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THF250345

If you visit the
Wright Home in Greenfield Village, the presenter in the house will probably draw your attention to the bookcase in the living room.  Many of these books, along with more housed in the Benson Ford Research Center, did indeed belong to the Wrights, and were used by Orville and Wilbur Wright, their sister Katharine, or their father Milton.  We’ve just digitized over 50 Wright family books, including this 1892 copy of Medea used by Katharine Wright.  Other examples include The Principal Works of Charles Darwin, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and A Manual of Instruction in Latin.  Browse the list of titles to see what other bookish ideas may have influenced the young Wright Brothers by visiting our Digital Collections.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

digital collections, by Ellice Engdahl, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, books, Wright Brothers

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No one knows how it came to The Henry Ford. Last fall, it appeared on the cataloger’s desk. She noticed the book’s age, but she didn’t think much of it.

Recently, the curators went looking for the oldest items in their respective collections. I joined in on the mission, setting out to find our oldest book. I even used the card catalog in the reading room, which is not something one has to do very often these days.

For an American history institution, the result was surprising: It was a French version of Vegetius’s De Re Militari (Concerning Military Matters), published in Paris in 1536. Continue Reading

by Alison M. Greenlee, books

Harry Tuttle’s dulcimer.  Details of its construction tell us that this beautiful instrument was likely made in New York about 1860.

Visitors to The Henry Ford often marvel at the number and variety of historical objects found here.  Often, so does the staff.  As a presenter in Greenfield Village, I have been surrounded by these rich collections--many of the objects having been gathered during the 1920s and 1930s, when Henry Ford was avidly collecting for his museum.  An internship opportunity over the winter has given me a chance to further explore how a number of these objects—musical instruments—came to be part of The Henry Ford’s collections.  As a violinist, the topic of music was a perfect match for me.

Christina Linsenmeyer, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of The Arts, Helsinki, is editing a book entitled Themes and Trends of the Musical Instrument Collecting Boom, 1860-1940.  As an avid collector of musical instruments during the early decades of the 20th century, Henry Ford is a perfect fit.  Jeanine Head Miller, The Henry Ford’s curator of domestic life, and Robert E. Eliason, curator of musical instruments at The Henry Ford during the 1970s and 1980s, will be co-authoring a chapter of the book discussing Henry Ford’s musical instrument collecting.

Henry Ford grew up dancing to the lively music of country fiddlers—and even learned to play the fiddle a bit himself.  Ford’s interest in traditional American music and in musical instruments, then, was personal one.  Ford’s efforts built an impressive collection—instruments which tell the story of music made by town bands, fiddlers at country dances, wealthy people in music rooms, and everyday Americans who purchased mass-produced instruments from local stores or mail-order catalogs.   Continue Reading

Henry Ford, research, books, by Amanda Craig, musical instruments, music, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford

THF111028

Many of us know that Noah Webster was the creator of An American Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1828. But did you know that Mr. Webster was a teacher as well, and the author of the American Spelling Book? The early version was first published in 1783 and our copy is a 1845 edition called the Elementary Spelling Book, being an improvement on the American Spelling Book.

During this time, the English language was changing fast, and many new words were being added that were uniquely American. Mr. Webster wanted to create a spelling book that could help people understand and spell words that were actively used by the American public. Always published with a blue cover, the “Blue Backed Speller,” as it came to be known, was popular across the nation. Continue Reading

education, books

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Not long ago, Chief Archivist Terry Hoover popped his head into my office.  This isn’t unusual, as Terry and I sit next to each other, but in this case, he had something special to share.  He’d discovered a couple of late 19th century children’s books relating to Christmas in our rare books collection, and wondered if we could digitize them.  This week, just in time for Christmas, we have.  A Visit from Santa Claus retells the famous Clement Moore poem beginning “’Twas the night before Christmas,” with each page of text accompanied by a lovely full-color illustration by Virginia Gerson.  Or, check out Santa Claus's New Castle, written by Maude Florence Bellar and illustrated by Dixie Selden.  View all pages of both books on our collections website, or check out all of our digital collections related to Christmas.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

childhood, holidays, digital collections, Christmas, by Ellice Engdahl, books

Portrait of Charles Dickens, 1867 (Object ID: 00.3.3723).

Sir John Bennett Jewelry Store in Greenfield Village. The building was reconfigured from five-stories to two, to better scale the building with others in Greenfield Village (Object ID: 31.61.1).
Many people are familiar with the numerous literary connections at Greenfield Village: poet Robert Frost, lexicographer Noah Webster, and textbook author William Holmes McGuffey. But a little known literary relationship is that between Sir John Bennett, a clock and watchmaker and jeweler--whose storefront was moved from London, England to Greenfield Village in 1931--and one of his most prestigious customers, author Charles Dickens. Continue Reading

Sir John Bennett, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, by James Moffet, books

"Call of the Wild" on cover (Object ID 2014.0.5.1).

