The Henry Ford
Archive of American Innovation

With the advent of the digital revolution, The Henry Ford is finding new ways to achieve its mission. The stories and artifacts of The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation™ can still be shared with onsite visitors—but now, through the internet, can also be shared around the globe.

Innovation Focus

Our collecting continues to focus on resourcefulness, innovation, and ingenuity—and both new and old artifacts, along with their stories, are featured in new ways. In particular, as digital technologies became ubiquitous, The Henry Ford began developing new strategies to accomplish its mission to share, teach, and inspire, particularly focused on the “innovation” portion of the mission statement.

The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation™ represents the core assets of The Henry Ford that illustrate the process and context of innovation. It refers to artifacts and documents in the collection that provide an unprecedented window into America’s traditions of resourcefulness, innovation, and ingenuity. It is the key to understanding how our entire modern world was created.

Related stories of artifacts and innovation are featured on The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, a weekly educational TV program produced by Litton Entertainment and hosted by Mo Rocca, which has aired since Fall 2014. Innovation is also brought in through events such as Maker Faire Detroit, hosted annually at The Henry Ford since 2010.

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The Apple 1 was not only innovative, but it is a key artifact in the foundation of the digital revolution.
Patricia Mooradian President, The Henry Ford

A Key Innovation Artifact

One of the most significant artifacts collected during this period was the Apple 1, added to the collection in October 2014. Less than 70 Apple 1’s are known to exist, and only 15, including The Henry Ford’s, are operational. Curator of Information Technology and Communication Kristen Gallerneaux noted that this artifact is “a powerful and humanized example of information technology that is absolutely bursting with stories of innovation, ingenuity, and resourcefulness”—a perfect addition to the Archive of American Innovation.

"Partio" Cart Used by Dwight Eisenhower, circa 1960

  Details

"Partio" Cart Used by Dwight Eisenhower, circa 1960

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Barbecue grill

Date Made

circa 1960

Summary

The upscale Partio -- an all-in-one electric range, charcoal barbeque, and rotisserie -- evokes America's sense of optimism during the Eisenhower era. This particular example was owned by Dwight D. Eisenhower and used by the former President at his Palm Springs, California home. Vivid postwar styling aside, the Partio points forward to the present day interest in well-appointed outdoor living, as served up in lifestyle magazines and lavish catalogues.

Place of Creation

United States 

Object ID

2012.24.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Purchased with funds from the Carleton & Hazel Brown Collection Fund.

Location

Not on exhibit to the public.

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

"Partio" Cart Used by Dwight Eisenhower, circa 1960

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

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Kiosk From IBM Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair

  Details

Kiosk From IBM Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair

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Artifact

Kiosk

Date Made

1963-1964

Summary

The kiosk, designed by the office of Charles and Ray Eames, is the sole survivor of several similar small structures installed within the vast IBM Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Its light-hearted appearance -- suggesting carousel, fairground, and bandstand architecture -- was a counterbalance to the highly advanced computing technologies IBM was showcasing in the pavilion.

Object ID

2013.78.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Henry Ford Museum
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in New Acquisition Gallery

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Kiosk From IBM Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

La-Z-Boy Chair Company Sales Model "Reclina Rocker" Chair, 1961

  Details

La-Z-Boy Chair Company Sales Model "Reclina Rocker" Chair, 1961

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Reclining chair

Date Made

1961

Summary

The first to combine a built in ottoman with a rocking feature, this model dramatically increased La-Z-Boy's sales in the early 1960s. Middle class Americans eagerly adopted the chair for use in dens, family and living rooms. This chair served as William M. Clary's La-Z-Boy salesman sample, traveling the country from dealer to dealer.

Place of Creation

United States 

Object ID

2015.78.2

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of La-Z-Boy, Incorporated.

Fully Furnished
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in Fully Furnished

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

La-Z-Boy Chair Company Sales Model "Reclina Rocker" Chair, 1961

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Blouse Designed by Amelia Earhart, 1934

  Details

Blouse Designed by Amelia Earhart, 1934

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Artifact

Blouse (Main garment)

Date Made

1934

Summary

Amelia Earhart--the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic--launched a fashion line in 1934. The garments--with simple lines and mid-range prices--were inspired by Earhart's interest in functional clothing for active living. The brand's label featured Earhart's signature, along with a soaring red plane. Despite publicity garnered by Earhart's foray into clothing design, the line didn't catch on with the public.

Object ID

2014.21.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

Not on exhibit to the public.

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Blouse Designed by Amelia Earhart, 1934

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Driver Seated in Dragster at Langhorne Speedway Drag Races, 1960

  Details

Driver Seated in Dragster at Langhorne Speedway Drag Races, 1960

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Artifact

Negative (Photograph)

Creators

Masser, Ray 

Object ID

2011.149.6

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Driver Seated in Dragster at Langhorne Speedway Drag Races, 1960

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Kleen Kars Sign, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1981

  Details

Kleen Kars Sign, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1981

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Slide (Photograph)

Summary

In the mid-1970s, John Margolies began to assemble a visual record of America's built roadside landscape. Over the following 3 decades he traveled thousands of miles to photograph the overlooked and often quickly vanishing structures that had grown out of American automobile culture and main street commerce. His photographs of hotels, motels, diners, service stations, drive-ins and attractions celebrate and capture a unique chapter of American history.

