Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Posts Tagged engines

Claude Harvard faced many racial obstacles over the course of his young life, but when he addressed a crowd of students at Tuskegee University in 1935, he spoke with confidence and optimism:

“Speaking from my own experience, brief as it is, I feel certain that the man or woman who has put his very best into honest effort to gain an education will not find the doors to success barred.”

One of the few, if not the only, Black engineers employed by Henry Ford at the time, Claude had been personally sent to Tuskegee by Ford to showcase an invention of his own creation. Even in the face of societal discrimination, the message of empowerment and perseverance that Claude imparted on that day was one that he carried with him over the course of his own career. For him, there was always a path forward.

Four men in suits wearing headphones sit at a table with equipment on the table and along the wall behind them
Claude Harvard practicing radio communication with other students at Henry Ford Trade School in 1930. / THF272856

Born in 1911, Claude spent the first ten years of his life in Dublin, Georgia, until his family, like other Black families of the time period, made the decision to move north to Detroit in order to escape the poor economic opportunities and harsh Jim Crow laws of the South. From a young age, Claude was intrigued by science and developed a keen interest in a radical new technology—wireless radio. To further this interest, he sold products door-to-door just so he could acquire his own crystal radio set to play around with. It would be Claude’s passion for radio that led him to grander opportunities.

At school in Detroit, Harvard demonstrated an aptitude for the STEM fields and was eventually referred to the Henry Ford Trade School, a place usually reserved for orphaned teen-aged boys to be trained in a variety of skilled, industrial trade work. His enrollment at Henry Ford Trade School depended on his ability to resist the racial taunting of classmates and stay out of fights. Once there, his hands-on classes consisted of machining, metallurgy, drafting, and engine design, among others. In addition to the manual training received, academic classes were also required, and students could participate in clubs.

Young men sit around a long table looking at a man standing at one end
Claude Harvard with other Radio Club members and their teacher at Henry Ford Trade School in 1930. / THF272854

As president of the Radio Club, Claude Harvard became acquainted with Henry Ford, who shared an interest in radio—as early as 1919, radio was playing a pivotal role in Ford Motor Company’s communications. Although he graduated at the top of his class in 1932, Claude was not given a journeyman’s card like the rest of his classmates. A journeyman’s card would have allowed Claude to be actively employed as a tradesperson. Despite this obstacle, Henry Ford recognized Claude’s talent and he was hired at the trade school. By the 1920s, Ford Motor Company had become the largest employer of African American workers in the country. Although Ford employed large numbers of African Americans, there were limits to how far most could advance. Many African American workers spent their time in lower paying, dirty, dangerous, and unhealthy jobs.

The year 1932 also saw Henry Ford and Ford Motor Company once again revolutionize the auto industry with the introduction of a low-priced V-8 engine. By casting the crankcase and cylinder banks as a single unit, Ford cut manufacturing costs and could offer its V-8 in a car starting under $500, a steal at the time. The affordability of the V-8 meant many customers for Ford, and with that came inevitable complaints—like a noisy rattling that emanated from the engine. To remedy this problem, which was caused by irregular-shaped piston pins, Henry Ford turned to Claude Harvard.

Engine sitting on a stand
1932 Ford V-8 Engine, No. 1 / THF101039

To solve the issue, Harvard invented a machine that checked the shape of piston pins and sorted them by size with the use of radio waves. More specifically, the machine checked the depth of the cut on each pin, its length, and its surface smoothness. It then sorted the V-8 pins by size at a rate of three per second.  Ford implemented the machine on the factory floor and touted it as an example of the company’s commitment to scientific accuracy and uniform quality. Along with featuring Claude’s invention in print and audio-visual ads, Ford also sent Harvard to the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago and to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to showcase the machine.

Machine on display under a sign with text, with images along wall behind
Piston Pin Inspection Machine at the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago, Illinois. / THF212795

During his time at Tuskegee, Harvard befriended famed agricultural scientist George Washington Carver, who he eventually introduced to Henry Ford. In 1937, when George Washington Carver visited Henry Ford in Dearborn, he insisted that Claude be there. While Carver and Ford would remain friends the rest of their lives, Claude Harvard left Ford Motor Company in 1938 over a disagreement about divorcing his wife and his pay. Despite Ford patenting over 20 of Harvard’s ideas, Claude’s career would be forced in a new direction and over time, the invention of the piston pin sorting machine would simply be attributed to the Henry Ford Trade School.

Despite these many obstacles, Claude’s work lived on in the students that he taught later in his life, the contributions he made to manufacturing, and a 1990 oral history, where he stood by his sentiments that if one put in a honest effort into learning, there would always be a way forward.


Ryan Jelso is Associate Curator, Digital Content, at The Henry Ford.

