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As we approach the Memorial Day holiday, when our thoughts turn toward lost loved ones and friends, it is insightful to consider how Americans of the past memorialized their loved ones.


Americans always treasured the memory of the dearly departed, but during the era just after American independence, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, elaborate and artistic memorials were the norm. Scholars debate the reasons. Many believe that with the death of America’s most revered founding father, George Washington, in 1799, a fashion developed for creating and displaying memorial pictures in the home. Other scholars argue that the death of Washington coincided with the height of the Neoclassical, or Federal style in America. During the period after the Revolution, Americans saw themselves as latter-day Greeks and Romans. After all, they argued, the United States was the first democracy since ancient times. So, they used depictions of leaders like George Washington, along with imagery derived from antiquity.

Painting of memorial with image of George Washington in center, angel to one side and soldier weeping in front
Watercolor Painting, Memorial for George Washington, by Mehetabel Wingate, 1800-1810 / THF6971

This wonderful memorial painting of George Washington was drawn in pencil and ink and painted in watercolors by a woman in Haverhill, Massachusetts, named Mehetabel Wingate. Born in 1772, Mehetabel was likely trained in painting as part of her education at an academy for genteel young ladies, much like a “finishing school” for young ladies in the 20th century. She also would have been tutored in the needle arts. The concept was to teach proper young ladies the arts as part of an appreciation for the “finer things” in life. This would prepare them for a suitable marriage and help them take their place in refined society.

In the academies, young women were taught to copy from artistic models for their work. In this case, Mehetabel Wingate copied a print engraved by Enoch G. Grindley titled in Latin “Pater Patrae” (“Father of the Country”) and printed in 1800, just after Washington’s death in 1799. Undoubtedly, she saw the print and was skilled enough to copy it in color. The image of the soldier weeping in front of the massive monument to Washington is impressive. Also impressive are the angels or cherubs holding garlands, and women dressed up as classical goddesses, grieving. One of the goddesses holds a portrait of Washington. Of course, the inscriptions tout many of Washington’s accomplishments. Mehetabel Wingate was a talented artist and ambitious in undertaking a composition as complicated as this one.

Oval-shaped painting of woman in white dress leaning on a memorial containing text
Watercolor Painting, Memorial for Mehetabel Bradley Wingate, by her daughter Mehetabel Wingate, 1796 / THF237513

Fortunately, The Henry Ford owns two additional works made by Mehetabel Wingate (1772–1846). From these, we can learn a bit about her life and her family. This remarkably preserved watercolor painting memorializes her mother, also named Mehetabel, who died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1796. Young Mehetabel, who would have been 24 in 1796, is shown mourning in front of a grave marker, which is inscribed. Although it is simplified, she wears a fashionable dress in the most current style. Around her is an idealized landscape, which includes a willow tree, or “weeping” willow, on the left, which symbolized sadness. On the right is a pine tree, which symbolized everlasting life. In the background is a group of buildings, perhaps symbolizing the town, including the church, which represented faith and hope. These are standard images seen in many, if not most, American memorial pictures. Mehetabel Wingate undoubtedly learned these conventions in the young girls’ academy in her hometown of Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Painting of four women in varying styles of white gowns, one holding flowers and one greenery
Women in Classical Dress, 1790-1810, by Mehetabel Wingate / THF152522

The painting, above, while not a memorial painting, shows us how young ladies in the academies learned how to paint. Mehetabel seems to be practicing poses and angles, as the young ladies dressed as classical goddesses reach out to each other. It likely pre-dates both works previously shown and may have been done as a classroom exercise. As such, it is a remarkable survival.

Person in long black dress or gown leaning against a memorial containing text, next to a tree
In memory of Freeman Bartlett Jr. who died in Calcutta November the 1st 1817, aged 19 years, by Eliza T. Reed, about 1818 / THF14816

This example, painted later than Mehetabel Wingate’s work, shows the same conventions: a grieving female in front of a tomb with an inscription about the dearly departed—in this case, a young man who died at the tender age of 19 in far-off Calcutta. We also see the idealized landscape with the “weeping” willow tree and the church in the background.

