Great Lake Trip – Day 13 – Michigan
The Henry Ford Museum
The Henry Ford Museum is in Dearborn, Michigan. The Henry Ford opened in 1929. It is a collection of people and things that Henry Ford considered the real history of the United States. It is the most incredible museum I have ever been to. Many of the venues and artefacts are the original items and buildings.
The Henry Ford consists of indoor and outdoor areas. Be prepared to walk a lot. The interior museum building alone covers 12 acres (~527,000 square feet).
There are many full-sized airplanes in the museum, including the Ford Tri-Motor, and a re-creation of the Wright Brothers taken from the priceless photo of the first flight.
This incredibly large snowplow was pushed by one or two locomotives. It was used from 1923 to 1990 to clear snow from the tracks in rural New England and Canada. In addition to this train, there are many others.
Henry Ford and his wife Clara were true innovators. This is the model of the first engine he created, clamped to his kitchen sink. If the experiment had gone “south” the history of the motor car would be much different. As it went, the crude model worked and led to the eventual Model T.
This is an enlightening blow-up of the Model T. Henry Ford is credited with creating the first assembly line. The work was hard and repetitive, yet workers were well paid and were able to have a better lifestyle. Iron ore and other materials were shipped to the Rouge factory, where every part of the Model T was manufactured. Rouge was the largest integrated factory in the world at that time. The Model T changed America. It was produced until 1927 when the last of 15 million cars rolled off the assembly line. In 1925 the car was sold for a mere $300. Forty percent of the cars in America were Model T’s.
Fords are not the only cars in the museum. There are some very rare cars here, including several of the actual Presidential limousines.
Who knew that there were electric cars as early as 1900. Surprisingly, Ford’s wife Clara did not drive a Model T. Instead she drove a 1914 Detroit Electric Model 47. The electric cars did not have to cranked, and there were no fumes. She drove this car until 1930.
You may think the modern Volkwagen Beetle invented the dashboard flower vase. Nay, nay. The bud vase displayed below is from a 1922 Detroit Electric car. Another revelation was the existence of an electric hybrid car as early as 1913, the Rambler. Why did it take 100 years to come back to the idea of electric cars?
One of the familiar signs on the highway, as America grew more mobile.
Full Sized Generators and Pump Stations
Below is the massive steam-powered electricity generation setup used to power the Rouge Factory starting in 1920. The power generator was so large that it was put in place, then the museum was built around it. Learn more about the Rouge Factory here. Tours of the present-day factory are part of the All-Access Experience and the Main Attractions Experience packages sold at The Henry Ford.
One of my early heroes was Buckminster Fuller, creator of the well-known Geodesic Dome. He had an incredible mind, constantly thinking up new inventions and concepts. He created a 3-wheel car called the Dymaxion Car. The car was exceptional, but a tragic accident in the car doomed it forever. Below is the only Dymaxion House in existence. The Dymaxion House was Bucky’s attempt to make a mass-produced home. If you research this home you’ll discover the many innovations he introduced.
The agricultural exhibit displays many of the early attempts at making a practical tractor. I’m shown standing by an enormous steam-powered tractor. I don’t think Goodyear was too happy with these designs.
As early as the 1950’s, Americans started to enjoy outdoor cooking. This Partio Barbeque Cart was owned by Dwight D. Eisenhower. The portable grill gave the grill-master the option of electric or charcoal grilling.
When electricity was discovered, the need for safe wiring became important. These machines could automate the insulation process.
From heating to listening to viewing, these innovations led the way to what we experience today.
An incredible visual history of the telephone.
Among the many pieces of furniture in this museum was the very desk that Edgar Allan Poe used to write his many stories. Because he tended to move around a great deal, he needed a desk that was very portable.
Some of the most unique glass artwork I’ve seen.
What I’ve shown you in this museum is just a small fraction of the exhibits. It would take a full day to really look at the entire museum, and we still have to visit the Greenfield Village.
The Greenfield Village
The Greenfield Village, the outdoor portion of The Henry Ford, is home to over 100 buildings that were moved here from various parts of the country. These attractions are spread over a 90-acre area.
This is Henry Ford’s home. Everything in the home is as authentic as Mr. Ford could make it.
The is the first Ford Motor Company at 1/4 scale.
The Wright Brothers
This is the bicycle shop of the Wright Brothers. In the rear of the shop, they worked on their airplane.
This is the workshop of the Wright Brothers. The tools shown here are the actual tools they used to build their first airplane.
Technology and innovations continue to grow in an exponential fashion. If we went from 1st flight to rocket ships in 65 years, what will the next 65 years hold for us? Mostly things we cannot even imagine yet.
This is Thomas Edison’s lab. He collected specimens of everything he could think of. Spices, minerals, chemicals, species of wood, metals, and much more were kept in the thousands of bottles lining the walls of the lab. Edison employed over 60 people that worked on collecting these materials, innovating, and operating equipment.
Edison, a man with virtually no formal education, held 1,093 patents. I would credit him with the entrepreneurial adage, “To succeed you must fail often”. For instance, after 9000 attempts, he came up with a practical light bulb. His personal goal was to come up with one minor invention every 10 days and a major invention every six months. He was a meticulous record keeper, leaving behind 3500 notebooks about his findings.
As I mentioned, the village is very large, and we didn’t have enough time to see everything. I think two days would make the exploration of The Henry Ford somewhat feasible.
One of the exhibits that my brother asked me to visit and photograph was the Charles Steinmetz Cabin. Steinmetz taught at Union College, from which my brother graduated, from 1902 to 1923. He was instrumental in explaining the complex theories of Edison to the public. Known as the “Wizard of Schenectady”, he regularly consorted with the likes of Edison, Tesla, and Einstein.
He was a mathematical and electric genius, responsible, in part, for our alternating current that we use daily. He did much of his thinking in this little shack along the Viele Creek. He also started a little known electric car company called the Steinmetz Electric Car Company in 1917. He worked with General Electric from 1892 till his death in 1923.
That’s all we had time for, unfortunately. There were many more exhibits to see. We did go to a movie in their Imax theater. We watched a film about Robotics. It was okay but didn’t reveal anything we didn’t already know, since we stay pretty up-to-date with technology.
We’ll spend one more day in Ann Arbor exploring the town. Then we’ll head for home. See you on Day 14.