Evolution of
Our Collection

Building on the one-of-a-kind collection that Henry Ford created, Museum staff members have continued to collect many of the same kinds of things he would have collected. They also broadened the scope of his original definition of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and innovation to include social transformation and design.

Adding to the Collections

Henry Ford had collected a slice of the American past unmatched in size and scope. After Ford’s passing in 1947, Museum staff both honored and expanded upon his collecting legacy. Many items continued to focus on technological progress and everyday life.

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Museum staff placed new emphasis on items long thought by experts to be intrinsically beautiful and worth collecting, especially fine furniture and folk art. During this time, the museum also acquired the enormous Allegheny locomotive, important collections of American political history, the Douglas DC-3 airplane, the automobile in which President Kennedy had been assassinated, and the rare and stylish Bugatti Royale.

Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson Campaign Torch, 1864

  Details

Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson Campaign Torch, 1864

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Artifact

Torch (Lighting device)

Date Made

1864

Summary

Late-nineteenth-century political parties rallied their supporters by holding torchlight parades. In the evening, marchers lit up the street carrying torches, lamps and lanterns. Many of these political lanterns glowed with slogans and patriotic symbols. Supporters of President Lincoln and the Union would have carried this torch during the 1864 campaign.

Creators

Unknown 

Place of Creation

United States 

Object ID

69.145.7

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

Not on exhibit to the public.

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson Campaign Torch, 1864

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

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Side Chair, Used at Drayton Hall, 1750-1770

  Details

Side Chair, Used at Drayton Hall, 1750-1770

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Side Chair

Date Made

1750-1770

Summary

Drayton Hall, located just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the major early plantation houses in America, completed between 1737 and 1742. John Drayton, who likely designed the house from English pattern books, was a wealthy rice planter. The interior was furnished in fashionable English decorative arts, including this ornate side chair, one of four from the house that have survived.

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

71.85.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Fully Furnished
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in Fully Furnished

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Side Chair, Used at Drayton Hall, 1750-1770

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

1961 Lincoln Continental Presidential Limousine Used by John F. Kennedy

  Details

1961 Lincoln Continental Presidential Limousine Used by John F. Kennedy

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Automobile

Date Made

1961

Summary

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in this car on November 22, 1963. The midnight blue, un-armored convertible was rebuilt with a permanent roof, titanium armor plating, and more somber black paint. The limousine returned to the White House and remained in service until 1977. The modified car shows the fundamental ways in which presidential security changed after Kennedy's death.

Object ID

78.4.1

Credit

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

Presidential Vehicles
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in Presidential Vehicles

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

1961 Lincoln Continental Presidential Limousine Used by John F. Kennedy

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

"Allegheny" Locomotive Arrives at Henry Ford Museum, 1956

  Details

"Allegheny" Locomotive Arrives at Henry Ford Museum, 1956

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Artifact

Photographic print

Summary

The former Chesapeake & Ohio Railway 2-6-6-6 Allegheny locomotive is one of the most popular objects in Henry Ford Museum. It was also one of the most difficult to install. The door had to be enlarged and parts had to be removed from the locomotive before it could be squeezed into the museum.

Object ID

EI.1929.P.B.13540

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

"Allegheny" Locomotive Arrives at Henry Ford Museum, 1956

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

Fan Variation Quilt by Susan McCord, circa 1900

  Details

Fan Variation Quilt by Susan McCord, circa 1900

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Crazy quilt

Date Made

circa 1900

Summary

This quilt is a variation of a "crazy" quilt design called fans. Most quilters placed a fan in just one corner of a block. Susan McCord sewed fans of varying sizes in each corner. Then she joined the blocks together to form "wheels" that dazzle with a sense of motion and energy -- a stunning example of this Indiana farmwife's extraordinary design sense.

Object ID

73.120.7

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

Not on exhibit to the public.

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Fan Variation Quilt by Susan McCord, 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.

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  Details

Oil Painting, "Sarah ... at the Age of Four," 1830-1840

  Details

Oil Painting, "Sarah ... at the Age of Four," 1830-1840

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Artifact

Painting (Visual work)

Date Made

1830-1840

Creators

Unknown 

Place of Creation

United States 

Object ID

61.127.5

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

Not on exhibit to the public.

