The posters designed for Herman Miller’s annual employee picnic are some of the best-known examples of American graphic design from the latter half of the 20th century. Much has been written about how the 1970 poster was Steve Frykholm’s first assignment as Herman Miller’s first internal graphic designer—as well as how his series of posters gained fans almost immediately. Museums took notice and collected these posters, even while the series was still ongoing—including The Henry Ford. However, Frykholm did not design all of Herman Miller’s picnic posters, but the first 20 of them, from 1970–1989. Kathy Stanton, a graphic designer on Frykholm’s team, recalled telling Frykholm, “if you ever decide to give this [the picnic posters] up, I’ll be interested.” In 1989, after designing 20 posters, Steve Frykholm decided it was time to pass the reins, and took Kathy Stanton up on her offer.
Herman Miller Picnic Poster, "Fish," 1992 / THF626917
Kathy Stanton began taking art classes in high school at the Cincinnati Art Museum and the University of Cincinnati, in her hometown. She went on to attend the University of Cincinnati and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Design. In 1979, shortly after graduation (and in a tough job market), she was hired by Herman Miller to work in their internal graphic design department. Stanton worked on many projects in her time at Herman Miller, but she was particularly interested in designing for difficult technical and informational projects, like sales manuals and price books. She explained, “if you said it was impossible to digest, I was all on it.” The picnic posters, then, were a bit more free-form than the work that she had gravitated towards in her first decade at Herman Miller.
Herman Miller Picnic Poster, "Duck Pond," 1998 / THF189134
Frykholm’s picnic posters famously focused on the food that might be found at the company’s annual employee summer picnic. Stanton decided to take another approach. Each of the 11 posters Stanton designed, one each year from 1990–2000, showcases an activity or feature of the summer picnic—from the clown that entertained children and adults alike, to the mallard ducks floating in a pond, or a game of croquet or ring toss in action. The earliest of these posters—"Ring Toss,” 1990; “Carousel,” 1991; and “Fish,” 1992—coincide with the growing availability (and capability) of computer programs to aid in design. “Ring Toss” is the only poster of her series that did not utilize a computer; “Carousel” was a hybrid design; and “Fish” was designed using a computer program but drawn freehand. She recalled, “I can tell where I grew and how the programs improved as I designed the posters.” Each of Stanton’s posters also include a small “Easter egg,” or additional element to delight the viewer. The first poster, “Ring Toss,” features a small ladybug resting in the grass in the lower right quadrant. Can you find the surprise element in each of the other posters?
“Ring Toss, 1990” by Kathy Stanton, with detail of ladybug / THF626913
Stanton would hand off the picnic poster project to designer Brian Edlefson for the 2001 poster. He designed the series through 2005, when Andrew Dull took over and designed the final two posters in 2006 and 2007. Kathy Stanton would remain at Herman Miller until 2008, after 29 years at the company. Today, she is a freelance designer and artist working primarily in photography, painting, and jewelry-making. As she’s expanded her work, she still relies on balance, color, line, and composition—design concepts she learned in design school and honed at Herman Miller.
Herman Miller Picnic Poster, "Croquet," 1999 / THF626929
This Father’s Day treat dad to two favorite dishes from our chefs at The Henry Ford – pulled pork from A Taste of History and pioneering cookbook author Fannie Farmer’s macaroni and cheese.
A Taste of History Pulled Pork This true summertime favorite will take a little extra time, but it is so worth it. This will freeze and reheat well, so you can have many meals from it.
1 cup chili powder ½ cup ground cumin ½ cup garlic powder 2 tablespoons onion powder 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper 2 tablespoons black pepper 1 tablespoon ground coriander 1 tablespoon ground oregano ½ cup kosher salt 1 boneless pork shoulder (pork butt), about 8 pounds
Mix the dry ingredients together to make a spice rub. (This rub can be used to season almost anything that goes on a grill.) Generously coat the pork on all sides with the spice rub, then wrap it in plastic and refrigerate overnight. The next day, preheat the oven to 300 F. Place the meat in a covered baking dish, Dutch oven or roasting pan, leaving plenty of space around the meat. Add warm water until the pork is almost half submerged (the amount will vary according to the dish used). Bake for 5-6 hours or until fork-tender. If there is any doubt, let it cook longer. Once out of the oven, drain the liquid, reserving it for the barbecue sauce (recipe below), and let pork cool on the counter until easier to handle, about 1 hour. Using forks or tongs, shred the pork, but not too fine. Remove any large fat pieces.
