It was my privilege to take over The Henry Ford’s Twitter feed for a while on the morning of May 14. Our theme for the day was "Be Empathetic." To me that means "be helpful and supportive," and those attributes remind me of early auto organizations like the Automobile Club of Michigan, founded in 1916. The Automobile Club of Michigan is one of several regional organizations that joined the American Automobile Association. Over the years, AAA’s work has included advocating for better roads, providing roadside assistance to stranded motorists, encouraging traffic safety generally – particularly near schools, and promoting tourism and travel by car throughout the United States. During my Twitter session, I shared several AAA items in the collections of The Henry Ford.
To the Rescue on the Road
THF103500 / Pamphlet from AAA of Michigan, "Emergency Road Service Guide," June 1951 / front
AAA began offering emergency roadside service in 1915. This 1951 pamphlet lists affiliated service garages throughout Michigan.
THF333431 / 1947 Ford Repair Truck at the Ralph Ellsworth Dealership, Garden City, Michigan, October 1946
This photo shows one of the AAA-affiliated wreckers that might've come to your aid in the late 1940s or early 1950s. In this case, it's a 1947 Ford.
THF304296 / Toy Truck, Used by James Greenhoe, 1937-1946
Children could play their own "roadside assistance" games with a toy truck like this one, made circa 1940.
Keeping Children Safe
THF153486 / Automobile Club of Michigan Safety Patrol Armband, 1950-1960
Speaking of children, one of AAA's most important initiatives is its School Safety Patrol program, established in 1920.
THF208042 / Music Sheet, "The Official Song of the Safety Patrol," 1937
Safety patrollers help adults in protecting students at crosswalks, and in bus and car drop-off and pick-up zones. Their dedicated efforts were celebrated in "Song of the Safety Patrol" from 1937.
THF289667 / Detroit Police Officer Anthony Hosang Talks with Safety Patrol Students on a Tour of the Ford Rouge Plant, May 10, 1950
Here's a group of Detroit safety patrol members in 1950. They're listening to police officer Anthony Hosang as a part of a tour through Ford's Rouge Plant – a reward for a job well done.
Reaching Your Destination
THF104025 / "Official Highway Map of Michigan," Automobile Club of Michigan, 1934
AAA also helps drivers find their way by publishing road maps. Here's one showing the Detroit metro area in 1934. Many of the highway numbers are familiar, but their routes have changed.
THF136038 / Log and Map of Automobile Routes between Detroit-Gary and Chicago, 1942
Here's a map of routes between Detroit and Gary-Chicago in 1942. The northern-most route (then U.S. 12) parallels modern I-94.
THF151706 / Automobile Club of Michigan, "Know Michigan Better, Stay Longer," Sign, 1950-1960
AAA also promotes tourism, encouraging drivers to explore America – and their own states. Residents can "know Michigan better," and visitors can "stay longer."
THF14793 / Travel Brochure for Holland Michigan, circa 1940
Springtime brings tulips, and what better place to enjoy them then Holland? (Holland, Michigan, that is.)
Here's a AAA guidebook promoting travel to Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula.
THF9103 / Host Mark Magazine, "Greenfield Village & Henry Ford Musem, A Bicentennial Site," 1976
And here's a familiar sight on the cover of AAA's Host Mark magazine. It's Greenfield Village, where bicentennial celebrations were underway throughout 1976.
It was great fun sharing these pieces with our Twitter followers. I also enjoyed answering some questions about our wider transportation holdings along the way. “Be Empathetic” – it’s an important lesson anytime, but especially right now.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
As another school year begins to wind down, take a look through our digital collections at all things related to school.
First Day of School Along with the first day of school often came fresh new school supplies: crayons with pointy tips, pencils with pristine erasers, and even a new schoolbag or backpack. And for many, it meant getting a brand new outfit to wear on that all-important first day of school.
Saluting the Students of the AAA School Safety Patrol® Like clockwork, fall’s arrival brings with it a return to school for children throughout the United States. Whether they walk, ride a bike, take a bus, or get dropped off by an adult, the students’ daily trips to and from class will be safer thanks to the dedicated efforts of the AAA School Safety Patrol. Established by the American Automobile Association in 1920, the program’s core mission – to encourage safety awareness among young people – remains unchanged.
Lunchbox Fandom Since the 1950s, children have been persuading their parents that they absolutely must have a school lunch box sporting their favorite character.
This 1927 Blue Bird is the oldest surviving school bus in America. Albert Luce, Sr., built his first bus in 1925 by mounting a purchased wood body to a Ford truck frame. The body could not withstand the Georgia roads. Luce, convinced he could make a better bus, applied a steel framework under the wood body. His success led him to make school buses full time.
