Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

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As part of our collaboration with the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and other Detroit-area community organizations to provide additional context for the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit exhibit at the DIA through July 12, 2015, The Henry Ford has been digitizing parts of our collection that relate to Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and their relationship with the Ford family and Ford Motor Company. We ran across a couple dozen 1932 photographs, including this one, of the Ford Motor Company Mexico City plant, all marked “Kahlo Foto,” and wondered whether these might be the work of Frida Kahlo’s father Guillermo Kahlo. An essay in the exhibit catalog by Diego Rivera’s grandson Juan Rafael Coronel Rivera notes “Don Guillermo was considered the finest architecture photographer in Mexico, a master in the field…. Diego respected Don Guillermo … for his studies of industrial machinery: Don Guillermo recorded the day-to-day modern development of the country; every factory and every major engine installation became the subject matter of his photographs, which were published in the Mexican press as an indisputable symbol of the nation’s advancing progress.” We haven’t yet found any further information about the genesis of these images, but it seems likely, given the labels on the images, Guillermo Kahlo’s architectural photography background, and the year the images were taken (the same year Rivera started work on the Detroit Industry murals at the DIA), that these images have a tie to Frida and Diego’s time in Detroit and relationship with the Fords. Visit our collections website to see all of these images, as well as the other related material we’ve digitized.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

digital collections, photographs, Ford Motor Company, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, by Ellice Engdahl, art

Newburgh Free Academy, of Newburgh, New Jersey, sprints its car through Detroit in the 2015 Shell Eco-marathon Americas.

Earlier this month, we at The Henry Ford were excited to participate in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas, held in Detroit’s Cobo Center from April 9-12. More than 1,000 high school and college students, representing the United States, Canada, Brazil and Guatemala, competed to determine which of their 113 teams produced the car capable of the best fuel mileage.

Shell, the global energy company, sponsored fuel-mileage competitions as early as 1939, but more recently the Eco-marathon has evolved into three events held annually in Europe, Asia and the Americas. This year marks the first time that the Americas competition took place in the Motor City. Teams may enter cars in one of two classes. Prototype cars strive for maximum fuel efficiency with exotic materials and designs. Urban Concept cars resemble street vehicles complete with lights, signals and working horns. Teams using internal combustion engines may power their vehicles with gasoline, diesel, natural gas or ethanol. Those using electricity can choose between lithium-based batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. Whatever the fuel, the goal is the same: squeeze as much distance out of it as possible. Continue Reading

The Osborne 1, the first portable computer. THF65083

"Adequacy is sufficient: everything else is irrelevant."

Adam Osborne, founder of the quintessential boom-and-bust Silicon Valley tech company, built the first portable computer in 1981. The Henry Ford holds examples of the few products the ill-starred Osborne Computer Corporation ever developed. What can Osborne’s innovative products and boom-and-bust company history tell us about computing and the high-tech economy? Continue Reading

entrepreneurship, by Suzanne Fischer, technology, computers

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On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot and mortally wounded by assassin John Wilkes Booth while sitting in a chair at Ford’s Theatre. This week, 150 years later, The Henry Ford is holding events to commemorate the fallen leader. As part of this effort, we’ve digitized a substantial amount of material from our Lincoln-related collections, going beyond the well-known chair and the Logan County Courthouse (where a young Lincoln practiced law).  One newly digitized item is this copy negative showing the presidential box at Ford’s Theatre the day after the assassination, but visit our collections website to browse all our curators’ selections.  The topically arranged sets cover the Logan County Courthouse, the Lincolns in Springfield, preserving the Union, the Lincolns in the White House, Lincoln’s 1864 reelection, the assassination, the Lincoln rocker, mourning the slain president, remembrances of Lincoln, Lincoln portraits, and Henry Ford’s interest in Lincoln.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

by Ellice Engdahl, digital collections, presidents, Abraham Lincoln

Thomas Edison Perfecting His Wax Cylnder Phonograph, 1888 (Object ID: P.B.34600).

