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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Posts Tagged digital collections

The Couture Life

September 26, 2016 Archive Insight

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Elizabeth Parke Firestone (1897–1990) was the wife of Harvey S. Firestone, Jr., son of the founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. As a well-heeled and fashion-conscious woman, she both traveled to and corresponded with many famous couture houses in Paris, including the
House of Dior

An inquiry from Dior
last year led to our digitization of many of the articles of Christian Dior clothing in our collection that belonged to Mrs. Firestone, but when we dug even further, we turned up over 370 Dior design drawings, mostly dating from the 1950s.  Many, like the 1955 “Fête a Trianon,” are intricately colored, and include handwritten notes and fabric swatches, giving potential customers a taste of their glamour. Visit our Digital Collections to peruse all of these Dior design drawings.

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

Dior, digital collections

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Hanks Silk Mill was acquired by Henry Ford in 1929, moved to Greenfield Village in 1931, and reconstructed in 1932, with a grove of mulberry trees (the standard diet of silkworms) planted nearby in 1935. The mulberry grove still stands, but the mill is a fairly small, unassuming-looking building, which belies the “firsts” in its history.  Established in 1810, it is believed to be the first water-powered silk mill in the United States, and perhaps also to have produced the first machine-made silk. 

As part of our ongoing effort to digitize photos of the buildings of Greenfield Village, we’ve just digitized over a dozen images of the Hanks Silk Mill, including this 1931
photo of the mill on its original site, with a sign proudly proclaiming its heritage. Visit our Digital Collections to view all the newly digitized images.

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

Greenfield Village, digital collections

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We continue to work on our IMLS-grant funded project to conserve, catalog, photograph, rehouse, and digitize 900 artifacts from our electrical distribution equipment collection.  A number of the meters and other artifacts we’ve turned up during that project were created by the Fort Wayne Electric Works (also known as the Fort Wayne Electric Corporation), an Indiana company that manufactured electrical equipment and other items in the late 19th century.  To accompany the artifacts, we’ve just digitized photographs from our Fort Wayne Electric Works archival collection, which show various parts of the factory around 1894—including this shot of the testing and calibrating laboratory. 

Connect our Fort Wayne artifacts with our Fort Wayne photographs for yourself by visiting our Digital Collections.

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

digital collections

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If you’ve visited Henry Ford Museum, this bench might look familiar to you.  In fact, you might have sat on this bench or one of about two dozen exactly like it during your visit.  However, this one is now off-limits to sitting, as it has found a place in our collections.  The bench was commissioned in 1939 by Edsel Ford for use at what was then known as the Edison Institute, now The Henry Ford.  It was designed by Walter Dorwin Teague, a leader in early industrial design, at the height of his career.  We’ve just digitized the
bench—visit our Digital Collections to see other artifacts from our collections related to Walter Dorwin Teague, including correspondence and blueprints associated with the bench.


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

digital collections

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The Grand Army of the Republic (often known by its abbreviation, GAR) was an organization of U.S. Civil War veterans who had served for the Union.  In existence from 1866 through 1956, it peaked in 1890 at over 400,000 members and 7,000 posts.  The GAR scheduled meetings and other gatherings for members, provided charitable donations to the needy, supported the construction and maintenance of Civil War memorials and sites, and became a powerful political lobbying group.  In 1868, the group’s commander-in-chief initiated an observance known as Decoration Day, which we still commemorate today as Memorial Day.

We’ve just digitized over 30 GAR badges, medals, and insignia from our collections, including
this badge from a 1908 encampment at Toledo, Ohio.  Browse all of the digitized GAR-related artifacts by visiting our Digital Collections.

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

medals, Civil War, digital collections

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Henry Ford collected many highly significant buildings for the historical and educational institution that would become Greenfield Village—Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Lab, the Wright Brothers’ Cycle Shop, and Luther Burbank’s Garden Office among them.  However, some of the buildings destined for the Village had a very personal connection to Henry Ford’s own history.  One such building is the Chapman Family Home, where John B. Chapman and his wife Susie lived during the 1870s.  Chapman was a teacher first at the Scotch Settlement School and then at Miller School—and at both schools was a favorite of one of his young pupils, Henry Ford.  We’ve just digitized a few photographs related to the home and to the teacher, including this portrait of Chapman himself.  Visit our digital collections to see more images of the Chapman home and the family and learn about the teacher who inspired Henry Ford.

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

digital collections

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In the 1920s, the African American population in Detroit tripled as the automobile industry drew workers from southern states.  Housing options in a segregated city were limited, however, and many African Americans found themselves living in the poor and crowded neighborhood of Black Bottom.  In the adjacent Paradise Valley area, some residents of Black Bottom were able to make a living working in the many nightclubs and theaters providing entertainment options for audiences of multiple races.  Urban renewal projects and freeway construction in the 1960s almost completely razed both neighborhoods. Archivist Brian Wilson, intrigued by this story as one factor setting the scene for later race riots in Detroit, discovered some related photos in The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation, which we’ve just digitized. They depict various performers at Club Harlem in Paradise Valley in the 1930s, such as this group of finely costumed dancers.

Revisit this lost neighborhood by browsing the rest of these images on our collections website.

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

digital collections

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Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford contains many homes associated with famous people: the Wright family home, the Robert Frost home, the Noah Webster home—and the Edison homestead, the Canadian farmhouse owned by Thomas Edison’s grandparents.  Henry Ford wanted his historical village to feature not only Menlo Park Lab, the fabled workplace of his friend and hero, but also to trace his upbringing with this home that young Thomas visited as child, where his parents had been married.  We have just digitized over 50 images related to the Edison homestead on its original site, including this photo of Edison family gravestones taken in 1933.

Trace the lineage of an innovator for yourself by visiting our digital collections to browse all of the Edison homestead images.

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

digital collections

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The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation contains such a breadth and depth of artifacts that rediscovering and sharing its treasures often involves a number of our staff working together.  Assistant Curator Saige Jedele was recently investigating our collections in support of Curator Kristen Gallerneaux’s story on the Jacquard loom featured on The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, and turned up a woven silk image of a baseball game.  Conservator Fran Faile noted we had a number of similar artifacts in the collection, which our digitization team then imaged and cataloged.  These pieces, like this bookmark featuring George Washington, are known as “Stevengraphs,” after the man who built on the punchcard technology of the Jacquard loom to create the intricate fabric pictures.

Visit our online collections to view all of the rare and delicate Stevengraphs that have just been digitized.

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

digital collections

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May 29, 2016, will mark the 100th running of the iconic Indianapolis 500 auto race. The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation contains many objects and archival materials related to the race over its long history, and we’ve just digitized more than 1,600 images from the 1964 race, as well as 500 images of the 1961 race. Both sets of images come from the extensive Dave Friedman collection, and join previously digitized sets of Indy images from 1962, 1963, 1968, and 1969. Each set of images covers both vivid racetrack action and behind-the-scenes shots, like this relatively serene 1964 shot taken from above.

If you’re a racing fan, visit our digital collections to peruse more than 7400 photos, documents, and objects related to the Indy 500.

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

digital collections, race cars, racing