Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Posts Tagged horse drawn transport

Boxy maroon and black car with open driver's seat


Wealthy Americans were familiar with the Brewster name because the company had been building elegant horse-drawn carriages for over 100 years. When Brewster finally began building automobiles in 1915, they looked like carriages. Chauffeurs dealt with the 20th-century auto technology—a quiet 55-horsepower engine, an electric starter, and electric lights—while owners rode in 19th-century carriage comfort. Tradition eventually lost out to the rush of modernity, and Brewsters began to look like cars.

Black-and-white photo of carriage
Look closely at this 1890 Brewster landau carriage in The Henry Ford’s collection, and you’ll notice some similarities to the Brewster automobile. / THF80571

Illustration of boxy car with open driver's seat; contains text
“Landaulet” is a car body style with separate compartments for passengers and driver. The passenger compartment is usually convertible. The driver’s compartment can be either enclosed or open. / THF206171

This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

20th century, 1910s, luxury cars, horse drawn transport, cars


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.

To see all these digitized images of Richart Wagon Shop taken between 1931 and 1941, visit our collections website.

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

20th century, 19th century, Michigan, horse drawn transport, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, digital collections, by Ellice Engdahl

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!
  • Nighty night!
  • 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.


    This photo was taken by Greenfield Village visitor OZinOH, shared via Flickr.


    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.


    Photo shared with The Henry Ford on Facebook via Dennis Russel.


    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.


    Owl Night Lunch Wagon - Greenfield Village, c. 1933


    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
  • local donuts
  • danish
  • fresh daily bagels w/ cream cheese
  • slice of Greenfield Village hobo bread
  • Becharas Bros. coffee
  • hot tea
  • assorted juice
  • ice coffee
  • Gatorade G2
  • 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.

    Greenfield Village history, restaurants, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, by Kristine Hass, horse drawn transport, food

    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.

    Horse-drawn cultivator

    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.

    Cultivating the corn field at Firestone Farm

    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!

    Henry the Horse

    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.

    farming equipment, horse drawn transport, Greenfield Village, farms and farming, farm animals, by Ryan Spencer, agriculture