What's new on The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation this weekend? Host Mo Rocca shows us the hardware store robot; the incredible patent models from Thomas Edison that show us the beginning of our electronic world; how the USG Corp. is leading the way with grooming the next generation of engineers and mathematicians; the Israeli inventors of a printer that fits in your pocket. Learn more here and see a sneak peek below.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

Newcomen Engine, circa 1750 (29.1506.1)

 

The broad iconic power of steam engines is maintained by the continued appeal of steam locomotives—an appeal kept fresh no doubt by Thomas the Tank Engine or the Hogwarts Express of the Harry Potter series. The visual impact of the earliest stationary steam engines, while less defined in the popular imagination, is undeniable when encountered in person: early beam engines exert a powerful presence, whether through their immense scale, exposed mechanical elements, or general complexity. And there is often a note of recognition—they are often identified by visitors as distant relatives of the familiar bobbing pumps found in oilfields. Continue Reading

Henry Ford, power, Henry Ford Museum, Made in America, by Marc Greuther

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The Henry Ford has an active program through which we loan artifacts from our collection, particularly those that we are not actively displaying, to other museums and institutions. We currently have more than 200 objects out on loan, and we digitize each object before it leaves our campus. This week, we’ve digitized a couple of renderings of the Lincoln Futura, including this one. These drawings will be included in a short exhibition at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich., along with an already-digitized scale model of the Futura from our collections, beginning in mid-April. If you’re in the metro Detroit area, be sure to check out these artifacts at Lawrence Tech, and if you’re not, keep an eye on our collections website to see what other treasures from Henry’s attic are going on loan.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

port-huron

Before the Age of Steam, American farmers hand-threshed wheat or oats with a flail. Threshing machines powered by horses or portable steam engines increased daily production of threshing by a hundred times.

In the 1800s, the large number of horses required for farming consumed a lot of grain. Starting in the 1860s, farmers began threshing grain to feed those horses with a cousin of the "iron horse" - a steam traction engine like the Port Huron Thresher shown above.

As a Michigan farm boy, Henry Ford recorded his first sight of a traction engine: "I remember that engine as though I had seen it only yesterday, for it was the first vehicle other than horse drawn that I had ever seen. It was intended to drive threshing machines and power sawmills and was simply a portable engine and a boiler mounted on wheels." The steam traction engine inspired Ford to design and manufacture automobiles. To other rural people it represented a grand transition in American agriculture, and a new community activity. Continue Reading

Greenfield Village, power, engines, agriculture

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, by Alexander Gardner, November 8, 1863. THF 99129

Many people know that The Henry Ford has in its collection the rocking chair in which President Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated.  This chair is currently on display in Henry Ford Museum.

But our Lincoln-related collections encompass much more than this rocker.  They include materials that relate to such topics as his two presidential campaigns, life before his Presidency, his efforts to preserve the Union during the Civil War, his assassination, the public mourning after his death, and the ways in which he has been remembered over time.

The 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination gave us the unique opportunity to assess, study and organize these collections into digital galleries we call “Expert Sets.”  Links to these are included below, along with links to five essays written by curators that delve more deeply into some of these topics. Continue Reading

Civil War, by Donna R. Braden, Abraham Lincoln, presidents

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Over the last couple of months, we’ve digitized a couple of groupings from the John Margolies Roadside America collection: slides and travel-related pennants, both documenting the strange and interesting sights one would have found along the American roadside in the mid-20th century. This week we’ve added one more category from the same collection: do-not-disturb signs from hotels and motels, collected by John Margolies and mostly dating between 1920 and 1970.  The example shown here, likely from the late 1930s or 1940s, advises hotel staff to “go ‘way and let me sleep.” Selections from this collection will be featured in the upcoming Margolies exhibit in the Henry Ford Museum a bit later this year. In the meantime, visit our collections website to browse additional “do not disturb” signs.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.