Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

KidVideo

What inspires your child when they set foot inside Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation? We want to see. In honor of our 90th year, we’re looking for examples of curiosity and excitement from a child’s point of view.

From March 1-31, we’re looking for child-created videos to become part of an official video from The Henry Ford highlighting Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. We’re looking for clips that showcase a child’s excitement, what they learned during their visit, their favorite artifacts, and more. Get their friends together, show off what they know about our artifacts – it's all up to them. We’ll pull the entries together to show how Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation inspires – all from a child’s point of view. You may see some of your footage in our video this spring!

From our selected entries, we’ll pick nine submissions at random to receive a family membership to The Henry Ford.

What would you pick to highlight Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation? We can’t wait to see. And don’t forget – kids get in free to the museum with paid adult admission now through March 31. Learn more about our 90th anniversary admission special to help you make your video submission.

To submit your video:
Upload your child’s video clip (no more than 30 seconds long) to YouTube with #THFInspiration in the video description by 11:59 pm ET March 31.

Accepted video formats include AVI, MOV, m4v, and MP4.

Make sure the video is public. Giveaway winners will be contacted via YouTube comment by April 5. 

This year, Henry Ford’s museum and village complex – now known as The Henry Ford – celebrates its 90th anniversary. Throughout 2019, we’ll be reflecting decade-by-decade on significant additions to the collection he began, with a focus on our institution's evolving collecting philosophies. This post covers our history and acquisitions of the 1930s.

A Working Village
After its dedication in 1929, Henry Ford didn't consider his campus complete. In Greenfield Village, he continued to erect homes, mills, and shops that he felt best reflected the way Americans had lived and worked, or that were associated with famous people he admired. Individuals even began to offer Ford historic structures for his Village.

By the mid-1930s, several Village shops were staffed by people demonstrating traditional craft skills, including glassblowers, blacksmiths, weavers, shoemakers, and potters. Visitors to Greenfield Village not only had the pleasure of watching the craftsmen work, they could also buy samples of their hand-crafted products. Craftsmen like brick makers and sawyers supported the Village restoration efforts.

Building the Museum
While Ford Motor Company draftsman Edward J. Cutler labored in the muddy fields of Greenfield Village, architect Robert O. Derrick was designing a large indoor museum adjacent to the historical village to house the objects Ford had collected. Derrick suggested that the façade should resemble Independence Hall and related buildings of Philadelphia, with a large “Exhibition Hall” in back.

Since Henry Ford had rejected the notion of storage rooms, nearly everything had to be exhibited out in the open. The twelve-acre museum contained a glorious assemblage of stuff. To Ford, that assemblage represented the evolution of technological progress.
For nearly a decade after the museum officially opened to the public in 1933, visitors found it a work in progress. The exhibits would not be completed until the early 1940s.

Additions to the Collections: 1930s

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Stanley Cookstove
Henry Ford appreciated the history found in everyday objects and in inventions that made people’s lives better.  This innovative 1830s cookstove hits on both these “cylinders.” Used by people to prepare their daily meals, it is an everyday object with emotional connection to hearth and home.  As an improvement over fireplace cooking, this cookstove is an example of technological progress--one of many that Ford was gathering for his museum.
- Jeanine Head Miller, Curator of Domestic Life

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Sweetmeat Dish owned by Alexander Hamilton
Like many collectors in the 1930s, Henry Ford and his staff were interested in acquiring decorative arts objects that had strong historical associations.  The staff also sought out works that were aesthetically pleasing.  This sweetmeat basket, which descended through the family of Alexander Hamilton, fit the bill.  Part of a larger set of Sheffield plate silver, the group was a prized acquisition in 1935.
- Charles Sable, Curator of Decorative Arts

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Noah Webster Home
Following the dedication of Greenfield Village in October of 1929, Henry Ford continued to expand, and “flesh out,” the collection of buildings in Greenfield Village. The Noah Webster House from New Haven, Conn., was one of the examples of projects brought to Henry Ford; the building was purchased from the salvage company that had already began the demolition. The Noah Webster story aligned perfectly with Henry Ford’s passion for education and his interest in the history of education in the United States. This home, where Noah Webster completed the American Dictionary, a work that finally defined American English to the rest of the world, could not have been a better fit.
- Jim Johnson, Director of Greenfield Village and Curator of Historic Structures & Landscapes

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Wright Cycle Shop
Henry Ford admired self-made innovators who rose from humble roots to change the world. (He counted himself among them.) Surely the Wright brothers fit that mold. Ford acquired the Wrights' home and cycle shop in 1937, relocating them from Dayton, Ohio, to Greenfield Village. Wilbur had passed away in 1912, but Orville assisted Ford in the buildings' restoration. He provided furnishings and books original to the home and helped to locate surviving equipment used in the shop.
- Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation

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Machine Used to Strand Transatlantic Cable
This cable machine, built by Glass, Eliot & Co., helped to wire the world. It was used at Enderby’s Wharf in Greenwich, England, to build the second transatlantic telegraph cable. Machines like these were used to create the core of submarine cable from iron and conductive copper—and then moved aboard a ship, where they applied a protective sheath made of galvanized steel, an insulating layer of gutta-percha, and a final layer of jute to protect against abrasion. These submarine cables—like the modern-day fiber-optic cables that carry the signals of Internet traffic—connected cultures and communities.
- Kristen Gallerneaux, Curator of Communication & Information Technology

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Circus Poster, Barnum & Bailey, A Child Dreaming of a Circus, 1896
In 1935, the Strobridge Lithographing Company donated 329 circus posters to this institution. The company produced posters for the biggest circuses, including Barnum & Bailey and the Ringling Brothers. This collection of colorful posters give insight into the excitement that “Circus Day” held in communities – and especially rural communities – all over the country. In many towns, the day was treated like a holiday, with schools and workplaces closed for the occasion. This particularly evocative poster illustrates the eager dream of a child, anticipating the wonders of the circus.
- Katherine White, Associate Curator, Digital Content

