The Collections

I Would Drive 500 Miles: Scottish Drivers at the Indy 500

Jim Clark and his Racing Team with Lotus Racer, Indianapolis 500 Race, 1965 (THF 110496)

Jim Clark and his Racing Team with Lotus Racer, Indianapolis 500 Race, 1965 (THF 110496)

This year marks the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, more commonly known as the Indy 500. Since the race’s inception in 1911, men and women from around the world have participated, but only 5 drivers have come from Scotland. With 2015 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first Scottish win at Indy, here is a look at the five Scots who brought their talent from Dunfermline, Glasgow, Bathgate, Milton, and Kilmany to the Brickyard.

Jim Clark (1936-1968) became the first Scottish driver to compete at the Indy 500 in 1963, going on to start the race in five consecutive years (1963-1967). In his Indy rookie year, Clark took second place, 34.04 seconds behind Parnelli Jones.  After dropping out of the 1964 race with suspension problems, Clark rebounded the next year by crossing the finish line in his Lotus-Ford 38/1 almost two full minutes ahead of Jones. The year 1966 witnessed another second place finish, this time to Graham Hill, and 1967 saw an early exit after 35 laps due to piston problems. Unfortunately, Clark would not have the opportunity to compete the next year, as he was killed during a Formula Two race in Hockenheim, Germany on April 7, 1968. Continue reading

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Blacksmith Shop Photos

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Does the building shown in this photograph look familiar to you? It might not ring a bell as the “Blacksmith Shop,” but that was its original purpose when it was built in Greenfield Village in 1929—which explains the horse being shod in this photo from the same year. Henry Ford intended the structure to be typical of 19th-century American blacksmith workshops, and had it furnished with equipment from a shop in Lapeer, Mich. Over the years, the building’s function has changed several times: it has been known as the Tinsmith Shop and the Activities Building, and currently it serves as the entrance to the Donald F. Kosch Village Playground. Visit our digital collections to see over 50 more newly-digitized photos of this building at various times in its history, and perhaps next time you visit our playground, you’ll take a second look at its historic entrance.

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

The 1965 Lotus-Ford: Resources at The Henry Ford

The 1965 Lotus-Ford Type 38 established Formula One-style design at the Indianapolis 500.

The 1965 Lotus-Ford Type 38 established Formula One-style design at the Indianapolis 500.

Jim Clark changed the face of the Indianapolis 500 in 1965 when he won with a rear-engine car adapted from Formula One design. His lightweight Lotus-Ford race car broke dramatically from the heavy front-engine roadsters that dominated the race after World War II. Clark’s victory capped a three-year effort by some of the biggest names in racing. Driver Dan Gurney realized the potential of F1 technology at Indy and set the project in motion. Designer Colin Chapman put his expertise and reputation behind the chassis. Ford Motor Company provided resources, support, and a superb racing engine. And Jimmy Clark endured two years of disappointment – losing through no fault of his own – before taking the checkered flag in 1965. So complete was their triumph that no front-engine car has won the Indianapolis 500 since.

The Henry Ford’s Archive of American Innovation is proud to preserve significant artifacts, images, texts and interviews related to Clark’s groundbreaking win. Below are links to key pieces in this collection. Continue reading

1965 Lotus-Ford Race Car

The 1965 Lotus-Ford brought rear-engine Formula One design to the Indianapolis 500—a race where front-engine cars had dominated from the beginning. THF74940

The 1965 Lotus-Ford brought rear-engine Formula One design to the Indianapolis 500—a race where front-engine cars had dominated from the beginning. THF74940

From its first running in 1911, the Indianapolis 500 has been the most prestigious automobile race in the United States. But in the early 1960s, it was falling behind the technological times. Lithe, rear-engine cars lit up Formula One circuits everywhere, while Indy remained tied to heavy front-engine roadsters not fundamentally changed in a decade. It would take an English designer and a Scottish driver, with some help from an all-American racer and a Big Three automaker, to break the mold 50 years ago this month. Continue reading

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Dexter Press Photographs

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John Margolies is both a photographer and a collector of items related to American travel and its unique sights.  In preparation for our upcoming exhibit about Margolies and the American roadside, we’ve digitized a number of selections from this collection, including 35mm slides taken by John Margolies himself, and pennants and hotel/motel do-not-disturb signs he collected. This week, we add another grouping to that list: Dexter Press photographs dating between 1935 and 1950, designed to be used as postcards. The images, collected by Margolies, capture the same types of establishments he would photograph decades later: gas stations, diners, salons, and stores, such as the Dixie Liquor Store in St. Louis, MO, shown here. Browse more than 30 Dexter Press photos and postcards by visiting our collections website, and be sure to mark your calendar to come see many of our Margolies items in person in the exhibit “Roadside America: Through the Lens of John Margolies” between June 20, 2015 and January 24, 2016.

