Friday, September 26, 2008

William Holmes McGuffey Birthplace (formerly known as McGuffey Birthplace)

If you read the second chapter / blog of this Greenfield Village collection you will remember reading the following:
The year was 1914, and Clara Ford, wife of Henry, watched children play one day as they made their way home from school. A childhood rhyme suddenly came to her, and she said it aloud: 'Hear the children gaily shout, "Half past four and school is out!" '
Henry and Clara both thought the rhyme came from one of the William McGuffey Eclectic Readers, first published in 1836. After a futile search to find which Reader it came from, and through it all amassing a rather large and complete collection of the 145 different editions, he found he had a penchant for collecting. He already had a rather large collection of clocks and watches, which he loved to tinker with as a child. And, he had accumulated objects of his hero, Thomas Edison. So the McGuffey Readers were just another extension of what was quickly becoming his passion.

It seemed that the original McGuffey Reader collection just wasn't enough for Henry Ford; in 1932, Ford purchased the birthplace of Mr. McGuffey (born in 1800) from a direct descendent, Mrs. Henry Blayney, and had the 1780 cabin disassembled from its original West Finley Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania location, and then re-erected it in Greenfield Village two years later. Included in the acquisition of the unoccupied cabin were a few remaining relics such as a stove and kettles.
On Sept. 23, 1934, Ford, with great fanfare, marked McGuffey's 134th birthday with the dedication of the building in Greenfield Village as well as having a fourteen-ton granite boulder placed on the original site of the birthplace in Pennsylvania for use as a permanent marker. It was such a big deal, in fact, that NBC broadcast the two-hour ceremony live over national radio.
Folks today may not realize the importance of the McGuffey reader, the First and Second of which were published in 1836, the Third and Fourth in 1837, the Fifth in 1844, and the Sixth in 1857. These were constantly revised and passed through edition after edition, maintaining their place for nearly two generations; their estimated sales totaled 122 million copies. Concerned with traditional morality as much as with reading, their influence in shaping the American mind of the mid-19th century can scarcely be exaggerated.
The cabin, as you can see by the photos, is filled with the atmosphere of the time when McGuffey was born. The presenters at Greenfield Village do a wonderful job in their presentation of how the McGuffey family lived in the 18th and early 19th centuries. A fine example of when a presentation is done right!

To read of the McGuffey Smokehouse please click HERE
To read of the McGuffey School please click HERE


Friday, September 19, 2008

1933 - Original Buildings No Longer in Greenfield Village

Currier Shoe Shop (formerly known as Newton Shoe Shop):

Originally from Newton, New Hampshire, this shoe shop, run by William Currier, dates back to the 1880's and represents one of the earlier smaller shoe factories where machinery was used. Mr. Currier, who worked at this building for more than 60 years, would hire neighbors to help run the steam-run machines that drove the stitching machine and buffer as well as do the hand work.
During the 19th century there were around two thousand small shoe shop factories in America similar to this one. Because of their size, these shops were called "ten-footers" and were often located beside the shoemaker's home.

The cobbler would work all the day and into the evening hours, using the smoky kerosene lantern for light.
When this building was located in side of Greenfield Village, originally situated right next to the Cooper Shop (how wonderful that must have been!), it would show many of the objects used by Mr. Currier (and other shoemakers) such as the rack upon which the new shoes were dried, cutting patterns, a leather-splitting machine, and even the waxed thread used. Some of these tools are still shown, although the structure is now, for some reason, located inside of the Henry Ford Museum rather than in the Village. It was moved there, from what I understand, in the mid 1990's.

The photographs taken of the Currier Shoe Shop are all from inside the Henry Ford Museum.

Deluge Fire House:

The mid-19th century Deluge Firehouse was originally from Newton, New Hampshire as well.

I have recently read that the Hearse Shed, now in the Village, was transformed into the Deluge Firehouse when Mr. Ford re-erected it inside the Village. This comes from numerous master presenters. More research will need to be done.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Printing Office and Tin Shop (formerly known as Print Shop and Village Print Shop)

The Printing Office:

Built inside the Village in 1933, half of this building is a printing shop, and the other half is a tinsmith shop.
In the print shop, a variety of presses are demonstrated, from early powered presses to a hand press.
The presenter sets the type to show the patrons how printing was done in the days before automation, including the typesetting of the letters and woodcuts. Using the hand press, the visitor can see how the early papers were printed by hand.
In our modern age of instant information via phone, home computer, radio, and other electronic sources band devices, many of the folks today - especially school age children - do not realize how important the occupation of printing was to the towns and villages of the 19th century, in many cases the only source of news of the outside world.