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Coffeepot, Made by Paul Revere, 1755-1765
With an eye for design and a developed artistic sensibility, avid art collector, Edsel Ford, began collecting early American silver in the 1920s. In 1936, Edsel donated part of his silver collection to his father's museum, including this coffeepot made by silversmith Paul Revere. A talented artisan, Revere created this coffeepot in the late 1750s or early 1760s -- before his famed midnight ride that warned fellow Patriots, "the British are coming." Wealthy citizens in colonial America used luxury silver items like this coffeepot to consume popular drinks of the time period, which included tea and coffee.
- Ryan Jelso, Associate Curator, Digital Content

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Jacquard Loom 
When Henry Ford couldn’t locate a suitable Jacquard loom for Greenfield Village in the 1930s, he commissioned weaving master Sidney Holloway to create blueprints for the construction of this reproduction. This loom employs the innovative punch card technology (developed by French weaver Joseph-Marie Jacquard) that revolutionized the weaving industry in the early 1800s. As an artifact, it helps tell a broad story of industrial change and exemplifies Henry Ford’s commitment to experience-based education.
- Saige Jedele, Associate Curator, Digital Content 

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McGuffey Newly Revisited First Reader - 1844 
Henry and Clara Ford both were taught on McGuffey Readers. These beloved primers that taught both morals and literacy skills make up the foundation of the library at The Henry Ford. Many different editions, like this one, were bought in the 1930s to help round out a full collection of McGuffey Readers.
- Sarah Andrus, Librarian   

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Jenny Young Chandler Collectio
Jenny Young Chandler’s photographs not only capture scenes of daily life in and around Brooklyn, New York, during the late 1800s and early 1900s, but also document objects and collections held by private individuals and museums in New York and New England during the same period. These themes of documenting everyday life and building museum collections, as well as the use of photography, were all very much of interest to Henry Ford when he acquired this collection in 1932.
- Brian Wilson, Senior Manager Archives and Library, Benson Ford Research Center 

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1926 Fordson Tractor Cutaway 
The Ford Motor Company used cutaways to educate customers about new technologies. They conveyed information about internal combustion, power generation, and transmission through arrows and symbols, but few words. Antonio Stabile, a Ford distributor in Rosario, Argentina, displayed this cutaway made from a 1926 Fordson tractor, in the showroom and at exhibitions. (Ford incorporated a branch office in Argentina in 1919.) Model changes made the cutaway obsolete. Mr. Stabile shipped it and a similar Model T cutaway, both created in the service department at Agencia Ford Stabile, under the direction of Bernardo Pagliani, to Ford in late 1931.
- Debra Reid, Curator of Agriculture & the Environment 

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In 1927, Greenfield Village was “born,” as Henry Ford began to acquire buildings and move them to Dearborn for his historical village. The first building Ford bought was the Clinton Inn (now Eagle Tavern), which came from the village of Clinton, Mich., about 45 miles west.

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Clinton Inn (now Eagle Tavern) on its original site in Clinton, Mich., mid-1920s. THF237242 


The dilapidated 1831 stagecoach inn had stood on the Chicago Road in Clinton for almost 100 years. Ella Smith, its owner, still lived in the badly deteriorated building. As Henry Ford’s agents stood inside the crumbling structure, they worried it might collapse. One of Ford’s assistants observed, “There was only one man in 4,000 that would consider it anything but a pile of junk.” Yet, Henry Ford’s vision and resources assured that this early 1830s inn--built when Michigan was still a territory--survived.

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The Clinton Inn (now Eagle Tavern) in Greenfield Village, August 1929. THF123747


By summer 1929, the inn stood--restored--on the village green, as Greenfield Village continued to take shape around it.

You can find more Eagle Tavern artifacts in our digital collections.


Jeanine Head Miller is Curator of Domestic Life at The Henry Ford. Learn more here about The Henry Ford's history as we celebrate our 90th year

THF90, Eagle Tavern, Greenfield Village

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Aerial View of Henry Ford Museum under Construction, Late October or Early November 1929. THF98555


Henry Ford dedicated his museum and village on October 21, 1929, marking the 50th anniversary of Thomas Edison’s first successful light bulb test. Ford named his new complex The Edison Institute of Technology to honor his friend and lifelong hero. This year, Henry Ford’s museum and village complex – now known as The Henry Ford – celebrates its 90th anniversary. Throughout 2019, we’ll be reflecting decade-by-decade on significant additions to the collection he began, with a focus on our institution's evolving collecting philosophies. 

Our Origins
Although Henry Ford became one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful industrialists, he never forgot the values of the rural life he had left behind growing up on a farm. His interest in collecting began in 1914, as he searched for McGuffey Readers to verify a long-remembered verse from one of his old grade school recitations. Soon, the clocks and watches he had loved tinkering with and repairing since childhood grew into a collection of their own. Before long, he was accumulating the objects of ordinary people, items connected with his heroes and from his own past, and examples of industrial progress.

Contrary to the notorious quote, Henry Ford never really believed that history is bunk. What he believed was bunk was the kind of history taught in schools—that emphasized kings and generals and omitted the lives of ordinary folks. In 1916, Ford began to imagine building a museum that would show people a kind of history he believed was worth preserving.

Restorations
In 1919, Henry Ford learned that his birthplace was at risk because of a road improvement project. He took charge—moving the farmhouse and restoring it to the way he remembered it from the time of his mother’s death in 1876, when he was 13. He and his assistants combed the countryside for items that he remembered and insisted on tracking down.

He followed this up by restoring his old one-room school, Scotch Settlement School; the 1686 Wayside Inn in South Sudbury, Massachusetts (with a plan to develop a “working” colonial village); and the 1836 Botsford Inn in Farmington, Michigan, a stagecoach inn where he and his wife Clara had once attended old-fashioned dances. These restorations gave Ford many opportunities to add to his rapidly growing collections while honing his ideas for his own historic village. 

