This assumption might deter some folks from visiting this amazing place. Referred to as simply the Henry Ford, the 254-acre historical destination is formally named the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Visited by roughly 1.6 million people a year, it has become one of the worlds most important displays of Americana.
A destination for all ages, the museum contains 26 million artifacts and touts itself as being “The greatest collection ever assembled documenting American innovation, ingenuity, and resourcefulness”. Far from being just about cars, the museum offers a multitude of displays embodying the spirit of America. Here are some of the ten things you didn’t know about the Henry Ford museum.
Replica of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Lab
Ford honored the life of his close friend Thomas Edison, by recreating the laboratory in which Edison invented the light bulb, The Lab was lovingly reconstructed with exact items or duplicates in the way Ford had committed it to memory. The purpose, he felt, was to pay homage to Edison and inspire future generations of inventors. Beakers and test tubes sit on long plank tables and glass bottles adorn rows of rustic shelves.
The Rosa Parks Bus
In December 1955, Rosa Parks quietly refused to move to a different seat on the bus, A silent protest that would spark one of the most powerful revolutions in American history. Once just a forgotten relic in a field, The Rosa Parks Bus is now one of the most popular exhibits at the Henry Ford. The bus was meticulously restored and stands today as the most important display at the Liberty and Justice For All exhibit.
Inside this bus on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a soft-spoken African-American seamstress, refused to give up her seat to a white man, breaking existing segregation laws. The flawless character and quiet strength she exhibited successfully ignited action in others. For this, many believe Rosa Parks' act was the event that sparked the Civil Rights movement.
Thomas Edisons’s Last Breath
This has to be the strangest item at the museum. Somehow, Henry Ford managed to convince Edison’s son to collect the man’s last breath in a test tube. Ford apparently held the belief that the soul left the body with its final breath. So, housed inside a glass case is a test tube possibly holding Thomas Edison’s soul.
The Henry Ford Giant Screen Experience
The new 4K digital state-of-the-art projection system with sound and seating is home to Michigan’s largest movie screen. Currently playing is Pandas in 3D, America’s Musical Journey, and Dark Universe. If you happen to be visiting on a Thursday, don’t miss the Thursday Night Throwback event which features old classic and cult films.
The Dymaxion House
Buckminster Fuller designed this futuristic looking dwelling to be a mass-produced eco-conscious portable dwelling. Although the design never really took off, the Dymaxion House on display is an interesting example of Fuller’s early creative solution to affordable housing. Designed at the end of WW II, it was designed to be sold for the price of a new Cadillac.
Wright Cycle Shop
Purchased by Ford in 1936, the historic Wright Cycle Shop was moved from Dayton Ohio to Deerfield in boxcars and reconstructed piece by piece. Interestingly, Ford ordered 20 tons of soil to be taken from beneath the house in Dayton and transferred beneath the restructured shop so that it would always remain on Dayton soil.
Greenfield Village is a living history museum that is set on 240 acres of land. The village houses nearly 100 buildings and is a living history display of how Americans lived and worked since the inception of the country. Visitors can move through the property on foot, by train, or even catch a ride in a model T. Actors in period costume are on hand to explain and carry out tasks one would expect for different time periods in history. That working farms help supply the museums restaurants with fresh, local ingredients. There are shops producing glasswork, pottery, and more in the traditional way by skilled craftspeople.
There are several highly reviewed restaurants within the museum. The mid-1900’s Eagle Tavern serves up fresh meat and produce from local farms by costumed waitstaff. Cottswad Cottage Tea has baked goods and teas served in an enchanting garden inspired by Clara Ford, Henry’s wife. At Mrs. Fisher’s Southern Cooking you can dine on such delicacies as sweet potato pie, collard greens with smoked turkey, cracker-crust fried chicken with gumbo gravy, and many other mouth-watering southern dishes.
Kennedy’s Assassination Vehicle
After the 1961 Lincoln Continental was impounded for evidence, it was revamped with numerous safety modifications. Surprisingly, it was sent back to D.C and used by four more Presidents, including Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. It was finally retired in 1977 and is now on exhibit at the museum.
Lincon’s Assassination Chair
For the morbidly curious, another piece of well-worn history sits in the museum behind glass. The famous chair that Lindon was assassinated in at the Ford theater in 1865 is a bit worse for wear. The rocking chair was brought out specifically for Lincoln’s comfort to hold his tall frame. Through the years it bounced around various places, even reportedly sat for a while in a break closet at the Smithsonian. It was brought to the Henry Ford in the early 1930’s.