The Collections

Firestone Barn, a Pennsylvania Bank Barn

Barn at Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village, September 8, 1991.

Barn at Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village, September 8, 1991.


Barns are one of the best ways to tell where you are when you are traveling—especially if you happened to be traveling through the United States 150 years ago.

Barns are generally the largest man-made feature of the rural landscape. They can tell you a lot about the type of farming that is going on, as well as the cultural background of the family that built them. Unlike houses or commercial buildings, barns generally lack stylistic adornment. Since building a barn was often a community undertaking, the general form and the details of barn construction often changed slowly—barn-builders were limited to construction techniques that everyone in the community knew how to do. As a result, until the late 1800s, barns tended to differ more from place-to-place, than they did over time.

The barn at the Firestone Farm tells us that the Firestone family was of German ancestry, that people from the Germanic sections of Pennsylvania settled the community where the family lived in Ohio, and that their farm was the typical mix of livestock and grain crops found in the northeast and upper Midwestern United States.

What physical clues tell us this?

This photograph (left) of the Firestone Barn on its original site in Columbiana County , Ohio , shows the earthen bank built up as a ramp to the upper level. On the right, the projecting forebay is visible in this photograph of the Firestone Barn taken in 1898. (Photos courtesy of the Firestone Archives)

This photograph (left) of the Firestone Barn on its original site in Columbiana County , Ohio , shows the earthen bank built up as a ramp to the upper level. On the right, the projecting forebay is visible in this photograph of the Firestone Barn taken in 1898. (Photos courtesy of the Firestone Archives)

The Firestone barn is of a type known as a Pennsylvania-German bank barn, or “Sweitzer” barn, one of the primary barn types found in the United States before 1880. Bank barns are large, multi-purpose structures that combined several farm functions under a single roof. Two-story and rectangular in form, they have a gable roof with a ridgeline running the length of the building. They are called bank barns because one side of the barn is built into the bank of a hill, allowing wagons to be driven into the upper floor of the barn. The opposite side of the barn has an overhang, known as a projecting forebay. Livestock were kept in the lower story of the barn. Continue reading

Collections Intersection

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Ford Workers Getting Wages from Payroll Truck, 1932-1933.

As Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford, one thing that I find particularly fascinating is how our collections intersect with those of other cultural institutions.  Sometimes these connections pop up unexpectedly.

Recently, I was searching in our collections database for items related to Mexican artist Diego Rivera.  This 1930s image of Ford Motor Company employees collecting their wages from a payroll truck, pictured above, was one of the items I got back in my search. Continue reading

Monterey Car Week 2014

Monterey Car Week. Where  else can you see supercars at the supermarket? (In this case, it's a Hennessey Venom GT parked nonchalantly in downtown Carmel.)

Monterey Car Week. Where else can you see supercars at the supermarket? (In this case, it’s a Hennessey Venom GT parked nonchalantly in downtown Carmel.)

We’re back from another great Car Week on California’s Monterey Peninsula. For those who don’t know, Monterey Car Week is arguably the world’s premier event for historic automobiles. Car owners and enthusiasts come in from around the globe for six days of driving tours, auto art shows, car auctions and races, all culminating with the incomparable Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on the shore of Carmel Bay. This year being the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, The Henry Ford’s one-of-a-kind 1962 Mustang I concept car was invited to participate in three of Monterey Car Week’s signature events. Continue reading

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Jenny Young Chandler Images

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Jenny Young Chandler (1865–1922) was a 25-year-old widow in 1890, when she began to support herself and her infant son by working as a photojournalist for the New York Herald. Her images were captured on glass plate negatives via a heavy camera, and intimately depict everyday life on the streets of Brooklyn, New York. We’ve just digitized over 200 images from the collection, including this one of marionette-makers at work. Other noteworthy subjects for Chandler include children at play and work, ethnic minorities (such as gypsies), and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (which still exists today, though undoubtedly in much different form). See all the Chandler images digitized thus far on our collections website, and check back in as we add more over upcoming months.

