Dressing Goodfellows dolls has been a Christmas tradition in Detroit since 1924, and the Ford Motor Company Girls’ Club was a major participant in dressing Goodfellows dolls for underprivileged children in Detroit for many years. Starting in 1946 by dressing 65 dolls, the club’s peak donation was 3,000 dresses in 1967, 1969, and 1970, and they averaged between 1,500 to 3,000 dolls most years.
The Ford Girls’ Club was started in 1946 under the Recreation Section of Ford Motor Company. Every female employee – salaried, or hourly – was automatically a member (though active membership did cost $1.00 per year). Any immediate female family member of a club member could join, as could the wives of Ford male employees. The club was primarily social, meeting once a month in addition to dinners, picnics, dances, lectures, and workshops. Members were also service oriented - they held dances for returning veterans, gave gifts and visited veterans in hospitals, and each Christmas they participated in clothing dolls for the Goodfellows to distribute, making thousands and thousands of handmade dresses over the years.
Dolls were usually handed out at the annual November service meeting. The club’s first foray into dress making was in 1946, when women of the club made 65 handmade dresses for dolls. The next year they jumped up to 290, with the dresses being displayed in the Administration Building cafeteria before being sent to the Goodfellows. As more women joined the club, interest grew in this Christmas service project and the club dressed more and more dolls each year, with their finished projects being displayed in various Ford Motor Company buildings’ lobbies, and offices, as well as the Dearborn Virginia Dare storefront window in 1949. The number of dresses made continued to climb each year reaching to almost one thousand in 1954, and the dolls were displayed for the first time at the Rotunda Christmas Fantasy. The next few years were dress-making bonanzas, and in 1957 2,500 dolls were dressed and displayed at the Rotunda for visitors to view before they were distributed to girls in the Detroit area on Christmas Eve. The Girl’s Club maintained a high production rate in the years to come - between 1,750 and 2,000 dresses were made annually and displayed at the Rotunda or Ford Motor Company buildings. In 1966 production saw another jump when the club made almost 3,000, a number they reached the next year and continued to reach or come close to for the next four years.
The handmade dresses were made of all kinds of fabric, from cotton to organdy, satin and lace. Women also knit and crocheted dresses, from wool to angora. Dolls dressed as nurses, astronauts, drum majorettes, hula dancers, Girl Scouts, flying nuns, ballerinas, and ice skaters complete with skates, graced the displays, as did brides, baby dolls, and all kinds of different ethnic dresses. Women could make any type of dress they wanted, but prizes were given by the Goodfellows, and later Ford, in specific categories:
Knit and crocheted
Goodfellows prizes ranged from $1 for a dress placing in a particular division to a grand prize of $10. Ford soon began judging the Girls’ Club’s work and awarding prizes as well, with the dresses usually judged by the wives of the Goodfellows’ president and executive officers. Early on prizes were cash, but when the displays headed to the Rotunda the stakes were raised. Grand prize in the 1950s and early 1960s was a sewing machine and console, second prize being a portable sewing machine, and third prize was a sewing cabinet.
The prizes, of course, were always of secondary importance in the Girls’ Club work with the Goodfellows' goal of “no child without a Christmas.” Over a 27-year period, 1946-1972, the Ford Girls’ Club donated over 45,000 hand-made dresses to the Detroit Goodfellows' organization to distribute to area children. The Ford employee newsletter The Rouge News and later Ford World carried stories and photos of the club’s donations every year, urging members of the club and others in the Ford organization to participate. We lose track of the Ford Girls’ Club here in the archive at about 1973, when Ford World ceased publishing stories on the yearly donation of dolls. However, judging from the 1972 output of 2,000 dolls, it seems likely the club continued the annual service drive for some years after.
The Goodfellows still distribute dolls and people in the metro Detroit area continue to provide dresses each year.
Kathy Makas is Reference Archivist at The Henry Ford.
In a rare moment, one person’s simple act of courage can change the world. On the 60th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, we pause to reflect on the impact and legacy of her courageous action.
Rosa’s awareness of social injustice started at an early age. As a girl growing up in Alabama, Rosa hated the disrespectful way that whites often treated black people. Her grandfather, a former slave, instilled a sense of pride and independence in her.
Something that may not be widely known outside the museum world is how much collaboration and cooperation goes on between cultural heritage institutions. As an example, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, was recently approached by the Petersen Automotive Museum about a 1952 Ferrari 212 Barchetta originally given to Henry Ford II by Enzo Ferrari, now in the collections of the Petersen. The Barchetta served as one of the design inspirations for the 1955 Ford Thunderbird, and was exhibited from time to time in the past at special car shows in Henry Ford Museum. When our staff dug into our archives, they found more than two dozen vintage photographs of the car, including this shot showing the sleek lines of the vehicle from the side. We provided these images to the Petersen, which will enhance their curation of this fine vehicle, and in addition have posted them to our digital collections for anyone to access and enjoy.
