This past weekend marks the 75th anniversary of Lovett Hall. Tucked in between Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village sits the stately hall, a well-known icon on The Henry Ford campus.
Lovett Hall is named after Benjamin Lovett, an accomplished dance instructor and friend of Henry Ford. Benjamin grew up loving music and dance, and after teaching himself how to dance began giving lessons with his wife, Charlotte. The Lovetts eventually made their way to Dearborn in 1924 at the urging of Henry.
Henry loved the community dances of his youth. Henry believed everyone should love dancing as much as he did, so he hired Benjamin to call the dances and teach others. If you wanted to associate with both Henry and his wife Clara, you needed to be ready to dance.
When Greenfield Village Schools opened in the late 1920s, dancing was part of the curriculum. It would be a few years before the students had a formal location to dance. As Henry’s educational campus began to expand, plans for a larger education building were made. Lovett Hall, known as the “recreation building” opened its doors in 1937 after a year of construction and featured a lavish ballroom. Monthly dances were a common occurrence at Lovett Hall, with Henry and Clara on the dance floor and Benjamin calling the dance steps.
Lovett Hall wasn’t just for dancing, though. Upon its opening in 1937 it quickly became a home to Greenfield Village high school and Institute of Technology students. The hall’s pool and gym were marveled at by many. The building also provided laboratories, drafting rooms, and even a library to the students. Benjamin eventually became the head of the Department of Social Training and the Art of Dance. The institute closed in 1943 and the high school closed in 1952. Lovett Hall continued to act as an educational building, offering dormitory programs and adult education classes. Often referred to as the education building in years past, Lovett Hall remains the formal name for the structure.
After Edsel Ford died in 1943, Henry lost most of his passion for dancing. Henry’s health began to fail and the importance he had once placed on dancing began to wane. Benjamin died in 1952 at the age of 76.
Today, Lovett Hall serves a variety of purposes at The Henry Ford, with one of them being a venue for private events. The spirit of Benjamin is alive and well during the countless wedding receptions held in the hall as happy guests take to the much rumored “spring-loaded” dance floor and dance the night away.
If you have any memories of Lovett Hall you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them!
Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.
Conservators at the Henry Ford Museum are collaborating with violin experts to prepare Henry Ford’s personal violin collection for an upcoming permanent display in Henry Ford Museum. The violins, which have been in storage for a number of years, are being examined, analyzed and in some instances conserved for long-term display and potential use in concerts.
In 2010 master violin restorer Ashot Vartanian of Shar Music in Ann Arbor, Mich., repaired the Bergonzi to prepare it for exhibition and a concert in Cremona, Italy.
Later this year Henry Ford’s 1703 Stradivarius violin will travel to Cremona to replace the Bergonzi, which will return to The Henry Ford for examination and analysis. Sharon Que of Sharon Que Violin Restoration and Repair is currently working with Chief Conservator Mary Fahey to evaluate the condition of the violin and to make necessary repairs. The retention of original varnish and wood as well as the preservation of the extraordinary sound of the violin is paramount.
Radiologist Dr. John Bonnett of Henry Ford Hospital and luthier Ray Schryer (Schryer Violin) partnered with Henry Ford Museum staff in 2010 to create CT scan (computed tomography) images of the violins in a quest for information concerning their condition and past repairs. Among other findings the scans revealed areas of old insect damage, previously unseen by the naked eye, in addition to delicate repairs on the interior of the museum’s Guarneri Del Gesu violin.
In need of some pumpkin carving inspiration? Check out our new THF Freebies page. You'll find a set of stencils to carve your pumpkin with this weekend! Check out our video to see the Model T stencil in action.
Curators greet auction house catalogs with anticipation when they arrive in our museum mailboxes. Within the sumptuous pages of exquisite photography we might discover a significant treasure to add to our collections. When a Sotheby’s catalog arrived offering a substantial collection of Mark Twain letters, it piqued our interest. You see, we have the last portrait of Mark Twain, born Samuel Clemens, in our collections and a family drop leaf writing table. Could something being offered at this auction further our knowledge of these pieces?
The story of how The Henry Ford came to own these pieces documents the rich legacy our collections hold. Clemens’ daughter Clara was married to Ossip Gabrilowitsch, conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. A Russian emigre, he was stricken with stomach cancer and treated at Henry Ford Hospital. Gabrilowitsch’s stay was long and difficult; his care was costly. Henry Ford forgave the bill and in gratitude, Clara gave Ford these family pieces in 1936, and they came into the museum. The portrait is oil on canvas by Edoardo Gelli and was painted in Florence, Italy in 1904. The table was used by Clemens in his later year.s.