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Ford Home, Front Parlor, Original Site, Dearborn, Michigan, 1923. THF126093


Something of Everything 

In the early 1920s, Henry Ford moved his growing hoard of antiques into a vacated tractor assembly building. The objects fit every description. Large items hung from rafters; smaller ones sat on makeshift benches and racks. Watches and clocks hung along the wall. Henry and his wife Clara enjoyed sharing their relics with others. Once people learned Ford was collecting objects for a museum, they flooded his office with letters offering to give or sell him antiques.

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Frank Campsall, Charles Newton, and Henry Ford at the Ford Engineering Laboratory with Donations for Henry Ford's Museum, 1928 THF126101


Ford also sent out assistants to help him find and acquire the kinds of objects he felt were important to preserve. Goods intended for the museum arrived in Dearborn almost daily—sometimes by the train-car full. By the late 1920s, Henry Ford had become the primary collector of Americana in the world.  

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Rocking Chair Used by Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre the Night of His Assassination, April 14, 1865. THF159537


One of the most well-known artifacts in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is the rocking chair used by Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre the night of his assassination, April 14, 1865. Originally purchased as part of a parlor suite, the rocking chair was intended for use in a reception room in Ford's Theatre, which opened in 1863. The parlor suite was purchased by Harry Clay Ford (no relation to Henry Ford), manager of the Theatre. However, the comfortable rocking chair began to be used by ushers during their "down" time and the fabric became soiled by their hair oil. This stain is still visible on the back. Sometime in 1864, Harry Ford had the chair moved to his apartment across the alley from the Theatre in a belated attempt to keep it clean.

Beginning with the Theatre's opening in 1863, President Lincoln became a frequent visitor. At some point, Mr. Ford began to supply the president and his party with comfortable seating furniture. Apparently, the president preferred this rocking chair, perhaps, due to his height. On the afternoon of April 14th, the chair was brought to the president's box along with a matching sofa and side chair. After the assassination, the Theatre and its contents was seized by the federal government.

After its seizure, the chair remained in the private office of the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton. In 1867, the chair was transferred to the Department of the Interior and then sent to the Smithsonian Institution and placed in storage. For all practical purposes, the chair vanished from the public for half a century. Documentation at the Smithsonian indicates that it was catalogued into the collection in 1902. In 1929, the rocker was returned to Blanche Chapman Ford, widow of Harry Clay Ford.

Mrs. Ford sold the chair at auction through the Anderson Galleries in New York on December 17, 1929. The purchaser was Israel Sack, the dean of antique American furniture dealers, and an agent of Henry Ford. Sack had observed that Ford delighted in furniture that had association with American historical figures. Sack, in turn, offered the chair to Mr. Ford, who purchased it and carefully documented its arrival in Greenfield Village in early 1930. There, the chair resided in the Logan County, Illinois Court House where Lincoln practiced law as a circuit rider in the 1840s. Mr. Ford had moved the Court House to Greenfield Village in 1929--the chair became the centerpiece of his Lincoln collection. In 1979, as part of the institution's 50th anniversary, the chair moved from the Court House to the Museum, where it remains today.

Learn more about the Lincoln rocker here.

Beyond the Lincoln Chair, our collections experts have selected a number of other items acquired before and during the 1920s that reflect our early collecting philosophy. 

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Ned Kendall Keyed Bugle 
Country dances, town bands. America’s musical traditions held personal meaning for Henry Ford. In 1928, Ford purchased Daniel S. Pillsbury’s extraordinary collection of 175 early band instruments.This 1837 keyed bugle from the Pillsbury collection had belonged to Ned Kendall-- keyed bugle virtuoso and leader of the Boston Brass Band.  During the 19th century, community bands provided much of the music enjoyed by everyday Americans. - Jeanine Head Miller, Curator of Domestic Life 

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Argand Lamp, 1790-1850 
This lamp expresses the collecting philosophy that Henry Ford and his staff were using in developing the lighting collection.  They were seeking to acquire examples documenting the changes in lighting technology that led to the introduction of the electric light bulb in 1879.  This Argand lamp was one the first oil lamps that created a flame burning brighter than a single candle. - Charles Sable, Curator of Decorative Arts 

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Menlo Park Laboratory 
Among the most iconic and significant buildings in Greenfield Village, the re-creation of the Menlo Park Compound was a very important achievement for Henry Ford.  Work began to salvage what was left of Menlo Park in the late 1920s. By early 1929, original bits of the Main Lab, the Carbon Shed, and the Glass House came together with the re-created Library, and Machine Shop to bring Menlo Park to life. On October 21, 1929, the entire project received Thomas Edison’s stamp of approval, with the exception of it being too clean. - Jim Johnson, Director, Greenfield Village and Curator, Historic Structures & Landscapes 

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1896 Ford Quadricycle 
It all began with the Quadricycle. Ford Motor Company, the Model T, The Henry Ford -- none of it would have happened if Henry Ford hadn't finished this little car in June 1896. He sold it a few months later for $200 -- money he promptly spent building his second car. Fast forward to 1904. With Ford Motor Company blooming and Henry perhaps feeling nostalgic, he paid $65 to buy the Quadricycle back. It was arguably Mr. Ford's first significant acquisition documenting his own life and achievements. - Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation 

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Platform Rocker, 1882-1900 
In 1928, Henry Ford became interested in the estate of the late Josephine Moore Caspari of Detroit. A wealthy heiress, she married a Spanish riding master but divorced him just four years later after discovering that he had married another in Germany. The divorce was the talk of the town. Ms. Caspari became a recluse; bolting the doors to her large Italianate mansion and positioning two large dogs to guard the entry. When she passed away, her estate was set to be sold. Intrigued, Henry Ford bought many items from the estate, including this platform rocker made by George Hunzinger. Hunzinger’s platform spring rocking chairs combined numerous inventions, creating a more comfortable and quiet rocking experience. - Katherine White, Associate Curator, Digital Content 

