Discover the work of the innovative industrialist celebrated in the Henry Ford Museum.
The Henry Ford Museum is a manifestation of industrialist Henry Ford's appreciation for Americana, invention and progress. Ford didn't collect art; instead, he collected commonplace items such as farm machinery and toasters. Such a collection was perhaps more fitting for the inventor of the Model T, the first affordable and mass-marketed automobile and an invention that revolutionized American life. Ford was fascinated by progress and innovation and wanted to display it. Ford originally named the museum the Edison Institute, even though it actually displayed the inventions of many people who had altered American life. As of 2009, the museum also contained an open-air, village-style area called the Greenfield Village.
Henry Ford was born on a farm in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1863. By 1891, he was working as an engineer for Edison Illuminating Company. He started the Ford Motor Company in 1903, and introduced the Model T five years later with the goal of creating a mass-market, affordable automobile. The plan worked; within 10 years, more than half of American automobiles were Model Ts. Ford's company became the world's largest automobile manufacturer. Time Magazine named Ford one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. He did more than just build a car; he pioneered the dealer-franchise setup and revolutionized American business and life. According to a University of Wisconsin history presentation on Ford, other entrepreneurs were only marketing automobiles to the wealthy. Eventually, Ford Motor Company drew competitors in the sale of affordable automobiles, and the company did not maintain its same level of dominance in the market.
The Henry Ford Museum opened in 1929 with great hoopla. The opening ceremony was attended by dignitaries such as Thomas Alva Edison (a mentor of Ford's) and President Herbert Hoover. Edison himself had placed the cornerstone of the new museum into the ground the year before. The museum covered 13 acres; the village covered 81. After Ford died, the museum was renamed the Henry Ford Museum in his honor. However, the Edison Institute is still its registered name.
The Henry Ford Museum possesses one of the most important collections of Americana in the United States. Ford designed the museum to display three areas of American progress: manufacturing, farming and transportation.
As of 2009, exhibits included:
Greenfield Village was itself an innovation, a pioneer model for outside, interactive museum villages. The Greenfield Village contains seven historic districts. In many cases, the buildings in Greenfield Village were real historical buildings that were moved to the current property. The historic districts are:
The Henry Ford Museum is on the national register of historic places. The Greenfield Village also showcases some unique activities. For example, every summer weekend, baseball games are played by 1867 rules, and the site contains an IMAX theater.
The Henry Ford Museum, located in Dearborn, Michigan, is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., including weekends. The museum is closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving. The Greenfield Village portion of the museum is closed from January 1 to April 14. From April 15 to November 2, the Greenfield Village is open the same days and hours as the museum. For information about current exhibits, view Henry Ford Museum's official Web site.