The auction collection was divided into hundreds of lots, and we carefully reviewed what was being offered. Contained in Lot 551 was a fascinating letter dated May 26, 1904, from Clemens to Governor David Francis of Missouri. Interestingly, the auction house had only published information from the first page of the two-page letter. They would not release the second page until we pressed them. And, it was the second page that revealed the “smoking gun.” The gist of the letter was to ask the Missouri-native if he would participate in the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, organized to commemorate the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Regretfully Clemens, who was living in Florence, declined the invitation because of his wife’s poor health. The friendly letter bears some of Mark Twain’s trademark humor. And, more significantly had a direct reference to the portrait in our collection. “Although I can not be at the fair, I am going to be there anyway, by a portrait of professor Gelli. You will find it excellent. Good judges say it is better than the original. They say it has all the merits of the original and keeps still besides.”
All additions to the collections are stringently reviewed by the Collections Committee. We reviewed the materials and debated the value of this letter to the story of the portrait. And, what we could pay for it. As with any museum, dollars for acquisitions are limited. A “not to exceed” amount was designated. Now, the tense moments of the auction itself. We decided to bid by phone. Marc Greuther, chief curator, Terry Hoover, chief archivist, and I huddled by the phone and waited for Sotheby’s to call to begin the bidding. We really wanted this piece, but saw that other things were going for higher prices than estimated. When the lot we wanted came up for bid, we plunged in. And, WE GOT IT! With great anticipation, we waited for the precious document to arrive. There is something magical about seeing an original - the paper, ink, handwriting of a famous person that gives a “feel” for the past. The letter was added to the collection.
When we united these pieces of the past - the portrait and the letter - we could see the curators in heaven applaud. And, we think Samuel and Clara Clemens were pleased too.
Marilyn Zoidis, Director, Historical Resources, recognized this as one of those “museum moments” that makes her love this work.
Last month The Henry Ford participated in the Goodwood Revival, near Chichester, England. The annual festival is held on the grounds of the historic Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit, once one of Britain’s premier tracks, and it celebrates motorsport as it was during the circuit’s 1948-1966 operating life. This year’s Revival paid special tribute to legendary American race driver and builder Dan Gurney, and we sent our Ford Mark IV in which Gurney and A.J. Foyt won the 1967 Le Mans.
I could justifiably call the Goodwood Revival “beyond description,” but that wouldn’t make for a very satisfying blog post! Instead, I’ll start with the basic numbers. Some 146,000 people attended the three-day event, and they were treated to more than 600 race and road cars of every description. More than a dozen races pitted many of these cars against each other on the Goodwood track.
Beyond the cars, a sizeable collection of World War II vintage aircraft occupied another section of the grounds – when they weren’t circling overhead in tight formation. The planes weren’t so out of place as you might think. The Goodwood Circuit evolved from a Royal Air Force station built during the war, so a Submarine Spitfire was perfectly at home there.
Even with all of those cars and airplanes, the Revival’s signature element arguably is period dress. Visitors and participants alike are encouraged to wear mid-20th Century clothing and, from what I saw, the majority of them did so eagerly. (Conservation Specialist Robert Coyle and I wore replicas of Ford Racing’s 1967 Le Mans crew uniform, while Executive Vice President Christian Øverland wore a Mad Men-ready black suit.) The cars and clothing, combined with the wonderfully-preserved track, created a perfect time capsule. It was easy to imagine that the calendar had rolled back 50 years.
Revival visitors were extremely knowledgeable and many recognized the Mark IV on sight. While some were disappointed that it wasn’t running around the track under its own power (we keep the car in its original, as-raced condition, and returning it to operation would require replacing parts), everyone was grateful to The Henry Ford for bringing it back to their side of the Atlantic. It was a genuine privilege for us to participate in what may be the world’s most unconventional car show. I hope to return – but with a natty fedora next time!
By Matt Anderson
Curator of Transportation and newly-minted fan of steak and ale pie
Sunday is – at long last - the day we head to Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village. I say “at long last” because the countdown to the next Halloween pretty much starts while our kids are inspecting their candy haul from making the neighborhood rounds.