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Paper Horseshoe Filament Lamp Used at New Year's Eve Demonstration of the Edison Lighting System, 1879 
Electrical engineer William Joseph Hammer began working for Thomas Edison in 1879 and soon started collecting the incandescent lamps they were developing at Edison's Menlo Park complex in New Jersey. After Edison created the first practical incandescent lamp in October 1879, news spread and the public clamored to view his achievement. On New Year's Eve, thousands of people streamed into Menlo Park to see the first public display of Edison's electric light, including this surviving example. In 1929, a group of Edison's former employees known as the "Edison Pioneers" donated Hammer's collection, which contained this lamp, to Henry Ford's new museum the "Edison Institute."  - Ryan Jelso, Associate Curator, Digital Content 

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Letter from Thomas Edison to His Parents, October 30, 1870 
This brief letter from a 23-year-old Thomas Edison to his parents provides insight into the early growth of Edison’s work on telegraph instruments. As part of a much larger collection acquired in 1929 through a gift from the Edison Pioneers, the letter also reflects Henry Ford’s many efforts to honor his friend and lifelong hero, which included the re-creation of Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory and the naming of his new museum and village complex The Edison Institute of Technology. - Brian Wilson, Senior Manager Archives and Library, Benson Ford Research Center 

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Eastman Kodak Box Camera, 1888-1889 
Henry Ford drew on personal and professional connections to build his extensive museum collection. Following a conversation with Ford, photography pioneer George Eastman donated a group of significant cameras that included this one: an example of Eastman’s first “Kodak” camera (the first designed for roll film), which revolutionized popular photography. - Saige Jedele, Associate Curator, Digital Content 

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Ambler's Mowing Machine, circa 1836 
Henry Ford relied on antique dealers to ferret out "firsts," and the Ambler Moving Machine is an example. Felix Roulet acquired the machine for Ford. He convinced Ford of the merits of the Ambler mower by quoting a paragraph printed in Merritt Finley Miller’s booklet, The Evolution of the Reaping Machine, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Experiment Stations, Bulletin No. 103 (1902), page 28: “Enoch Ambler of New York, obtained a patent Dec 23, 1834 about which little can be learned. It is understood, however, that he had the first wrought-iron finger bar with steel guards & shoes…” Roulet described the machine to Ford in correspondence, and he assured Ford that “this machine will be a gem in [sic] Mr Fords collection." The machine arrived at Ford Motor Company on November 23, 1924. - Debra Reid, Curator of Agriculture and the Environment

President Abraham Lincoln signed The Freedmen’s Bureau Act on March 3, 1865.  That Act created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands as part of the War Department. It provided one-year of funding, and made Bureau officials responsible for providing food, clothing, fuel, and temporary shelter to destitute and suffering refugees behind Union lines and to freedmen, their wives, and children in areas of insurrection (in other words, within the Confederate States). The legislation specified the Bureau’s administrative structure and salaries of appointees. It also directed the Bureau to put abandoned or confiscated land back into production by allotting not more than 40 acres to each loyal refugee or freedman for their use for not more than three years, at a rent equal to six percent of its 1860 assessed value, and with an option to purchase. The Bureau assumed additional duties in response to freed people’s goals, namely building schools, negotiating labor contracts, and mediating conflicts. 

Lincoln supported the Bureau because it fit his plan to hasten peace and reconstruct the nation, but after Lincoln’s assassination, support wavered. The Freedmen’s Bureau Act of 1866 provided two years of funding. During 1868, increasing violence and for a return to state authority undermined the goals of freed people and the Bureau that worked for them. The Freedmen’s Bureau Act of 1868 authorized only the educational department and veteran services to continue. All other operations ceased effective January 1, 1869.

Collections at The Henry Ford help document public perceptions of the Freedmen’s Bureau as well as actions taken by Bureau advocates. Letters, labor contracts, and newspapers indicate the contests that played out as the Bureau tried to introduce a new model of economic and social justice and civil rights into places where absolute inequality based on human enslavement previously existed. The Bureau did not win the post-war battle for freedmen’s rights. Congress did not reauthorize the Bureau, and it ceased operations in mid-1872.

The Beginning
Bureau appointees went to work at the end of the Civil War in 1865 to serve the interests of four-million newly freed people intent on exercising some self-evident truths itemized in the Declaration of Independence:

That all men are created equal
That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights
That among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Engraved Copy of the 1776 Declaration of Independence, Commissioned by John Quincy Adams, Printed 1823

With freedom came responsibility to sustain the system of government that “We the People” constituted in 1787, and that the Union victory over secession reaffirmed in 1865. Little agreement over the best course of action existed. The national government extended the blessings of liberty by abolishing slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment, ratified in 1865. It established the Freedmen’s Bureau which advocated for the general welfare of newly freed people.

Book, "The Constitutions of the United States, According to the Latest Amendments," 1800. THF 155864

Joint Resolution of the United States Congress, Proposing the 13th Amendment to Abolish Slavery, 1865.  THF118475

Expanding liberty and justice came at a price, both economic and human. Every time freed people exercised new-found liberty and justice, others resisted, perceiving the expansion of another person’s liberty as a threat to their own. The Bureau operated between these factions, as an 1868 illustration from Harper’s Weekly depicted. The newspaper claimed that the Bureau was “the conscience and common-sense of the country stepping between the hostile parties, and saying to them, with irresistible authority, ‘Peace!’.”

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“The Freedmen’s Bureau,” Harper’s Weekly, July 25, 1868, pg. 473. 2018.0.4.38. THF 290299

Economics
Building a new southern economy went hand in hand with expanding social justice and civil rights. Concerned citizens and commanding officers knew that African Americans serving in the U.S. Colored Troops had money to save. They started private banks to meet the need. The U.S. Congress responded with "An Act to Incorporate the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company." Lincoln signed the legislation on March 3, 1865, the same day he signed “An Act to Establish a Bureau for the relief of Freedmen and Refugees.” Agents of the public Freedmen’s Bureau worked closely with staff at the private Freedman’s Bank because freed people needed the economic stability the bank theoretically provided.