A Taste of History Pulled Pork Barbecue Sauce
¼ cup olive oil 16 ounces sliced onions 2 12-ounce cans plum tomatoes 1 6-ouncecan tomato paste 1 cup brown sugar 1 teaspoon ground allspice 1 tablespoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper 1 teaspoon ground cloves ¼ cup kosher salt ½ cup apple cider vinegar 1 cup soy sauce 1 cup molasses 1 cup Worcestershire sauce ½ cup prepared mustard
While the pork is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large pot and cook the onions until tender. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour, whisking often. Add the reserved liquid from the cooked pork, first pouring off the fat from the top. While the barbecue sauce is still hot, pour it over the shredded pork and mix it in. Cover and keep warm until served.
Serve the pulled pork on your favorite burger buns, a baked potato, cornbread or by itself. Bread and butter pickles are a perfect side.
Fannie Farmer Mac and Cheese ½ pound butter 1 cup all-purpose flour 6 cups whole milk Salt and pepper to taste 1 pound elbow noodles 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt butter in large saucepan. Add flour to butter, cooking until a very light tan while stirring constantly. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently simmer for 15-20 minutes until flour taste is gone. Meanwhile, cook the noodles in salted water until tender; drain well. Combine the hot noodles, milk mixture and 2 cups of the cheese. Put into baking pan and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake until cheese is lightly browned, about 10-15 minutes, depending on desired crispness. Enjoy immediately. It will also hold nicely for an hour if kept warm.
Family Picnic, ca. 1935 THF101122 July. Mid-summer. Fresh mornings, hazy afternoons, balmy evenings. It’s a chance to get outdoors and appreciate all that summer has to offer. At a time like this, it’s easy for our thoughts to turn to picnics. In fact, July is National Picnic Month!
As you can see from the selections included here, picnics have long been packed for family reunions, for camping trips, for road trips. Despite the potential for invading ants, the need for some planning beforehand, and a bit of inconvenience at the picnic spot, the rewards are well worth the effort. Because picnics promise good company, a chance to escape from daily cares, and is it me or does food just taste better outdoors?
Trade card, ca. 1880; THF215172 This circa 1880 trade card, advertising Crown sewing machines and Florence oil stoves, suggests that a good time could be had by all if the picnic included food cooked on a Florence oil stove.
Photo, ca. 1900; THF284849 The people seated at the picnic table in this circa 1900 photograph are enjoying a clam steam, a particular favorite in New England. The meal often also included other shellfish and sweet corn.
Collapsible cup, ca. 1920; THF104640 These circa 1920 collapsible paper cups, distributed at Socony (Standard Oil Company of New York) service stations, made it easy for travelers to drink a cold beverage they might pack for their picnics.
Photo, Vagabonds, July 24, 1921; THF34544 Even the rich and famous could enjoy an outdoor picnic, especially if served at a large Lazy-Susan table under a shady canvas cover. This 1921 photograph, taken during a “Vagabonds” camping trip in Hagerstown, Maryland, includes: Henry Ford and his wife Clara, son Edsel, and Edsel’s wife Eleanor; Thomas Edison and his wife Mina; Harvey Firestone and his wife Elizabeth Parke; President Warren G. Harding; and several others.
Wash-up kit, ca. 1925; THF150975 Decades before pre-packaged moist towelettes came on the market, this circa 1925 Wash-Up Kit allowed picnickers to wash and dry their hands before eating—with a paper sheet that magically turned into soap when moistened and a set of paper towels.
Photo, ca. 1930; THF120736 The family in this circa 1930 photograph was undeterred by the lack of restaurants along the highway. Like other motorists, they stopped along the side of the road and ate a meal they had packed themselves.
