Ford Century Room,” celebrating 100 years of mechanical progress. This room includes early electric generators brought here from Mr. Ford’s growing collection at his museum in Dearborn, Mich., along with his first workshop and his first car.

Booklet, "The Industrialized American Barn," 1934

Beyond this room you’ll see exhibits reflecting Mr. Ford’s interest in bringing together agriculture and industry, particularly his passion for growing and processing soybeans for car manufacturing. Mr. Ford even staged an all-soybean meal here recently, where he invited 30 reporters to partake of several specially made dishes. The reporters were not so sure about soybeans in their food but they had to admit that the future of soybean-based plastics, paint, and oil looks bright!

Menu of Soybean Dinner Served at Ford Exhibit, Century of Progress, Aug. 17, 1934

Now let’s head over to the large wing on the other side of our Exposition Building. Here we have many exhibits that showcase our modern industrial practices.

Out of the Earth Exhibit, Ford Exhibition Building, Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Ill., 1934

For example, inspired by Mr. Ford’s passionate interest in using natural materials to manufacture car parts, our “Out of the Earth” exhibit demonstrates how natural resources—like iron, aluminum, rubber, asbestos, and of course soybeans—go into the making of specific parts of the Ford V-8, mounted on top as a cutaway view.

Proof of Safety Exhibit, Ford Building, Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Ill., 1934

Farther down this wing, you can see the amazing “Proof of Safety” exhibit. Here three Ford V-8’s are suspended from the rim of a welded steel wheel of the type used on all our Ford V-8 cars. This should assure you of the strength and dependability of the modern cars we are producing.

Souvenir Brochure, "Roads of the World, Ford Exposition, 'A Century of Progress' Chicago," 1934

While you’re touring the many exhibits and demonstrations at the Ford Exposition building today, be sure to visit our impressive “Roads of the World” display outside. This large oval track features 100-foot-long sections that resemble 19 world-famous thoroughfares, ranging from the earliest Roman roads to the smooth paved highways of today.

Alas, our time is up. We hope you enjoyed your brief tour today, and are as excited as we are about the bright future we all have ahead of us.

Thank you for visiting and come back soon!

A complete gallery of items used in this display can be viewed at Ford at the Fair Exhibition.

fairs, World's Fair

Today’s post comes to us from Don LaCombe, our Supervisor of Transportation and Crafts Programs at The Henry Ford. Don has been documenting the history of all-things train-related at The Henry Ford. Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing his articles here on the blog.

In November of 1969 a gift from the Universal Oil Products arrived at Greenfield Village. That gift was a locomotive once used by the Calumet & Hecla (C&H) Mining Company in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. C&H Mining was a Boston, Mass.-based organization that was also a key player in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula copper mining. The Torch Lake, built in 1873 at the Mason Machine Works, Taunton, Mass. (factory #518), was initially used for switching and periodically on the C&H main line (until 1885); then exclusively as a switcher in the company yards. The Torch Lake is the last-known Mason-Fairlie locomotive in the world. The Mason Machine works had built more than 700 of these locomotives (mostly narrow gauge) that had a unique “bogie” system that allowed the wheel trucks to swivel under the locomotive when turning. This had the advantage of allowing the engine to make sharper turns-a distinct advantage when negotiating railroad tracks in the Upper Peninsulas “copper country.”

The last time the Torch was fired-up by the Calumet & Hecla Mining Co. was in 1933. Being the last of their steam locomotives and after 50 years of service, it was decided to place the Torch Lake in indefinite storage. The locomotive had to be towed on the mainline part of its journey to storage due to it not having air brakes. When the main line portion of the trip was completed, it was left on a siding at Lake Linden. The boiler was fired up and it continued under its own power. As they crossed a bridge and main highway on the way to Ahmeek, Mich., engineer Edward Carter blew a long whistle thinking this would be the last steam train whistle heard in the Keweenaw Peninsula. It was placed in a storage shed at the C & H facility in Ahmeek, drained of water and left there untouched until 1966.

That same year the Torch Lake was pulled out of the shed and towed to Calumet, Mich., to become part of the Calumet & Hecla Centennial. The train was cleaned, painted and put on display. After the Centennial, C & H offered the locomotive to the Edison Institute (now The Henry Ford) as a gift.