At least 400,000 people, one tenth of the freed population, had an association with a person who opened a savings account in the 37 branches of the savings bank that operated between 1865 and 1874. This included Amos H. Morrell, whose daughter’s heirs resided in the Mattox House. Soldiers listed on the Muster Roll of Company E, 46th Regiment of United States Colored Infantry, also appear in records of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. Charles Maho, a private in Company E, 46th USCT, opened an account on August 13, 1868. He worked in a tobacco factory at the time. His brother in arms, James Parvison/Parkinson, also a private, opened an account on December 1, 1869 and his estranged wife, Julia Parkerson opened an account on May 14, 1870.

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Mattox Family Home, circa 1880

"Muster Roll for Company E, 46th Regiment of United States Colored Infantry, April 30-June 30, 1865" - Unknown - Rank 2 THF 96529

Freedmen’s Bureau officials encouraged deposits into the Freedmen’s Bank. This helped freed people become accustomed to saving the coins they earned, literally the coins that symbolized their independence as wage earners. Sadly, Bureau officials often assured account holders that their investments were safe. The deposits were not protected by the national government, however, and when the bank closed in 1874 it left depositors penniless and petitioning for return of their investments.

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One-cent piece.  Minted in 1868. THF 173625 (front) and THF 173624 (back)  

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Three-cent piece (made of nickel). Minted in 1865. THF 173623 (front) and THF 173622 (back).

The U.S. Congress authorized the Bureau to collect and pay out money due soldiers, sailors, and marines, or their heirs. Osco Ricio, a private in Company E, 46th U.S. Colored Infantry, who enlisted for three years in 1864, but was mustered out in 1866, made use of this service in his effort to secure $187 due him.

Freedmen’s Bureau staff mediated between freed people and employers, negotiating contracts that specified work required, money earned, and protection afforded if employers reneged on the agreement. A blank form, printed in Virginia in 1865, included language common to an indenture – that the employer would provide “a sufficiency of sound, wholesome food and comfortable lodging, to treat him humanely, and to pay him the sum of _____ Dollars, in equal monthly instalments of ____ Dollars, good and lawful money in Virginia.”

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Freedman's Work Agreement Form, Virginia, 1865 Object ID  2001.48.18. THF 290704

Another pre-printed form reinforced terms of enslavement, that the work should be performed “in the manner customary on a plantation,” even as it confirmed the role of Freedmen’s Bureau agents as adjudicator. Freedman Henry Mathew, and landowner R. J. Hart, in Schley County, Georgia, completed this contract which legally bound Hart to furnish Mathew “quarters, food, 1 mule, and 35 acres of land” and to “give. . . one-third of what he [Mathew] makes.” This type of arrangement became the standard wage-labor contract between landowners and sharecroppers, paid for their labor with a share of the crops grown on the land.

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Freedman's Contract for a Mule and Land, Dated January 1, 1868. THF 8564 

Many criticized sharecropping as another form of unfree labor rather than as a fair labor contract. Close reading confirms the inequity which often took the form of additional work that laborers performed but that benefitted owners. In the case of Hart and Mathew, Mathew had to repair Hart’s fencing which meant that Mathew realized only one-third return on his labor investment in the form of a crop perhaps more plentiful because of the fence. Hart claimed the other two-thirds of the crop plus all of the increased value of fencing. 

Isaac Yarbro/Yarbrough, private in Company E, 46th USCT, negotiated a contract with A. H. Elliott of Ouachita County, Arkansas, on January 1, 1867. Elliott furnished land, stock, and farming tools. Yarbrough furnished labor and his own rations. After marketing the cotton crop, the contract stipulated that Yarbrough would receive one third “of the cotton made by him as compensation in full for his labor and rations furnished by him.” Furthermore, Yarbrough, when not occupied making the cotton crop, would “do any other work that A. H. Elliott may see proper to have done on his plantation and without farther compensation.”

Education
Freed people wanted access to education to learn what they needed to make decisions as informed and productive citizens.

Harper’s Weekly, a New York magazine, often featured freedmen’s schools that resulted from a cooperative agreement between the Freedmen’s Bureau and the American Missionary Association (AMA), based in New York. A reporter informed readers on June 23, 1866 that “the prejudice of the Southern people against the education of the ‘negroes’ is almost universal.” Regardless, freed people needed schools, teachers, and institutes to train teachers. The Freedmen’s Bureau and its partners committed their resources in support of this cause.

Commentary accompanying an illustration of the “Primary School for Freedmen” indicated that the school building was dilapidated and owned by someone who wanted rid of the school, but the students were eager to learn and as capable as other students of their age in New York public schools.

“Primary School for Freedmen, in Charge of Mrs. Green, at Vicksburg, Mississippi, Harper’s Weekly, June 23, 1866, pg. 392 (bottom), story on pg. 398. THF 290712

School curriculum often emphasized agricultural and technical training. The “Freedmen’s Farm School,” located near Washington, D.C., also known as the National Farm-School, taught orphans and children of U.S. Colored Troops reading, writing and arithmetic, standard primary school subjects. Students also cultivated a one-hundred-acre farm. The combination compared to a new effort launched with the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862 to create a system of colleges, federally funded but operated at the state level to train students in agricultural and mechanical subjects. The combination could help students realize the American dream – owning and operating their own farm. While the system of land-grant colleges grew steadily during Reconstruction, the freedmen’s schools faced opposition locally and at the state level. Increasingly educators turned to philanthropists to fund education for freed people.