Box of FMC Charcoal Briquets, 1935-7; THF6000 Ford Motor Company’s charcoal briquettes, produced in the 1930s from the wood wastes of its lumber operations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, claimed to be safe, smokeless, and convenient—ideal for picnickers wanting to grill outdoors.
Photo, 1955; THF113925 The picnickers in this 1955 publicity photograph are enjoying campstove-cooked hot dogs in the remote Colorado Rockies.
Fisher-Price Picnic Basket, 1975; THF155302 Kids could enjoy their own “Teddy Bear picnic” with this 1975 Fisher-Price playset—complete with a plastic hinged-lid picnic basket, dishes, and a tablecloth.
Herman Miller Poster, 1985; THF154517 This striking 1985 poster is one of a series of 20 that graphic designer Stephen Frykholm created for the annual company picnics of Herman Miller, Inc.—a company renowned for its “modern” furniture.
Donna R. Braden, Curator of Public Life, has fond memories of picnics growing up and continues to be a picnic aficionado.
Record Album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," 1967. THF 113167
Fifty years ago this month, the Beatles released their album "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band." Thousands of young people flocked to San Francisco to experience the "Summer of Love."
The summer of 1967 saw the flowering of a counterculture movement, a reaction against the moral complacency and social conformity of postwar America, that would create ripples of change in American society in the coming years. An alternative vision of living—vastly different from the traditional and conformist 1950s—ignited the imaginations of millions of young Americans who came of age during the 1960s. The times, they were a-changing.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band When the Beatles released their album "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" in June 1967, it inspired a generation with optimism and an alternative vision of possibility. Young people had eagerly waited for it in great anticipation—it was the first album whose release was truly an "event."
By the time the Beatles recorded "Sgt. Pepper," they were beginning to incorporate a variety of new influences in their music, including a broader range of instruments—including an Indian sitar—and innovative recording techniques. The album features elaborate musical arrangements and use of studio effects like echo and reverberation. The album cover was truly smashing. It featured a colorful collage of cardboard models of famous people—at its center appeared the Beatles themselves, dressed in day-glo satin military band-style outfits. With its mystical influences, psychedelic music, and fanciful album art, "Sgt. Pepper" encapsulated the very essence of counterculture aesthetic.
Millions around the world were galvanized by "Sgt. Pepper’s" music and message. Alienated youth, searching for a better society and a good life, were entranced by the Beatles’ vision of what could be, rather than what was. The album quickly anointed the Beatles as leaders of the 1960s counterculture movement.
The Summer of Love If "Sgt. Pepper" was the quintessential counterculture album, San Francisco’s "Summer of Love" was an iconic counterculture event.
In 1967, the "Summer of Love" turned national attention to the emerging counterculture movement. That summer, over 100,000 young people came to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, drawn by a "groovy" counterculture vision of freedom and social harmony. Teenagers and college students with rainbow-colored clothing and long hair flocked to join the cultural utopia. Thousands of aspiring, idealistic flower children—mesmerized by images of incense, flowers, psychedelia, acid rock, peace signs and cosmic harmony—gathered in Haight-Ashbury to indulge in communal living, drugs, music, and free love.
Concert Poster for Electric Flag American Music Band, Moby Grape, and Steve Miller Blues Band at The Fillmore, 1967. THF 125134
Record Album, Jefferson Airplane "Surrealistic Pillow," 1967. THF 125136
Rock concerts were an important source of community. In San Francisco during this time, local rock groups like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead—who were beginning to achieve nationwide popularity and commercial success—provided a counterculture soundtrack. These bands entertained at free concerts around the Haight and Golden Gate Park, and played paid engagements at nearby Fillmore West and Winterland.
Yet this months-long psychedelic love-in, with its counterculture ideals, could not sustain its participants. Overcrowding, homelessness, hunger and drug problems were rampant. By early fall, the crowds had melted away as students returned to school and other young people left to practice alternative living in new settings.
But these new ideas, values, behaviors and styles of fashion defined the coming-of-age of a generation. America’s youth eschewed chasing material success and social status, and championed alternative, non-conformist ways of living. They embraced things like transcendental meditation, hallucinogenic drugs, and utopian communal living. America’s youth were determined to change "the system."