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Oil Painting, "Sarah ... at the Age of Four," 1830-1840

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

German American Wardrobe, 1790-1800

  Details

German American Wardrobe, 1790-1800

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Wardrobe (Case furniture)

Date Made

1790-1800

Summary

In the German immigrant areas of Pennsylvania, painted wardrobes with floral scenes were commissioned by prosperous farmers and merchants to show off their wealth and sophistication. This wardrobe is larger and more elaborately decorated than most, retaining much original paint, including extensive faux finishes on the drawer fronts.

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

59.80.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Fully Furnished
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in Fully Furnished

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

German American Wardrobe, 1790-1800

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

Gragg "Elastic" Side Chair, circa 1808

  Details

Gragg "Elastic" Side Chair, circa 1808

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Side Chair

Date Made

circa 1808

Object ID

73.66.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Fully Furnished
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in Fully Furnished

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Gragg "Elastic" Side Chair, circa 1808

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

1931 Bugatti Type 41 Royale Convertible

  Details

1931 Bugatti Type 41 Royale Convertible

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Automobile

Date Made

1931

Summary

Longer than a Duesenberg. Twice the horsepower of a Rolls-Royce. More costly than both put together. The Bugatti Royale was the ultimate automobile, making its owners feel like kings. Not only did it do everything on a grander scale than the world's other great luxury cars, it was also rare. Bugatti built only six Royales, whereas there were 481 Model J Duesenbergs and 1767 Phantom II Rolls-Royces.

Object ID

58.86.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Charles and Esther Chayne.

Driving America
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in Driving America

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

1931 Bugatti Type 41 Royale Convertible

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

Game Table, Possibly Made by Charles Honore Lannuier, 1810-1830

  Details

Game Table, Possibly Made by Charles Honore Lannuier, 1810-1830

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Card table

Date Made

1810-1830

Summary

Flip-top game tables were highly desirable objects in early 19th century America. This one is as fancy as they got, complete with carved, winged griffins, and hairy paw legs.

Object ID

64.26.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Fully Furnished
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in Fully Furnished

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Game Table, Possibly Made by Charles Honore Lannuier, 1810-1830

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

Focusing the Collections

By the 1980s, many people recognized that the museum’s collections were unique and “unparalleled.” But they were also unwieldy, unfocused, and largely inaccessible to both museum staff and the public. Aligning with national museum standards, this era was marked by a flurry of activity to focus and get a handle on the collections—including a formal Collections Policy, curator-led collecting plans and initiatives, and, in 1987, the museum’s first computerized collections management system. New collecting—from transportation vehicles to agricultural equipment, from roadside artifacts to household objects—honed to a new museum mission statement in 1980s that focused on America’s change through time from a rural, agricultural society to an urban, industrial nation.

This is the best historical collection anywhere in the world, period.
Museum President Harold K. Skramstad Jr. Detroit News, July 26, 1987
evolutionofourcampus_inlinearticle_THF77241
Lamy’s Diner, a Massachusetts diner that opened for business in 1946, was acquired for the museum’s “Automobile in American Life” exhibit.

Broadening the Scope

By the early 1990s, museum staff decided that its mission statement about America’s change through time was both too oriented toward the past and too inwardly focused on the museum’s own work.

In 1992, staff settled upon a new mission statement with three key words—innovation, resourcefulness, and ingenuity—that both aligned with Henry Ford’s original vision and provided better opportunities to impact and inspire current and future audiences. These three words shaped and energized collecting—to encompass such topics as social transformation, modern design, and the stories and objects connected with innovators and visionaries.

Nelson "Coconut" Chair, 1955

  Details

Nelson "Coconut" Chair, 1955

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Lounge chair

Date Made

1955

Object ID

89.177.76

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Herman Miller, Inc.