#THFCuratorChat, technology, radio, manufacturing, making, Ford workers, Ford Motor Company, engines, engineering, education, by Ryan Jelso, African American history

prius-toyota

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

toyota-prius-2

Engines Exposed: 2002 Toyota Prius

Gasoline Engine: Inline 4-cylinder engine, double overhead cam, 91 cubic inches displacement, 76 horsepower

Electric Motor: AC, permanent magnet, 33 kilowatt, 44 horsepower

Hybrid cars are an old idea, but their moment arrived with the Toyota Prius. The car’s gas and electric power plants sit side-by-side. The electrical inverter, on top of the electric motor, converts DC current from the batteries into AC used by the motor. That motor becomes a generator during braking, turning kinetic energy from the car’s momentum into electricity fed back to the batteries.

engines

mazda-engine

Engines Exposed: 1985 Mazda Wankel Rotary Engine

Two rotors, turbocharged, fuel-injected, 80 cubic inches displacement, 182 horsepower

This cutaway brings new meaning to “Engines Exposed!” Felix Wankel’s motor eliminated up-and-down pistons, developing its power directly in rotating motion. Fewer parts, less weight and a smaller package were advantages of the design. Imperfect seals, poor fuel economy and dirty emissions were drawbacks. Mazda put rotaries in several production models in the 1960s and 1970s, but the fuel-hungry Wankels are now largely relegated to performance vehicles.

engines

turbine-engine

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

turbine-car

Engines Exposed: 1963 Chrysler Turbine

Regenerative gas turbine engine, 130 horsepower

Chrysler’s experimental turbine engine had 80 percent fewer moving parts than a piston engine, producing a very smooth ride. Regenerative turbines used gasses twice – once to drive the car and again to heat new air drawn into the system. Fuel flexibility was terrific (it ran on anything from gasoline to peanut oil) but fuel mileage (around 11.5 m.p.g.) wasn’t so hot.

engines

corvair-engine

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

1960-corvair

Engines Exposed: 1960 Chevrolet Corvair

Horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine, overhead valves, 140 cubic inches displacement, 80 horsepower

Chevrolet took the engine to a place it had rarely been in an American production car – the rear. Much of the motor is hidden by a metal shroud directing air flow from the deck louvers. There are two carburetors, one for each cylinder bank, connected to a single air cleaner at center. Later models increased trunk size up front by moving the spare tire to the engine compartment.

engines

quadricycle-engine

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

1896FordQuadricycleRunabout-2

Engines Exposed: 1896 Ford Quadricycle

Inline 2-cylinder engine, F-head valves, 59 cubic inches displacement, 4 horsepower (estimate)

Henry Ford based the Quadricycle’s engine on the Kane-Pennington motor he saw in American Machinist magazine. Ford brazed water jackets around each of the two horizontal cylinders and mounted wooden water tanks on either side of his engine. The tanks ultimately were replaced with a smaller under-seat reservoir.

engines, quadricycle

Back in May, we received a visit to our reading room by a team of engineering students from Penn State, who were touring Greenfield Village. They had been out in the Village helping to install a working replica (but more on that later) of Henry Ford's first experimental engine, the Kitchen Sink Engine. (The original engine, made in 1893, is in our collections storage.) Now they wanted to see what is near and dear to any engineer's heart: the blueprints. We located and pulled the engine's technical drawings, which had been created by Ford Motor Company staff circa 1944 and form part of our Ford Blueprint Drawings collection (just one small part of which is the "Miscellaneous Ford Motor Company Blueprints and Drawings Collection," where these drawings reside.

Drawing of the 1893 Kitchen Sink Engine, "First Gasoline Engine by Mr. Henry Ford" (Object ID: 64.167.181.1).

The engineering students were a rapt audience, and they stayed in the reading room for a while, poring over the drawings, talking to each other about them, and taking pictures. Later, an order was put in for high-resolution scans of the drawings. It turns out that a previous group of students from their course had already created their own replica of the engine, back in 2012 as part of a class project. The Henry Ford has had a replica of the Kitchen Sink Engine on display, but ours is not a working replica. Theirs is -- and that's the really cool thing. We are always pleased when our collections are used in exciting ways that bring the past forward. Icing on the cake for this particular case (maybe the Fates were smiling on us for the 150th anniversary of Henry Ford's birth?), was that with one of the Kitchen Sink Engine drawings, we hit a milestone number for our image scanning: THF100000! (All of the collections images we scan are assigned a unique identification number, in order to make tracking and retrieval possible.) A nice round—and large—number to commemorate an important first in Henry Ford's career! Now we're going to be wondering what THF200000 will be.

See the Penn State Beaver students' working replica of the Kitchen Sink Engine on display at this weekend's Old Car Festival.

engineering, engines