Cover, “Schools for Freedmen,” Harper's Weekly 1867 bound volume (Vol. 11) -- March 30, 1867 issue (“Freedmen’s Farm School, upper right image, page 193) THF 290709

Struggles
The individuals appointed to direct the Freedmen’s Bureau often had military experience. Brigadier General Oliver Otis Howard served in the Union Army and gained a reputation as a committed abolitionist if not a strong officer. President Andrew Johnson appointed him the first Commission of the Bureau, and he remained in that position until the Bureau closed in 1872. Two years later Howard lamented lost opportunities: “I believe there are many battles yet to be fought in the interest of human rights”….“There are wrongs that must be righted. Noble deeds that must be done.” 

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O.O. Howard calling card and letter, in 2007.0.1.1 - Autograph album - "Ada Dewey Autograph Album, 1874-1875". THF 228573

Many shared Howard’s frustrations with the lack of public support for freed people’s goals. They also resented the obstructions that thwarted those goals. Newspaper reporting, such as the regular features in Harper’s Weekly, emphasized the good work of the Freedmen’s Bureau, but reporting also threatened projects aimed at sustaining the momentum.

Henry Wilson, a Republican Senator from Massachusetts, sought equality for African Americans. He took a correspondent to the Republican, a newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts, to task for publishing misinformation about the extent of congressional fundraising for political purposes, and for downplaying the need for sharing facts with voters, especially the 700,000 Southerners newly enfranchised after ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. Wilson explained that hundreds of thousands of documents, possible through the congressional fundraising, could educate voters about issues and prepare them for the upcoming election. Without donations from U.S. congressmen, Wilson believed such efforts would fail.

Letter from Henry Wilson to Sanborn [probably Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, then a correspondent with the Springfield [Massachusetts] Republican newspaper], October 6, 1870  

The End
The short life but complicated legacy of the Freedmen’s Bureau leaves much to ponder. The Bureau, as a part of the War Department, and then an independent national agency, mediated local conflict and supported local education. This occurred at an exceptional time as the Union began rebuilding the nation in 1865. Then, the Republican party interpreted the U.S. Constitution as a mandate for the national government to protect civil rights broadly defined. The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, incorporated newly freed people as full citizens. Most believed that the Bureau had no more work to do, and Congress did not reauthorize it after July 1872. Those who favored the Bureau lamented its abrupt end and believed that much remained to be done to open the American experiment in equal rights to all.

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

Sources and Further Reading

  • African American Records: Freedmen’s Bureau, National Archives and Records Administration
  • Carpenter, John A. Sword and Olive Branch: Oliver Otis Howard (1999)
  • Cimbala, Paul A. The Freedmen's Bureau: Reconstructing the American South after the Civil War (2005)
  • Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877 (1988).
  • Litwack, Leon F. Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery (1979).
  • McFeely, William S. Yankee Stepfather: General O.O. Howard and the Freedmen (1994).
  • Osthaus, Carl R. Freedmen, Philanthropy, and Fraud: A History of the Freedman's Savings Bank (1976)
  • Oubre, Claude F. Forty Acres and a Mule: The Freedmen’s Bureau and Black Land Ownership (2012).
  • Washington, Reginald. “The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company and African American Genealogical Research,” Federal Records and African American History (Summer 1997, Vol. 29, No. 2)

imlsThis blog post is part of a series about storage relocation and improvements that we are able to undertake thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

In the course of our work as conservators, we get some very exciting opportunities. Thanks to a partnership with Hitachi High Technologies, for the past few months the conservation lab here at The Henry Ford has had a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) with an energy-dispersive x-ray (EDX) spectroscopy attachment in our lab.

hitachi-usWhat does this mean? It means that not only have we been able to look at samples at huge magnifications, but we have had the ability to do elemental analysis of materials on-demand. Scanning electron microscopy uses a beam of electrons, rather than light as in optical microscopes, to investigate the surface of sample. A tungsten filament generates electrons, which are accelerated, condensed, and focused on the sample in a chamber under vacuum. There are three kinds of interactions between the beam and that sample that provide us with the information we are interested in. First, there are secondary electrons – the electron beam hits an electron in the sample, causing it to “bounce back” at the detector. These give us a 3D topographical map of the surface of the sample. Second, there are back-scattered electrons – the electron beam misses any electrons in the sample and is drawn towards a positively-charged nucleus instead. The electrons essentially orbit the nucleus, entering and then leaving the sample quickly. The heavier the nucleus, the higher that element is on the periodic table, the more electrons will be attracted to it. From this, we get a qualitative elemental map of the surface, with heavier elements appearing brighter, and lighter elements appearing darker.

microsope-scanConservation Specialist Ellen Seidell demonstrates the SEM with Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation volunteer Pete Caldwell.

The EDX attachment to the SEM allows us to go one step further, to a third source of information. When the secondary electrons leave the sample, they leave a hole in the element’s valence shell that must be filled. An electron from a higher valence shell falls to fill it, releasing a characteristic x-ray as it does so – the detector then uses these to create a quantitative elemental map of the surface.

scanA ‘K’ from a stamp block, as viewed in the scanning electron microscope.

The understanding of materials is fundamental to conservation. Before we begin working on any treatment, we use our knowledge, experience, and analytical tools such as microscopy or chemical tests to make determinations about what artifacts are made of, and from there decide on the best methods of treatment. Sometimes, materials such as metal can be difficult to positively identify, especially when they are degrading, and that is where the SEM-EDX shines. Take for example the stamp-block letter shown here. The letter was only about a quarter inch tall, and from visual inspection, it was difficult to tell if the block was made of lead (with minor corrosion) or from heavily-degraded rubber. By putting this into the SEM, it was possible a good image of the surface and also to run an elemental analysis that confirmed that it was made of lead. Knowing this, it was coated to prevent future corrosion and to make it safe to handle.

Elemental analysis is also useful when it comes to traces of chemicals left on artifacts. We recently came across a number of early pesticide applicators, which if unused would be harmless. However, early pesticides frequently contained arsenic, so our immediate concern was that they were contaminated. We were able to take a sample of surface dirt from one of the applicators and analyze it in the SEM.

scan2An SEM image of a dirt sample from an artifact (left) and a map of arsenic within that sample (right).