This is the first in a long line of buses made by Blue Bird, one of the country's major school bus builders. It is the oldest surviving school bus in America. In 1925, Albert L. Luce, Sr. owned two Ford dealerships in Georgia when a customer came in and ordered a bus to transport his workers. Mr. Luce purchased a wooden bus body and mounted it on a Ford Model TT truck. But the body began rattling apart before the customer could even finish paying for the bus. Mr. Luce was convinced he could make a better bus body and, by 1927 he had built the school bus you see here. The key to success was a strong steel framework under the wood. Within a few years Mr. Luce sold his Ford dealerships and began making school buses full time. Chassis: 1927 Ford Model TT Truck Engine: 176 cu. in., 20 hp Body: Hand built using steel and wood.
William Holmes McGuffey School The McGuffey School was built in Greenfield Village in 1934, created out of barn logs from the 1790s southwestern Pennsylvania farmstead where textbook author William Holmes McGuffey was born. Children living in frontier communities learned to read in rustic schoolhouses like this one. McGuffey's Eclectic Readers gave them an easy, standardized way to do it.
Miller School Henry Ford attended Miller School at age nine. He followed a favorite teacher, John Chapman, there from the Scotch Settlement School. The small, one-room building was typical of rural schools throughout the United States in the 1800s. Ford had this replica built in Greenfield Village in the early 1940s.
Scotch Settlement School Henry Ford attended this one-room schoolhouse from age seven to ten. Because of Ford's fondness for his teacher John Chapman, he not only followed Chapman to Miller School but also brought Chapman's house to Greenfield Village. This school, originally built in 1861 in Dearborn Township, was the first classroom of the Greenfield Village school system Henry Ford started in 1929.
Members of Detroit’s Houghton School safety patrol listen attentively to traffic safety officer Anthony Hosang in 1950. (64.167.536.16)
Like clockwork, fall’s arrival brings with it a return to school for children throughout the United States. Whether they walk, ride a bike, take a bus, or get dropped off by an adult, the students’ daily trips to and from class will be safer thanks to the dedicated efforts of the AAA School Safety Patrol. Established by the American Automobile Association in 1920, the program’s core mission – to encourage safety awareness among young people – remains unchanged.
Automobile Club of Michigan Safety Patrol Armband, 1950-1960. THF153486
AAA School Safety Patrol members generally are chosen by their teachers or principals and, with their parents’ permission, given training in traffic safety – typically over the summer, so they’re ready to go as soon as the school year starts. These young patrollers are then stationed near the school at crosswalks, bus unloading areas and carpool drop-off locations to ensure that their fellow students remain cautious near motorized traffic.
More experienced patrollers may be promoted to officer positions like captain, lieutenant or sergeant. These ranks bring with them additional responsibilities like keeping daily records, writing regular reports, or assigning other patrol members to specific duties or stations.
AAA School Safety Patrol Lieutenant Badge, 1950-1965. THF151056
It’s important to note that safety patrol members work together with – not in place of – adult crossing guards and traffic officers. Nevertheless, the patrollers play an important role in keeping students safe. And they learn early and important lessons about responsibility, too. Not surprisingly, many safety patrol alumni go on to careers characterized by public service or proven leadership. Former patrollers include Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and notable Michiganders like Governor William Milliken, Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, and Detroit Tiger Al Kaline.
The Official Song of the Safety Patrol, 1937. (87.135.1661)
The Henry Ford’s artifact collection includes armbands and badges worn by AAA School Safety Patrol members over the years. Our archival collection includes a copy of the sheet music for “Song of the Safety Patrol,” written by Lucille Oldham in 1937.
We salute these conscientious students working tirelessly throughout the school year to keep their classmates safe. Today, there are more than 654,000 children serving as patrollers in schools across the United States. Thanks to the program these students are empowered with a sense of responsibility and leadership as they protect their classmates going to and from school each day.
In 1902, nine regional automobile clubs joined together to create a national motoring organization called the American Automobile Association (AAA). Picking up where bicyclists had left off with their “Good Roads” movement in the 1890s, the earliest goal of AAA was to lobby for road improvements. Since then, AAA has devoted itself to all matters that concern American motorists—including driver safety, emergency services, and ensuring the best possible experiences for automobile travelers.
The Michigan chapter of the American Automobile Association formed in 1916 (see Curator Matt Anderson’s blog post celebrating its 100th anniversary last year). In the following blog post, we focus on the many unique and innovative contributions of AAA and AAA Michigan to improve the overall travel and vacation experience. Many of the items shown here are drawn from a rich collection of materials that was donated to The Henry Ford by AAA Michigan in 1987.
So, pack your bags, buckle your seat belts, and get ready for a road trip through time!
American Motorist magazine, August 1909. THF202277
In 1909, AAA began publishing this magazine for motorists—offering travel tips, club news, and road improvement updates. The inaugural issue was in February of that year.
When AAA first formed, the annual Glidden Tour was conceived as a way to raise public consciousness about the poor condition of America’s roads. These tours were grueling, several-hundred-mile tests of automobile reliability and endurance. Cars often got stuck in the mud, as in this ca. 1910 photograph of a “pathfinder” car—that is, one that traveled the roads before the official tour, measuring their distances and noting their condition and surface quality.