The Tin Shop:

The tinsmith made lanterns, candleholders, and household utensils from the 17th through the early 20th century. Called the poor man's silver, all that was needed to work with tin was a few simple tools to create the many different types of items and necessities.

In Greenfield Village, the process of printing and tin-smithing are demonstrated much in the same way as it was done in the previous century. A wide variety of hand-made tin examples are on display inside the tin shop, and the smithy also makes items needed for use inside the historical buildings inside the Village, including kitchen items used at the farms as well as candle holders hanging on the walls of the colonial homes.
And the purchasing of Village-made items are available in the gift shop.


Bagley Avenue Workshop (formerly known as 58 Bagley Avenue Shop, and 58 Bagley Avenue Shed)

In 1893, Henry Ford and wife Clara moved into a rented house at 58 Bagley Avenue. At that time, Ford was an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company of Detroit.
This replica of the Detroit Shed/workshop that was located in the backyard of the home where Ford built his first car in 1896 was constructed inside the Village in 1933, although, in many ways, it is not totally a replica.
To get his Quadricycle out of the shed, Ford had to knock out the bricks around the doorway.

Although the original shed was torn down some years after, Ford located the house in which the bricks and doors had been used. By building a new wall for the owners of the house, Ford was allowed to remove the old shed bricks and doors for his reconstruction.

A replica of the Quadicycle sits inside the shed. The original 1st auto by Ford is inside of the Henry Ford Museum.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Edison Homestead

When the grandfather of Thomas Edison led his family into Upper Canada in 1811, he settled in Vienna, Ontario, near the shore of Lake Erie. In 1816, their log cabin was replaced by this homestead, the first and for many years the only frame structure in that region. In this home, the father of the great inventor, Samuel, grew to manhood, and married Nancy Elliot, the village school teacher, in the Sunday parlor in 1828.

When his arrest was sought because of his participation in the political rebellion of 1837, the house was ransacked by the military. By that time, Samuel Edison had fled to the United States.

Young Tom had returned to his ancestral home over many summers and fondly recalled the large, simple, farm-type kitchen.
It was moved to Greenfield Village in 1933.

For some reason, the folks at the Village seem to want to show this house as it looked in 1915 - 99 years after it was originally built.

But, even of that 1915 era shown, they have done a tremendous job in their presentation.

For more information on Edison at Greenfield Village, please click the links below:
Edison Fort Meyers Laboratory
Edison Homestead
Edison Illuminating Company
Edison Menlo Park Laboratory
Edison Menlo Park Glass House
Edison Menlo Park Machine Shop
Edison Menlo Park Woodworking Shop
Edison Menlo Park Office and Library


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Plympton Family Home (formerly known as Plympton House)

The brick over the large fireplace of the Plympton house dates to 1640, to the original home of Thomas Plympton. Plympton was a founding father of the Puritan settlement of Sudbury, Massachusetts, and lived there with his wife, Abigail, and their seven children. This, after he came to North America from England as an indentured servant.

According to the 1941 guidebook, Plympton was slain by Indians in 1676, but his descendants, including a Thomas Plympton who actively took part in the American Revolution, continued to live in this one room home.

The original house of the 1st Thomas Plympton burned down in the early 1700's, and the generation of the family who were living there at the time rebuilt the home around the original chimney.

It is considered to be the oldest American home in Greenfield Village.
An unusual feature in this home is the convenient inside covered well, seen to the left of the ladder. Most wells, during this period in time, were outside the home.

This primitive one-roomed structure, with its simple sheathed walls and a low, open raftered ceiling with a central "summer" beam, reflects the typical colonial architecture of the earliest period of New England, and the furnishings show the simplicity of home life of these early times.
The house is listed as being brought to Greenfield Village in 1933, but, I do not find it among the entries in the 1935/36 guidebook, which tells me it may not have been totally restored for viewing until a few years after.
Although this beautiful representation of an early colonial home is open for visitors to enter, it is plexi-glassed off which can make it difficult to photograph the inside of the structure.

