jump to navigation

The Henry Ford August 6, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in Arts, History, Science.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

I recently visited The Henry Ford in Dearborn. This “cultural destination” consists of four venues that present a slice of Americana.

Here are fifteen nuggets that I gleaned from my time at these venues.

1. Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac may have been inspired by the color of the sediment in the Rouge River when he christened it. In 1915, Henry Ford built his Rouge Plant on wood pilings in its watershed. The Rouge Plant was the site of the watershed Battle of the Overpass in 1937. Today, the Rouge Plant has been ISO 14001 certified and has a “living roof” that consists of sedum.

2. The engine of the Model A had twice the capacity of that of the Model T. The Model A was the first car to be completely assembled at the Ford Rouge Plant and debuted in 1927. In contrast, the Great Depression impacted the design of the engine of the V-8; in particular, each V-8 engine was made from a single block of metal – reducing its weight and cost. Noted criminals John Dillinger and Clyde Barrow both wrote letters to Ford, praising the V-8 as a getaway car.

3. Ford’s observations of workers at meatpacking and textile plants spurred him to develop the concept of the assembly line. Initially, Ford’s employees labored for about twelve hours to produce a single Model T; the introduction of the assembly line reduced that time to roughly ninety minutes. Currently, about 1200-1300 F-150 trucks are manufactured on a daily basis at the Ford Rouge Plant.

4. Several innovators in Massachusetts contributed to the Industrial Revolution, including:

5. While the first colonists brought ladderback chairs to Colonial America, the Windsor chair only appeared in colonial homes starting in the mid-1700s; George Washington actually ordered a set of Windsor chairs for his estate at Mount Vernon. Innovations in chair design did not cease at that point, though. For example, the 19th-century inventor Lambert Hitchcock based his eponymous chair on the design of clocks in Connecticut. Also, the 20th-century designers Charles and Ray Eames were inspired by their work for the U.S. Navy during World War II when crafting their unique line of chairs; they used plywood and fiberglass to that end.

6. The farming industry has seen its share of successful – and failed – innovations, including:

  • the Fordson tractor that was designed by Ford in 1918; his intention was that it would serve as the “Model T” of tractors
  • the mechanical reaper that was patented by Obed Hussey; his fifteen minutes of fame were ended by the marketing campaign of Cyrus McCormick
  • the mechanical cotton picker with an innovative spindle that was designed by Daniel Rust
  • the grain drill, which allows planting before corn is ready to be harvested
  • the no-till harvester, which was developed in 1978.

7. In 1983, Atari buried about 750000 video game cartridges in the desert outside Alamogordo. Some of the buried cartridges were unsold copies of E.T. which was designed by Howard Warshaw in five weeks. E.T. is considered to be among the worst video games ever produced. Although Atari denied any knowledge of buried cartridges outside Alamogordo, they were eventually unearthed in 2014.

8. George Corliss invented his eponymous steam engine and fought a legal battle with Noble Tuckerman Greene over patents for a valve mechanism for speed control. William Seward served as Corliss’ counsel. When Corliss emerged victorious, Greene was obliged to wait until 1870 to market his steam engines, as Corliss’ patents expired that year.

9. Raymond Orteig offered a prize to the first person to complete a trans-Atlantic flight. Charles Lindbergh responded to this announcement by working with the Ryan Airline Company to modify its M-2 three-seater; for example, five fuel tanks were placed on the Spirit of St. Louis. Since Lindbergh wanted to travel light, he only packed five meat sandwiches, one flashlight, one rubber raft and one wicker chair for his landmark achievement; in fact, he did not bring a parachute or a radio.

10. Roy Allen operated a root beer stand in California before founding A&W Restaurants with his business partner, Frank Wright. “Tray boys” and “tray girls” provided curbside service at A&W drive-ins. Walt Anderson, who worked as an A&W fry cook, developed a novel approach for cooking hamburgers. He would later found White Castle with his business partner, Billy Ingram.

11. U.S. presidents have adopted diverse modes of transport, including:

  • Theodore Roosevelt’s brougham
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Sunshine Special, which was modified to accommodate his disability
  • Dwight Eisenhower’s Bubbletop, which enabled crowds to view him even in inclement weather.

Also, after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, an armored top was added to presidential limousines. Yet Ronald Reagan successfully requested that his limousine include a modified sunroof, which enabled him to stand and wave at crowds.

12. Orville and Wilbur Wright lived about three blocks from the first bicycle shop that they opened in Dayton, Ohio; they would eventually rent five different shops. They constructed their first prototype plane – in sections – in one of these shops; it was 40 feet long, 21 feet wide and 9 feet high. They then wrote to the National Weather Service (NWS) for advice regarding a suitable location for testing their prototype; the NWS recommended Kill Devil Hills, a windy locale with an abundance of sand that would prove useful in mitigating the effects of crash landings. They accepted that recommendation and then spent three years learning how to glide. On a side note, Orville Wright was invited to the dedication of Greenwich Village in 1929.

13. Thomas Edison held nearly 1100 patents during his lifetime. His first patented invention was an electronic vote recorder that was intended for use in state legislatures. He was supported in his endeavors by a capable staff, including his foreman, John Kruesi, and a talented chemist, Alfred Haid. Their innovations included:

  • a filament for an incandescent light bulb that was made from carbonized cotton fiber
  • a dynamo that could convert mechanical energy to electricity.

14. Henry Carroll was the head of one of the wealthiest families in antebellum Maryland. He owned about 200 acres of land, and he adhered to the standard practice of planting tobacco for three to five years – before allowing that parcel of land to lie fallow for about twenty years. His slaves were ingenious, using crushed oyster shells to repel vermin and creating whitewash from a mixture of salt, water and milk. Some of them subsequently escaped, declaring themselves as “contraband of war” to avoid re-enslavement; this was permitted by the Confiscation Acts.

15. Noah Webster included about 70000 words in his eponymous dictionary. He only invented one of those words, though: “demoralize.” A strict Calvinist, he viewed slavery as an economically inefficient endeavor – yet he was opposed to abolitionists’ acts of civil disobedience. He remodeled his home to include a first-floor bedroom for his wife; contemporary homes lacked first-floor bedrooms. As he disapproved of his son-in-law, he raised his grand-daughter, Mary.

This “cultural destination” is expansive, and I actually toured it over two days. I especially enjoyed my tour of the Ford Rouge Plant; the sight of workers playing their roles in assembling a Ford F-150 truck was humbling and awe-inspiring. I also enjoyed my stroll through the Greenwich Village, as the staff members were pleased to share various nuggets.

One point worth noting is that at the main venue, a 6-dollar parking fee is automatically added to the cost of admission; guests should request that this fee be removed if they do not park at that venue.

Overall I enjoyed my time at this “cultural destination,” and I would recommend it to those who happen to visit Michigan.