As part of The Big Read Dearborn’s focus on The Call of the Wild, I was recently asked to speak on Jack London and the Nature Faker controversy. During the first decade of the 20th century, this widely publicized literary debate shone a spotlight on the differences between science and sentiment in popular nature-writing. Although the actual controversy is long past, the issues at its root are still relevant today.

Proponents of the scientific approach to nature-writing accused the sentimentalists of creating stories that overly humanized animals, misleading readers by taking the animals’ point of view, and often concluding their stories with far-fetched happy endings. The worst offenders—the so-called “nature fakers”—went so far as to claim that their often fictional accounts were completely true-to-life.

The Nature Faker controversy had its roots in Americans’ growing appreciation for nature during the late 19th century. Natural areas suddenly seemed to offer a rejuvenating respite from the chaos, crowds, and machine-age clatter of urban life. This led to the creation of America’s national parks (Yellowstone being the first in 1872) as well as public parks and nature preserves closer to home.

Typical Camp at Camp Iroquois, Glen Eyrie, Lake George, New York, 1911

Camping, Lake George (P.DPC.031757).

Children's Museum Nature Study Club in Bedford Park, New York, 1890-1915

Photo of Nature Study Club (32.351.136).

During the heyday of this “cult of nature,” nature writing became immensely popular. One particular genre that emerged was the so-called “realistic” wild animal story. For the first time in popular literature, wild animals were depicted in a positive light—as compassionate creatures with which readers could sympathize.

Jack London was one of many authors at this time who wrote in this genre. In his book The Call of the Wild (1903), London revealed the thoughts and emotions of his dog-hero, Buck, with such sophistication and literary skill that it was easy for readers to become convinced that London was truly revealing Buck’s innermost self.

Bookplate of Author Jack London, circa 1905

Jack London’s bookplate (2013.0.3.1).

Enter naturalist John Burroughs—in his 60’s by this time—who was known far and wide for his many essays. These received praise in both literary and scientific circles, as Burroughs believed in both reporting the objective facts of nature and describing one’s subjective feelings. But he was adamant that these should remain clear and separate.

John Burroughs on the Steps at Wyndygoul, Cos Cob, Connecticut, August 1905

Framed picture of Burroughs (29.1764.3).

Naturalist John Burroughs with a Duck on her Nest, circa 1910

Burroughs in field (93.205.36).

Burroughs was incensed by the glowing reviews of the new wild animal stories. He felt that some them blurred the line between fact and fiction. Furthermore, he believed that the authors of these stories were deliberately misleading the public for their own financial gain.

In 1903, he submitted a scathing essay to Atlantic Monthly, entitled “Real and Sham Natural History.” In this essay, Burroughs denounced the perception that many of these stories were true. He claimed that the “sham nature writers” deliberately attempted to “induce the reader to cross into the land of make believe.”

After Burroughs’ essay appeared, incendiary responses both supporting and attacking the “sham nature-writers” frequently appeared in the press. This went on for a good four years—until President Theodore Roosevelt publicly joined the debate.

Roosevelt had long been a nature-enthusiast known for his grand hunting expeditions. In fact, the Teddy Bear, introduced in 1903, originated from stories about his reputation as a hunter.

'Teddy and the Bear' Mechanical Bank, 1907-1928

Teddy and the Bear bank (58.100.31).

After years of corresponding with John Burroughs, he went public with an interview that appeared in Everybody’s Magazine, entitled “Roosevelt and the Nature Fakirs.” In this article, he noted many of the same issues that Burroughs had raised, then singled out several authors by name—including, for the first time, Jack London. This also marked the first time that the term “nature fakir” (soon to be changed to “nature faker”) was used.

London was justifiably hurt by President Roosevelt’s accusations and tried to defend himself in an essay published in Collier’s Weekly:

I have been guilty of writing two books about dogs. The writing of these two stories, on my part, was in truth a protest against the “humanizing” of animals, of which it seemed to me several “animal writers” had been profoundly guilty….

I endeavored to make my stories in line with the facts of evolution; I hewed them to the mark set by scientific research and awoke, one day, to find myself bundled neck and crop into the camp of the nature-fakers.

In the end, however, how could anyone truly argue with the President of the United States? The Nature Faker controversy soon died down. After that, authors and publishers were more likely to check their facts while the public became more skeptical of what they were reading. But few of the people involved in the actual controversy changed their views.

While Jack London unfortunately died at the young age of 40, John Burroughs lived a long productive life into his 80’s. As his legendary status increased, he often entertained luminaries at his home in the Catskills. Among these luminaries was Henry Ford, who admired his writings and invited him to join his group of Vagabonds (consisting of himself, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone) for several lavish camping trips.

Henry Ford and John Burroughs at Woodchuck Lodge, Roxbury, New York, 1915

Burroughs and Ford (P.O.364).

Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone on a Vagabonds Camping Trip, 1918

Vagabonds (P.O.6151).

What do you think? Were John Burroughs and President Roosevelt onto something? Was Jack London really a “nature faker”? Or was he just a good storyteller?

