Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 21: Henry Ford / Thomas Edison

On this date in History .... 1929:

Henry Ford throws a party for the dedication of the Thomas Edison Institute in Dearborn MI. Ford had moved Edison’s actual lab bldg’s from Menlo Park NJ and had them reconstructed just as they had looked in 1879.  By the time the Institute opened to the public in 1933, it had become part of the Henry Ford Museum.  
(Personal Note: Husband Phil and I went to this museum on our honeymoon and were told that when Edison last stood up from his chair in the lab (seen in this pic), Ford had it nailed in place. No one has sat in the chair since.)
The dedication party was thrown on the 50th birthday of the lightbulb, and just days before the country experienced the stock market crash of 1929 that threw the country into The Depression. Guests to the event were from the Who’s Who list of notables: John D. Rockefeller Jr., Charles Schwab, Otto H. Kahn, Walter Chrysler, Orville Wright, Marie Curie, Will Rogers, and President Herbert Hoover, to name just a few. 
The Henry Ford Museum (a.k.a. Greenfield Village) is not only a history of Ford himself but celebrates the “practical genius of great Americans.”  The museum contains every Ford car ever built, including the 15th million Model T and the very first Mustang, plus great displays of other automotive advances, including locomotive, printing presses, home appliances and full size buildings related to the auto industry, such as road side motels, a full size Texaco gas station, a drive-in movie theater, a full size diner car, and the oh so memorable Burma Shave signs!  Historical automotive displays, such as the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and Sikorsky’s prototype helicopter.

(Photo from "legends of america" website)

The museum is also the proud owner of a “genuine fake” 17th century Brewster chair. Seven years after purchasing this rare, antique find, the museum discovered it was a fake, made by a man who wanted to see if he could fool the experts. And he did. The museum, however, turned the potential embarrassment into a positive by keeping the chair on display as a lesson in fake antiques. The chair is loaned out to national exhibits about fakes and forgeries.

This history teacher strongly recommends making this museum part of your next vacation!  Plan at least two days to tour the museum and Greenfield Village.

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