Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Posts Tagged drawings

Edsel Ford's Childhood Artwork

It should come as no surprise, given the founder of this institution, that our digital collections already contain hundreds of items related to Henry Ford’s son, Edsel. We’ve just expanded this selection by digitizing some of Edsel’s childhood artwork. My personal favorite is this bear, made of brown thread stitched into paper and likely created when Edsel was between 5 and 10 years old, but other pieces include family portraits, highly geometric works, and slightly later, more sophisticated works. View these and other items related to Edsel Ford in our online collections.

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

Ford family, Edsel Ford, drawings, digital collections, childhood, by Ellice Engdahl, art

Jens Jensen (1860–1951) was a Danish-born landscape architect who did a large amount of design work for the Ford family and Ford Motor Company. This included Ford Motor Company pavilion landscaping for the 1933–34 Chicago World’s Fair, landscape design for multiple residences of Edsel Ford, and complete landscaping for Fair Lane, the Dearborn estate of Henry and Clara Ford. We’ve just digitized 29 blueprints from the Jens Jensen Drawings Series showing planting plans, grading and topographical plans, and water feature plans for the Fair Lane estate, such as this one for a bird pool. View all related material in our digital collections.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections Initiative Manager at The Henry Ford.

design, drawings, Henry Ford, digital collections

This year marks the 50th anniversary of an American automotive icon: the Ford Mustang. The Henry Ford counts among its collections three notable Mustangs: the 1962 Mustang I concept car, the first serial number of the 1965 production Mustang, and another 1965 Mustang on display at the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. In addition, our archives include photographs, design drawings (like this one for the 1963 Ford Mustang II prototype), and trade literature from every year of production. Relive the first half-century of the Mustang through the digital collections of The Henry Ford.

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

by Ellice Engdahl, cars, convertibles, Mustangs, Ford Motor Company, drawings, digital collections

Last November, I made a trip to the Benson Ford Research Library to see a small (8-by-6.75-inch) album of watercolor drawings made by Lewis Miller, a Pennsylvania German carpenter who lived from the time of the American Revolution to the Centennial. I have long been intrigued by his drawings, which have provided me with great material for the history of American landscape design, my specialization as an art historian.

Over the years I had seen hundreds of Miller’s drawings, which are primarily in two collections: the York Heritage Center, York, Penn., and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum, Williamsburg, Va. There are about 2,000 of his drawings in these collections. The album, however, is alone in Dearborn and how it got there is an interesting story.

Donald Shelley, former executive director of Henry Ford Museum was himself from York, and knew well “the Chronicler” of his hometown. When Miller’s album appeared on the market in New York in the 1960s, Shelley purchased it for The Henry Ford collection. In his introduction to the only major work on Miller, (Miller, Lewis. Lewis Miller, Sketches and Chronicles: The Reflections of a Nineteenth Century Pennsylvania German Folk Artist. York, Pa: Historical Society of York County, 1966) Shelley said Miller’s work was unmatched by that of any other American folk artist.

Woman on Horseback, Page 12, THF221830.

When the opportunity arose to write an online article for Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, my colleagues, Kathryn Barush, Emily Pugh, and I immediately saw that Miller, whose large body of work had not been seriously studied in almost fifty years, was an ideal topic. The Dearborn album is a guide to Central Park, the greatest public urban park in America. It offered a focused entry into both Miller’s worldview and into the study of the most important landscape undertaking of the nineteenth century, New York City's first public park. The 54 leaves are filled with watercolors of the park’s earliest features and structures and inscribed with English and German poems and commentary.

"Outlet and Gate." Note the German text and the figure sketching, perhaps a self-portrait, Page 45, THF221863.

Upon seeing the album, my first reaction, after delighting in its bright colors and charm that are lost in reproductions, was to query, what is this object? Why did this folk artist make it? How does it relate to the rest of his work? Kathryn Barush undertook the identification of all the texts that filled the sketchbook, English and German. That was the first breakthrough in terms of understanding the breadth of Miller’s literary appetite: William Cullen Bryant, Shakespeare, Martin Luther--a miscellany of poems, fiction, and travel literature as well as botanical lists. Then the images, once analyzed, compared and decoded, revealed a wealth of pictorial sources that drew from newspapers, magazines and again, travel literature. Miller was not the naive folk artist we took him to be, but rather a man of his times, and his works were an omnium-gatherum of visual culture.

"Bridge Over the Lake, In the Central park." Page 28, THF221846.

"Bridge near Gate – 59th Street, 7th Avenue." Note the figure sketching, again, perhaps a self portrait, Page 33, THF221851.

This study has taught us a great deal about the penetration of the new pictorial press, especially in the middle decades of the 19th century, when innovations in printing and photographic technology revolutionized popular publishing. It is fitting that today’s innovations in online publishing has made it possible to bring the Miller album to the Web in a multifaceted digital facsimile. The online article designed by Emily Pugh unifies traditional scholarly interpretation with new tools and links to rich digital resources. Thus, the Dearborn album is important for two reasons. First, its study provided a model for how digital humanities can be a tool to enhance scholarly communication. More significantly, it has provided a key to writing a new interpretation of Miller’s lifetime of drawing and writing, one which sees him not as an exponent of a closed tradition but as a person partaking very much in contemporary life, where the deluge of visual and textual culture impressed and shaped his worldview. This is just the beginning of a new history of Lewis Miller.

"The Musical Temple." Page 47, THF221865.

Therese O'Malley is associate dean at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She oversees the Center's publications and scholarly programs. Her scholarly publications have focused on the history of landscape architecture and garden design, from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, concentrating on the transatlantic exchange of plants, ideas, and people.

Her recent publications include Keywords in American Landscape Design (Yale University Press), The Art of Natural History, co-edited with Amy W. Meyers (National Gallery of Art), and several articles on aspects of the early profession of landscape design and the history of botanic gardens.

by Therese O'Malley, art, research, paintings, drawings, archives