Painting of woman in gray dress leaning despondently on one of two memorials containing text
Memorial Painting for Elijah and Lucy White, unknown artist, circa 1826 / THF120259

The painting above, done a few years later, shows some of the variations possible in memorial pictures. Unlike the previous examples, painted on paper, this was painted on expensive, white silk. It commemorates two people, Elijah and Lucy White, presumably husband and wife, who both died in their sixties. We see the same imagery here as before, although the trees, other than the “weeping” willows, are so abstract as to be difficult to identify.

Painting with urn shape containing text, surrounded by six white birds with yellow wings and vines
Memorial Painting for Sarah Burgat, J. Preble, 1826 / THF305542

The example above represents a regional approach to memorial paintings. German immigrants to Pennsylvania in the late 1700s and early 1800s brought an interesting, stylized approach to their memorial paintings that have come to be known as “Fraktur.” The urn that would be seen on top of the monument in the previous examples now takes center stage, and is surrounded by symmetrically arranged birds. What we are seeing here is a combination of New England imagery, such as the urn, with Pennsylvania German imagery, such as the stylized birds. We know that this work was made in a town called Paris, as the artist, J. Preble, signed it in front of her name. There are two possible locations for Paris—one in Stark County, Ohio, and the other in Kentucky. Both had sizeable German immigrant populations in the 1820s. As America was settled and people moved west in the early 19th century, cultural practices melded and merged.

By the 1840s and 1850s, the concept of the memorial painting came to be viewed as old-fashioned. The invention of photography revolutionized the way folks could save representations of loved ones and friends. By the middle of the 19th century, these paintings were viewed as relics from the past. But in the early 20th century, collectors like Henry Ford recognized the historic and artistic value of these works and began to collect them. As a uniquely American art, they provide insight into the values of Americans in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


Charles Sable is Curator of Decorative Arts at The Henry Ford. Many thanks to Sophia Kloc, Office Administrator for Historical Resources at The Henry Ford, for editorial preparation assistance with this post.

education, presidents, making, women's history, paintings, art, home life, holidays, by Charles Sable

Rolled cake topped with peanuts and with peanut butter/jelly filling visible at end


A Taste of History in Greenfield Village offers our visitors seasonal, locally sourced and historically minded recipes. Over the past year, our chefs have been developing some new recipes, directly drawn from the recipes of George Washington Carver and the ingredients that he used. You can learn more about the inspiration behind the new options both in A Taste of History and in Plum Market Kitchen in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in our blog post here, or try out some of the recipes for yourself—like this Peanut Roll Cake with Jelly.

Chef’s Notes


When we were reading through hundreds of George Washington’s Carver’s recipes, this one stood out. It’s a wow—a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dessert! Chef Kasem Faraj, our resident Greenfield Village chef, spent hours making this one just perfect. We’ve had many variations of the PB&J in our lifetime, and this one takes the cake—just have fun and roll with it.


Recipe: Peanut Roll Cake with Jelly

Makes 1 Cake; Serves 8

Cake ingredients

4 each             Eggs

7 oz                  Granulated Sugar

¾ tsp                Baking Powder

½ tsp                Salt

¼ tsp                Baking Soda

4 ½ oz              All Purpose Flour, Sifted

3 oz                  Butter, Melted

1 oz                  Vanilla Extract

Filling ingredients

1 ½ oz              Granulated Peanuts

2 oz                  Smooth Peanut Butter

4 oz                  Raspberry Currant Jam/Jelly

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine eggs, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixture (or use a hand mixer and bowl).
  3. Mix on medium-low speed until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth and runny, about 3 minutes.
  4. Increase the speed to medium and whip until the mixture is a play yellow and thick enough to fall from the whisk in ribbons.
  5. Increase the speed again to high and continue whipping until the mixture has roughly doubled in volume and is thick.
  6. Reduce speed to medium-low and add vanilla and melted butter in a steady stream.
  7. Add sifted flour all at once and mix just enough to incorporate the flour.
  8. Pour batter into a half sheet tray or 13” x 9” baking dish that has been lined with parchment paper and nonstick spray.
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cake is done when the cake is puffed, lightly brown from edge to edge, and slightly firm.
  10. While cake is still warm, place on a linen towel and roll tightly. Allow cake to cool while rolled to shape and keep from cracking when filled and rolled.
  11. Once cake has cooled, unroll cake, and cover the inside of the roll with peanut butter, jelly, and granulated peanuts.
  12. Re-roll the cake and allow to sit with the seam on the bottom.
  13. Glaze cake with a simple icing and top with additional granulated peanuts if desired.



