Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

In the early 1920s, Tsuneji "Thomas" Sato (1882-1969) found himself in the middle of a Michigan lumber camp on the opposite side of the world from his birthplace in Japan. Working with precision and productiveness and, most importantly, personality, Sato  served a hot meal to a group of vagabonds who, although weary from their travels, had no apparent reason to be weary at all. Sato knew that firsthand, as he and his co-workers had been the ones responsible for getting this party — and their extravagant  caravan — over hills, across rivers and through the wilderness.

Tsuneji Sato, 1921

Tsuneji Sato, 1921. / THF127407

While the lumber camp was obscure, the camping party’s members certainly were not, as Sato’s employer was the man who needed the vast swaths of hardwood being extracted out of Michigan’s northern forests at this camp, and others, to feed his automobile manufacturing machine, Ford Motor Company. At the heart of the company’s brand recognition was the polarizing, do-it-yourself folk hero Henry Ford whose wealth contradicted his own populist ethos and whose life was wholly dependent on a group of people who made things happen for him. A group, for some time, that included Sato. So much so that Ford postponed this trip just to ensure that Sato could make it work around his own personal schedule.

Tsuneji Sato preparing a meal at Sidnaw Lumber Camp in 1923

Tsuneji Sato preparing a meal at Sidnaw Lumber Camp in 1923. / THF127423

In some sense, the Fords were no different than other wealthy families of the early 20th century who had the means to staff their homes, preferring to hire domestic servants from a growing Japanese immigrant population generalized at the time as “polite, careful, clean, ambitious, and intelligent.” Japanese immigration to the United States had gradually increased over the late 1800s as the notoriously insular empire emerged from isolation and struggled with the abrupt pace of industrialization, regional war and a northern famine. By the early 1900s, hundreds, if not thousands, of Japanese immigrants were finding employment success in America’s household services sector, but a general spike in immigration began escalating a nativist angst among white Americans.

The Ford Family and Tsuneji Sato.

The Ford Family and Tsuneji Sato. Pictured left to right are Eleanor Ford, Sato, Henry Ford, Edsel Ford and Clara Ford on a 1921 camping trip in Maryland. / THF127405

A furor of anti-Asian discrimination and violence, especially on the West Coast where Asian American communities were expanding, eventually led to an informal agreement between President Theodore Roosevelt and Japan, known as the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907-1908, which restricted immigration from Japan until the Immigration Act of 1924 ultimately banned immigration from Asian regions altogether. Despite increasing xenophobia and restrictions, Tsuneji’s brother Junjiro (1870-1957) left their hometown of Wakuya, located in Japan’s northern prefecture, Miyagi, and made his way to the United States in 1894. At some point in the next 20 years, his younger brother Tsuneji would join him.

Tsuneji and Junjiro Sato

Tsuneji and Junjiro Sato. Date unknown. Source: Courtesy of the Sato brothers' descendants.

Upon the completion of Henry and Clara Ford’s sprawling Fair Lane Estate in 1915, Clara Ford contacted the Japanese Reliable Employment Agency of New York City looking for help. The Fords' former Japanese domestic servants, a couple who had worked for them at previous homes, wanted more for their lives in America: their own house and the ability to chase their own dream. Henry Ford obliged and gave the husband a job at his Highland Park plant, leaving Clara to inquire for someone who was single and “not as attached.” What the Fords received in Tsuneji Sato, now with the adopted English name of Thomas, was someone highly regarded who had the charisma and work ethic that could keep up with the unusual demands of an automobile magnate’s family. Continue Reading

by Ryan Jelso, 20th century

"Liberty Island" Snow Globe

Liberty Island Snow Globe, circa 1995 / THF175423

Mass-produced plastic snow globes (also known as snowdomes) are resonant and enduring objects of American culture. They have been sold as souvenirs and collectibles since the 1950s, but their story is nearly 150 years old.

Water-filled glass snow globes were first introduced at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1878. By 1879, there were at least five companies producing and selling snow globes throughout Europe.

In the early 1920s, snow globes were introduced in the United States, where they became popular collectors’ items. An American, Joseph Garaja, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, revolutionized the snow globe industry with a new method of assembly, patented in 1929. Hollywood films launched the mass popularity of snow globes, beginning with "Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman" (1940) and "Citizen Kane" (1941).

Snow Globes Gif

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Julia Child profoundly transformed American cuisine and food culture. Equally distinct as her voice and infectious personality, her legacy continues to inspire chefs of all levels.

In tandem with our limited-time exhibition at Henry Ford Museum of Innovation, Julia Child: A Recipe for Life, Plum Market Kitchen will serve Julia Child-inspired recipes and dishes through September.

Below are five recipes prepared by our talented team of in-house chefs that you can craft at home alongside family and friends.

