Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Winter Sports and Activities

January 30, 2021 Archive Insight

Winter weather means winter sports and activities: skiing, ice racing, ice boating, sledding, ice hockey, and even snowball fights. Throughout the archival collections in The Henry Ford’s Benson Ford Research Center, images, brochures, pamphlets, and books shed light on the various activities people participate in during the cold months of the year. Below are some of the highlights from January’s virtual History Outside the Box, which was featured on The Henry Ford’s Instagram and Facebook Stories.

Street scene looking down sidewalk lined with a row of delicate snow-covered trees on either side; houses in a row down one side
Winter morning at the corner of Canfield Avenue and Second Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, circa 1905 / THF110432

Grayling, Michigan, became a winter sports destination in the 1920s and 1930s, with toboggan runs, a hockey rink, and a ski jump dotting the landscape. A yearly carnival was held, with the crowning of a winter Sports Queen. This image shows the 1939 Winter Sports Queen, holding snowshoes, standing next to a Mercury V-8.

Woman, holding two snowshoes, stands next to a car with a snowy hill (perhaps a ski slope) in the background and a long low wooden building to one side
Grayling Winter Sports Queen with Mercury V-8, January 1939 / THF271673

Skiing, and ski jumping, have been popular in Iron Mountain, Michigan, for over 100 years.

People on steep, snow-covered ski slope, with crowds on either side and more crowds and a car in the foreground
8th Annual Kiwanis Ski Club Tournament, Iron Mountain, Michigan, February 1941 / THF272300

Ice skating has been a popular wintertime activity for over 150 years. And yes, even Henry Ford would get in on the fun.

Man in cardigan with collar turned up, hat, knickers, and ice skates, on ice with trees and buildings in background
Henry Ford ice skating, 1918 / THF97906

Henry Ford ice skating, 1918 / THF YouTube

Winter can also bring out your need for speed. Henry Ford and Bobby Unser both participated in ice racing over the years, with Henry setting a speed record in 1904 by going 91.37 mph on frozen Lake St. Clair.

Car with two people in it on road or path on left side; on right side a conveyance with a sail and another car, each with people in them, sit in snow
Henry Ford and Spider Huff driving Arrow racer on Lake St. Clair, 1904 / THF128138

Red and white race car on a snowy road with snowbanks on either side, with people, other cars, and trees in background
Bobby Unser ice racing in Canada, 1994 / THF224570

Man kneels next to a car pointing to a studded tire he is holding, while another man kneels nearby
Bobby Unser displaying his tires for ice racing, 1994 / THF224568

Ice boating, or ice yachting, is another popular wintertime activity.

Conveyances with sails on ice with people standing around them
Ice yachting on Lake St. Clair, Michigan, circa 1900 / THF112620

Woman sits in a long, low conveyance with sail and “Minx III” printed on side, on a bed of ice and snow, while two more women adjust the sail and a car is parked nearby
Women with ice boat and a Ford Super Deluxe Fordor, February 1941 / THF272214

Amelia Earhart had some wintertime fun in this experimental ice glider.

Woman sits on a thin conveyance on snow with wings extending on either side above her; typewritten text underneath photo
Amelia Earhart in an experimental ice-glider at Wildwood Farm in Lake Orion, Michigan, March 1929 /  THF255940

If ice hockey is your winter sport of choice, we have a collection of images of the Holzbaugh Ford hockey team in the collection, as well as images of some former NHLers who worked at Ford Motor Company in the 1940s.

Group of men, most in hockey uniforms, some with hockey sticks, pose on ice in what appears to be an indoor ice rink
1939–1940 Ford hockey team, sponsored by Germer-Kerrison, April 24, 1940 / THF271582

Portrait of man in suit
Bill Jennings played for Detroit and Boston in the NHL from 1940–1945. Seen here while working for Ford Motor Company in August 1944. / THF272268

Portrait of man in suit
Syd Howe spent 17 seasons in the NHL, playing for Ottawa, Philadelphia, Toronto, St. Louis, and Detroit. Seen here while working for Ford Motor Company in August 1944. / THF272270

Portrait of man in jacket and tie
Hector Kilrea played for Ottawa, Detroit, and Toronto during his 15-year NHL career. Seen here while working for Ford Motor Company in October 1946. / THF272284

Sledding is one of the most popular winter activities, and it’s even better to do with your friends.

Car with two people in it, driving down snowy street with four children on sleds tied to bumper behind; trees and houses in background
Edsel Ford at the wheel of a Ford Model N with boys on sleds in tow, 1906. Definitely do not try this at home. / THF110977

Four women in a sled on a bed of snow
Women sledding on “The Road of Tomorrow,” part of the Ford exposition at the New York World’s Fair, 1940 / THF217153

Another great neighborhood activity in the winter is a snowball fight.

Group of children in a snowy field with trees throwing snowballs at each other
Greenfield Village snowball fight, December 1935 / THF136143

Clara Ford throws a snowball, 1918 / THF YouTube

And when you’re done experiencing the great outdoors, there’s only one thing left to do—enjoy a nice cup of hot cocoa!

Sheet with text and drawings
Advertisement for Swiss Miss instant cocoa mix, 1963 / THF131087

Archival materials showcased in History Outside the Box are available in the Benson Ford Research Center, with many also available in The Henry Ford’s Digital Collections. While the Reading Room is currently closed, requests for information can be submitted to

Janice Unger, Processing Archivist at The Henry Ford, presented January’s History Outside the Box via Instagram and Facebook Stories.

Michigan, History Outside the Box, photographs, archives, sports, winter, by Janice Unger

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