The image on the left is the SEM image of the dirt particles, and the image on the right is the EDX map of the locations of arsenic within the sample. Now that we know they are contaminated, we can treat them in a way that protects us as well as making the objects safe for future handling.

We have also used the SEM-EDX to analyze corrosion products, to look at metal structures, and even to analyze some of the products that we use to clean and repair artifacts. It has been a great experience for us, and we’re very thankful to Hitachi for the opportunity and to the IMLS as always for their continued support.

Louise Stewart Beck is the project conservator for The Henry Ford's IMLS storage improvement grant.

IMLS, Hitachi

One Last Winter

January 18, 2019 Think THF
naias1Lexus, which itself debuted at the North American International Auto Show in 1989, tantalizes visitors 30 years later with a drop-top concept version of its sporty LC coupe.

A Visit to the 2019 North American International Auto Show

It’s January in Detroit which means – for one last year – it’s time for the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Traditionally, flashy concept cars and new production models are the talk of the town, but this year all the buzz concerns the show’s impending move to June next year. It’s a major shift – undoubtedly the biggest since the show added “International” to its title 30 years ago – but there are valid reasons. Detroit’s weather generally isn’t what you’d call “pleasant” in January; the countless people who put the show together in Cobo Center invariably find themselves working through the holiday season; and automakers are now finding themselves stretched between NAIAS and the Consumer Electronics Show, which wraps in Las Vegas just days before NAIAS opens.

It’s no secret that NAIAS – and auto shows in general – are suffering from flagging interest, both from the public and from automakers themselves. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of upmarket marques pull out of the Detroit show. (Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are all conspicuous by their absence in 2019.) The move to summer might reverse this trend, too.

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The 2020 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 – with a menacing mug to match its hellacious horsepower.

None of this is to suggest that NAIAS is a disappointment this year. There’s still lots to see. Ford Motor Company’s trucks and SUVs are front-and-center at the Blue Oval’s booth. The reintroduced Ranger pickup gets the prime real estate, but it’s the all-new Ford Explorer getting the rave reviews from the press. My favorite, however, is the forthcoming Shelby Mustang GT500. The 700+ horsepower beast arrives for 2020 to battle the Demons and Hellcats of the world. Mr. Shelby would’ve been proud.

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After an absence of nearly 20 years, the Toyota Supra returns for 2020.

Toyota grabs some of NAIAS’s biggest headlines with the return of its Supra sports car, not seen since the fourth generation ended production in 2002. Purists may be irked that many of the Supra’s makings – including its 3.0-liter straight-six – are of BMW lineage, but the look is all Toyota. One can even see a little 2000GT in its lines. Start saving now, as prices are expected to start just north of $50,000.

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Kia’s themed test track, for its new Telluride, livens up Cobo Center’s back wall.

With gas prices low again, Americans have fallen back in love with their SUVs and crossovers. Kia answers the call with its new-for-2020 Telluride SUV, first previewed as a concept car at the 2016 NAIAS. The Telluride will be the largest vehicle in Kia’s lineup, with room for eight in its three rows of seating. Expect to see it in showrooms this May.

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I love the pearlescent paint on this Volkswagen Beetle, though it would look even better with red, white and blue racing stripes and a big roundel on the hood.

Volkswagen has the inauspicious distinction of being the only European automaker with a major presence at NAIAS this year. True to form, though, the German marque has some of the show’s most imaginative displays. Several of its models are parked on a recreated soccer field, in celebration of VW’s sponsorship of the U.S. Soccer Federation. (Automakers have long-standing relationships with America’s pro baseball, football and basketball leagues, but VW becomes the first automotive company to serve as a presenting sponsor for U.S. Soccer.) The company’s interactives are good fun, too. Little ones will enjoy the touch screen coloring “books” that allow them to paint Beetles in any number of groovy colors – accessorized with flowers and peace symbols, of course.

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Harley Earl’s shadow hangs over Cadillac – in this case in the form of a high-finned ’59 Caddy perched above a modern CTS-V.

Sad to say, traditional three-box sedans are fading fast in Detroit. Ford and Chevrolet both have announced plans to all but end sedan production (not including specialty models like Mustang and Corvette, of course). Cadillac seems headed in that direction, too. The upmarket carmaker’s big debut this year is the 2020 XT6, a three-row SUV that might replace the full-size CT6 sedan in Cadillac’s North American lineup. The company’s ATS and CTS sedans are set to bow out this year as well.

NAIAS 2019 may feel a bit lower-key than other recent editions, but there’s still plenty to enjoy. In fact, I recommend that you spend some extra time soaking up the sights and sounds at this year’s show. After all, we’ve got a 17-month wait until the next one!

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

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Matthew (third from left) and workshop colleagues visit the Roundhouse and hands-on turntable. 

In the summer of 2017 I had the opportunity to study at The Henry Ford through the National Endowment for the Humanities American History and Culture Workshop, “America’s Industrial Revolution at The Henry Ford.” As a history instructor, the workshop had numerous benefits, most importantly, the opportunity to work with an excellent and diverse team of educators. Too often as teachers, we are overwhelmed with lesson planning and so many other tasks, that there is little time in the school year to collaborate with master teachers in our field. This workshop provided me one of the greatest opportunities to work directly with some of the finest teachers I have known in my ten plus years as a public educator. 

The opportunity to visit The Henry Ford is like no other workshop experience I know. The Henry Ford helps bring history to life. The training consisted of studying the development of modern technology and its scientific and social impact on American society from as early as colonial settlement through the early 1900s. In our tours of the grounds, we met with numerous museum staff who explained the purpose and effect of each invention, from the Spinning Jenny to the steam engine. The workshop’s guides took their time to discuss how life, from the structure of the family to that of the labor force, changed as a result of these innovations.  Our team of teachers were able to go behind the scenes at the museum and actually get a hands-on experience working with a replica of a Model T Ford and viewing the notes and journals of some of America’s top scientists, such as Thomas Edison. At one point we visited the replica of Edison’s lab, viewing and discussing each project and item that shaped the life’s work of that inventor.