Looking for other ways to expand your culinary knowledge? Learn more about our “Mastering the Art of Julia Child” programming series.

Tomato Provençal


  • 4 slices rustic French bread
  • ½ bunch fresh parsley
  • ¼ pound fresh basil
  • ¼ pound fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped or sliced garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 12-15 ripe tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Lightly toast or dry out the bread slices.
  3. Add the bread, parsley, basil, rosemary and garlic to a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped and minced together. Add olive oil for moisture as needed.
  4. Cut tomatoes in half on a baking sheet and cover with the bread and herb mixture.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the tomatoes have softened.
  6. Serve as a side dish with nearly any recipe.



  • 1 eggplant, diced in large chunks
  • 2 zucchinis, diced in large chunks
  • 2 yellow squash, diced in large chunks
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • Olive oil to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • ¼ pound fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • Optional: breadcrumbs for topping
  • Optional: Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Continue Reading
What We Wore: Shoes Exhibition Case

From practical footwear to eye-catching fashion statements, Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation’s current What We Wore exhibit is all about shoes. On display are 30 pairs of men’s, women’s and children’s shoes dating from the 1780s to the 2000s.

Each pair offers a bit of footwear history — and, for some perhaps, a familiar style once found in their own closet!

Shoes will be on display until May 24. Here’s a peek at a few examples.

Men's Boudoir Slippers, 1855-1860

Men’s Boudoir Slippers, 1855-1860 / THF31115

Men's embroidered slippers were very popular in the mid-1800s. Ladies magazines often included embroidery patterns for house slippers that a woman might make for her husband as a gift.

Men's Wingtip Shoes, 1945-1955

Men’s Wingtip Oxfords, 1945-1955, Gift of Richard Glenn / THF370088 

The low-sided oxford came into fashion for men’s footwear in the 1910s, along with wingtips (a toe cap in the shape of a bird’s wing embellished with a perforated pattern). White shoes were for summer.

Reebok Pump AXT Cross-Training Shoes, circa 1990

Reebok Pump AXT Cross-Training Shoes, circa 1990 / THF370066

In the 1970s, athletic shoes became big business as the popularity of running and more relaxed dress codes in workplaces and schools led to a boom in the market. Manufacturers developed high-tech features designed for more support and stability. Reebok introduced the Reebok Pump in 1990, a shoe that used inflatable chambers that pumped-up for a custom fit.

Women's Shoes, 1785-1789

Women’s Shoes, 1785-1789, Gift of American Textile History Museum / THF370062 

Before shoemaking became a mechanized industry in the mid-1800s, shoes were made by hand. Amos Boardman created these silk shoes — undoubtedly for a prosperous client— in one of the many small shoemaking home-shops that flourished in late 1700s New England.

Women's Boots, Used by Anna D. Larkin, 1867

Women's Boots, 1867, Gift of Cora D. Maggini, Worn by Angeline (Anna) Duckworth when she married Rufus Larkin in Posey County, Indiana, in September 1867 / THF158262 

Sandals from ancient Greece or Rome inspired these 1860s shoes — footwear designed to reveal pretty-colored silk stockings beneath!

Women's Platform Shoes, 1945-1950

Women’s Platform Shoes, 1945-1950, Gift of American Textile History Museum, Donated to ATHM by Sharon and Phil Ferraguto / THF370078

Introduced in the late 1930s, platform shoes remained popular through the 1940s. These eye-catching examples sport cherry red, ivory and gray reptile leather.

Glitter Jelly Sandals, circa 1990

Women’s Glitter Jelly Sandals, circa 1990 / THF172055

Jelly shoes were a favorite among young women in the 1980s and 1990s. Made of PVC plastic, the shoes came in a rainbow of colors. Sandals were the most popular.

Girls' Slippers, circa 1850

Girls’ Slippers, circa 1850 / THF156007

In the mid-1800s, girls wore slippers with ribbon ties for formal occasions. For everyday? Low boots.

Boys' Boots, circa 1865

Boys’ Boots, circa 1865 / THF156008

Children’s clothing has increasingly included images that have appeal for a child. These are an early example — Civil War-era boots with a figure of a dashing Zouave soldier.

Saddle Oxfords, 1955-1965

Saddle Oxfords, 1955-1965, Gift of Randolph C. and Nancy M. Carey / THF78930

The saddle shoe, with its contrasting color leather “saddle,” is a style icon. Worn by uniformed schoolkids since the 1930s and by “bobby soxer” teens in the 1940s and 1950s, the saddle shoe has an enduring link to youth culture.

Jeanine Head Miller is curator of domestic life at The Henry Ford.

What We Wore, Henry Ford Museum, fashion, by Jeanine Head Miller, 20th century

Staff member riding the Evo electric zero-turning riding mower.