Notice the plexi-glass at the entrance of the building. This picture was taken through an opposite window.

One can also push a button to hear a recording of the "Plympton Family" in action - a sort of "radio skit" of the family sitting down for supper. I suppose it's to help the patron use their imagination while viewing the home.
It is my understanding that, because the Daggett Farm and the Giddings House are being used as representations of colonial living by way of costumed presenters, the plexi-glass and push-button recording will remain in the Plympton Home.

I am thankful, however, that this wonderful piece of social history remains as a companion to the others of its era, showing the diversity of colonial living.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Owl Night Lunch Wagon

According to the book, "American Diner Then and Now" by Richard Gutman, the Owl Night Lunch Wagon, acquired in dilapidated condition in 1927 and restored to its reconstructed glory shortly after, is the only remaining horse-drawn lunch wagon. It is a very good example of "fast food" from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
According to a Ford cousin, Ford Bryan, in his book "Clara: Mrs. Henry Ford," Henry Ford patronized the Owl Night Lunch Wagon during his years working at Edison Illuminating. It was pulled to and from the curbside at Michigan and Griswold streets in Detroit by Reddy the bay horse, owned by John Colquhoun. It opened at 6 p.m. and left at daybreak - this at a time when restaurants in Detroit closed up by 8 p.m. There were originally stools inside the wagon and a window for take-out service.
This 1890's diner was originally placed inside the Village in 1933, serving hamburgers to those first patrons of the Village.
It was then moved inside the Henry Ford Museum for years until recently, when it was brought back to the outdoor Village, where workers continue to sell food to hungry patrons.

1933 - A New Beginning for Greenfield Village

According to the book 'A Home For Our Heritage':
"The public, notified by...articles in the nation's periodicals, knew well that Henry Ford had something going on behind his brick walls. The few curious passersby a day grew to about 400 a day early in the 1930's. By the late spring of 1933, however,
a curious public had swelled to nearly 1000. To turn this many people away simply amounted to bad public relations. ...The following recommendations were made...: To operate Greenfield Village in a manner that will permit the visitor to feel as if he or she had been transported back a few should be arranged that they are not herded through in groups with a guide having a set 'lingo' which becomes monotonous and detracts from the true atmosphere of the historic town. Visitors should be charged admission, adults 25 cents, children 10 cents."

The book speaks on how there should be craftsmen in the respective shops, an old-time hotel keeper at the Clinton Inn, articles and crafts made right there in the village for sale, and food available for the patrons to eat.

It seems, however, that plans to eventually open the Village up to the public were in mind at least a year earlier for, in the summer of 1932, construction began on the Village gates, a visiting room, and public restrooms.
The following year, the "gatehouse" (as it was called) was ready to accept its first patron to pass through into the streets of the past.

On June 22, 1933, the first public visitors entered what would eventually become "America's Greatest History Attraction," welcoming over a million customers a year by the end of the century.


1932 - Original Buildings No Longer in Greenfield Village

Kingston Cooper Shop (formerly known as Cooper Shop):

Kingston Cooper Shop inside the Henry Ford Museum

This 1785 structure from Kingston, New Hampshire, when rebuilt inside the Greenfield Village in 1932, became the oldest American craftshop in the Village.
The cooper built watertight hogshead (a large barrel or a large cask) for commerce, barrels for shipping fruits or vegetables, buckets for maple syrup, and wooden pails needed in every home. Fatened without glue or nails, the staves were bound together by hickory hoops, and the bottoms fitted into grooves in the sides.

The cooper used tools such as a froe, with which he split logs into boards and shingles; the joiner for smoothing edges; and the draw knife to shape the staves. While sitting on a shaving horse, he would use his feet to close the vise (by way of a lever) in which the staves are held.
The cooper was a valued craftsman, and that his work was well done is proved by the buckets nearly 200 years old still around in antique shops and museums to this day.

I would love to see a photograph of this building after its relocation because, according to the 1935/36 guidebook:
"The east side has been restored; the west is exactly as it was."
I can just imagine how awesome that must have looked!