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

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Farris Windmill Photos

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We are continuing on our summer project with intern Molly Malcolm to digitize photographs and other materials related to the structures in Greenfield Village.  Over the last few weeks, it’s been the turn of Farris Windmill, originally constructed in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the mid-seventeenth century.  This photograph, which appears to capture a newspaper clipping, shows that not every community wanted Henry Ford to purchase and relocate their architectural treasures to Dearborn.  On a cheerier note, you can also review close to 100 images showing crowds of Ford dealers at the dedication of the windmill in the Village, and some surprisingly atmospheric shots of the windmill in its earlier locations.  Visit our collections website to see all items in our digital collections related to Farris Windmill.

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

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: H.J. Heinz Company Artifacts

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As we mentioned last week, we have been digitizing selections from our collections that relate to topics that will be featured on our brand-new TV show, The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation.  We’ve just digitized dozens of artifacts related to the H.J. Heinz Company, including this image of a turn-of-the-century exhibition booth.  Follow up a visit to the Heinz House in Greenfield Village by perusing elaborate store displays of Heinz products, streetcar advertising posters, and images of food production.  Browse all of our digital Heinz collections on our collections website, and learn more about Heinz on Innovation Nation in the fall!

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

What the Dickens? Discovering Sir John Bennett’s Famous Customer

 Portrait of Charles Dickens, 1867 (Object ID: 00.3.3723).

Portrait of Charles Dickens, 1867 (Object ID: 00.3.3723).

Sir John Bennett Jewelry Store in Greenfield Village. The building was reconfigured from five-stories to two, to better scale the building with others in Greenfield Village (Object ID: 31.61.1).

Sir John Bennett Jewelry Store in Greenfield Village. The building was reconfigured from five-stories to two, to better scale the building with others in Greenfield Village (Object ID: 31.61.1).

Many people are familiar with the numerous literary connections at Greenfield Village: poet Robert Frost, lexicographer Noah Webster, and textbook author William Holmes McGuffey. But a little known literary relationship is that between Sir John Bennett, a clock and watchmaker and jeweler–whose storefront was moved from London, England to Greenfield Village in 1931–and one of his most prestigious customers, author Charles Dickens. Continue reading

Report from the 2014 Concours d’Elegance of America

The Henry Ford's 1929 Packard 626 Speedster at the Concours d'Elegance of America.

The Henry Ford’s 1929 Packard 626 Speedster at the Concours d’Elegance of America.

The Henry Ford is privileged to participate in a number of concours auto shows each year, but I have a particular soft spot for our “hometown” event: the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s, held each July in Plymouth, Michigan. This past Sunday marked the show’s 36th year. With more than 250 cars in attendance, it’s clearly as strong as ever.

Among the featured automobiles this year was a class entitled, “The Evolution of the Sports Car, 1900-1975.” Our 1929 Packard 626 Speedster, a trim eight-cylinder roadster capable of 100 miles per hour, fit quite nicely alongside racy models from Alpha Romeo, Ferrari, Jaguar and Porsche, together with less exotic – but no less exciting – cars from Chevrolet, Ford, Nash and Studebaker. Continue reading

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Rosa Parks Bus Restoration

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You might have heard that we are partnering with Litton Entertainment to create a brand-new TV show, The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, premiering on CBS later this year. As we worked with Litton to develop story ideas that might be featured on the show, we also wanted to make sure we digitized a variety of artifacts from our collections related to those stories.  To that end, we’ve just digitized a couple dozen photos of the Rosa Parks Bus before and during its 2002 restoration. As former curator Bill Pretzer relates online, the bus had been left in a field and used as a storehouse for decades, leading to the significant condition issues that you can see in this photo of the driver’s seat. See more newly digitized photos of the restoration process by visiting our collections website, and learn more on Innovation Nation this fall!

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

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