The Henry Ford has a grounds crew that works year-round to keep the expansive lawns in tip-top condition. Green practices have driven much of the care from the beginning. The millponds in Liberty Craftworks and behind A Taste of History are all part of a natural water filtration system that allows residue to settle out of rainwater runoff before it enters the Rouge River. That’s just one part of water management at The Henry Ford, however, because that water is also reused to irrigate the lawns.

The irrigation system keeps the yards lush. Thus, mowing consumes many an hour in the grounds crew’s schedule. A grant from the Aptiv Foundation Inc. funded purchase of a new Evo electric zero-turn riding mower. The 74-inch width means the grounds crew can cut more grass in a day (and the battery will power up to 8 hours of work on a single charge).

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lawn care, nature, Greenfield Village, by Debra A. Reid, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford


On Aug. 23, 2022, Trey Mendez had his first crossword puzzle published in The New York Times. Like many creative types, crossword constructors — cruciverbalists, if you’re feeling dapper and Latinate — tend toward the autobiographical, and the theme of Mendez’s puzzle was no exception.

As a self-described “New Yorker with a mailing address in California who currently lives in Zagreb, Croatia,” his puzzle’s long, marquee answers were phrases about air travel whose first and last two letters were state abbreviations, as though the answers were linking those two states in flight. FLYING TIME, which starts with Florida and ends with Maine, thus was clued as “Duration of air travel from Miami to Bangor?”; VAPOR TRAIL as “What follows a plane going from Richmond to Chicago?”; and so on, out toward the horizon.

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Mysterious Transmissions_Blog
The Henry Ford’s radio collections hold a variety of strange-looking objects, many with hidden purposes, including a radio receiver that was used during “space” travelers Jeannette and Jean Piccard’s stratospheric balloon ascension near The Henry Ford in 1934. Photo by Trevor Naud  THF155560

In my own collection as The Henry Ford’s curator of communications and information technology, there are many objects with lively backstories. The radio collections alone are rife with curiosities: a WWI-era field radio used in a 1924 experiment to “listen” to Mars. Another radio shares similarities with the 1901 Sweepstakes race car — a 1905 Telimco radio created by the eccentric science fiction publisher Hugo Gernsback was once believed to be a replica but is now understood to be an original. Espionage radios too: a muddy-looking lump of clay with a secret homing beacon inside that is meant to look like tiger scat or “dog doo.”

Mysterious Transmissions2_Blog
T-1151 Doo Radio Transmitters, circa 1970. Photo by Trevor Naud / THF189735

These joke shop antics may seem humorous but quickly reveal an ominous angle as further research determined that these transmitters were used for reconnaissance by the CIA during the Vietnam War.

This post was adapted from an article written by Kristen Gallerneaux, curator of communication & information technology with photos by Trevor Naud, in the Winter-Spring 2023 issue of The Henry Ford Magazine.
In the interview that follows, Kristen Gallerneaux, curator of communication and information technology speaks with curator of agriculture and the environment Debra Reid about some of the stories concerning past uses of these sites. Beyond three-dimensional artifacts at The Henry Ford, there are intriguing narratives that can be divined from the very landscapes on which our campus sits — from Oakwood Boulevard to the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. 

Jim Johnson, director of Greenfield Village and curator of historic structures and landscapes, and Debra Reid, curator of agriculture and the environment, stand in the shadow of Greenfield Village’s oldest tree, an Eastern white oak that took root over 400 years ago. The two are committed to understanding more — and discovering things anew — about the land that The Henry Ford has called home for almost 100 years. 

Kristen- As a 94-year-old institution, we have occupied this site for almost a century. But I’ve always been interested in finding ways to be more inclusive of stories about prior uses and past occupants too, especially knowing that the River Rouge oxbow flows through the back of Greenfield Village. This river was an important trade and industry route as well as an important resource for the Indigenous people who used this land before us. How do we “read” storied environments like these to understand them better today? 

Debra- Downriver from our main campus, we have the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. That site is sometimes described as being an unused “wasteland” before it was developed for the original industrial complex. But there were Indigenous people living in the eluvial bottoms who were foraging in those rich areas — and later, French-owned ribbon farms, general and market garden farms.

In my research with French records and plat maps, there is strong evidence of complex history in the area surrounding what later became the Rouge plant. By 1915 and 1917, plat maps show who owned the land, and in Henry Ford’s correspondence, we can see how he systematically began to purchase land in this area. Eventually, 1,500 acres were identified for the Rouge plant’s site. You can extrapolate interesting histories from what happens along the Rouge River, and there is much more research needed. 

