Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Detroit and The Henry Ford


Knowing Chicago traffic would severly cramp my style, we decided to defy our jet lag and get up extra early to get on the road.  We got started about 4:30 and cruised through Chicago with nary a delay.  Yay, parents!  After some time, everyone was waking up and it was time for a rest stop.  We stumbled upon a pretty little place called Grand Mere State Park.  The leaves were just beginning to turn and we were all excited about the different sights and smells of a deciduous forest.  I'd packed sack lunches, so this was a good place to picnic as well.


First stop:  Detroit!

In my trip planning (months and months of trip planning), I knew we would need an overnight right around Detroit.  I searched to find what Can't Miss locations were in Detroit and I kept seeing the Henry Ford Museum.  Well, neither my husband or I am big car people, so I kept dismissing it.  Finally, I looked into it and discovered it is not merely a car museum.  It is an Everything Important museum. Okay, not everything, but So. Many. of the things.


Of course there were cars.  It was more of an evolution of cars, rather than just a warehouse full of cool cars.  I appreciated that.


Henry Ford's first "car" the quadricycle.


But there were so many other things.  A sort of evolution of airplanes, for instance.


Wicker seats?


As well as historically important airplanes.




There was a fun show where they played old footage of dare-devil pilots.  It was fun to watch and fun to sit in the crowd!



One of the best parts of museum was the collection of historically important vehicles.
President Kennedy's Limousine

and, most poignant for me and several of the children, Rosa Parks' bus.
To see precisely where she sat, to read about the stories of suffering and courage under persecution made history come alive.  Even though I know we have talked about the Jim Crow South, I don't know that the children could really fathom it until they saw the "colored" drinking spigot, next to the porcelain "white" drinking fountain.  Reading the KKK creed and seeing how Satan corrupts a document that is almost completely good, by adding that tiny bit of evil.  The white hood and robes were haunting reminders of where we don't every want to be.  Remembering this kind of history ensures that we don't repeat it.

There was a whole section on trains as well.  This monster is bigger than I ever imagined!

and the model trains were fun. 

They even had a section dedicated to modern communication and audio/visual.  It was so fun for Dad and I as we jumped from one display to another, "This was the BEST album, you guys!" or "Everyone wanted this toy!" or "I had this EXACT phone!" or whatever.

Then, we went outside.  There is a second museum outdoors called Greenfield Village.  This is where the rich guy (Henry Ford) and I begin to understand one another.  If I had a billion zillion dollars, I'm pretty sure I would do the same thing he did.  

Henry Ford had factories, houses, churches and other places of historical importance carefully MOVED to his museum.  Yes, the entire building! If one or more people were still living who were associated with the building, he would get detailed information about where things belonged, obtain original furnishings when possible and period photographs of the setting.  The result is a "town" filled with so many places any historian would clamber to see.
Places such as the rented shed where he invented his first car.  As he built it inside the shed, it got too big for the door.  He had to get permission to knock out bricks to widen the door and, without intention, invented the first garage.

Here is one of my top two places in the whole complex.  This, you guys, is the actual building where Wilbur and Orville invented the first airplane.  These are the very tools they used. Orville was still alive when Ford moved the bicycle shop. He directed every detail of the display, so it is accurate.  There is even an original Wright Bros. bicycle in the store front.
Thrilling! Inspiring!

The next most exciting place in the village was this:
Menlo Park
Yes. All of Menlo Park.

Ford moved factory, dorms, office, labs, the works of his good friend Thomas Edison's inventor's paradise.


Part of what made Edison a genius was that he knew his weaknesses and hired people to fill in the gaps.  He wasn't a great chemist, so he hired great chemists.  He wasn't a great artist, so he hired artists to draw the vision he had in his mind.
I explained to the kids that this campus would be like the Google campus of today,
full of innovation and the best minds of the era all together in one exhilarating workplace.


I know Edison can be controversial and he didn't always do things the conventional way, but like it or not, he was the Father of the Industrial Age. He changed the world.

See our running man?  Keeping track of him would have been a task for the great Edison himself!
There were so many other super cool things here.  The schoolhouse cabin of WH McGuffey (McGuffey readers taught America to read for many generations), the home where Daniel Webster wrote his first dictionary, a cabin belonging to George Washington Carver (peanut butter), the home of HJ Heinz, and more.  I was in absolute hog heaven!!

The kids enjoyed it, too, though I could have spent a week here and they were pretty much washed out by the end of the day.

If you are ever anywhere near Detroit, make sure you go to this museum.  It is absolutely worth the time.
I'm sure I will go back again!


Thank you, Mr. Rich Man, for having the vision to prepare this place for us!

Last, but not least, dinner from Camilla!  Thank you, Camilla!


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like my kind of place! We drove from VA to UT and back, stopping at church history and other places on the way, but our route was more southern- nowhere near Detroit- but I'd love to do this on the way somewhere someday!

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