The train was to be used for a new ride known as “The One-Way Railroad.” The Torch Lake arrived at Greenfield Village in November of 1970 (shown in the featured photo), but before it could be put in service at Greenfield Village the boiler had to be replaced as it could no longer pass state inspection. This kept the locomotive out of action for a year. During this time, the Johnston Brothers, Inc., of Ferrysburg, Mich., were contracted to replicate the boiler, firebox and steam dome. The new boiler was delivered in June of 1971, installed here, and the Torch Lake was converted from its original wood burning to being oil fired.

The Torch Lake is setting at Smiths Creek Station picking up passengers on its first day of operation July 3, 1971.

On July 3, 1971, the Torch Lake was fired up for its maiden run at Greenfield Village. With a consist of three open passenger cars, the train would run along a half-mile track from Smiths Creek up to the duck pond behind the Ford Engine Engineering building (later known as the POEE building). To return, they backed the train to Smiths Creek where they would unload and load passengers. That first day the train carried 900 passengers.

The three passenger cars were retired Soo Line oil tank cars that were rebuilt and converted to carrying passengers with decks and seating fabricated by Crown Metal Products in Wyano, Penn. Each car had seats for 70 passengers. The cars were covered with a curved metal roof and the sides were open to allow easy entrance and exit.

Passengers got off and on the train from a raised wooden platform that was located by the Smiths Creek Station approximately where the current platform is located.

Engineers for the Greenfield Village railroad were recruited from a list of retired railroad engineers provided by railroad companies. The first engineers were Frank Petrosky, formerly of the New York Central, and Ivan D. Meade, formerly of the Grand Trunk Western.

The train operated from July 3 to Sept. 12, 1971 (67 days), and during that period provided steam train rides to 80,447 guests. The train ran from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and there was no set schedule. When they felt enough people were on the train they made the 12-minute trip.

There is no information that indicates that the One-Way Railroad operated in 1972. In August of 1972 the One-Way railroad ride was replaced by a new 2.5 mile “Perimeter” railroad ride.

Research Notes

1. Universal Oil Products (U.O.P) is a multinational corporation primarily involve in petroleum production and development of oil drilling technology. U.O.P. had purchased Calumet & Hecla Mining in 1968.

2. What they couldn’t know at the time was that steam locomotives would be heard again decades later (1960-1971) for Keweenaw Centrals’ scenic tours of the area.

3. Ahmeek is located in Keweenaw County which is the most northern county in Michigan.

4. The boiler that was removed from the Torch Lake after it arrived here is on display in the A&S Yard.

5. Initial instructions to Crown metal Products was for cars capable of 50 passengers but it appears that this was modified and the cars as delivered were capable of carrying up to 70 passengers.

railroads, trains

I got excited when I learned a playscape was in the works at Greenfield Village.

Actually, at first, I got a little nervous.

I couldn’t picture the typical playscape situated anywhere in the landscape of Greenfield Village. When I learned the overall theme suggests a 1920s-era construction site, I was definitely intrigued.

Then, I saw the location – which is ideally situated behind the carousel, near a restroom and in close proximity to food and the Smith’s Creek Depot. It’s a perfect spot for a respite. Oh, and it’s fenced in, allowing a safe play area and a more relaxing experience for the adults minding their children there.

So last week, I was thrilled when I learned from The Henry Ford’s president, Patricia Mooradian, the plan does not include the trademark red or yellow fiberglass slide familiar to playgrounds, but it does include the opportunity for children to play and explore some real artifacts, including a boardable 1931 Ford Model AA truck and a 20-foot-long boiler tunnel that originally sat near the Armington and Sims Machine Shop inside the village.

Greenfield Village's New PlayscapeThat just reinforced what I already know: That even when it comes to adding a contemporary feature like a playscape – The Henry Ford is all about guests experiencing history in a unique way. The playscape provides another opportunity – this time directed at children – to climb right inside a piece of history. (Think about taking a seat inside the Rosa Parks Bus, a tour of the Dymaxion House, a visit to the Wright Brothers’ shop, and eating a meal Lamy’s Diner – you get the picture). The playscape gives children access to artifacts in a way that is meaningful for them – with the added bonus of a spot to run off some steam. (Which I so gladly welcome.)