Eric Schilbe is Executive Sous Chef at The Henry Ford.

making, George Washington Carver, by Eric Schilbe, restaurants, Greenfield Village, food, recipes

Redware dish containing orange baked pudding, sitting on a wooden table

Puddings of the 18th century came in a variety of flavors, both savory and sweet, with many containing vegetables, and were more like the texture and consistency of a modern-day bread pudding. The shape of these puddings varied as well, since some were baked while others were boiled. In order to bake a pudding, a baking dish was needed, most often a simple round redware dish with high sides. The recipe would be prepared in the redware dish and then baked inside of a cast iron bake kettle, with hot coals underneath and on top. Puddings were eaten as part of the midday dinner meal.


From The First American Cookbook by Amelia Simmons in 1796, this recipe for carrot pudding pairs perfectly with our redware baking dish created in Greenfield Village.

Carrot Pudding Recipe
“Baked in a deep dish without paste [pie crust]”

Ingredients

  • A coffee cup (¾ cup) full of boiled carrots, processed until smooth
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Cinnamon and rose water to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients together, adding the eggs one at a time. Pour prepared mixture into a buttered baking dish and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

making, Greenfield Village, recipes, food

Red casserole dish filled with cooked greens, sitting on butcher block

A Taste of History in Greenfield Village offers our visitors seasonal, locally sourced and historically minded recipes. Over the past year, our chefs have been developing some new recipes, directly drawn from the recipes of George Washington Carver and the ingredients that he used. You can learn more about the inspiration behind the new options both in A Taste of History and in Plum Market Kitchen in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in our blog post here, or try out some of the recipes for yourself—like these Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey.

Chef’s Notes


What is Southern cooking without greens? There are lots of different ways to go, and almost no way to go wrong. Just be sure to cook the greens long enough, and don’t add any extra salt until done.

We chose to add smoked turkey to this dish to build truly rich flavors into something very simple. If you don’t have a smoker, smoked turkey wings or legs are readily available, fresh or frozen, at most local grocers. Or you can make this dish vegan by omitting the turkey and smoking the onions before adding—or simply cook it over a campfire to achieve a rich, smoky flavor.  

Recipe: Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey


Makes 8 Portions


Ingredients

2 lb                  Fresh Collard Greens

8 oz                  White Onion

8 cloves           Fresh Garlic

8 oz                  Smoked Turkey Wing Meat

1 oz                  Cider Vinegar

4 C                   Vegetable Stock/Broth

To taste           Salt and Pepper



Procedure

 

  1. Dice onions and sauté in a pot until translucent.
  2. Mince garlic and add to pot along with turkey wings.
  3. Deglaze pan with cider vinegar, then add in chopped collard greens and vegetable stock.
  4. Simmer on low until greens are tender and all liquid has been absorbed, approximately 1 ½ hours.
  5. Season with salt and pepper as needed.



Eric Schilbe is Executive Sous Chef at The Henry Ford.

restaurants, Greenfield Village, food, George Washington Carver, by Eric Schilbe, making, recipes

Gray mannequin head with a white, cut-paper wig topped with a straw boater hat with wide black ribbon

For a museum professional who takes care of collection objects, it isn’t often that the opportunity to be crafty comes along. When it does, however, those random skills you never thought would be useful come in handy.

Case in point was a mannequin for our latest What We Wore display, featuring clothing and accessories related to sports, that needed a fresh hairstyle. Paper wigs are useful in creating a simple look, but can also give a “wow” factor that regular wigs cannot. For our cycling mannequin, we attempted the windswept, curly style of the early 20th century. What follows is the process it took to make this paper wig. May it inspire you to try crafting your own!