Kristen- There have been so many fascinating stories connected to waterways in the metro Detroit area and across the border into Canada. But the presence of Indigenous people that preceded and coexisted in this area, alongside the founding of Detroit, has often been washed away by the dominating spotlight of industrial histories.

Debra- And also “washed away” in the sense that when industrialists acquire 1,500 acres on a river, what disappears because of that? There were also ancient mounds and sand dunes near Zug Island, which were taken down by a glass factory across the river in Delray. The sands from mounds became the raw product for the glass plant. [Editor’s note: Zug Island sits at the confluence of the Detroit River and the mouth of the Rouge River. Before European arrival, it was an ancient burial ground but was heavily industrialized in the 1890s.] Their archeological remains were disseminated.

So, if we think of industrial destruction of evidence of Indigenous presence as a typical approach for the time and we head back upriver to the Rouge plant, what, if anything, remained of an archeological record when construction began there? Images show how soil was removed down to the bedrock to put in pilings, which obliterated the archaeological evidence. But even before Ford, in 1889, the Detroit International Exposition & Fair was held not far from this site, which I discovered while researching the Detroit Central Market. There is an article that shows our market building, and it also mentions leveling mounds in preparation for the fair.

On streets not far from The Henry Ford’s campus, enormous piles of buffalo bones once sat in the late 19th century, waiting to be rendered down for use in a wide range of consumer products. / From The Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Kristen- I know of a street in Delray called Carbon Street and once found an incredible image from the late 19th century of men standing on that street on top of enormous piles of buffalo bones that were going to be rendered down for things like pigments. Once you see these images, it’s hard to forget them.

Debra- Yes! And those bones were charred — basically obliterated — and found their way into a wide range of consumer products. The buffalo were annihilated on the U.S. Plains after European arrival, and the bones of bison were shipped to places like Detroit. This was a huge stove-making city, and the blacking made from the bones was used to keep stoves black. Pharmaceutical industries also used the bones, and they were processed into bone meal fertilizer and other agricultural byproducts. So the material rendered from the bones in that image impacts farming, consumerism, medicine...

Kristen- was even used as pigment in “bone black” printing ink. Which means that people were literally receiving information and viewing printed images by “reading” buffalo byproducts. The onion layers of history keep opening. It can get quite overwhelming if you think about it too much. 

This post was adapted from an article in the Winter-Spring 2023 issue of The Henry Ford Magazine.

At The Henry Ford, we often undertake detective work within our own collections as we seek to deepen our knowledge of objects, their contexts, and reevaluate their histories. Sometimes our investigations leave us with more questions than when we started. But with object-based research, there are very rare and special “eureka” moments that can simultaneously reveal an answer and unsettle everything we thought was true.

A perfect example came with the reevaluation of Henry Ford’s first race car, the Sweepstakes, which is celebrated for its win at a Grosse Pointe, Michigan, racing event held on Oct. 10, 1901. This victory in turn revived Henry Ford’s credibility as a businessman and helped secure the funding that eventually led to the founding of Ford Motor Company in 1903.

In the interview below, Matt Anderson, curator of transportation, speaks with Kristen Gallerneaux, curator of communications and information technology, about how the discovery of a "replica-turned-real" was made.

MobilityMystery_blog Continue Reading

Artist Lillian Schwartz produced cutting-edge films, videos and multimedia works, including the print Boulez Conducting / THF188554

Member Preview: March 24, 2023
Open to Public: March 25-Jan. 1, 2024

Spring 2023 marks the debut of a new collections gallery in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. You can find it behind the Heroes of the Sky exhibit and by the new permanent exhibit, Miniature Moments: A Journey Through Hallmark® Keepsake Ornaments (see story on Page 64). The Henry Ford’s Lillian Schwartz collection is the first to be exhibited in the new space, which is set to host temporary exhibitions of significant collections going forward.

A donation from the Schwartz family in 2020, the material acquired from multimedia artist Lillian Schwartz’s body of work includes thousands of objects, from films and videos to 2D artwork, sculptures, personal papers, computer hardware and film editing equipment.

The approximately 1,800-square-foot gallery will be split into three sections for the Schwartz exhibition, expounding on three core themes, from the artist’s transition from childhood to adulthood, her introduction to the Bell Laboratories in the late ‘60s through early ‘70s and her penchant for pushing the media she worked with to its limits. Expect to see a newly restored kinetic sculpture, Proxima Centauri, that has not been on exhibit in a museum in decades, along with rarely shown mixed-media works, Schwartz’s early films and a humorous series about early internet web searches, among many other artifacts.

This post was adapted from an article in the Winter-Spring 2023 issue of The Henry Ford Magazine. More about The Henry Ford’s acquisition of works from groundbreaking multimedia artist Lillian Schwartz in the January-May 2022 issue of The Henry Ford Magazine.