As I told you on 19 February in “Coming Soon,” a revisit to Dearborn, Michigan, after almost 58 years was on the horizon. In the last post on Detroit I told you I had to devote a page to The Henry Ford (formerly the Henry Ford Museum and originally the Edison Institute). Here it is, mostly images, and not even a fraction of what I saw from 9:30 AM to 5 PM at the museum.
(at the end of this post you will see the email I received on 1 July 2015 from Jeff Dunlap, Senior Director of Development, at The Henry Ford).
I was surprised upon entering the museum to see such open space. When my Dad and I were there the museum was packed with transportation artifacts.
A typical scene in 1957. My Dad in the bicycle exhibit with a “bone shaker.”
The museum was begun in 1929 with Thomas A. Edison signing his name in concrete. When last here, this was right inside the door as you entered. There is now a video showing the ceremony.
Much of what I remember is not there – but then, museums change to meet the times, and I discovered that the museum is more interpretive now, as most museums are. And that is good (but I do enjoy just seeing collections).
Henry Ford’s Highland Park Plant office had been moved into the office, and I was allowed during my previous visit to sit at his desk on his phone.
Just to the right upon entering is a collection of Presidential vehicles.
DRIVING AMERICA was my favorite part. The romance of the road, backroad traveling before the big slab roadways – “shunpiking” before there were pikes to shun. I love this history, love to attempt to re-experience it, and love to share. I captured images of much of the exhibit – for my memory mainly, but do open the slide show if you wish to read along.
Above is the “map” of this exhibit – click to open to large size.
And, here are the interpretive panels and some exhibits (remember that you can click on any image to enlarge and open a slide show – easier to read the words).
As I mentioned, when a guest of the museum in 1957 I was allowed to touch anything. Here I am at the “wheel” of Ford’s 1902 racer 999 which Barney Oldfield drove. Racing was the way then to get recognition for your autos.
Today I stayed behind the railing.
In the 1950s at our antique car meets, this famous Locomobile racer Number 16 was often there. It won the first Vanderbilt Cup Race in 1908. It was purchased in 1941 by the famous automobile artist Peter Helck.
Part of the “road experience” was the diner. When on GIANT STEP in 1957, Bert Parks asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. “Own a diner,” I replied. Well, there is still time. I remember our Friday night shopping journeys from Wilton going either south to Norwalk or north to Danbury. First was a stop at either the MARSAM Diner in Norwalk, or then Ridgefield Diner when going north. I always had a Western Omelet sandwich.
This was the greatest exhibit – an exploded Model T Ford showing all the parts. My Dad restored a 1919 Touring Car just like this. I know every piece in a Model T, and in Model As.
Here are a few views from the aviation area:
So much to show you, but here are a few final high points to hopefully entice you to make your own visit:
Here is a link to learn more about this vehicle (which on my last visit was in a glass case on the second floor of the entryway).
The actual bus the Rosa Parks was riding when she refused to move to the “rear of the bus.”
And, the view she probably had.
I have a similar Polaroid of these trains. On the left is the 1825 De Witt Clinton, actually a replica (with some original remaining parts) made to exhibit at the 1893 Chicago Columbian World’s Exposition.
My Dad always loved the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. I have a couple of his toy ones. This image is for him.
Here is General George Washington’s camp cot and equipment.
And the chair President Lincoln was sitting in at Ford’s Theater when he was shot:
When I visited in 1957, the chair was in the Courthouse in the adjoining Greenfield Village in this glass case. I was not allowed to sit in it!!! How did the chair get here you ask? I did, so googled. The government took the chair from the theater following the assassination. The family that bought the chair for the theater petitioned to get it back and it was finally returned in the 1920s. They sent it to auction, and in 1929 Henry Ford bought it for $2400.
After 8 1/2 hours at the museum, we had to leave. It was closing. I know I could have spent more time really delving into history. We next stopped to see the DEARBORN INN were I was a guest in 1957. I had to replicate another image.
And, around the corner is Henry Ford’s home FAIR LANE, now owned by the University of Michigan, and being restored.
Click to read the history plaque.
Lots here, and I hope you got this far.
And, refound in my archives 4 hours after posting this page, and now added for your (really my) enjoyment, are these real tintypes taken in the Photo Studio in Greenfield Village in April of 1957. Tintype images come out in reverse, so the background (lettering) had to be done in reverse. As I recall the home is Henry Ford’s birthplace.
On July 1, 2015, I received an email from Jeff Dunlap, the Senior Director of Development at The Henry Ford, complimenting me on this post. So, of course I had to share it, and the recommendations he provided. Remember to visit The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.
Warm greetings from Dearborn. Wondering if you are the same Ray who produced these terrific blog posts?
I enjoyed your comparisons of the Museum in 1957 vs. today. Terrific story and I’m delighted you could return in February. Among our goals is to elevate The Henry Ford’s national reputation – encouraging visitors from all parts of the country. Thank you for helping spread the word!
As you may be aware, we have a new TV show that airs across the country on CBS every Saturday morning. It’s called “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation” and is hosted by Mo Rocca. Details here; hope you’ll check it out:
Perhaps you are already in touch with my colleagues at The Henry Ford? Hope you’ll send word the next time you’re headed over this way!
Warm regards, Jeff
Gain Perspective. Get Inspired. Make History.
Senior Director of Development
Give Today! www.thehenryford.org/support
The Henry Ford
20900 Oakwood Boulevard
Dearborn, MI 48124
Tweet us @thehenryford
Like us on Facebook