An Ideal Place of Joy and Comfort: The Life of Lucy Griffin

The Noah Webster Home in Greenfield Village. THF 1882

The Noah Webster Home in Greenfield Village. THF 1882

Many of the homes of Greenfield Village are often admired for their architectural design and the historic furnishings displayed within them, but the really true connections are made when all of this can be combined with the stories of the people who actually lived there. The Noah Webster House, originally from New Haven, Connecticut, is no exception.

Portrait of Noah Webster, painted by Samuel Morse in 1823, and Rebecca Greenleaf Webster, painted by Jared Bradley Flagg, c. 1835.

Portrait of Noah Webster, painted by Samuel Morse in 1823, and Rebecca Greenleaf Webster, painted by Jared Bradley Flagg, c. 1835.

This was home to Noah Webster’s family, and their descendants for nearly 100 years. It was purchased by Henry Ford in 1936, dismantled and shipped to Dearborn to become part of his collection of historic buildings. Greenfield Village combines the homes and workplaces of both notable Americans and those that lead everyday lives. Most show life as it was before fame. In the case of the Webster House, the opposite is true.

By the time Noah had the house built in 1822, the American Revolution was nearly 50 years past and he was among the last of the old patriots. He was viewed as one of the great American scholars and intellectuals, and a true celebrity. The Websters’ New Haven home, through the 1820s and well into the 1830s, was essentially an American salon, welcoming notables in the worlds of politics, art, education, and literature. According to recent biographer Harlow Giles Unger, during the early 1830s “the Webster home was a center of social activity-for the Yale faculty, for visiting clergymen, the old Federalists, and for noted figures.” In a letter written by Rebecca Webster to her daughter she states, “I have had a large party with as many of the faculty as we could cram in. The party went off well, for all seemed happy.” In addition to notable guests, a growing brood of Webster grandchildren (20 by 1836) came for frequent and extended visits. When the oldest grandsons attended Yale starting in the early 1830s, Rebecca entertained them and their friends with musical parties, “old-time frolics”, and at least one costume ball. Continue reading

Not Your Usual Valentines

 

A Swell Head,” ca. 1855 THF 126861

A Swell Head,” ca. 1855 THF 126861

There is no other day like Valentine’s Day. It is a day in which we are strongly encouraged—by tradition, by our peers, by merchandisers and greeting card manufacturers—to express our positive feelings for another person. Generally, these feelings relate to love, affection, friendship.  Valentine’s Day cards are an easy way to communicate one’s feelings, preventing the sender from having to say these things in person. Often we find—in the plethora of cards available today ranging from humorous to “hot”—that the sentiment written in the card expresses exactly what we want to say better than if we’d said it in person.

Valentine’s Day cards have long served this purpose. During the late 1800s, most of these cards were frilly, draped with images of cherubs, birds, and flower garlands, and dripping with sweet sentimental verses. Intended to be sent to family members or sweethearts, these fit the moral tone and maudlin sentimentality of the era. Continue reading

A Building with Many Histories

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Many of the buildings that Henry Ford collected to create Greenfield Village are presented to match their original function—the Wright Home, for example, is set up as it might have been when the Wrights lived there. One building that has had multiple functions within the Village, though, is a machine shop built in Lapeer, Michigan, in 1888. Henry Ford met William and John McDonald, the two brothers who ran the shop their father started, and collected their building for the Village, where it now sits near the Glass Shop in Liberty Craftworks. For much of its history in the Village it has been a functional or maintenance space, but there are plans in the works to give it a bold new presence. We’ve just digitized several dozen photos that show the machine shop on its original site, including this exterior shot—visit our digital collections to see all of these images, and watch for news about this building’s future.


Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Behind the Scenes: Furniture Conservation

 

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Chest of drawers after conservation.

This beautifully embellished chest of drawers was made between 1800 and 1810 in New England, probably New Hampshire. The decorative quarter fan motif, the nicely figured mahogany and birdseye maple veneer make this an elegant example of the Federal style.