Moreover, the time in lecture with the workshop’s guest speakers was of equal benefit. The Henry Ford provided specialized lectures on the history and cultural effects of the American Industrial Revolution led by history professors from multiple universities including Oakland University and the University of Michigan. The speakers were engaging, examining a range of social issues of the past brought on by the rise of technology. This made me think more about how students, and teachers, for that matter, overlook the importance of science in history. As teachers, we often have students examine how one invention led to the rise of another and how this all brought on the move to the cities and the near abandonment of a farming culture, but there is often little mention as to what new ideas sprang up from these changes. With the rise of modernity also came a challenge to older institutions and the growth of modern social movements.  The lectures were more like conversations that tapped into a range of questions crossing over a multitude of academic fields. We left each day with a wealth of knowledge.

Hernry Ford 1Photos on view during behind-the-scenes archives tour for workshop, support learning about the changing roles of women in the home and workplace during the Industrial Revolution.

In addition to lectures and hands-on activities, The Henry Ford’s program allowed our group to work in cohorts and develop lesson plan material of our own. One memory that stands out to me was delving into archived materials with my team partner John of California. We were researching the automotive industry during the 1930s and had uncovered individualized letters and published essays by Henry Ford. As I sat there with John, fumbling through cartloads of historical materials I thought to myself, ”Where else could I have the chance to do something like this?” We spent hours going through the personalized history of one of the great names of the 20 century.

The program required that we create a unique lesson plan pertaining to our field. At the conclusion of our training we presented our projects, breaking down the sequencing and pedagogical strategies to our colleagues who later offered their advice and suggestions. As a result, I left the training with a treasure trove of resources and discovered new perspectives that has since benefited my students’ learning and impacted and altered my own philosophy of teaching.

Hernry Ford 2Firestone Farm presenter DJ drilling (planting) buckwheat grain at Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village.

The experience of the workshop did not end with my training at The Henry Ford but continues on to today as I continuously fall back on my notes and memories of my past summer experience. I now ask my students to consistently investigate how science connects with all aspects of society and how these innovations represent more than just a demand for consumer products, but of the goals and values of that particular generation for that invention. My students use the digital collections, videos and articles from The Henry Ford and lessons from teachers from my cohort to help relive these great moments in history. The result has been wonderful. I have seen students begin a unit on the Industrial Revolution considering the topic boresome but leave class with a new interest. I am grateful for having been selected for this summer workshop and hope that many teachers from across the nation apply for this program.

Matthew Bunin is an NEH Summer Scholar. 

National Endowment for the Humanities - Model T

The Henry ford is proud to announce that the National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded our institution a grant to again host the Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop, “America’s Industrial Revolution at The Henry Ford.” This workshop is a professional development opportunity for K-12 teachers of various disciplines. Two workshops will be held June 23-28, 2019 and July 14-19, 2019.

Participating teachers will explore the varied ways that Americans experienced social change between the 1760s and the 1920s through lectures and discussions by noted scholars and by visiting select sites at The Henry Ford, Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, including Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory, working farms, historic transportation, and Ford Motor Company’s Rouge industrial complex. In addition, participants will explore archival sources in the Benson Ford Research Center and dedicate time to lesson plan development. 

National Endowment for the Humanities - Group


Next year will be the ninth time The Henry Ford has hosted the America’s Industrial Revolution Workshop. This engaging and in-depth learning experience has touched almost 600 teachers in the past 14 years – we estimate almost 900,000 students have been impacted!

We have made some new and exciting changes with the hope to encourage teachers of all disciplines to participate in a discussion surrounding the innovations in industry and culture that happened during this period. These changes will provide a learning experience that encourages teachers to learn from their peers and carry their new understandings back to their classrooms. For instance, we have added a lecture on art history and the Industrial Revolution as well as an optional trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts to see the automotive industry as depicted by Diego Rivera

This year we have also made changes to the workshop reading list to include some more recent and more diverse pieces of scholarship on the Industrial Revolution. Alongside this change we have divided the reading list into “Must, Should, and Could,” providing an outline of what is expected to be read for the next day as well as additional reading material based on individual interest. 

This workshop will be useful in many types of K-12 classrooms. Obviously, if you teach the period of the Industrial Revolution, or eras following it, this background is indispensable for you. Science, technology and engineering teachers will discover concrete, society-changing examples of the concepts they teach. English language arts teachers will experience a taste of the eras that produced literature like “Little House on the Prairie,” “The Jungle,” works from Mark Twain, slave narratives, and Charles Dickens. Art and art history teachers will explore the societal impacts of the Industrial Revolution, be inspired by the beauty of the factory as did Diego Rivera, delve deeper into manufacturing design, and experience art as a primary source.

To learn more about the workshop, and to apply, please visit our website. Applications are due March 1, 2019. 

Alex Cavinee is NEH Program Coordinator at The Henry Ford.
What We Wore


What We Wore, a new collections platform in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, offers a much-anticipated opportunity to continually display objects from The Henry Ford’s rich collection of clothing and accessories.   

What’s a collections platform? It’s a small, specialized display of objects from our collection.  This new collections platform, the fourth to be installed in the museum, follows those of coverlets, telephones, and violins. 

The theme of the first group of garments displayed is “Home Front Heroes:  Women in World War II”--chosen to complement the “Enduing Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt, & the Four Freedoms” exhibit in The Gallery by General Motors. This clothing represents the stories of millions of American women who worked in defense industries, trained to be pilots, volunteered for the Red Cross, or provided a connection to civilian life for servicemen through USO-sponsored activities during World War II.  

What We Wore


What We Wore is located behind the Anderson Theater, across from Mathematica. Every four months, visitors to the museum will enjoy a look at yet another group of interesting garments and their stories from The Henry Ford’s collection.  

Jeanine Head Miller is Curator of Domestic Life at The Henry Ford.