The useful tips and tricks detailed by the FIDM Museum & Galleries and the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences were invaluable resources to start the process. First, the search for suitable paper was a challenge, based on the recommendation of a 70 lb. watercolor paper. The art store had a wide selection of papers, but nothing that fit that description perfectly. We tried two samples: a 74 lb. smooth, waterproof synthetic paper made of polypropylene, and a textured 90 lb. cotton fiber watercolor paper. Both had their strengths and weaknesses, based on dyeability, strength, and size. Trial and error with curling the papers determined that the cotton fiber paper was best for this project because it was a bit more durable and gave us the option for coloring the paper.

Two types of white paper lying overlapped on a grid background
Comparison of the synthetic paper on top and the cotton fiber watercolor paper on bottom.

The next step was deciding how to cut the paper into strips. We tried straight, long “hairs,” and a half-rainbow segment, but ultimately went with a wavy rainbow that created the perfect curly appearance.

White paper cut into straight strips, half-arc strips, and wavy half-arc strips
Leave a ½-inch edge at the top of the hair sections, as this will be the “roots” that attach to the mannequin head.

As for curling the strands, here is where those random skills help! The suggestion was to wrap the paper strands around a #2 pencil or the end of a paintbrush to create the waves. However, we found that pulling the paper with scissors, a technique used for curling balloon ribbons, was most effective in getting the result we wanted.

We then took our fabric-covered foam head and decided where the hairline should start and in which direction to start attaching the strand sections. We used straight pins to keep the “hair” in place, but you could also use double-sided tape or glue, depending on the material of the mannequin head and its intended use afterwards. For us, since the hair is pinned in place, it is easily removable for the next exhibit.

Three hands pinning curled white paper to a gray mannequin head

A hat would be placed on top, so we pulled the sections of hair back around a ball of tissue paper for volume and extra support. These sections were taped, because the pins would slide out from such a thick amount of paper to secure. A circular piece of foam was placed on top of the head so that the hat could be secured in place with long pins

An arm extends, holding up a complex white cut paper shape, while two hands in lower left also hold the shape
Ball of tissue inside the first layers of “hair.”

White cut-paper shape with straw boater hat on top is shaped by two hands
Attaching the final strands to the head.

The great thing about paper wigs is that you are limited only by your own creativity! Ribbons, feathers, and hairpins can all be added to create even more style. Depending on the paper used, colorful looks are also an option.

And voila! Here we have our cycling fashionista enjoying some time with her other athletic friends. Be sure to come to the museum and see our new What We Wore exhibit, featuring sports, on display all summer.

Mannequin wearing dress and paper wig topped with straw boater hat in display case with other items and text panels
The cyclist, with her paper wig, in the What We Wore sports display, currently on exhibit in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.


Marlene Gray is Senior Conservator at The Henry Ford.

by Marlene Gray, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford, making, fashion, What We Wore, Henry Ford Museum, collections care

Red dish filled with a vegetable medley; other dishes visible in background

A Taste of History in Greenfield Village offers our visitors seasonal, locally sourced and historically minded recipes. Over the past year, our chefs have been developing some new recipes, directly drawn from the recipes of George Washington Carver and the ingredients that he used. You can learn more about the inspiration behind the new options both in A Taste of History and in Plum Market Kitchen in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in our blog post here, or try out some of the recipes for yourself—like this Sweet Potato Hash.

Chef’s Notes


This hash covers so many of the vegetables Carver used, all in one. This dish is bound to make a big impact on your table, as simple ingredients come together to create this wonderful dish. Follow the cooking directions carefully and the textures and flavors will all be distinct until they meld together on the plate.

You can cook all the ingredients separately and chill until you are ready to eat, then simply sauté everything together in a hot pan—that is what we chefs would do!