John Margolies is both a photographer and a collector of items related to American travel and its unique sights. In preparation for our upcoming exhibit about Margolies and the American roadside, we’ve digitized a number of selections from this collection, including 35mm slides taken by John Margolies himself, and pennants and hotel/motel do-not-disturb signs he collected. This week, we add another grouping to that list: Dexter Press photographs dating between 1935 and 1950, designed to be used as postcards. The images, collected by Margolies, capture the same types of establishments he would photograph decades later: gas stations, diners, salons, and stores, such as the Dixie Liquor Store in St. Louis, MO, shown here. Browse more than 30 Dexter Press photos and postcards by visiting our Digital Collections, and be sure to mark your calendar to come see many of our Margolies items in person in the exhibit “Roadside America: Through the Lens of John Margolies” between June 20, 2015 and January 24, 2016.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
The Henry Ford has an active program through which we loan artifacts from our collection, particularly those that we are not actively displaying, to other museums and institutions. We currently have more than 200 objects out on loan, and we digitize each object before it leaves our campus. This week, we’ve digitized a couple of renderings of the Lincoln Futura, including this one. These drawings will be included in a short exhibition at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich., along with an already-digitized scale model of the Futura from our collections, beginning in mid-April. If you’re in the metro Detroit area, be sure to check out these artifacts at Lawrence Tech, and if you’re not, keep an eye on our collections website to see what other treasures from Henry’s attic are going on loan.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
It’s the most enduring 8-cylinder American automobile engine. Chevrolet introduced its “small block” V-8 in 1955 – and kept on building it until 2003. Nearly every General Motors division used some variant, and total production is over 100 million, including later development generations. Not bad for an engine designed in 15 weeks. The compact unit is all but swallowed up by the Chevy’s engine bay. Note the relatively small-sized radiator, too. Efficient cooling was one of the small block’s many advantages.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
They didn’t call the Chrysler 300 letter series luxury cars “bankers’ hot rods” for nothing. The 1956 300-B’s big V-8 achieved that holy grail of one horsepower per cubic inch. The cars dominated NASCAR, where rules still restricted teams to stock power. Note the cutout in the right wheel well and the nearby spotlight. These modifications allowed the driver to check tire wear through a hole in the firewall.
Matt Anderson is the Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford. See this engine and many others during Engines Exposed at Henry Ford Museum.
As most of you who follow The Henry Ford know, television crews have begun filming the Saturday morning educational show, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation. Some visitors also may have actually seen the production crews in Henry Ford Museum or Greenfield Village several weeks ago as they shot footage for upcoming episodes. This has not been the first time The Henry Ford has played host to national television aspirations. Nearly 60 years ago in 1955, television crews invaded our campus on three separate occasions to broadcast live remotes. And like today The Henry Ford staff was there to help things run smoothly.
Marion Served as Manager of The Henry Ford's First Educational Television Department
In the early days of television, we became a pioneer in producing TV shows for use in the classroom. It was a way to spark students' interest in the past, assist American history teachers, and fulfill our museum's educational mission. The first show, "Window to the Past," was broadcast by WTVS-Detroit television station beginning in the fall of 1955. A weekly 15-minute program shown live in the afternoon on television sets in Detroit Public School classrooms, it was also captured on kinescope film and made available to schools nationally. The museum's manager of educational television, Marion Corwell, in a brochure described the programs as "designed to bring living American history into your classroom." She planned the programs based on objects in the museum and village chosen for their important historical themes. She then wrote the scripts, produced the program and performed as the on-air "storyteller" for the televised show. By 1956 she also co-produced and hosted a 30-minute program designed for an adult audience and broadcast by WSPD-Toledo, "Yesterday Lives Today".
Following the final "Window to the Past" show in 1959 Marion Corwell developed several new television programs, including a quiz show, "You Name It". She moderated this program which she described on-air as "a completely unrehearsed, unrigged quiz game built around objects of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village which have played an important part in the development of our country." It featured two teams of 5th through 8th grade girls versus boys, competing to name the objects one at a time by asking questions that helped them come up with the correct name. Can you guess what the object is in the photo shown above?
A publicity photograph from August 1955 features Marion Corwell, the museum's Manager of Educational Television, holding a handmade giraffe, ready to take her school-student audience on a voyage of discovery to children's toys from 100 years earlier. (THF114821)
Imagine a time when having one television set in your home was a big deal, you saw the programs in black and white, color television was brand new, and you'd never heard of TVs in the classroom.
This was the mid-1950s and The Henry Ford (then called Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village) began using the technology of television to reach into the classroom. It was a way to further our educational mission by assisting social studies teachers and sparking students' interest in the past.