Located outside of the Benson Ford Research Center's reading room the past few weeks has been a case of birthday telegrams sent to Henry Ford on his birthday over the years. We asked Jake Hildebrandt, reading room assistant, a few questions about the telegrams in anticipation of Henry's birthday.
Why did people send telegrams versus other forms of communication?
Speed was definitely the main draw to telegrams. Telephones were widespread by the time of these telegrams, but like today it was a lot easier to get a written communiqué to a VIP than a phone call. Telegrams cost a great deal more and in many cases took more effort to send than a letter or card through the post, so there was an element of importance and respect in that way.
How many Henry Ford birthday cards do we currently have in collections?
We have only a few dozen actual Ford's birthday "cards" in our collection, but hundreds of telegrams. Many of the cards are intricate and complicated, with layers of lace and metallic foil and such. Really beautiful things that are a world away from the printed stock we send today.
What is your favorite birthday card received by Henry Ford?
I couldn't choose a favorite, but there is a really neat scrapbook-type album of novelty cards that Ray Dahlinger put together for Henry Ford. The cards themselves are really fun, and the book shows an interestingly playful side to the two men.
Where can we look at more birthday cards?
Most of Mr. Ford's birthday cards can be viewed by anyone in the reading room of the BFRC!
Interview and photos by Krista Oldham, former Marketing and PR Intern at The Henry Ford.