The Richart Wagon Shop is another example of Henry Ford’s interest in American transportation history. It was built in 1847 by Israel Biddle Richart in Macon, Michigan, and operated for over 50 years in the business of building, repairing, and painting wagons. In fall 1941, it was acquired for and moved to Greenfield Village.
We’ve just digitized a number of photographs of the building on its original site, including this image showing the distinctive lower and upper double doors still visible today—though notably missing a ramp to allow carriages access to the second floor.
The act of farming draws nutrients from the soil. If the nutrients are not returned, the soil will become depleted and lose productivity. One of the best ways to restore the soil is to recycle what was removed from it by spreading manure on it. This International Harvester Manure Spreader made a dirty job not-so-dirty.
Caring for the Land: Forgotten – Then Re-discovered
To the Europeans who settled colonial America, the availability of land seemed limitless. Farmers paid little attention to caring for the soil, quickly abandoning the fertilizing activities they had practiced in Europe. These farmers felt it more cost effective to simply move on to new land when the soil lost productivity, rather than put in the effort to restore its fertility.
Last week The Henry Ford posted this photo its Facebook timeline and asked friends for clues to identify what artifact it depicted. There were some crafty replies.
Some clues related to the artifact’s location in Greenfield Village, others to its former and current functions, others to its name. Examples of some of the clues are:
It seems to have an ornithological theme.
Hoo, hoo, hoo!
Lunch for the night shift.
You can get coffee there first thing in the morning.
A few clues made fortune-telling references, perhaps connecting some of the artifact’s similarities to the wagon Prof. Marvel used in the Wizard of Oz (where he looked into his crystal ball to tell Dorothy what he saw).
And although those clues were slightly off base with what the artifact actually is, the Owl Night Lunch Wagon is somewhat of a marvel on its own.
The Henry Ford's 1890s Owl Night Lunch Wagon is believed to be the last remaining horse-drawn lunch wagon in America.
The social discussion about the wagon inspired The Henry Ford’s Facebook friend Dennis Russell to share this photo.
It’s of his father’s high school class during a Spring 1940 trip to Greenfield Village.
The photo prompted some more investigation about the treasured lunch stand. This information comes from the rich database at The Henry Ford:
In 1927, Henry Ford acquired the wagon from John Colquhoun for Greenfield Village. The wagon was refurbished and parked in the village where it served as the sole refreshment stand for visitors through the rest of the decade and into the 1930s.
The 1933 fare included hot dogs, hamburgers, buttermilk, sweet milk, coffee and pop. (The image itself does not have a date, but Cynthia Miller, curator of photographs and prints at The Henry Ford, said it is circa 1933.)
According to The Henry Ford’s online collections, since its initial arrival in the village, the Owl Night Lunch Wagon has undergone several renovations. The wagon was in dilapidated condition when Henry Ford acquired it. He refurbished it, having it painted white with red trim. It was later "renovated" into a popcorn wagon. Few traces of the original lunch wagon remained. The most recent refurbishment was completed in 1986.
Jeanine Head Miller, The Henry Ford’s curator of domestic life, said that there are some late 1930s photos of the Owl Night Lunch Wagon hitched to a horse, but it was usually stationary, as shown in the above photos.
Early on, the wagon was the only place to get food in Greenfield Village . The Clinton Inn (Eagle Tavern) was dedicated to serving lunch to the children who attended school in the village. Miller also said the wagon wasn’t always in Greenfield Village; it spent some years on the floor in Henry Ford Museum in the horse-drawn vehicle collection.
The Owl Night Lunch Wagon still operates serving up nostalgia and history along with some good food. On the Owl Night Lunch Wagon's menu for 2012, visitors will find:
house made assorted muffins
fresh daily bagels w/ cream cheese
slice of Greenfield Village hobo bread
Becharas Bros. coffee
Absopure bottled water
The Owl Night Lunch Wagon is located in Greenfield Village right in front of the Ford Motor Company building and across the street from the Miller School.
Kristine Hass is a writer and long-time member of The Henry Ford. She frequently blogs for America's Greatest History Attraction.
The Firestone Farm corn field is making some terrific progress, even though a flooded field in May forced us to replant. (The weather is something farmers struggle with, regardless of the year— whether it's 1885 or 2011!) In fact, it looks like most of our corn plants will still be "knee-high by the Fourth of July," despite all of our spring flooding - huzzah!
Last week, we cultivated our corn for the second time this year. Cultivating is when we loosen the soil and remove the weeds around each corn plant.
Because the Firestones did not use herbicides to kill weeds in their fields, they planted their corn three feet apart in each direction so that they had room to cultivate. And like the Firestones, we use a horse-drawn cultivator remove weeds in our cornfield.
We take our cultivator down each row from north to south, east to west, and then diagonally. This takes a great amount of patience and skill on the part of horse, driver and operator.
We used one of our newest horses, Henry, to cultivate. Although he is very young and new to this job, he handled the tight turns well and only stepped on a few corn plants. It looks like Henry and his partner Tom are turning out to be great additions to Greenfield Village!
Ryan Spencer is manager of Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village. Working at The Henry Ford was a childhood dream of his – although he did not realize then that it would involve so much manure.