Our littlest goblin can’t wait to see the “gary gelletons.” Those glowing and dancing skeletons in the gazebo near the covered bridge made a quite a lasting impression during last year’s visit. I recorded a bit of their performance on my phone, and hands-down that clip is the most revisited video in my mobile library. Clifford, now three, has watched it countless times. Whenever he sees it, he feigns frightful shivers, and as much as he enjoyed the video, we enjoyed his reaction. (So thanks to The Henry Ford for that little gift that just kept on giving.) Whenever we pass that gazebo during summer visits to the village, he reminds me of those bony, xylophone-playing dancers.
I took my son Henry to the village Saturday to watch the plowing with the 1904 Port Huron Steam Engine and Percheron horses at Firestone. It was chilly, so we decided to head to Eagle Tavern to get warm and have lunch. (I’m always ready for an excuse to stop in for Squash Soup and an order of Bubble and Squeak.) Henry pointed out some of the decorations already in place for Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village.
“These look different in the daytime,” he said looking at the headstones arranged on the Village Green. Then he noted that the coffin looked “too new.” He said he thought it should look more worn. When I explained to him that a fresh pine coffin meant a fresh body, I learned that even in broad daylight a fake cemetery can move a shudder through the shoulders of a 10-year-old boy.
With each year, even as the older kids know some of what to expect, they seem to anticipate it with excitement and a little nervousness.
We have so many fond memories. Our 20-year-old still tells the story of when she was little and was so mesmerized by the huge bonfire that she completely missed the silent Grim Reaper - until he was right in front of her. Her ridiculous reaction was anything but silent, and we still laugh about it.
We also look forward to being inspired by some of the more 900 jack-o-lanterns that light the village since we’ve yet to carve ours.
Our kids are good historians of our visits over the years. They always keenly look for their favorite things, seeing what’s replaced what, what costumes are new, what vignettes are different or have been moved, etc. It seems someone always misses something, since there is so much to see. I look forward to the discussion on the ride home.
I know, my daughter looks slightly petrified in this photo – but have no fear – she can’t wait to see the Headless Horseman again this year. She’s determined she won’t be the slightest bit frightened.
A few weeks back, I had the opportunity sit down with Jim Johnson, senior manager of creative programs at The Henry Ford, and learn about a few changes in which I’m sure my kids and others will delight. I can’t wait to see what he described and see my children’s reactions.
But until then, mum’s the word. Or maybe even Dracula is the word. Who knows? Should be exciting with just the right amount of spooky and not-too-scary fun.
Conservators at The Henry Ford have begun to work on the second group of figurines belonging to Polish Mission in Orchard Lake, Mich.
The figurines, which are part of a Panorama created by architect Zbigniew Baran, have educated and entertained audiences, both young and old, for more than 30 years. It’s the only historical Polish Panorama in North America. The 106 characters of the panorama, which dramatizes the history of Poland, are drawn from the struggles of writers, peasants, saints, statesman, soldiers, and artists to remain faithful to the ideals of Christianity and the Polish nation.
Baran, together with THF Head Conservator Mary Fahey and her staff, are working to clean, conserve and restore missing elements of the figures in addition to developing a plan for their long-term care and preservation.
Missing elements such as the sword and crucifix for the Mieszkol I (the first king of Poland) figurine were fabricated using historical images as references. Check out the images (below) of the figurine before and after conservation.
To see the panorama in action, take a look at this video from WDIV Detroit in 2011. To learn more about the efforts to continue the conservation work of the figures, take a look at this site.
Laser artist and maker Mike Gould these past weeks has set up shop in the lobby of the JW Marriott Hotel in Grand Rapids, Mich., as part of the city’s three-week ArtPrize 2012 event. Mike received one of MAKE magazine’s editor’s choice awards during Maker Faire Detroit in July.
He exhibited his work in the Plaza in Henry Ford Museum. He brought with him and displayed some of the equipment he’s made and collected throughout his exploration of creating art with light. He also very generously shared with visitors his journey and love of the craft.
Visitors to Maker Faire Detroit were able to get their hands on some of Mike’s early DIY laser light equipment.
At ArtPrize 2012, Mike talks to daytime visitors to the JW Marriot Hotel, but starts his Stratus 10 exhibit – for obvious reasons - after sundown. The display is very visible from the outside, Mike said. “You can see it from across the river, from the walk bridge and when you’re driving by on the highway.”
I always enjoy the unique scent of Greenfield Village: the Model Ts, the trains, the farms, flowers and horses. But I especially delight in the aromas that seem to lead me through the village during Fall Flavor Weekends. As activities in the village celebrate food and flavors – there’s the extra-added bonus of some really wonderful smells, too.