Donna Braden is Senior Curator and Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.

presidents, John Burroughs, by Donna R. Braden, nature, books

"The Saturday Evening Post," June 20, 1903, featuring the first installment of "The Call of the Wild" (Object ID: 2014.0.5.1).

In 1903, Jack London was a young writer still in the early stages of his career. He was 27 years old when he published The Call of the Wild, the story that was destined to become an American classic and earn him a place in the canon of American literature. Drawing upon London’s experiences in the Klondike Gold Rush, The Call of the Wild is the story of Buck, a dog who is kidnapped from his idyllic home in northern California and thrown into the harsh life of a sled dog in the cold wilderness of the Yukon.

The Call of the Wild was first published in The Saturday Evening Post, a popular weekly magazine that featured a variety of content including articles on current events, editorials, illustrations, cartoons, poetry, and fiction. The magazine paid Jack London a sum of $750 for his story, the equivalent of almost $20,000 today. The Call of the Wild was published in five consecutive issues from June 20, 1903 to July 18, 1903. The first two of these issues are held in the collections of The Henry Ford, including the initial issue which features The Call of the Wild on the cover.

cotw3The Saturday Evening Post had widespread circulation; in fact, even Clara Ford had a subscription. Several of The Henry Ford’s issues from around 1903 bear an address label for Mrs. H. Ford at 332 Hendrie Ave., the address of the Fords’ residence in Detroit at the time. Henry Ford founded Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903, just four days before The Call of the Wild was first published. When the final installment of The Call of the Wild was published a month later, Ford Motor Company had just sold their first car for $850, as recorded in their first checkbook. Coincidentally, the base price of the Model A car was $750, the same amount that Jack London received from The Saturday Evening Post for his story. (Ford Motor Company’s first customer paid an extra $100 for a tonneau, or backseat compartment, bringing the total for the car to $850.) I imagine that Henry Ford was quite busy building his fledgling company and didn’t have much time for leisure reading. However, it is interesting to think that he or his wife Clara might have read The Call of the Wild when it was first published, especially at a time when both Henry Ford and Jack London were on the verge of success that would lead them to become icons in American industrial and literary history, respectively.

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"The Saturday Evening Post," June 27, 1903, addressed to Mrs. H. Ford; although it is not featured on the cover, this issue includes the second installment of The Call of the Wild. (Object ID: 64.167.1.474).

Continue Reading

magazines, Clara Ford, Henry Ford, by Linda Choo, books

Usually a copy of a copy isn’t always a great thing. But if this copy happens to be a copy of a “A Domestic Cook Book,” written by America’s first African-American cookbook author Malinda Russell, it IS a great thing.

Domestic Cook BookA Domestic Cook Book was discovered in California in the bottom of a box of material kept by Helen Evans Brown, a well-known culinary figure in the 20th century. Janice Longone acquired the book for the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan. The worn pages of the book were carefully preserved as a facsimile for future cooks to enjoy.

As the beginning of Janice’s introduction reveals, Malinda was a free woman of color in the 1800s. At the age of 19 she was to travel to Liberia, but after having money stolen from her she had to stay in Virginia. She worked as a cook and traveled as a companion, serving as a nurse. After her husband’s death, Malinda moved to Tennessee and kept a pastry shop. A second robbery forced her out of Tennessee into Paw Paw, Michigan, “...the garden of the west.” As Janice notes, the “receipts” in her book are incredibly diverse on account of her travels near and far. Malinda’s personal account of her life’s story takes you back into history, making you realize just how important her life’s work was then and is now.

Not only does the facsimile contain more than 250 recipes from Malinda, but it also houses medical and household hints, too. In the Clements Library at the university, the preserved original copy joins the ranks of other early African-American cookbooks, including “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,” a name very familiar to guests at Greenfield Village.

Like so many of the historic recipes found in the collections here at The Henry Ford, this copy of A Domestic Cook Book provides great inspiration for our programming team in Greenfield Village. Cathy Cwiek, Manager of Historic Foodways and Domestic Life Programs at The Henry Ford, especially enjoys pouring over the book reading about Malinda’s fascinating story and her favorite recipes. Here are two of Cathy’s favorite recipes from the book, shared just as Malinda wrote them, that you can try at home.

A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen

By Malinda Russell, an experienced cook.

Printed by T.O. Ward at the “True Northerner” Office

Paw Paw, Mich., 1866

Ginger Pop Beer

Five and a half gallons water, 3-4ths lb ginger root bruised, half ounce tartaric acid, two and 3-4ths lbs white sugar, whites of three eggs well beaten, one teaspoonful lemon oil, one gill yeast. Boil the root thirty minutes in one gallon of water. Strain off and put the oil in while hot. Make over night; in the morning kim and bottle, keeping out the sediment.

Beef Soup

Take the shank bone, boil until tender; chop fine, potatoes, onions, and cabbage, and boil until done; season with salt, pepper, parsley, rosemary, or sweet margery. Rub the yolk of one egg into the three tablespoons flour, rubbed into rolls and dropped into the soup to boil.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

books, Greenfield Village, Michigan, by Lish Dorset, food, recipes, research, women's history, African American history