The Collections

Before Meets After: Conserving Our Grecian Couch

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Our graceful Grecian couch is about 200 years old and is believed to have been made in the workshop of Duncan Phyfe in New York City. In its time, this couch was considered the best piece of upholstered furniture in a well-appointed parlor of a sophisticated New Yorker. Although these couches seem to be designed for reclining, they were not intended for repose. They were used by fashionable ladies and gentlemen, who sat in a rigid, upright position. Today, we would find sitting on this couch very uncomfortable.

chair

It is amazing that such a specialized piece survived intact into the early 20th century, when it was acquired by The Henry Ford. This is perhaps due to the flamboyant design of the back and foot rests, which makes it an exceptionally elegant, almost sculptural, piece of furniture. The couch was last reupholstered in 1954 by Ernest LoNano, a well-known furniture restorer of the time. Since then, the upholstery had become quite dirty and worn. Continue reading

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Ford Rouge Factory Tour Vehicles

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You might have heard that there are big changes afoot at the Ford Rouge Center: production has recently started on the all-new 2015 F-150, featuring an aluminum-alloy body and bed. As part of this change, we’ve been enhancing the Ford Rouge Factory Tour experience, and we’ve also taken advantage of the production line’s downtime to digitize the vehicles you’ll see in the Legacy Gallery.  You can now check out glamour shots of the 1929 Ford Model A Roadster, the 1932 Ford V-8 Victoria, the 1949 Ford V-8 Club Coupe, the 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible, and, last but not least, the 1956 Ford Thunderbird Convertible shown here—all part of the legacy of the Rouge.  Visit our collections website to see these vehicles, as well as much more material related to the history of the Rouge.

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

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Eagle Tavern Images

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We’re continuing with the project we started this summer, digitizing materials related to our historic buildings in Greenfield Village. This week, we’ve added images of Eagle Tavern. Today, Eagle Tavern is a great place to have a historically authentic meal or beverage (either temperance or non-temperance). However, when Henry Ford acquired it in 1927 from its original location in Clinton, Michigan, the building was in a state of deep disrepair. This sheet shows this poor condition from a couple of different angles. Visit our collections website to view nearly 100 artifacts depicting or related to Eagle Tavern.

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

Hanukkah: Festival of Lights

American society became more child-centered as the birthrate climbed after World War II. Like other aspects of American life during this “baby boom” era, Jewish ritual observances in the home became more child-focused, as reflected in this 1953 publication. (Object ID.2005.29.32) (Gift of Judith E. Endelman and William D. Epstein in memory of Miriam Ruth Epstein)

American society became more child-centered as the birthrate climbed after World War II. Like other aspects of American life during this “baby boom” era, Jewish ritual observances in the home became more child-focused, as reflected in this 1953 publication. (Object ID.2005.29.32) (Gift of Judith E. Endelman and William D. Epstein in memory of Miriam Ruth Epstein)

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the few and the weak over the mighty and the strong.  Legends and stories surround the holiday’s origins, whose name means “dedication” in Hebrew.

For centuries, Hanukkah was a modest occasion, a minor holiday. Jewish law and custom only required the lighting of candles for eight nights, with one candle to be used as the shamash (“guard” or “servant” in Hebrew) to light the others. The lighted candles were to be kept by a window where they could be seen by passers-by. In Eastern Europe, the celebration included eating latkes (potato pancakes), distributing small amounts of Hanukkah gelt (coins) to children, playing games with a dreidel (a spinning top), and playing cards. Continue reading

Soybeans: Henry Ford’s Miracle Crop

This model was used to demonstrate the soybean extraction process at several world’s fairs in the 1930s. (THF 153893)

This model was used to demonstrate the soybean extraction process at several world’s fairs in the 1930s. (THF 153893)

Soybeans: A New Hope for Farmers
In the 1920s, following his success with the Model T, Henry Ford increasingly turned his attention to transforming farming—the life he sought to escape as a boy.  He focused on finding new products and new markets for agriculture. (The charcoal briquette was an early result of this effort, made from surplus wood scrap.)

In 1928, Ford started the Chemical Lab (the building in Greenfield Village now known as the Soybean Lab), and asked Robert Boyer, a student at the Ford Trade School to run it.  Ford told Boyer to select good students from the Trade School to staff the Lab. Ford then set them to experimenting with all manner of agricultural produce, from cantaloupes to rutabagas. Continue reading

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Winter-Themed Prints

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Like it or not, winter is just around the corner, and here at The Henry Ford, we are preparing. Curator of Photographs and Prints Cynthia Miller already selected some holiday-themed Thomas Nast material for digitization last month, and now she has added a selection of winter-themed prints, including this early 19th century engraving of an 18th century snowstorm. If you’re sure you’re ready for winter, check out some of her other selections, depicting sleigh racing, moonlit ice skating, a snowed-in Boston street, and woodlands in winter, or visit our online collections to browse all of our digitized collections relating to winter. If you’re not quite ready for snow and cold weather, we suggest this photochrom of a California orange grove instead, where the only snow to be seen is on a distant mountaintop.

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

Football Season 

Dowagiac, Michigan High School football team, 1896  (THF226108)

Dowagiac, Michigan High School football team, 1896  (THF226108)

After a sultry summer, all of a sudden the air turns chilly and crisp.  The sunlight is somehow brighter and more intense.  The days get shorter.  The leaves start turning their riotous colors. When I was growing up, this was the time my brothers would stash away their baseball gloves and start tossing around the football.

Football Season had arrived.

American football got its start as a college sport.  In fact, virtually all the rules, playing strategies, player equipment, and methods of scoring that today we consider part of American football evolved during its early college years.

American football probably originated in England and it came to this country in two separate versions.  The first version, which involved more kicking, eventually became the game we know as soccer.  The second version, which involved more carrying and running with the ball, was akin to the British game of rugby.  Continue reading

Historical Graffiti

As a new member of the Historical Resources Department at The Henry Ford, my first couple of months have been a whirlwind. Not only am I responsible for learning the daily workflow routine, but I also have to begin the process of taking in the massive and amazing collection that exists here at The Henry Ford. My initial impression is that you could spend multiple lifetimes working here and still not discover all the stories the collection has to offer. Discovery is what makes my work exciting. What makes my work even more exciting is the ability to share those discoveries with other people. It is in the spirit of sharing these stories, the breadth of our collection, and in the stories themselves that make The Henry Ford a prime location for the setting of a TV show like Innovation Nation. All of these stories need to be shared in order to inspire. Continue reading

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Dr. Howard’s Office Artifacts

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We’re continuing with the project we started this summer, digitizing materials related to our historic buildings in Greenfield Village. We’ve recently added photographs for a number of these buildings, including Dr. Howard’s Office.  As Curator of Public Life Donna Braden notes in a 2013 blog post, Dr. Howard’s Office depicts a 19th century country doctor’s office, presented in large part through original artifacts from Alonson Howard’s practice in Tekonsha, Mich. This 1956 photograph shows an interior shot of the building on its original site, about five years before it was moved to Greenfield Village. Visit our collections website to view all the recently added material related to Dr. Howard’s Office.

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

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