I thought: Nice, that really takes the cake.

That is, until I learned that the new playscape is carefully designed for enjoyment by children of all abilities, and most of the activities are ground-level accessible or accessible by ramp. There are varying sculptural swings so all children – whether fully-able or without full control of their arms and legs – may enjoy them.

“We hope that this playscape can serve as a model for others to become more aware and more willing to adopt design principles that address the interest and needs of people, especially children, of all abilities,” Patricia told guests at the groundbreaking ceremony.

A little ceremonial dirt throwing and the groundbreaking is official! The playscape will open to guests in early fall. In the photo left to right: The Henry Ford’s chairman of the board, Evan Weiner; Dearborn mayor John O’Reilly; Don and Mary Koch, and Patricia Mooradian.

This playscape and The Henry Ford’s recent partnership with Autism Awareness Alliance of Michigan, are examples of forward thinking that continue to honor Henry Ford - the man – while realizing the institution’s mission: to provide unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, stories, and lives from America's traditions of ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovation.

I love that through these two initiatives, The Henry Ford goes beyond addressing challenges of just accessibility for visitors all abilities – but keeps focused on its purpose – which is to inspire them for a better future.

The new playscape is made possible thanks to the generosity of Don and Mary Koch. Here they are pictured with their littlest grandson and daughter-in-law Katherine

I know I’m inspired – yet again – and I can’t wait for my little ones try it out.

Related: Greenfield Village Breaks New Ground on Children's Playscape

playgrounds

Anyone who has visited Greenfield Village’s 80 acres knows that there’s a lot to see and do during any given visit. Despite having numerous open spaces throughout Greenfield Village, guests have asked us for a safe, contained space that offers children a chance to run and play while parents take a minute to relax and enjoy their surroundings. We heard you loud and clear – we needed a play area for our younger visitors.

A while back, The Henry Ford began exploring what a playscape might look like in Greenfield Village. Thanks to an early planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, our teams were able to explore a design for the area. Designing a playground for an open-air museum provided a bit of a challenge – it needed to be historically themed, for one thing. We also wanted to make sure that the playscape offered endless amounts of fun and lots of challenges as children played, no matter their abilities.

Today we’re pleased to break ground on our Greenfield Village Playscape. Thanks to a generous donation from long-time Dearborn residents and dear friends of The Henry Ford, Mary and Don Kosch, our playscape will be ready for guests to enjoy this fall. What we came up with is a construction-like setting featuring both artifacts and state-of-the-art playground equipment. Located behind the Herschell-Spillman carousel, the playscape’s home is a natural fit for that area of Greenfield Village; on any given day we see families relaxing there, enjoying a snack, or getting ready for another ride on the carousel.

What will you find inside the playscape? Quite a bit! Features include:

  • a water tower
  • sculptural swings
  • water feature with tanks
  • sluice and hand-pumps
  • climbing wall
  • work building; work tables
  • tool fence
  • boardable 1931 Model AA truck
  • boiler tunnel
  • large platform seesaw
  • gear climber
  • tot slide
  • interactive boiler sculpture
  • cement mixer
  • Because we wanted our new playscape to be enjoyed by all, most of the activities are ground-level accessible or accessible by ramp. The area is fenced in with ramp accessibility. Our sculptural swings vary in design so that all children, whether fully-able or without full control of their arms and legs, may enjoy them.

    Moving the boiler tunnel over to the playscape construction area.

    Will our playscape look like other playscapes in parks or at schools? No. Our playscape will have an authentic, era-appropriate look that will fit right into Greenfield Village’s backdrop.

    We can’t wait for children to enjoy the playscape later this year. While we’re looking forward to seeing all of the great memories made season after season, we’re also hoping that our commitment to creating an all-ability environment will spread to other family destinations, too. Hopefully you agree.

    Make sure to follow along on Facebook this summer as we share updates on the playscape’s progress. The next time you visit Greenfield Village make sure to stop by the construction area to see what’s new.

    playgrounds