Creating Our Campus

For his new museum in Dearborn, Ford envisioned two separate facilities linked by his theories of education. An indoor museum would tell the story of man’s technological progress through comprehensive displays while an outdoor village would show how these types of objects were made and used.

Creating Greenfield Village

Ford’s historic village was to be organized around a village green, to include a courthouse, town hall, church, general store, tavern, and school. Homes were installed along a road beyond the green. Industrial buildings, such as a carding mill, sawmill, and gristmill, were made operational. A centerpiece of the Village was the re-creation of the Menlo Park, New Jersey, laboratory complex where Thomas Edison had invented his electric lighting system.

When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived; and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition.
Henry Ford

Henry Ford engaged Ford Motor Company draftsman Edward J. Cutler to draw up plans. The first buildings began arriving in 1928. Laborers dug foundations, reconstructed buildings, cleared trees, laid out roads, and hauled supplies through muddy fields. Some buildings were designed right in the Village, at Ford’s request.

Susquehanna Plantation House at Its Original Site, Saint Marys County, Maryland, 1942

  Details

Susquehanna Plantation House at Its Original Site, Saint Marys County, Maryland, 1942

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

P.188.70080

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Related Objects

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Susquehanna Plantation House at Its Original Site, Saint Marys County, Maryland, 1942

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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  Details

Logan County Courthouse (Then a Private Residence), Original Site, Lincoln, Illinois, circa 1900

  Details

Logan County Courthouse (Then a Private Residence), Original Site, Lincoln, Illinois, circa 1900

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Summary

Between 1840 and 1847, Abraham Lincoln tried cases as a traveling lawyer in this courthouse when it was located in Postville (later Lincoln), Illinois. When the Logan County seat moved to Mt. Pulaski, this courthouse was reused as a general store, jail, post office, and private dwelling. Henry Ford purchased it in 1929 and brought it to Greenfield Village.

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

EI.1929.P.188.1150

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Related Objects

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Logan County Courthouse (Then a Private Residence), Original Site, Lincoln, Illinois, circa 1900

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

Wright Home--Reconstruction--Item4

  Details

Wright Home--Reconstruction--Item4

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Summary

Henry Ford relocated the Wright brothers' home and cycle shop from Dayton, Ohio, to Greenfield Village in 1937. While the buildings sat a few blocks apart in Dayton, Ford placed them side-by-side at his Dearborn museum complex. Orville Wright and Charlie Taylor, the mechanic who built the engine for the 1903 Wright Flyer, assisted to ensure the reconstructions' accuracy.

Object ID

P.188.20427

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Related Objects

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Wright Home--Reconstruction--Item4

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

Susquehanna Plantation

  Details
Artifact

House

Date Made

circa 1835

Summary

Henry Carroll owned this tidewater Maryland house in the decades before and after the Civil War. Its form was common in this warm, humid climate -- one room deep with porches to invite cooling breezes. In 1860, Carroll raised tobacco and wheat as cash crops on his 700-acre plantation. Sixty-five enslaved African Americans provided the skill and labor that supported the Carroll family's comfortable life.

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

42.209.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Greenfield Village
 On Exhibit

at Greenfield Village in Porches and Parlors District

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

Logan County Courthouse Re-Erected in Greenfield Village, October 23, 1929

  Details

Logan County Courthouse Re-Erected in Greenfield Village, October 23, 1929

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Object ID

EI.1929.2200

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Related Objects

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Logan County Courthouse Re-Erected in Greenfield Village, October 23, 1929

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

Building the Museum

While Cutler labored in the muddy fields of Greenfield Village, architect Robert O. Derrick was designing a large indoor museum adjacent to the historical village to house the objects Ford had collected. Derrick suggested that the façade should resemble Independence Hall and related buildings of Philadelphia, with a large “Exhibition Hall” in back.

Since Henry Ford had rejected the notion of storage rooms, nearly everything had to be exhibited out in the open. The twelve-acre museum contained a glorious assemblage of stuff. To Ford, that assemblage represented the evolution of technological progress.

For nearly a decade after the museum officially opened to the public in 1933, visitors found it a work in progress. The exhibits would not be completed until the early 1940s.

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Light’s Golden Jubilee

Henry Ford decided on October 21, 1929, as the dedication date for his new museum and village—marking the fiftieth anniversary of Thomas Edison’s first successful experiment with a suitable approach to manufacturing an incandescent lamp.

The night of the “Light’s Golden Jubilee” celebration, crowds cheered as President Hoover, Edison, and Ford ceremoniously arrived in a train pulled by an 1850s locomotive.

After an elegant dinner in the museum, the three men went out to the restored Menlo Park Laboratory in Greenfield Village. There, the 82-year-old Edison re-created the lighting of his incandescent lamp. The event was broadcast live over national radio.

Henry Ford named his new complex The Edison Institute of Technology, to honor his friend and lifelong hero Thomas Edison.

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A Working Village

Henry Ford didn’t consider Greenfield Village finished upon opening. He continued to select homes, mills, and shops that he felt best reflected the way Americans had lived and worked, or that were associated with famous people he admired. Individuals even began to offer Ford historic structures for his Village.

By the mid-1930s, several Village shops were staffed by people demonstrating traditional craft skills, including glassblowers, blacksmiths, weavers, shoemakers, and potters. Visitors to Greenfield Village not only had the pleasure of watching the craftsmen work, they could also buy samples of their hand-crafted products. Craftsmen like brick makers and sawyers supported the Village restoration efforts.

By the early 1940s, Greenfield Village had grown to over 70 buildings.

Mr. Ford dislikes mere ‘dead’ exhibitions of things; he wishes to see them in action.
Frank Campsall Secretary to Henry Ford, Reminiscences