Counterculture Goes Commercial Counterculture values distained capitalism. Yet, ironically, the counterculture also developed a commercial side. Retailers enthusiastically sold faded blue jeans, hippie-inspired fashions, beads, and incense. Health food stores sprouted up. Rock groups, despite protests against materialism or capitalism in their song lyrics, made millions from their concert tours and record albums.
By the mid-1970s, the counterculture movement was winding down. Many of the flower children had by then joined "the establishment," taking up professions or becoming businesspeople—living much more "traditional" lives.
Jeanine Head Miller is Curator of Domestic Life at The Henry Ford.
Over about a decade in the early part of the 20th century, a quartet including Henry Ford, inventor Thomas Edison, businessman Harvey Firestone, and naturalist John Burroughs took a series of summer camping trips, sometimes inviting others along for part or all of the journey. The group, calling themselves the Vagabonds, took trips that might not exactly qualify as “roughing it”—they travelled with a caravan of vehicles, a full contingent of service staff, and many comforts of home including furniture and china tableware. We’ve just digitized dozens of photos of the Vagabonds in action, including this photo of the group having breakfast at a large lazy susan–equipped wooden table. View more than 100 photos and artifacts related to the Vagabonds by visiting The Henry Ford’s digital collections.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
Memorial Day, June 1, school letting out. It seems there are plenty of different dates that mark the beginning of summer for some people; the summer solstice on June 21 being far too late.
For me, summer has always begun with the flash of sunshine on chrome-heavy bumpers, the throaty roar of a high-performance engine, and the smell of barbecue tinged with a bit of exhaust – for me, summer begins on June 14 this year, and every year around this time, with our Motor Muster car show in Greenfield Village.
This event is the essence of summertime fun – distilled delight for all the senses. Just as novelist Ray Bradbury in his 1957 classic, Dandelion Wine, described the nostalgic summer wine made by the main character’s grandfather, Motor Muster is “...summer on the tongue...(it’s) summer caught and stoppered.”
What began as an experimental partnership has turned into a much anticipated local tradition. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra and The Henry Ford are teaming up once again in honor of our country’s birthday with its 21st annual Salute to America celebration, July 3-6 from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. each night. The pageantry of the evening will be a sheer delight marked by rich Americana music, a spectacular display of fireworks, and the thunderous sounds of cannon fire at the conclusion.
The decision to embark on a partnership for The Henry Ford and the DSO in 1992 was greeted with great enthusiasm, and marked the first time Greenfield Village presented an event of this scale.
“For the first decade of this program, the stage was set in front of Town Hall and seating was on and around the Village Green. It was a great venue but was limited in space,” explained Jim Johnson, Senior Manager of Creative Programs at The Henry Ford.
In 2003 Greenfield Village underwent major restoration including the reconfiguration of buildings around the Village Green. The event planners realized a change in location was needed to accommodate the growing attendance and popularity of the event. In 2004 the program was moved to the Walnut Grove historic district in Greenfield Village where it continues to be hosted to this day, accommodating up to 8,500 attendees and offering ample room to spread out and hillside seating perfect for outdoor concert viewers.
“A great deal of planning goes into the execution of an event this large, but The Henry Ford and the DSO work well together,” explained Johnson. “We meet after each event, talk about any ideas for the next year’s program, then we meet again in mid-winter and begin to put together the upcoming program for July. Once set-up begins in the days before the event each team on both sides steps in and takes care of what is needed.”
The First Michigan Colonial Drum and Fife Corps will once again set the tone for the affair greeting guests with their melodic 18th century music reminiscent of early America while marching through Greenfield Village. The Corps has a long history with The Henry Ford with their debut performance at Greenfield Village in 1975. In addition, 19th and early 20th century games and activities will be offered for children of all ages through Greenfield Village’s Games on the Green program including a visit from members of Greenfield Village’s historic base ball team. Attendees are invited to pack a picnic or they may want to leave their baskets at home and indulge in a selection of the finest foods offered by The Henry Ford’s award-winning chefs, which will be available for purchase. Just before the DSO joins the stage, a prelude concert will be performed by the River Raisin Ragtime Revue.