Unfortunately, like so many other wonderful buildings originally placed in the Village, it had been removed, first to a place inside the Henry Ford Museum (where I took the pictures you see here), and then it was taken apart and, from what I was told, placed into storage.
As you can see, the majority of the outside structure has been greatly modified.
A historic village without a cooper shop. How sad.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tripp Saw Mill (formerly known as Tripp Up & Down Saw Mill)

Early settlers in Michigan needed homes, barns, and shops. As farmers cleared the forests for more farm land, the trees provided a plentiful supply of wood. Sawmills were among the first mills established in towns and farming communities, and it was at these sawmills that the wood was cut into lumber to build the homes, barns, and shops.
Sawmills were not only important to the setting in Greenfield Village, but they were also used extensively by architect Ed Cutler's crew to provide lumber for numerous construction and re-erecting projects.

The 1855 Tripp Sawmill was originally from Franklin Center (now Tipton), Michigan, near Tecumseh in Lenauwee County and built by British immigrant Henry Tripp. (For years, Henry Tripp's son, J.D., was listed as the original builder, but recent information proves this to be false.)
The sawmill featured an up and down saw similar to the one Henry Ford operated in his youth. Powered by a steam engine on the bottom floor, the vertical blade flashes up and down while suspended between the two floors of the building, hence, the name "up and down" saw mill. The original machinery in this mill cuts lumber in the 19th century style, by emulating the same motion of cutting lumber by hand with a pit saw, which was invaluable for accurate restorations in the Village.

(The following in italics is a brief excerpt written by Marc Greuther from Technology and Culture
Volume 45, Number 4, October 2004):

In the fall of 1926 Henry Ford paid a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Willis Tripp of Tipton, Michigan, sixty miles or so southwest of Dearborn by the Detroit-Chicago road. Ford dropped by the farm with a group of friends and associates to look over a steam-driven sawmill built about seventy-five years previously by Mr. Tripp's grandfather, the Reverend Henry Tripp. According to a brief report in the Adrian Daily Telegraph, Ford was intrigued by a number of items in the family's possession—a Howe sewing machine, the reverend's hickory cane, a pair of ice skates—but it was the mill, built by a man who had died eleven days before Ford's own birthday, that really interested him.
Much Michigan timber went through this mill when the Tripps owned and operated it from 1855 until 1916.
The Tripps did no logging themselves, and the mill operated just four months out of the year—probably during the winter with just three or four workers when farming was less demanding and logs could be sledded or hauled over hard-frozen roads to the mill.  
During those few months, the workers cut all the lumber that the surrounding community needed.  
The operation was quite self-sufficient: the boiler was fed with waste wood and sawdust, while water came from a well on site, supplemented by rain guttered in from the roof. This economy of means extended to the mill's construction. Part of the boiler setting was built up from field stone, and waste wood—with the bark still on—was used for siding and interior partitions. All in all it was a lean affair, slotted as seamlessly into the Michigan countryside as a steam-powered installation could be.
The mill was closed in 1916 when competition from the railroads made it easy to move lumber throughout the region from large scale logging operations.
Henry Ford had it moved to Greenfield Village in 1932.
Please click HERE to see information on the Village's other up and down saw mill, the Spofford Mill)


Monday, September 1, 2008

Hanks Silk Mill (formerly known as Silk Mill)

1932 saw the continuation of buildings of trade and industry make their way to the Village.
Hanks Silk Mill, built in 1810 by Rodney and Horatio Hanks in Mansfield, Connecticut, was one of them. The significance of this building comes from the fact that it produced the first machine-made silk in America.
The Hanks brothers originally built the mill over a waterway which they had diverted from a stream. The water fell from a large flat rock onto a mill wheel.
Once moved to Greenfield Village, the wheel was removed and a nearby grove of mulberry trees were planted especially for the mill, providing food for the young silkworms needed to produce the cocoons.Although the mulberry trees are still there, this production is no longer presented at the mill, as the time and energy it took to produce the silk was too time consuming for the little amount provided.

The original machinery of this mill burned, leaving just a few iron parts. But, the visitor can still see the same type of wooden reeds that once wound the thin strands of silk, as well as the parts that twisted the strands into a thread in tact as Mr. Ford had a reproduction of the machinery built.The Hanks brothers proudly called their silk "the oldest and best brand of silk on the continent."