Fully Furnished
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in Fully Furnished

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Nelson "Coconut" Chair, 1955

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

1906 Locomobile "Old 16" Race Car

  Details

1906 Locomobile "Old 16" Race Car

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Racing car

Date Made

1906

Summary

In 1908 George Robertson drove this car to victory in the Vanderbilt Cup, America's first great automobile race. It marked the first time an American car had won a major international road race in the United States. Built at a cost of $20,000 (at a time when a decent house could be had for $1,500), the Locomobile set the fastest lap in the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup, but repeated tire failures resulted in a tenth place finish. There was no race in 1907, but in 1908, shod with improved tires and wearing race number 16, the thundering Locomobile swept to victory. It has been known forever after as "Old 16". The car is typical of pre-World War I race cars: a huge engine (990 cu. in.); mechanical brakes on the rear wheels and the transmission only; and minimal bodywork. A riding mechanic kept fuel and lubricating oil flowing and helped the driver change tires. Engine: Locomobile inline 4-cylinder, overhead intake valves, side exhaust valves, 990 cu. in., 120 hp

Object ID

97.9.1.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Driving America
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in Driving America

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

1906 Locomobile "Old 16" Race Car

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

Autographed Baseball from Rosa Parks to Curt Flood, December 18, 1994

  Details

Autographed Baseball from Rosa Parks to Curt Flood, December 18, 1994

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Baseball (Ball)

Date Made

1994

Summary

Simple, courageous actions that change society will inspire others. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white man. Her action helped transform race relations in America. Fourteen years later, Curt Flood challenged Major League Baseball's "reserve clause," and transformed owner-player relations in team sports. In 1994, Rosa Parks signed this baseball for Flood.

Place of Creation

Haiti 

Object ID

2009.190.2

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

Not on exhibit to the public.

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Autographed Baseball from Rosa Parks to Curt Flood, December 18, 1994

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

Dymaxion House

  Details
Artifact

House

Date Made

1946

Summary

Buckminster Fuller was a multi-disciplinary designer. This house, his re-thinking of human shelter, was rooted in Fuller's understanding of industrial production -- particularly methods developed in the automobile industry and especially those advocated by Henry Ford for whom Fuller had immense admiration. More an engineering solution than a home, the structure was prototyped but never produced.

Object ID

91.401.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of the William L. & Marjorie M. Graham Family, Wichita, Kansas

Dymaxion House
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in Dymaxion House

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.

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  Details

Marshmallow Love Seat, 1956-1965

  Details

Marshmallow Love Seat, 1956-1965

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Artifact

Love seat

Date Made

1956-1965

Object ID

89.177.59

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Herman Miller, Inc.

Location

Not on exhibit to the public.

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Marshmallow Love Seat, 1956-1965

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

Button, "I Won't Live with Jim Crow: Civil Rights Congress," circa 1948

  Details

Button, "I Won't Live with Jim Crow: Civil Rights Congress," circa 1948

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Button (Information artifact)

Date Made

circa 1948

Summary

The term "Jim Crow" implied the systematic practice of discriminating against and segregating African Americans, especially in the American South, from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries. The Civil Rights Congress (1946-1956) became a brief force in civil rights battles. However, with its ties to the American Communist Party, it became victim to Cold War anticommunism and government repression.

Object ID

2003.73.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

With Liberty & Justice For All
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in With Liberty & Justice for All

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Button, "I Won't Live with Jim Crow: Civil Rights Congress," circa 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.

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  Details

Button, "ERA: Yes," circa 1972

  Details

Button, "ERA: Yes," circa 1972

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Button (Information artifact)

Date Made

circa 1972

Summary

In the 1970s, women's rights activists rallied in support of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would guarantee women equal rights with men as part of the United States Constitution. The ERA, first put forward in 1923, finally passed both houses of Congress in 1972 -- but it was not ratified in enough state legislatures for approval.

Creators

Unknown 

Place of Creation

United States 

Object ID

2002.68.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Kathy J. Duquette.

With Liberty & Justice For All
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in With Liberty & Justice for All

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Button, "ERA: Yes," circa 1972

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

Pennant, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

  Details

Pennant, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Pennant

Date Made

1963

Summary

More than 250,000 civil rights advocates showed up at this peaceful march to support unity, jobs, and a new Civil Rights bill being proposed by President Kennedy. Television viewers nationwide watched African Americans and whites march together, united behind a common cause. Songs and speeches at this march included Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Creators

Unknown 

Place of Creation

United States 

Object ID

2000.32.4

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

With Liberty & Justice For All
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in With Liberty & Justice for All

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Pennant, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

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

Molded Plywood Lounge Chair, 1946-1949

  Details

Molded Plywood Lounge Chair, 1946-1949

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Lounge Chair

Date Made

1946-1949

Object ID

89.177.22

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Herman Miller, Inc.

Location

Not on exhibit to the public.

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Molded Plywood Lounge Chair, 1946-1949

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