I followed my nose to the cooking demonstrations at seven of the historic homes. During the weekends, the homes display many prepared period dishes, and each has one featured recipe printed on a card for visitors to take home.
This recipe card at Firestone Farmhouse calls for smaller squash – but the ladies at the farm supersized it with a beautiful Hubbard squash. The farm kitchen feeds all the workers throughout the farming seasons – not just during the Fall Flavor Weekends, so the women who cook there are accustomed to making large meals.
My next stop was the Fall Farmers Market situated in the Pavilion. Plants, produce, dairy items, meat, soaps, syrups, candy, kettle corn, fibers, herbs, pies and much, much more filled the open-air building.
Above, Laura Cuthbertson from Aunt Bea’s Place demonstrates spinning natural yarn at the Fall Farmers Market. It is the sheep farm’s first time participating in the event.
Doodle’s Sugarbush’s display had samples, samples and more samples. The Blanchard, Mich., maple syrup and confections’ company drew quite a crowd.
I didn’t know that a sugary tuberous root could be featured in so many delectable recipes until I read the product list for Detroit-based Sweet Potato Sensations.
There were handmade brooms, lovely and fragrant soaps, some charming little sculpted mushrooms and so many other curiosities and niceties to treat the senses.
After the market, I made my way around the village to see what else was cooking in the historic homes.
The presenters in small kitchen in the Adams Family Home were busy preparing the featured recipe for apple cake – following the same recipe card that visitors take home.
The 1800s recipe for the cake was published in a 1990 compilation: a reminder that good recipes stand the test of time.
Smothered pork was the featured fare at the Mattox Family Home. That recipe and the peach cobbler looked (and – no surprise - smelled) fantastic.
Next up was a walk to the Edison Homestead. The presenter there shared with guests the wonders of that (then) new kitchen staple: Crisco.
The featured recipe there is a bean soup. The presenter explained how the recipe would have been made in an 1800s kitchen, but also how the soup could easily be adapted using some of today’s convenience products – such as canned beans and tomatoes.
The Daggett Farmhouse is one of my favorite buildings in Greenfield Village. I love the simplicity of the 1750s house and the large fireplace in the center of the home.
This year’s featured recipe at the Daggett Farmhouse is a potato pudding. The rich but simple recipe is from The First American Cookbook, 1796.
After leaving the Daggett Farmhouse, I stopped by the Susquehanna Plantation to see what was cooking there.
The featured recipe is a baked shrimp dish, but when I was there, the ladies in the kitchen were working on dark baked biscuit, sharing with guests some of the challenges of baking over a fire.
I made my way back up to the Ford Home to see what was cooking and found a nice pumpkin fritter.
My last stop of the day was to get a closer look at the 1904 threshing machine in action. Ryan Spencer – the manager of Firestone Farm – shared some great details on the machine in a post last week.
A crowd gathered to see it in action. Next Saturday, visitors will get a chance to see some plowing with steam and horses.
The good news is that Fall Flavor Weekends is plural. Meaning, if you missed it last weekend, you’ll have another opportunity this weekend. Check out The Henry Ford website on the event to get the details.
I have a long-standing fascination with large advertising posters. The collections of The Henry Ford include hundreds of these colorful graphics. As I study them I always wonder about their original purpose.
It starts in the nineteenth century when printers developed a lithograph method that produced brightly colored posters. Lithography, invented around 1798, is a process of printing from a flat surface with a greasy image holding the ink and a wet blank area resisting the ink. It originally produced a monochrome print of a dark image on light paper. In the 1840s printers experimented with using different ink colors and multiple printing surfaces to make chromatic images on one sheet of paper.
Manufacturers and companies quickly adopted the colorful new poster style to promote their goods and services. The posters were glued to building walls and fences, and hung in store displays where they readily attracted the attention of passersby. Companies hired printers who worked with artists to create designs to advertise the products.
This early poster's design, above, is in the style of American romantic landscape paintings of the time. Advertising the Buckeye brand of agricultural equipment manufactured by Aultman, Miller & Company of Akron, Ohio, it exemplifies an American ideal of the machine in the garden. The artist, F. Crow, made this image for the printer, White & Brayley of Buffalo, New York, about 1875. It probably hung in the office of a local equipment distributor where it offered visitors the pleasure of an appealing rural scene.
This next poster promotes sewing machines made by the Dauntless Manufacturing Company of Norwalk, Ohio, about 1885. The figure is Columbia, a feminine personification of the United States. A complex and detailed image, it surely captured observers' attention and deserved a pause for a long look.
