The Collections

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Lillian Boyer Photographs


Lillian Boyer (1901–89) was a young waitress in 1921 when two customers took her for a ride in their airplane.  The same week, she took another ride and climbed out of the cockpit onto the wing, thus beginning a career as an aerial exhibitionist.  In her eight-year career, she was featured in 352 shows throughout the United States and Canada, performing stunts including wing walking, parachuting, and transferring herself from moving automobiles to flying planes.  We’ve just added a selection of photos of Boyer to our collections website, including this one-handed hang from around 1922.  View more death-defying photos of Lillian Boyer by visiting our collections website.

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

Ask The Henry Ford Curators

askacurator We’re excited to participate in another #AskACurator Day September 17! Joining the growing list of hundreds of museums across the globe, we’ll be fielding questions all day with the #AskACurator hashtag. We’ll be offering Twitter chats all day long as well with our own curators. Here’s what you can expect.

Ask a Curator Day 2014
Join The Henry Ford for the annual #AskACurator Day on Twitter Wednesday, Sept. 17. While we’ll be happy to answer questions throughout the day, a team of our own curators will be taking over our Twitter feed at assigned times to talk about some of their current work and favorite projects.

10-11 am: Ellice Engdahl, Digital Collections & Content Manager
How do objects like quilts and locomotives end up on our online collections website? Ellice will talk about how we digitize artifacts at The Henry Ford.

11 am – 12 pm: Charles Sable, Curator of Decorative Arts
Charles will showcase some of The Henry Ford’s collections of political lanterns, mourning jewelry, furniture, silver and pewter.

1-2 pm: Cynthia R. Miller, Curator of Photographs and Prints
Cynthia will share some of our most recently digitized photos from Jenny Chandler and The Henry Ford’s role in broadcast television over the years. She’ll also share some of favorite posters depicting women as part of the World War I and II work efforts.

2-3 pm: Kristen Gallerneaux, Curator of Communication & Information Technology
Kristen will be sharing news about artifacts recently digitized as part of our IMLS Communications Grant. She’ll also talk about Charles Francis Jenkins as well as our 1963 Moog.

3-4 pm: Jeanine Head Miller, Curator of Domestic Life
Jeanie will share information about the work The Henry Ford has been doing to learn more about the buildings found in Greenfield Village.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Daggett Farmhouse Photos


Though Molly Malcolm’s summer internship with the Historical Resources department at The Henry Ford has sadly ended, we are continuing with the project she initiated and digitizing materials related to some of our historic buildings.  This week, we’ve digitized over 80 photographs of Daggett Farmhouse on its earlier sites.  Daggett wasn’t moved to Greenfield Village until 1977—so this photo depicts a television and mid-century furnishings from the house’s stay in Union, Connecticut, from 1951 through 1977.  Visit our collections website to view all the recently added material related to Daggett Farmhouse, and keep an eye out for additional photos to be added soon.

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

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Spindizzies


Back in June, we announced the digitization of selections from our collection of slot cars, model race cars most popular in the 1960s and 1970s.  Recently, we’ve been digitizing a collection acquired last year of spindizzies, an earlier type of model race car.  Spindizzies were popular in the 1930s and 1940s, incorporating model airplane engines powered by gasoline, and were either raced together on grooved tracks or tethered to a pole and run singly on circular tracks.  Our new collection, donated by Eric Zausner and the E-Z Spindizzy Foundation, includes cars, tools, and accessories.  You can now view a number of these, including this 1939 “Silver Streak” model, on our collections website.  Check out all the cars and accessories we’ve digitized from this collection so far, and keep watching as we add more over coming months.

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

Clara Ford’s Roadside Market: A Small Building with Big Aspirations

Clara Ford took her model of a roadside market to major garden and flower events across the country. Here she poses with it at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City (THF117982).

Clara Ford took her model of a roadside market to major garden and flower events across the country. Here she poses with it at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City (THF117982).

Buying fresh produce direct from local farmers is a key to our efforts today to “eat local.” Nearly 90 years ago, Clara Ford was advocating the same thing, to improve on diets that were undermined by too much processed food and–more importantly to her–to improve the situations of rural farm women. Continue reading

A Gothic Novelty

Steam engine with Gothic ornamentation by Novelty Works of New York, New York manufactured about 1855.  (Object ID: 30.489.1).

Steam engine with Gothic ornamentation by Novelty Works of New York, New York manufactured about 1855. (Object ID: 30.489.1).

The great Novelty Works steam engine in the Henry Ford Museum is arguably the finest surviving example of mid-19th century ornamented American machinery. Built in about 1855, the 30 foot tall, 50 ton gothic-style engine is a true visual emblem of the collision between traditional society and the modern industrial world taking place in this country just prior to the Civil War. Victorian engineers oftentimes covered their creations with ornament in a vain effort to harmonize these alien objects with the world about them. In the process, they unconsciously left a record of their own inner struggle to adapt to a new and alien world. Continue reading

The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation: Thomas Edison and Menlo Laboratory

Later this month the first episode of our new television series, The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, will debut on CBS as part of the Saturday morning Dream Team programming block. Members and visitors to The Henry Ford will recognize a familiar building in the first episode: Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory.

We’ve collected a handful of our digital resources for you to immerse yourself in. Make sure to check the blog every week this fall for more episode resource posts.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford. Continue reading

Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory


Menlo Park Laboratory (Object ID: 29.3048.1).

Menlo Park Laboratory (Object ID: 29.3048.1).

As curators, we devote much of our time and energy to studying objects—who made them and why, when and where they were made, and how they represent certain ideas, events, and people. When we decided to choose and write about 12 iconic objects from our collection for this year’s Pic of the Month feature, we had to consider what makes an object truly iconic. In the end, we came up with three criteria that we felt needed to be present in every one of our choices: national significanceuniqueness to our institution, and resonance to museum visitors.

Using these three criteria, we explore what is iconic about Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory. Continue reading

1859 Corliss Steam Engine


Corliss engines were renowned for their superior economy but it was their smooth running speed and swift response to changes in load that ensured their great success. These engines were particularly attractive to the textile industry. The energy needed to drive the vast numbers of machines used in textile mills was considerable but the delicacy of the threads and fabrics produced by textile machinery demanded that the power source be very responsive. The patented Corliss valve gear allowed the engine to maintain the precise speed needed to avoid thread breakage while simultaneously responding to varying loads as different machines were brought in or out of operation. Continue reading

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: John Burroughs


John Burroughs (1837–1921) was an American naturalist who wrote frequently and with a literary sensibility on nature and the environment.  He joined the Vagabonds, and as a result took a number of camping trips with Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone.  Henry Ford also provided his friend Burroughs with multiple Ford vehicles, including a Model T touring car, to assist him in his nature studies.  We’re currently digitizing selections from our collections related to Burroughs, such as this photograph of a sculpture of Burroughs created by C.S. Pietro.  You can see Pietro working on what appears to be the same sculpture in another photograph.  Thus far, we’ve digitized over 250 photographs, letters, writings, and postcards documenting Burroughs’ life, including his travels, famous friends, and retreats—browse them all on our collections website.


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

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