Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation
Article and photos by Larry and Barbara Crain
As an auto enthusiast, I enjoy all manner of cars and trucks, whether they are antique, classics, customs hot rods or all out race cars. I love seeing them in their natural habitat on the state highways or at the race tracks. But I also love seeing them on display at a local car show, in a personal collection, or in a museum. Over the years, I have viewed numerous personal collections and a number of museums, but nothing could have prepared me for the collection I saw recently at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Here’s just a glimpse at the highlights…and yes, that is the actual confetti from the winner’s circle celebration of the No. 21 Ford Fusion that Trevor Bayne drove to an unlikely victory in the 2011 NASCAR Daytona 500. The “Wow” factor was everywhere here!
Don’t go there as a gearhead or an all-out Ford enthusiast expecting to see only cars or trucks sporting nothing but the Ford logo. Henry Ford was a collector first and foremost for his museum and what was to go into it. The people that run the museum have carried on with Henry’s way of thinking, so don’t be surprised when you see the actual GMC bus that Rosa Parks was arrested on or a Willys Gasser sitting by an early 60’s dragster. There really is something for everyone under this one roof known as the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.
There are five Presidential Limousines on display, including the limo that President Kennedy was assassinated in, which was rebuilt much safer, then put back into service. Speaking of presidents, one of the amazing artifacts on display is the actual chair President Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated.
There are neon signs of all shapes and sizes, for all manner of businesses, lit up and looking brand new. This was just the beginning of a collection I now knew was difficult to explain to others. You have to see the place to believe it.
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation located in Dearborn, Michigan is one of those you have heard people talk about, but cannot really grasp it until you have seen and experienced it firsthand. When I first saw the building and its unique architecture, I thought it must have had a different life before it became a museum. It was just too ornate in the halls leading into the main part of the building to be just a museum.
But that is exactly what it was built for back in 1929 when one of our countries most avid collectors of Americana set his mind to build a place for public to view unique items of what has made our country what it is today. By reading this line you should already grasp the concept of what Henry Ford put together inside a building this large is not just a car museum but everything including cars that our country has been built by and around. Whether its cars, trucks, planes, trains, equipment, furniture or anything that might have impacted your life as a child or as an adult it can be found in the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation was constructed in 1929 and opened its doors to the public in 1933 but was not totally completed until the early 1940’s. The museum itself covers a total of 12 acres, and I can tell you for a fact that even spending one day in it is not enough time to do it justice. The day that my wife Barbara, who is an angel for supporting my car habit, and I visited the museum we also did the Ford Factory Tour at the Rouge, which is the Ford Truck plant located on the original Ford plant site. So, as you can tell a day was not nearly enough to really soak in everything the museum had to offer.
Also, located at The Henry Ford is Greenfield Village where approximately 100 historical buildings from their original locations and arranged in a "village" setting. It purpose is to show how Americans lived and worked since the founding of America. The Village includes buildings from the 17th century to the present, many of which are staffed by costumed interpreters who conduct period tasks like farming, sewing and cooking. Due to time restraints, we did not take in the Greenfield Village. Here’s a tip to the guys: don’t let your wife, girlfriend or daughters say they don’t want to go. My wife absolutely loved the museum and the factory tour. We are already talking about another trip to Dearborn to spend a lot more time at the place that Henry Ford built just for us: the public with a thirst for learning.