This delightful image of four boys eating watermelon epitomizes a summer’s harvest. The attention-grabbing subject matter likely helped to sell the seeds grown by D.M. Ferry & Company of Detroit, Mich. Distributed nationally, the J. Ottmann Lithographing Company of New York, NY, printed the poster in 1898.
A complex scene including a seemingly ordinary dining table includes symbolic personalities to gain attention for this unusual food combination of wheat and celery. Columbia, appearing again, serves Uncle Sam and a robust young woman in this poster for Dr. Price’s healthy food products. The U.S. Lithograph Company of Cincinnati, Ohio and New York, NY, made this “Russell-Morgan Print” about 1900-1905.
Over a century ago, changes were taking place in America that made national selling of products advantageous, and manufacturers sought to capture attention with catchy brands and appealing images. Changes in milling of grain lengthened the shelf life so storekeepers far from the original mill were sure to have a good product to sell, and the extensive railroad system allowed rapid and consistent delivery.
The team of racing horses coming toward the viewer in the Ben-Hur poster certainly gives a sense of drama. It may be hard to connect the image to the wheat flour product, but the arresting image was meant to attract the attention of potential buyers walking along a town’s street. The Royal Milling Company of Minneapolis, Minn., and Great Falls, Mont., had this colorful poster printed in the early 1900s. At this time, Ben-Hur was a popular motif because the theatrical producers Klaw & Erlanger had made a play in 1899 based on the best-selling American novel written by Lew Wallace in 1880.
Like the Ben-Hur poster of the same era, this view of a Scotsman in his Highland kilt gives a sense of adventure and surely attracted the attention of potential buyers on foot. This colorful poster was printed in 1899 with the catchy slogan "Scotch Oats for Brain and Brawn." At this time, stories about the medieval Scottish fight for independence, like Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter, were popular in the United States.
This poster of the Wright brothers' Model B biplane has instant appeal. It happens to advertise the aerial entertainment services of the Patterson Aviators of Detroit in the 1910s. I am particularly struck by the fact that in less than ten years, entrepreneurs were using the fruit of Wilbur and Orville Wright's invention begun with their first successful flight in 1903. It grew from an impossible dream to a part of our everyday life. Daredevil fliers in the 1910s and 1920s, also called barnstormers, showed people the possibility of flight by creating high-risk, exciting spectacles soaring through the sky. Crowds flocked to numerous public events like circuses, county fairs, and air shows, eagerly shelling out their hard-earned money simply for the privilege of watching these high-flying acrobatics.
During the First World War, artists widely used an innovative advertising technique for posters that moved away from a factual depiction of a product’s material or event’s subject to an emphasis on appealing to the viewer’s emotions. On the surface, this poster promotes American citizens growing food in their home garden so the farmers’ produce could feed U.S. soldiers training and fighting the war in Europe. The emotional appeal is connecting the effort of home food gardening to patriotic sacrifices akin to those of the American Revolutionary War soldiers. The artist, William McKee, used the familiar motif from the painting The Spirit of ’76, made in 1876 by Archibald M. Willard for the Centennial of the American Revolution. The poster’s title, The Spirit of ’18, reinforced this popular patriotic theme. This poster was made for the U.S. Food Administration in 1918.
This poster advertises the R& L Time Payment Plan to buy a Ford Model T Tudor Coupe. The National Bond & Investment Company probably offered this payment plan, still a novel concept, through independent Ford dealerships. This double-sided poster was designed to hang in a window and be seen from indoors and outside. Although we do not know the printer for this poster created about 1925, the artist's signature prominently appears in the lower right corner: J.W. Pondelicek.
The artist of this poster, Bob Smith, combined modern and patriotic themes of this world’s fair held near the end of the Great Depression and at the beginning of the Second World War. Promoting the New York World’s Fair theme, "The World of Tomorrow," the Grand Opening on April 30, 1939, harkened back to the country’s beginnings by celebrating the 150th anniversary of George Washington's first presidential inauguration held in New York City in 1789. The beautiful young woman portrayed in front of the world fair’s modern Trylon and Perisphere buildings wears fashionable clothes in the American patriotic colors of red, white and blue.
These posters and many more are part of our museum's online collections. We also offer quality reproductions for a selection of posters on The Henry Ford ArteHouse and The Henry Ford SM/ART Editions. These posters, eye-catching time capsules of popular design, delight and instruct us today. What are your favorites?
Cynthia Read Miller, Curator of Photographs and Prints, is continually fascinated with the museum’s more than 1 million historical graphics.