Recipe: Sweet Potato Hash


Makes 8 Portions


Ingredients

1 ½  lb              Sweet Potatoes

¼ C                  Melted Butter

4 oz                  Red Onion

4 oz                  Celery

4 oz                  Red Bell Pepper

2 cloves           Fresh Garlic

1 tsp                Fresh Parsley

To taste           Salt and Pepper

¼ cup               Granulated Peanuts



Procedure

  1. Peel and dice sweet potatoes.
  2. Roast sweet potatoes in 350°F oven until tender.
  3. Dice onions, celery, and red pepper, keeping them all separate.
  4. Melt butter in a large pan and sauté onions until translucent.
  5. Add celery, minced garlic, and red pepper and sauté for an additional 3 minutes.
  6. Add peanuts and sweet potatoes and cook for another 3-5 minutes, making sure to stir constantly.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.



Eric Schilbe is Executive Sous Chef at The Henry Ford.

George Washington Carver, food, making, by Eric Schilbe, Greenfield Village, restaurants, recipes

Two-story brick building with sign on top

This photograph was taken some time between 1905 and 1911. Why? The sign in the front window of the storefront adjacent to the Wright Cycle Shop shows an undertaker’s business run by L.G. Keller. City of Dayton business directories of this period show Mr. Keller in business at 1127 West Third Street during this span of time. Clearly shown is the C .Webbert Block sign on top of the building and the Wright Cycle sign as well. Bicycle production and sales had ceased by 1905, but until 1909, airplanes and airplane engines were being built and partially assembled here. / THF236870

In 1903, the building that houses the Wright Cycle Shop and the undertakers’ establishment of Fetters & Shank was collectively known as the C. Webbert Block. The building was moved to and restored in Greenfield Village in 1937. It’s a very faithful representation of the two-story, two-storefront building that stood at 1125-1127 West Third Street in Dayton, Ohio, restored to appear as it did at the time of the Wright Brothers' first flight. There was one exception, though—the decoratively lettered sign that graced the top of the bracketed cornice spanning the front façade of the building was missing for over 100 years.

Charles Webbert, a relative by marriage to Charles Taylor, the Wright Brothers' mechanic, purchased the building in 1896. Mr. Webbert did an extensive addition to the front that created the double storefront we see in historic photographs. The Wright Brothers were his first tenants. Mr. Webbert was a plumbing supplier, a bicycle enthusiast, and, later, a great supporter of the brothers’ flying efforts. He was friends with Orville and Wilbur, and purchased and bartered both bicycles and bicycle repairs. Rent payments were dependent on what bicycle services were provided.

Between 1897 and 1916, the building saw a variety of uses by the Wright Brothers. Initially, the focus was on bicycles, including two lines of hand-built enameled finished bicycles, the Saint Clair and the Van Cleve. In the late 1890s, bicycles were a lucrative business and the proceeds from the Wrights' successful business became the funding source for everything that would eventually allow the Wright Brothers to fly.

Back view of man working at a table in what appears to be a workshop
Man Working at a Lathe in the Wright Cycle Shop, Dayton, Ohio, 1897 / THF236804

From 1899 until 1909, the building served as the brothers' first experimental laboratory and design studio, dedicated to creating that first flying machine. The first gliders, as well as the first Wright Flyer, were built in sections in the back machine shop, along with the gasoline engines that powered the first flight. For a time, the Wright Cycle Shop was one of the world’s first airplane factories. Following the sale of their first airplane to the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1908, Orville and Wilbur attracted the attention of New York investors and the Wright Company was formed in 1909. The airplane business quickly outgrew the space, and the assembly of airplanes consequently took place in a rented space in the Speedwell Motor Car Company while awaiting completion of a new factory building. The Wrights broke ground on this new facility on Home Road in Dayton in 1910.

After 1909, though manufacturing and final assembly moved elsewhere, the gasoline-powered engines continued to be machined and assembled in the Wright Cycle Shop. Both brothers also kept offices on the second floor, along with their company files and archives.

Following Wilbur’s death from typhoid fever in May of 1912, Orville took over as president of the company and ran the business alone. In 1915, he sold his interests and retired from the Wright Company. He continued to work on aviation design with his own firm but gave up the lease at the Cycle Shop in November of 1916, permanently moving to 15 North Broadway, a few blocks away.