The DSO begins its performance at 8:30 p.m. each night, and internationally renowned conductor, and DSO Music Director, Leonard Slatkin will lead the symphony this year in all four concerts. This is Slatkin’s fifth season with the DSO and the second time he has performed at Greenfield Village.
“I have conducted many patriotic programs and not only in the United States. Greenfield Village lays claim to an authentic representation of early life and these concerts reflect the heritage of our country,” Slatkin said of the event. In regard to the selection of arrangements for the full length concert, the Maestro said,” …the thrust of the music is American, and although some of the pieces are not exactly patriotic in nature they reflect the diversity of our culture.”
This year the DSO will be saluting John Williams -- one of the most recognized American composers of the modern age, best known for his film scores. “His contribution to America’s cultural life is priceless, and quite new for all of us are the extracts from his score ‘Lincoln’,” said Slatkin.
The concert will include about a dozen different selections with an intermission, and will conclude with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and a fireworks display. When asked how this overture written to commemorate Russia’s feat over Napoleon’s army became adopted as an American patriotic score, Slatkin said, “This tradition began with the Boston Pops in the 1950’s. Of course it has nothing to do with America but the cannons and fireworks made it seem celebratory. I wish someone would write, perhaps, the ‘1776’ Overture.”
Perhaps this year’s event will be an inspiration to the Maestro himself to compose such an overture.
Now that school's out and summer is here, many of us turn our thoughts to vacation and travel. Camping has long been a way for Americans to spend time relaxing with their families and friends and experiencing the beauties and wonders of nature — and sometimes just being a kid again.
Between 1915 and 1924, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, tire magnate Harvey Firestone and naturalist John Burroughs (who took part 1916-1920), calling themselves "the Four Vagabonds," embarked on a series of summer camping trips. Others joined the group at various times, among them family, business associates and politicians, including U.S. presidents. (Photo found here.)
Over the years, the group crisscrossed the mountains, valleys and scenic countryside of Upstate New York, the New England states, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia,Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
The group traveled in style and their adventures were well-documented and publicized. Equipment used by the party included a folding circular camp table with lazy Susan seating twenty (pictured above), a twenty-square-foot dining tent, sleeping tents with mosquito netting, a gasoline stove and a refrigerated Lincoln camping truck. A professional chef prepared the group's meals and film crews and numerous outside journalists followed in their wake. Ford complained of the attention and its hampering effects on their trips, but there are strong indications that he nevertheless relished the publicity. (Photos found here and here.)
Yet Henry Ford's interest in nature was not new or merely a public relations gambit. Here he is with Clara at the Grand Canyon in 1906. They were avid birders and had over 500 birdhouses installed amid the naturalistic landscaping (designed by famed landscape architect Jens Jensen) of their Fair Lane Estate. John Burroughs helped them rehabilitate the adjoining land and reintroduce wildlife to the area.
In addition to the collectionsimagesonline, we've also digitized films of the Vagabonds. Here, John Burroughs plants a tree; the group walks, dines and relaxes at the campsite; and Henry Ford climbs a tree.
Even more still images from our photographic collections featuring the Vagabonds are available on our Flickr page. Here's Henry clowning around in a cowboy getup. (Below photo found here.)
Though executed on a grander scale than most camping trips, the Vagabonds' journeys spoke to a desire, shared by millions of Americans, to get back to the beauties of nature and, as Burroughs wrote, to "be not a spectator of, but a participator in, it all!"*
*(Burroughs, John. Our Vacation Days of 1918. Privately printed by Harvey Firestone, ca. 1918-1920s.)
Rebecca Bizonet is former archivist at the Benson Ford Research Center at The Henry Ford. When she's not helping preserve and provide access to her institution's vast and rich archival holdings, she enjoys exploring Michigan's scenic highways (and finds the many opportunities for great whitefish and pasties, not to mention the scenic historic and natural wonders, more than make up for not having a personal chef in tow!).