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

#NationalSpaceDay Seen Through Our Collections

It’s usually a safe bet that when someone asks us, “Do you have FILL IN THE BLANK in the collections at The Henry Ford?” odds are pretty good that we do. Today is #NationalSpaceDay and, as you guessed it, we’ve got space-related artifacts in our collections to share. Digital Access & Preservation Archivist Brian Wilson took a look in our archives and found these designs from Sundber-Ferar. Take a look. – Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

Object: 95.1.1788.10, Image: THF228604

Object: 95.1.1788.10, Image: THF228604

In the early 1980s, Detroit-area industrial design firm Sundberg-Ferar, Inc. worked with the Lockheed Corporation and NASA to develop concepts for a manned space station.

Through a series of drawings, including those shown here, Sundberg-Ferar illustrated what life in space could be like for astronauts aboard the station.

Object: 95.1.1788.4, Image: THF228598

Object: 95.1.1788.4, Image: THF228598

Object: 95.1.1788.15, Image: THF228619

Object: 95.1.1788.15, Image: THF228619

The designers considered how the astronauts would perform normal earthbound tasks in the tight quarters of the space station, including the need to exercise, bathe and sleep, and how a near-zero gravity environment would affect those tasks. For example, the shower design features a retractable toe restraint in the floor, while the treadmill uses a waist belt to keep the user in place.

In addition to the space station renderings, our collection of Sundberg-Ferar material includes their work on designs for a variety of other transportation and travel vehicles dating from the 1960s-1980s, including supersonic transport and large passenger jet planes, commuter trains, and rapid transit rail cars used in San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Atlanta.

Brian Wilson is Digital Access & Preservation Archivist at The Henry Ford.

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Glass Plate Negatives

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It frequently happens that we find mysteries in our collections, just waiting to be unlocked.  This is the case for a series of about 200 glass plate negatives, which were found in a Highland Park, Michigan, house and eventually donated to The Henry Ford in 2012. The negatives mostly depict scenes from the Ford Motor Company Highland Park and Rouge plants, and seem to fill a gap in our collection of material created by the Ford Motor Company Photographic Department. However, there are some outliers in the group that could certainly use context, such as the barefoot girl posing for a portrait, or the children sitting in a mule-drawn carriage. If these images or the snowy scene depicted here pique your interest as a history detective, check out all the digitized negatives on our collections website, and let us know what you recognize.

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

“New Coke”: Success or Failure?

Can of New Coke, THF 304647

Can of New Coke, THF 304647

Remember “New Coke”?  April 23, 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of its celebrated—and controversial—introduction. This soft drink lasted less than three months but its legacy lives on as a cautionary tale of marketing and branding. Was this attempted innovation a great marketing blunder or did it turn out to be a great marketing success? It depends on how you look at it.

On April 23, 1985, The Coca-Cola Company introduced “New Coke” as a replacement to the old Coke that had been around for almost 100 years. The sweeter, more syrupy taste of New Coke—based on the company’s Diet Coke formula but without the artificial sweeteners—was intended to compete successfully with Pepsi. Over the years, more and more people—especially young people—had come to prefer the taste of Pepsi over Coke. Now, in numerous blind taste tests among consumers, New Coke successfully beat out Pepsi time after time. Coca-Cola spent over four million dollars developing, testing, and marketing New Coke. The company was sure they had a winner on their hands. Continue reading

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Kahlo Collection Photos

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As part of our collaboration with the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and other Detroit-area community organizations to provide additional context for the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit exhibit at the DIA through July 12, 2015, The Henry Ford has been digitizing parts of our collection that relate to Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and their relationship with the Ford family and Ford Motor Company. We ran across a couple dozen 1932 photographs, including this one, of the Ford Motor Company Mexico City plant, all marked “Kahlo Foto,” and wondered whether these might be the work of Frida Kahlo’s father Guillermo Kahlo. An essay in the exhibit catalog by Diego Rivera’s grandson Juan Rafael Coronel Rivera notes “Don Guillermo was considered the finest architecture photographer in Mexico, a master in the field…. Diego respected Don Guillermo … for his studies of industrial machinery: Don Guillermo recorded the day-to-day modern development of the country; every factory and every major engine installation became the subject matter of his photographs, which were published in the Mexican press as an indisputable symbol of the nation’s advancing progress.” We haven’t yet found any further information about the genesis of these images, but it seems likely, given the labels on the images, Guillermo Kahlo’s architectural photography background, and the year the images were taken (the same year Rivera started work on the Detroit Industry murals at the DIA), that these images have a tie to Frida and Diego’s time in Detroit and relationship with the Fords. Visit our collections website to see all of these images, as well as the other related material we’ve digitized.

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

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