Based on photographic evidence, the C. Webbert sign remained in place from 1897 until 1919, when significant structural changes took place. These included the addition of another bay and a third storefront, later to become 1123 West Third Street. Historic images show the building in its final iteration, as Henry Ford would have first seen it. By the time of the 1919 renovations, the building needed significant repairs, in part due to a huge flood that ravaged downtown Dayton and its neighborhoods in the spring of 1913. Water levels reached nearly to the second floor of the building. By this time, it’s very likely that the sign had deteriorated to the point where it was not practical to redesign it to fit with the new façade, and so it was likely removed.

Facade of two-story brick building with storefronts on ground floor and windows on second floor
This photograph of the vacant building taken in October of 1936 is part of a series taken after Henry Ford purchased the building from Charles Webber, in preparation for dismantling the building and shipping it to Dearborn, Michigan. Its reconstruction in Greenfield Village, without the C. Webbert sign, was completed in the Spring of 1938 with the dedication taking place on April 16, which would have been Wilbur Wright’s 71st birthday. / THF236872

Henry Ford purchased the building from Charles Webbert in 1936 with the understanding that it would be dismantled and moved to Dearborn, where it would be reconstructed in Greenfield Village. For reasons unknown, the sign was never added to the Wright Cycle Shop when it was restored in Greenfield Village in 1937. This is surprising, as it is such a significant architectural element. In 1991, another major restoration of the building took place in the Village, and again, the sign was not included in the project.

As they say, the third time’s the charm.

In 2018, research work began, focused on recreating the sign to more accurately represent the building’s appearance in 1903. In 2019, Mose Nowland, one of our talented conservation department volunteers, created detailed construction drawings based on high resolution scans of original photographs showing the sign still in place. Mose had only a few photographs, taken several years apart, to work with. True to form with his decades of experience, his finished drawings were works of art themselves, and brought to life the exquisite details included in what was the finial crest for the newly-designed façade of the building.

Man wearing plaid shirt holds drawing in front of large sign in workshop space
Mose Nowland poses with one of his detailed architectural drawings, which allowed the C. Webbert sign to come to life again after being missing for 100 years. / Photo by Jim Johnson

Using these wonderful drawings, combined with Mose’s sound advice and suggestions, Mike Zemney, one of our talented carpentry staff, began the construction of the sign. The sign was built in sections, with each decorative element individually hand-crafted, just as it would have been in 1897. Mike used a wide range of techniques and materials, with the ultimate goal of making the sign as weather-proof as possible, with a minimal amount of maintenance required. The sign is a combination of several kinds of water-resistant wood species, copper flashing, and cladding, all carefully sealed. The decorative elements are all three-dimensional, and the sign reaches nearly four feet high and over seven feet long, in perfect proportion to the height and width of the building.

Man in knit hat, khakis, and plaid shirt stands next to large sign in workshop space
Carpenter Mike Zemney with the nearly completed sign he built. In this photograph, the sign has been painted and dry fitted together, with final assembly, sealing, and final painting to take place once it was lifted up onto the building.

Using high-resolution versions of historic photographs, we carefully studied and analyzed these images to determine the color combination to use in painting the sign, along with the rest of the building. What appear to be different colors in some of the photos are actually shadows, as the photographs were taken a few years apart, at different times of the year, and at different times of the day. Based on our analysis, it appears that the building and the entire sign were monochromatic, painted all one color. This was not an uncommon practice for commercial and industrial buildings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The sign, therefore, was completely covered in many coats of a high-quality paint by Jeff Serwa, one of our dedicated painters.

There were great hopes of completing this project and having everything installed for the opening of Greenfield Village in April of 2020. As we all know, 2020 took a very different direction, and the actual installation of the sign was delayed.

However, I am very happy to announce that over 100 years later, the Wright Cycle Shop is now complete once again, proudly claiming its rightful place as part of the C. Webbert Block.

GIF cycling through several images of a forklift lifting a sign onto a building roof
The sign is lifted onto the top of the building.

GIF cycling through several images of people working with a sign on a rooftop
The sign is carefully installed and secured.

Building roof with large sign with decorative elements and text reading "BLOCK C. Webbert"
The C. Webbert Block sign atop Wright Cycle Shop in Greenfield Village.