On August 11, 2014, six-plus inches of rain fell in Dearborn over several hours, causing a backup of the drainage pumps on Henry Ford Museum’s rooftop.  Water infiltrated the museum’s furniture storage area damaging many artifacts. With generous financial assistance from the Americana Foundation we have been able to direct resources to the conservation of this and other treasures that were damaged during the flood. Continue reading

The Henry Ford Launches on Google Cultural Institute

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Part of the virtual visit you can now make to the Ford Rouge Factory Tour within Google Cultural Institute.

We’re very pleased to announce that we are launching a new partnership between The Henry Ford and the Google Cultural Institute, available to anyone with Internet access here. The Google Cultural Institute platform features over 1,000 cultural heritage institutions worldwide, and more than 6 million total artifacts, “putting the world’s cultural treasures at the fingertips of Internet users and … building tools that allow the cultural sector to share more of its diverse heritage online” (in Google’s own words). Continue reading

Engines Exposed: 2002 Toyota Prius

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When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

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Engines Exposed: 2002 Toyota Prius
Gasoline Engine: Inline 4-cylinder engine, double overhead cam, 91 cubic inches displacement, 76 horsepower
Electric Motor: AC, permanent magnet, 33 kilowatt, 44 horsepower

Hybrid cars are an old idea, but their moment arrived with the Toyota Prius. The car’s gas and electric power plants sit side-by-side. The electrical inverter, on top of the electric motor, converts DC current from the batteries into AC used by the motor. That motor becomes a generator during braking, turning kinetic energy from the car’s momentum into electricity fed back to the batteries.

A Different Kind of Valentine

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It’s February, and with Valentine’s Day around the corner, many people’s thoughts turn to expressions of undying love and devotion delivered via beautiful and touching cards.  However, from the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries, some cards took a different slant.  Known commonly as “vinegar valentines,” these satirical cards delivered insults ranging from the mild to the extremely offensive.  We’ve just digitized about 10 examples of vinegar valentines from our collection, including this highly unflattering rejection note.  Watch for an upcoming post on our blog from curator Donna Braden for more information about this phenomenon, or peruse the digitized vinegar valentines now by visiting our digital collections.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Engines Exposed: 1985 Mazda Wankel Rotary Engine

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Engines Exposed: 1985 Mazda Wankel Rotary Engine
Two rotors, turbocharged, fuel-injected, 80 cubic inches displacement, 182 horsepower

This cutaway brings new meaning to “Engines Exposed!” Felix Wankel’s motor eliminated up-and-down pistons, developing its power directly in rotating motion. Fewer parts, less weight and a smaller package were advantages of the design. Imperfect seals, poor fuel economy and dirty emissions were drawbacks. Mazda put rotaries in several production models in the 1960s and 1970s, but the fuel-hungry Wankels are now largely relegated to performance vehicles.

Comfort on Display

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If you’ve visited the Fully Furnished exhibit in Henry Ford Museum in the last month or two, you might have noticed a new and perhaps surprisingly humble addition to the rest of the furniture.  The distinctive burnt-orange-and-plaid 1961 chair (shown here) represents the first La-Z-Boy product to feature both a built-in ottoman and rocking functionality.  The chair was just one of a number of chairs, other artifacts, and corporate archives donated to The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation™ by La-Z-Boy in 2015, which in their totality tell compelling stories about the iterative development of comfortable seating, as well as product sales and marketing.  Visit our online collections to peruse a number of these just-digitized materials, including (in addition to the chair on display) a telephone stand designed in 1928, a 1929 recliner, and “Jake,” a life-size mannequin used in testing ergonomics in the early 1980s.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Engines Exposed: 1963 Chrysler Turbine

turbine-engine

When we look at an automobile, we are moved by what we see on the outside – its styling. But what moves the car is on the inside – its engine. Please join us for a rare look under the hoods of some of the finest automobiles at Henry Ford Museum. More than 40 cars have their engines exposed for you.

Here, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites.

turbine-car

Engines Exposed: 1963 Chrysler Turbine
Regenerative gas turbine engine, 130 horsepower

Chrysler’s experimental turbine engine had 80 percent fewer moving parts than a piston engine, producing a very smooth ride. Regenerative turbines used gasses twice – once to drive the car and again to heat new air drawn into the system. Fuel flexibility was terrific (it ran on anything from gasoline to peanut oil) but fuel mileage (around 11.5 m.p.g.) wasn’t so hot.

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