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Henry’s Attic

Some Fascinating Gifts to Henry Ford and His Museum

Ford R. Bryan

Publication Year: 2006

Henry's Attic provides fascinating documentation of some of the one million artifacts in the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. The items represent both Henry Ford's passion for collecting Americana and the astonishing array of gifts—some of great historic value and others of a distinctly homegrown variety—that account for almost half of the museum's collections. It was the quantity of these gifts and the unusual and even unique nature of many of them that provided the inspiration for this book. Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, which Ford established in Dearborn, Michigan in the late 1920s, was intended to recreate the slow-paced, rural character of America before the advent of the automobile. The purchases he made and the gifts he was given reflect his desire to document and preserve the lifeways of common people and to emphasize middle-class rural history, as represented by the tools of agriculture, industry, and transportation.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

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pp. 9-13

When Henry and Clara Ford's home was cleaned out after Clara's death in 1950, it appeared that the couple had discarded few, if any, of the items they had accumulated since their marriage in 1888. The fifty-six rooms of Fair Lane, as the Fords called...


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pp. 15

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1 Gifts to Greenfield Village

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pp. 17-50

ALTHOUGH the oldest building in Greenfield Village is an early seventeenth-century stone cottage from England and the rest come from various parts of America, collectively they are somewhat reminiscent of a small, nineteenth-century New England town....

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2 Agricultural Equipment

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pp. 51-70

HENRY FORD'S passion for acquiring antique farm machinery evidently bordered on mania and was also reputed to be something of a trial to his friends. It is said that in the early 1920s he could not drive by an old plow or harrow rusting away in a field without

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3 Horse-Drawn Vehicles and Cycles

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pp. 71-106

HENRY FORD was no horse lover. Part of his aversion to these animals no doubt stemmed from an incident that occurred when he was nine years old. He had been riding a high-spirited colt named Jennie when a cow suddenly loomed up out of a ditch...

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4 Automobiles and Trucks

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pp. 107-142

ON JULY 15, 1903, E. Pfennig, a Chicago dentist, bought a Model A from the Ford Motor Company for $850. This seemingly insignificant event marked a turning point in Henry Ford's career—and a milestone in automotive history—for with it, the Ford Motor Company, teetering on the...

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5 Touring Vehicles and Highway Icons

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pp. 143-158

IN RECENT YEARS, the Henry Ford Museum has acquired a number of objects pertaining to the history of recreational travel. Among these objects are a variety of camping vehicles, a tollbooth, a gas station, a tourist cabin, and advertising signs ranging...

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6 Railroads, Boats, and Aircraft

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pp. 159-198

WHEN HENRY FORD was born in 1863, much of the Midwest was unsettled land. A single pair of railroad tracks that started in the East snaked across the vast, empty horizon of the Great Plains and ended in Nebraska. Six years later, the nation's attention...

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7 Industrial Equipment

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pp. 199-230

FROM A VERY EARLY AGE, Henry Ford was fascinated with mechanical things. His mother noted with pride that he was a "born mechanic"; his father was evidently not so pleased. In Henry's inimitable words, "I was always tinkering with wheels. My father used to give me Caesar." A water-powered gristmill...

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8 Firearms

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pp. 231-244

DURING BOTH WORLD WARS, the Ford Motor Company supplied the U.S. government with everything from gun caissons, steel helmets, submarine chasers, and ambulances to tanks, armored cars, and B-24 bombers. Nonetheless, the company's founder never relinquished his pacifist views or his...

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9 Household Items

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pp. 245-286

WILLIAM FORD was the son of an Irish tenant farmer. He was born in 1826 on an estate called "Madame" near the village of Ballinascarthy in County Cork. There he and his family lived in a stone cottage surrounded by twenty-three acres of leased...

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10 Lighting Devices

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pp. 287-300

FOR ARTIFICIAL LIGHT, colonial America depended largely on candles. Most households used them sparingly, for making them required considerable time and effort. Tallow, the solid rendered fat of cattle or sheep, had to be prepared, the candles had to be molded or dipped in the tallow, their wicks set by hand, and finally...

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11 Clocks and Watches

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pp. 301-314

BY THE TIME Europeans began settling in America in the 1600s, the art of making clocks and watches was well advanced. Sundials and waterclocks, also called clepsydras (age-old devices that measured time by the constant speed of water flowing through a small...

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12 Musical Instruments and Phonographs

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pp. 315-332

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS were not as common in homes when Henry Ford was growing up as televisions, radios, and stereos are today, but they served much the same function. Unable to have instant amusement at the flip of a switch, people in those days had to make their own diversions. Social evenings at home often consisted...

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13 Photographic Equipment

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pp. 333-344

As a young man, Henry Ford took a great interest in the relatively new field of photography. He bought his first camera in 1893 when he was thirty years old—the same year he bought his first bicycle and three years before he built his first car, the Quadricyle. The Ford Archives are filled with pictures taken of and by the...

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14 Communications Equipment

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pp. 345-370

FAX MACHINES, cellular phones, videophones, communication satellites, fiber-optic networks, and other manifestations of today's "telecommunications" are just the latest chapter in the very long history of people's efforts to convey messages over long distances. Even before the Great Wall of China was finished in the third...

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15 Business and Office Equipment

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pp. 371-388

IT IS A WELL-DOCUMENTED FACT that Henry Ford spent very little time in his office at the Ford Motor Company. Visitors with appointments were ushered in and asked to sit, but almost before they could draw a breath, Henry would be up and off at a brisk pace, inviting them to follow as he headed for the assembly plant. There...

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16 Documents

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pp. 389-404

THE RESEARCHERS assigned to exploring Fair Lane after Clara Ford's death in 1950 not only encountered an awe-inspiring number of three-dimensional objects; they also found enough papers and photographs to create a two-story document file in the mansion's indoor swimming pool. Sticking their hands at random...

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17 Gifts from Fair Lane and Other Oddities

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pp. 405-425

PART OF THE INSPIRATION for this book was the odd and often unique nature of many of the items that have come as gifts to the Henry Ford Museum over the years. Among these items, none are stranger than some of the objects found at Fair Lane after Clara Ford's death and...


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pp. 426-433

E-ISBN-13: 9780814336175
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814326428

Page Count: 432
Illustrations: 412
Publication Year: 2006