Jim Johnson is Director of Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford. Special thanks to the staff and volunteers of The Henry Ford that made this project possible: Mose Nowland, Mary Fahey, Ben Kiehl, Dennis Morrison, Robert Smythe, Mike Zemney, and Jeff Serwa.

by Jim Johnson, research, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford, making, Wright Brothers, Greenfield Village history, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, collections care

Detroit native Frederick Birkhill can recount numerous memories of his time at The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village as a child. He can remember riding his bike through the village, taking in all that its history and grounds offered. Truly enamored with Liberty Craftworks, he spent most of his time there, observing the artisans perfecting their crafts.

During one school field trip, his class observed employee Neils Carlson giving a glassblowing demonstration. From five feet away, the students watched Carlson pull and shape a hot, glowing blob into a graceful swan. This was the exact moment that Birkhill fell in love with glassmaking and knew he wanted to learn everything about it. After the demonstration, he bought one of the glass swans for his mother and studied it whenever he could.

Black and white image of young boy sitting on chair looking at camera on a strap around his neck
Frederick as a child with a camera, circa 1959. / Photo by Dr. F. Ross Birkhill, courtesy Frederick Birkhill

Few people can pinpoint the place where they found their passion. Frederick Birkhill can. Anyone who comes to The Henry Ford can find something that excites them and sparks their future passions. That single experience in the Glass Shop stuck with Birkhill and led him on a path to a very successful career as an artist. Because of Neils Carlson, Birkhill's thirst for knowledge took off, leading him to study in England, elsewhere in Europe, and at what is now the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

In the early years of his career, Birkhill was an employee of Greenfield Village and worked in the Tintype Studio. During his tenure, he was able to study and learn about glassblowing, stained glass, photography, daguerreotypes, and tintypes from various artisans around Liberty Craftworks and metro Detroit. At the time, The Henry Ford was one of the only places in the United States where one could learn about tintype photography and other specialized crafts. Birkhill created some of his first daguerreotype photos of scenes at The Henry Ford. One of those early daguerreotypes of Greenfield Village's Farris Windmill was later acquired by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Black-and-white image of windmill in frame"The Windmill at Greenfield Village, 1972,” daguerreotype created by Frederick Birkhill, in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History / Photo courtesy Frederick Birkhill  

In addition to learning about different media during his time working in the village, Birkhill was able to use his skills and artistry to teach an array of subjects at The Henry Ford, including classes he developed on the history of glass and stained glass.

Birkhill also collaborated with David Grant Maul, another former employee. Birkhill acquired a special tool from Maul that allowed him to hold hot glass so he could effectively complete flame-worked glass objects. This tool was the catalyst for a successful career in flame-worked glass and furnace glass. Our Glass Shop includes a furnace that allowed Birkhill to learn both specialties.

Frederick Birkhill is a renowned artist, inventor, educator, and historian whose international career continues to this day. His work can be seen at the Corning Museum of Glass, Museum of Arts and Design, Detroit Institute of Arts, the Mint Museum, the Smithsonian, and the Stamelos Gallery Center at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, as well as in private collections around the world. Never once has Birkhill forgotten the place that sparked his curiosity and put his ideas into motion—The Henry Ford.

Man in workshop holds glass in a flame, seen in a reflection in a mirror on the wallFrederick Birkhill flameworking in his studio. / Photo by Henry Leutwyler, courtesy Frederick Birkhill

Now, after several decades as a glass artist, an artist's monograph, Glassworks: The Art of Frederick Birkhill, has been published by The Artist Book Foundation. An extensive colorplate section includes the lavish photography of Henry Leutwyler, showcasing Birkhill's work in complex detail as well as his artistic mastery of glass. A copy now resides in The Henry Ford's Benson Ford Research Center. We are honored to have Frederick and his wife, Jeannie, as friends of The Henry Ford.


Caroline Heise is Annual Fund Specialist at The Henry Ford.