Object ID

2013.150.1497

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Kleen Kars Sign, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1981

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Apple 1 Computer, 1976

  Details
Artifact

Microcomputer

Date Made

1976

Summary

This is one of the first 50 Apple 1 computers. Apple 1s were the first pre-assembled personal computers; Steve Wozniak assembled this one in Steve Jobs's family garage. Before the release of the Apple 1, owning a personal computer meant building it yourself. Wozniak's refined engineering skills, coupled with Jobs's bold marketing abilities, led to a revolutionary and affordable product--as well as a successful company.

Object ID

2014.113.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

Not on exhibit to the public.

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Korn "Indianapolis 29" Gas-Powered Racing Tether Car, 1948

  Details

Korn "Indianapolis 29" Gas-Powered Racing Tether Car, 1948

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Model car

Date Made

1948

Summary

Tether cars, gas-powered model race cars, were popular in the 1930s and 1940s. They were raced individually while tethered to a central pivot, or against each other on a scaled-down board track. This model of an Indianapolis-style racer was built by B.B. (Barney) Korn. While Korn's models weren't particularly fast, they were exceptional in their fine detail and craftsmanship.

Object ID

2013.47.83

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Eric Zausner and the E-Z Spindizzy Foundation.

Location

Not on exhibit to the public.

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Korn "Indianapolis 29" Gas-Powered Racing Tether Car, 1948

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Unimate in Use in Factory, 1961-1975

  Details

Unimate in Use in Factory, 1961-1975

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Summary

George Devol revolutionized manufacturing with his invention of the Unimate -- the world's first industrial robot. These rugged programmable units were designed to perform repetitive, arduous and hazardous tasks. The first Unimate was installed in a General Motors plant in 1961. This photograph, part of a larger archival collection documenting Devol's work, illustrates the functions and uses of his innovative idea.

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

2012.64.344

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Donated by the Family of George C. Devol.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Unimate in Use in Factory, 1961-1975

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Video Game, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," Recovered from Landfill, Alamogordo, New Mexico, April 26, 2014, Site of the Atari Video Game Burial of 1983

  Details

Video Game, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," Recovered from Landfill, Alamogordo, New Mexico, April 26, 2014, Site of the Atari Video Game Burial of 1983

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Video game

Date Made

1982

Summary

In 1983, rumors circulated: Atari was bankrupt, and was dumping truckloads of games into a New Mexico landfill. Victim to the "Video Game Crash," the company buried 700,000 cartridges in the desert. The story became an obscure pop culture legend -- until "The Atari Tomb" was unearthed in 2014. This recovered cartridge is evidence of the world's first video game excavation.

Object ID

2015.13.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of the City of Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Your Place In Time
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in Your Place in Time

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Video Game, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," Recovered from Landfill, Alamogordo, New Mexico, April 26, 2014, Site of the Atari Video Game Burial of 1983

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Active Collecting

Though the world has become increasingly digital, The Henry Ford continues to collect hundreds or even thousands of physical artifacts each year. In the second decade of the 21st century, this has included material related to significant artifacts we already hold (John F. Kennedy material, to add additional context to the Kennedy Limousine; and the George Devol collection, which relates to the world’s first industrial robot), design (an Eames-designed, IBM-used kiosk and hundreds of examples of 20th century soap packaging), and auto racing (photographic collections from John Clark and Ray Masser and dozens of tether cars or “spindizzies”).

Major recent acquisitions include the John Margolies Roadside America collection, the Bachmann studio collection of American glass, the Roddis clothing collection, and Mathematica, a circa 1960 exhibit designed by Charles and Ray Eames.

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The Collections Go Digital

The Henry Ford began scaling up its collections digitization effort in 2010, hiring new staff with new skills to advance this technology-intensive effort that involves conservation, cataloging, photography, and scanning. Images of tens of thousands of artifacts are now freely available online, from our Digital Collections, and provide the basis for additional layers of supporting content, helping the public to understand artifacts in the context of their original time and place as well as the context of today.

Digitization efforts include artifacts on display within the Museum or Village, new acquisitions, and “hidden” items currently in storage. In 2013–15, for example, more than 1200 communications-related artifacts in storage, including many significant rediscovered treasures, were digitized through a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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From Digital Artifacts to Digital Stories

While more than 20,000 artifacts are on public exhibit in Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, the Benson Ford Research Center, and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, The Henry Ford’s collection holds many more—about 250,000 objects and millions more photographs and documents within our archives. Institutional commitment to the digitization of The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation™ is making these collections, and the ideas behind them, more accessible to more people in more ways than ever.

Within Henry Ford Museum and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, digital collections and their stories can be accessed on touch-screen kiosks; within The Henry Ford’s website, anyone with internet access can browse videos highlighting surprising connections between artifacts when visiting our Connect3 series. You can also listen to clips from interviews with famous innovators from our oral history project, Collecting Innovation Today, and artifact-based stories imagining “What If?”