Great Lake Trip – Day 13 – Michigan

2017-05-10 | Travel

Dearborn 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.

Featured activities at The Henry Ford

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).

Hallway in the Henry Ford Museum


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.

The Wright Brothers on their 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.

A Canadian Snowplow trainPlaque about the 1923 Canadian Pacific Snowplow


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.

Henry Ford's Kitchen Sink Engine

Plaque about Henry Ford's Kitchen Sink Engine

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.

All the parts that make up the Model T

Fords are not the only cars in the museum. There are some very rare cars here, including several of the actual Presidential limousines.

Antique cars at Henry Ford Museum

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.

Clara Ford's electric car

Plaque about Clara Ford's electric car Detroit Electric Model 47

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?

The original bud vase for cars

One of the familiar signs on the highway, as America grew more mobile.

Holiday Inn becomes a familiar roadside sign

Full Sized Generators and Pump Stations

Huge red electric generator at the Henry Ford Museum

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.

steam-powered electricity generation setup used to power the Rouge Factory

Other Innovations

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.

Buckminsterfullerene Dymaxion house

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.

1916 steam powered tractor

Plaque about 1916 steam powered tractor

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.

Partio Barbeque Cart

Plaque about Partio Barbeque Cart

When electricity was discovered, the need for safe wiring became important. These machines could automate the insulation process.

insulation braiding machine at Henry Ford Museum

Plaque about insulation braiding machine at Henry Ford Museum

From heating to listening to viewing, these innovations led the way to what we experience today.

Early technology display

An incredible visual history of the telephone.

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.

Edgar Allan Poe's portable writing desk at the Henry Ford Museum

Glass Blowing

Some of the most unique glass artwork I’ve seen.

Glass blowing display

More Glass blowing display at the Henry Ford Museum

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.

Henry Ford

This is Henry Ford’s home. Everything in the home is as authentic as Mr. Ford could make it.

Early Henry Ford home at Greenfield Village Plaque about Early Henry Ford home at Greenfield Village

The is the first Ford Motor Company at 1/4 scale.

Replica of the early Ford Motor Company at Greenfield Village

The Wright Brothers

This is the bicycle shop of the Wright Brothers. In the rear of the shop, they worked on their airplane.

Replica of the Wright Brother's Cycle shop at Greenfield Village

This is the workshop of the Wright Brothers. The tools shown here are the actual tools they used to build their first airplane.

Replica of the Wright Brother's machine shop at Greenfield Village

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.

Plaque about the 65 years between 1st flight and landing on the moon

Thomas Edison

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's lab with many specimen bottles on the walls

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.

Edison's Machine Shop

Plaque about Edison's Machine Shop

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.

Charles Steinmetz Cabin at Greenfield Village

plaque about Charles Steinmetz Cabin at Greenfield Village

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.

Charles Steinmetz desk in his Mohawk Valley cabin

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.