Postcard, Public Auto Camp in Yellowstone, ca. 1920. THF128250
By 1915, AAA’s advocacy of better roads could be seen in improvements along both extended stretches of cross-country roads and better road surfaces within national parks. By 1915, so many motorists stopped at Yellowstone National Park on their way to the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, that automobiles were officially allowed entrance into the park for the first time. Motorists arrived at the park prepared to camp so public campgrounds were soon created to ensure safety, order, and control. (For more, see this post on automobiles and the national parks.)
Guidebook, Motoring in and Out of New York, 1934. THF209528
AAA has long been known for its road maps. Roads were so poorly marked in the early years of motoring that maps had to include detailed written instructions or photographs of landmarks with arrows superimposed on them. As roads improved—and with the addition of identifiable highway names and numbers—road maps became easier to follow. This detailed 1934 book of maps to and from New York City came from the Lansing Branch of AAA Michigan.
In 1915, the Automobile Club of Missouri offered the first emergency road service for its members. This idea caught on quickly, and it soon became a service offered by all AAA affiliates to its members. This toy tow truck, made by the Wyandotte (Michigan) Toy Company about 1940, proudly sports an American Automobile Association decal on its side. It may have been a promotional item for AAA.
As the number of Mom-and-Pop motels increased after World War II, competition provided the impetus for motel owners to offer free giveaways as both souvenirs and easy advertising. This book of matches, which was probably neatly set in an ashtray in the motel room when the guest arrived, proudly indicates that the Rest-Well Motel, in western Wisconsin, was AAA-approved.
An intriguing item in The Henry Ford’s AAA Michigan collection is this 1949 “Negro Motorist Green Book.” The brainchild of black postal carrier Victor H. Green, this book contained listings of safe places (in both the South and the North) for African American motorists to stay, eat, and fill up with gas during the era of segregation. Green was passionate about distributing copies of the Green Book to places where African Americans were likely to encounter them, including AAA offices. See this post for more on “The Negro Motorist Green Book.”
This delightful “Trip-Pak” was a free giveaway of AAA Michigan during the post-World War II era. Look more closely and you’ll see Optrex eye wash, Burma-Shave shaving cream, razor blades, NōDōz tablets, TUMS antacid, Bromo-Seltzer antacid/pain reliever, and Vaseline hair tonic. Clearly created with male travelers in mind, perhaps this kit was designed for the traveling businessman.
Those of us of a certain age fondly remember visiting the local AAA office before embarking on a long-distance vacation to pick up a TripTik. Before the days of MapQuest, GPS, and Google Maps, this was a collection of strip maps bound together in a spiral binding. Using a brightly colored marker, the knowledgeable AAA agent would map out the designated route—greatly alleviating our fears of getting lost in an unfamiliar setting. This TripTik, provided as a service to members of AAA Michigan, contains 14 separate strip map pages that mark out an early 1950s trip from Detroit to Lake Wales, Florida.
AAA’s active lobbying for better roads included the push for the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, authorizing 41,000 miles of interstate expressways. This 1956 booklet, available at AAA Michigan offices at the time, described for eager readers the “Exciting Story of the Nation’s 50 Billion Dollar Road Program.”
AAA began producing travel guides in the teens and 1920s, to help vacationers plan their trips. The first TourBook in its modern format appeared in 1959. By 1992, the date of this TourBook, these contained a sophisticated rating system as well as indications of accessible accommodations and non-smoking areas in restaurants. In the days before the Internet, having a TourBook in hand guaranteed a no-risk vacation.
Today, AAA Michigan is still continuing to create innovative solutions for their members to travel across the country. Their new AAA app pulls together many of their well-known member benefits into one convenient destination on your phone.
Donna Braden, Curator of Public Life, is looking forward to her vacation later this month, which includes a road trip along the historic Oregon Trail and a long anticipated return to Yellowstone National Park.
This month, AAA of Michigan commemorates 100 years of serving motorists in the Great Lakes State. It’s an impressive milestone. The first automobile clubs were founded in 1899, not long after the automobile itself debuted on American streets. These original groups were social and political organizations that arranged auto tours, lobbied for car-friendly legislation, and encouraged road and highway improvements throughout the United States. Their work did much to change the car from a plaything for the wealthy into an everyday necessity.
In time, these clubs evolved into non-profit service organizations that, under the national umbrella of the American Automobile Association (established in 1902), printed road maps, created hotel guides, sponsored driver safety programs, offered automobile insurance, and provided roadside assistance to their members. Until the mid-1950s, AAA even sanctioned automobile races, including the Indianapolis 500.
As of 2016, AAA is comprised of 69 member clubs across the country. AAA of Michigan is located right here in Dearborn, not far from The Henry Ford’s campus. In honor of the anniversary, enjoy a few of the AAA of Michigan-related pieces in our collection.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.