Greenfield Village buildings, The Henry Ford Effect, photography, Michigan, making, Greenfield Village, glass, education, Detroit, by Caroline Heise, books, art

Four roasted chicken breasts in a cast iron dish on a butcher's block


A Taste of History in Greenfield Village offers our visitors seasonal, locally sourced and historically minded recipes. Over the past year, our chefs have been developing some new recipes, directly drawn from the recipes of George Washington Carver and the ingredients that he used. You can learn more about the inspiration behind the new options both in A Taste of History and in Plum Market Kitchen in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in our blog post here, or try out some of the recipes for yourself—like this Brined and Roasted Chicken.

Chef’s Notes


Running out of time? This recipe takes plenty of patience and is well worth it, but if you need something quick, you can roast the chicken with salt and pepper for a few minutes, then brush it with melted butter, apple cider vinegar, and pure maple syrup. Continue roasting, brushing with the mixture an additional two or three times, until the chicken is fully cooked.

We also recommend serving it alongside the sauce (link below). There are many other sauces that Carver has recipes for in his published papers, but we chose the green Tomato Chili Sauce because it uniquely balances the sweet maple flavor of the chicken with just enough spice to make it dance on your palette. You can make the sauce ahead of time and reheat when you are ready to eat.

Recipe: Brined and Roasted Chicken


Makes 8 Chicken Breasts


Maple Brine Ingredients

4 C Boiling Water

7 oz Granulated Sugar

3 oz Kosher Salt

1 C Maple Syrup

3 sprigs Fresh Thyme

4 C Ice


Additional Ingredients

8 Chicken Breasts (6–8 oz each)


Procedure

  1. Combine boiling water, sugar, salt, maple syrup, and thyme and stir until sugar and salt are completely dissolved.
  2. Add ice and stir, allowing the liquid to cool completely.
  3. Rinse the chicken breast and completely submerge in maple brine. Refrigerate for at least five hours.
  4. After five hours, remove the chicken and rinse clean. Discard the used brine.
  5. Roast at 350°F until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, approximately 15-20 minutes.
  6. Serve chicken with Tomato Chili Sauce.



Whether you make it for yourself at home, or pay a visit to A Taste of History in Greenfield Village to let us make it for you, let us know what you think!


Eric Schilbe is Executive Sous Chef at The Henry Ford.

making, restaurants, food, by Eric Schilbe, Greenfield Village, recipes, George Washington Carver

Silver dish with handles, containing green sauce, sitting on butcher block

A Taste of History in Greenfield Village offers our visitors seasonal, locally sourced and historically minded recipes. Over the past year, our chefs have been developing some new recipes, directly drawn from the recipes of George Washington Carver and the ingredients that he used. You can learn more about the inspiration behind the new options both in A Taste of History and in Plum Market Kitchen in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in our blog post here, or try out some of the recipes for yourself—like this Tomato Chili Sauce.

Chef’s Notes


There are many other sauces that Carver has recipes for in his published papers, but we chose the green Tomato Chili Sauce because it uniquely balances the sweet maple flavor of the Brined and Roasted Chicken (link below) with just enough spice to make it dance on your palette. You can make the sauce ahead of time and reheat when you are ready to eat.

Recipe: Tomato Chili Sauce


Makes 8 Portions


Ingredients

1 lb Fresh Green Tomatoes

3 oz Jalapeno Peppers

3 oz White Onion

1 oz Granulated Sugar

½ C Vinegar

1 Tbs Salt

¼ tsp Pepper  


Procedure

  1. Peel tomatoes by placing in boiling water for 1 minute, shock by placing in ice water, and then peel skins.
  2. Slice jalapenos in half lengthwise and remove seeds and piths. Reserve seeds for later.
  3. Dice tomatoes, jalapenos, and onions and combine in small saucepan with all ingredients.
  4. Bring to a simmer, allow to simmer for 1-2 hours, and then puree.
  5. Adjust seasoning as necessary with salt, pepper, sugar, and jalapeno seeds. The spice level should be a medium, balanced heat.
  6. Serve with Brined and Roasted Chicken.



Whether you make it for yourself at home, or pay a visit to A Taste of History in Greenfield Village to let us make it for you, let us know what you think!


Eric Schilbe is Executive Sous Chef at The Henry Ford.

George Washington Carver, restaurants, recipes, making, Greenfield Village, food, by Eric Schilbe