Saturday, October 17, 2015

Greenfield Village, 1954

Today I have three photos from Greenfield Village, in Dearborn, Michigan. Greenfield Village is part of a large indoor/outdoor museum complex known as "The Henry Ford", dedicated to preserving important relics from American History. The museum started when Henry Ford himself had amassed an impressive collection of artifacts, including such oddities as a glass tube that purportedly contains Thomas Edison's last breath, a 1950's Oscar Mayer "Weinermobile", Buckminster Fuller's prototype "Dymaxion House", The Lincoln Continental that John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated, and SO MUCH MORE. I need to go there someday!

Greenfield Village itself is the "outdoor" part of the complex, looking very much like a bucolic small town from the early part of the 20th century; it includes structures like the Wright Brother's bicycle shop (moved to Michigan brick by brick), Henry Ford's birthplace, Noah Webster's home, and more.

This first photo shows a family point in an old flivver of some sort (a Ford, mayhaps?) There's something about the flat landscape and the green trees that remind me of my grandparent's home in southern Minnesota. The girl in yellow is having the time of her life.

This photo shows a store with the name "Elias A. Brown" painted over the doorway; apparently this was the first structure to actually be built (originally from Waterford, MI, circa 1854) in Greenfield Village. Who was Elias Brown? I had no idea, but there is an interesting story about how his name found its way onto this building, and how it was eventually removed. Read all about it HERE.

Meanwhile, the horse-drawn wagon has a very "Disneyland" vibe to it; apparently Walt and his boys visited the Village during their tour of many museums, amusement parks, and other attractions, while researching ways to design the park in Anaheim.

Instead of Disneyland, maybe this is more "early Mayberry". While I'm sure the Village is still a wonderful place to go, I sure wish I could go back and see it the way it was 60 years ago.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to Greenfield Village! I have more slides, if I can find them (they have been misplaced in my recent move).


Nanook said...


A "flivver", you say-? (You and your $5.00 words-!) Undoubtedly, but the brand alludes me. You'd think it would have to be a Model T Ford, but I think not. The radiator and the hood aren't correct - not to mention the running boards. And besides, if the image isn't flopped, Model T's had left hand drive. So the REAL car experts need to chime-in.

Greenfield Village does indeed look like fun.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

I've been wanting to go to the Henry Ford Museum to see it's large collection of Mold-A-Rama machines, but who knew they had so much more there? I did not know about JFK's car, or Edison's last breath, or the Village. It sounds like you could easily spend more than one day there.

Chuck said...

TokyoMagic!, you CAN easily spend more than one day there. I've been twice and never seen more than Greenfield Village; my parents never wanted to spend the night and hit the Museum proper the next day.

Major, there was a distinctly different vibe the two times I went. In the summer of '77, there was a lot of activity, with horse-drawn carriages, Model-T rides, a train, a steamboat, and a merry-go-round. There were live presentations, including a re-enactor as Ben Franklin and a traditional Punch and Judy show, and crowds. My great-aunt regaled us with stories of a trip in the '20s or '30s where she had been there and seen Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and George Washington Carver together for some event. It felt like a very special place, almost alive, like a real village.

In the summer of '93, the train, merry-go-round, and steamboat were running, and the pottery-making shop was open, but that was it. It felt kind of...static. Not sure if it was just the day we went or if it's because history tourism has been steadily declining since the '70s, but it also felt deserted. I hope things have changed for the better simce the early '90s, but I'd love to step back into those photyos with you.

Melissa said...

We used to call the sensation of a bumpy car ride shaking your organs around, "a flivver in your liver."

Irene said...

I was there in 1976 (I think) on a tour with my Mom. I remember really liking it. I don't know where my photos are either!

K. Martinez said...

"The Henry Ford" sounds like an awesome place to visit. I can't pass up on a museum.

Chuck, if what you said is true about historical tourism being on the decline since the 1970's then that is truly sad.

Chuck said...

Ken, I read that recently in a book, but didn't do any additional research. A 2005 position paper for the US Dept of Commerce and the President's Committee on the Arts & Humanities ( has a different perspective:

"Over the last decade, travel industry research confirms that cultural and heritage tourism is one the fastest growing segments of the travel industry."

I hope that other book was wrong, too - my family vacations are full of memories of visiting historical sights, and that early exposure has led me to a life-long love of history and a desire to understand where we came from and who we are as a people.

K. Martinez said...

Chuck, thanks for the update. I'll have to check that out. I still love going to museums and historical sites, monuments, buildings, etc. It's one of my main motivations to travel these days.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I don’t know if “flivver” is a $5 word, but it sure is an old one. I’m too lazy to dig out the slide (it was scanned a few months ago), but I am reasonably sure that it isn’t flopped… good catch on the right-hand steering.

TokyoMagic!, do they have a large collection of Mold-A-Ramas? I thought they had two, or something like that. I was so disappointed when I went to the L.A. Zoo and their Mold-A-Rama machines were gone - that was something I loved since I was a child. I think they were only removed in the last four years or so.

Chuck, wow, I’m surprised you never went into the actual museum part of the Henry Ford. My guess was that things like the carriages would be among the things to be discontinued (“Let’s save money by not taking care of horses!”). Which is a shame. With so many of my midwest relatives getting old or moving away from that general area, I feel like it’s unlikely that I will get there anytime soon. Arg.

Melissa, you puny Earthlings and your fleshy organs! My bio-crystalline structure prevents such sensations.

Irene, I’ll bet it was full of Bicentennial stuff durinig your visit!

K. Martinez, I’m surprised you haven’t been there, since you’ve been so many other places.

Chuck, from a completely anecdotal standpoint, it seems like almost everyone I know likes to travel to places for their historical/cultural sites. When I went to NYC recently, practically all we did was museums and historic places. We got “museumed out”!

K. Martinez, don’t you also travel for the opportunity to eat at Stuckey’s restaurants? ;-)

Nanook said...


I'm fairly confident the image is NOT flopped. With the introduction of the Model T in 1908, in some ways led the band wagon towards left-hand steering. The right hand steering is leftover from the days of the stagecoach and horse-drawn wagon. To wit: "A horse-drawn wagon was always driven on the right side because the teamster could always hold the reins with his left hand while pulling on the brake with his strongest arm. Some wagons used a foot brake directly on the wheel but that too, required a person's strongest side. Many, but not all cars, continued this tradition by placing the tiller in the middle of the car where it could be steered by either the right or left side of the car".

Dean Finder said...

I also feel like interest in US history tourism peaked with the Bicentennial. I wonder if the Magic Kingdom would have Liberty Square if it opened a decade later.