More Greenfield Village
Milford, MI - Events of Friday, August 26, 2011
As we explained in our last post, Greengield Village is divided into several areas with different themes. After seeing the Working Farms and the Railroad Junction areas of Greenfield Village, we headed to Main Street where shops and businesses of yesteryear are located.
Some of the buildings in Greenfield Village are of great historical significance, and some are fairly ordinary and are being preserved simply because they help illustrate a past way of life. The Cohen Millinery Shop, which was built in Detroit around 1880, is an example of the latter. Sara Cohen, a young widow, started the business to support herself and her children after her husband died. She made new hats and redecorated old ones to keep women of the neighborhood in the latest styles. Hat making was also a popular hobby back in the 1950s, and both our mothers made hats. That's what sparked our interest in the millinery shop. Of course, Margery HAD to try on some of the fashions.
Next to the millinery is the Heinz House. The house was built in 1884 in Sharpsburg, PA in our old hometown of Pittsburgh. Henry J. Heinz worked in the basement of the home making and bottling horseradish. Horseradish, not ketchup, was the first product of the H. J. Heinz Co.
The Wright Cycle shop, which has great historical significance, was relocated from Dayton, OH and sits right across the street from the Heinz House. The Wright Brothers used money they earned selling and repairing bicycles in the front of the shop to finance the experimental flying machines they built in the workshop in the back.
As a young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln tried cases in the Logan County Courthouse between 1840 and 1847. The courthouse was originally located in what is now Lincoln, IL.
The J. R. Jones General Store was built in 1857 in Waterford, MI. It represents countless general stores in small-town America that sold everything from clothing to hardware to groceries.
The next area we visited was called Edison at Work, the main feature of which is Thomas Edison's Menlo Park, NJ complex that includes his machine shop, several smaller buildings and his main laboratory, which is shown below. Notice all the copper wires running to the lab from the upper right corner of the picture.
Thomas Edison was one of the most prolific inventors of all time with over 1,000 U. S. patents, and many in Europe as well, in his name. Most of those inventions came from the Menlo Park lab.
On the first floor of the lab, an interpreter demonstrated the use of an actual, 130-year old Edison phonograph. By shouting into a cone, the operator's voice vibrates a needle to make indentations in tin foil wrapped around a cylinder (left). For the playback, the indentations vibrate a needle attached to a diaphragm, and a larger megaphone amplifies the sound (right). This type of phonograph was first made in 1878. The phonographs that recorded onto wax cylinders came a little later.
The second floor of the lab has many of the thousands of bottles and jars originally located in Edison's lab.
It was on the second floor of the lab where Edison developed the first practical light bulb. Edison didn't invent the light bulb - there were over 20 people who had created some sort of electric light bulb before him. However, through perseverance, Edison found the proper combination of filament material (he used carbonized bamboo), vacuum and electrical resistance that enabled the light bulb to work for extended periods outside the laboratory. There are numerous reproductions of early Edison light bulbs throughout the Edison at Work area.
The next area of Greenfield Village is called Porches and Parlors, which is a collection of homes. Our first stop was at Cotswold Cottage, which was a stone mason's cottage originally built in England in the early 1600s.
Henry Ford's wife admired English cottage gardens, and the one at Cotswold Cottage is beautiful.
Margery had read about tea at Cotswold Cottage. Margery loves to "do tea," but Paul wasn't too enthusiastic initially. However, the cottage is located at just about the farthest point in Greenfield Village from the entrance; and by the time we got there, we were hot, tired, hungry and thirsty. Paul agreed it would be nice to sit a while and have something to eat and drink.
Cotswold Cottage only serves one thing - afternoon tea consisting of tea sandwiches, cookies and scones for $12 a person. Fortunately, you can substitute iced tea for the traditional hot tea. The photo below shows our assortment of tea sandwiches (bottom), cookies and scones (top).
When our food arrived, the conversation went something like this:
Paul - Doesn't look like much food for $24.
Margery - It's about the experience.
Paul - For $24, we should be able to experience being full.
Seriously, the food was good, if not plentiful. We also had a nice place to sit in the shade surrounded by flowers to rest our feet for a while. The iced tea really hit the spot, too.
After we finished our tea, we headed back through the Porches and Parlors area by a different street. There are a total of about 15 to 20 old homes, some relatively ordinary and some belonging to well-known people like Robert Frost (poet), William McGuffey (writer of McGuffey Readers), and Stephen Foster (song writer). Stephen Foster's house from Lawrenceville, PA near Pittsburgh is shown below.
There is a reproduction of the log cabin belonging to George Washington Carver. Carver was born a slave and became a well-known scientist who experimented with peanuts and sweet potatoes.
The last area of Greenfield Village we visited was back near the entrance and is called Henry Ford's Model T. Henry Ford was born in 1863 in the farmhouse in the photo below in Greenfield Township near Detroit.
Ford's father always expected him to take over the family farm, but Ford despised farm work. He was interested in things mechanical, and he left home when he was 16 to become an apprentice machinist in Detroit.
In 1891, Ford became an engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. We showed a photo of a replica of the generating station where he worked in our last post. While he was employed at Edison Illuminating, Ford experimented with gasoline engines on his own time. In 1896, Ford completed his first motor car he called the Quadricycle because it used 4 bicycle tires.
After Ford finished building the Quadricycle in the small workshop behind his home, he realized it was too big to fit out the door. He solved that problem by picking up an axe and enlarging the door opening.
In the same year Ford built his first Quadricycle, he attended a meeting where he met Thomas Edison. Edison approved of Ford's automobile experimentation and encouraged him to keep at it.
In 1899, Ford resigned from Edison Illuminating and formed the Detroit Automobile Company. The company failed and was dissolved less than two years later.
Later in 1901, Ford joined with a number of investors and formed the Henry Ford Company with Ford as the chief engineer. Ford left the company in 1902; and with Ford gone, the company was renamed the Cadillac Automobile Company. Cadillac was bought up by the General Motors conglomerate in 1909.
Ford formed his third and final automobile company in 1902. This company was reincorporated in 1903 as the Ford Motor Company. The photo below shows a one-quarter size replica of Ford's first factory located in Detroit.
Inside the factory, Paul posed for a photo with the 15 millionth Ford that was on display. This Model T rolled off the assembly line on May 26, 1927.
The Ford Motor Company was born in 1903, but the Model T didn't come along until 1908. Up until the Model T, automobiles were all hand built and were very expensive. Henry Ford came up with a design that was simple, that had interchangeable parts, and that could be mass produced making it affordable to the middle class. With that, he changed automobiles and manufacturing for all products forever.
The Model T was produced until 1927 at which time it was replaced by the Model A. Ford called the replacement the Model A rather than the Model U because they said it was such a radical departure from the Model T that they wanted to start all over with the name.
Greenfield Village is extremely well done, and we loved our visit. There are interpreters in almost every building who present a history of the building and answer questions. The village is also big. We spent almost 5 hours there, and we still skimmed through some of the buildings and exhibits.
We had a few miscellaneous things planned for the weekend, then we planned to hit the ground running on Monday with more sightseeing. Stay tuned.