Monday, February 11, 2019

The Women of WWII and the Reenactors Who Portray Them

Out of the nearly 700 postings I have written for Passion for the Past, I would venture to say that only around a dozen - maybe a dozen and a half - are about the 20th or 21st century.
Count today's post among those, for it centers on a couple friends of mine who enjoy  - really enjoy - spending time in America during WWII.
Their passion for the period and their research is an inspiration.

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I received the box set of the Tom Hanks HBO mini-series Band of Brothers and The Pacific for Christmas. What an amazingly true-to-life set this is, showing both the European and Pacific theaters of war in all its intensity and realism. Both series were produced by Tom Hanks (who also produced the amazing John Adams HBO mini-series), and Steven Spielberg. I wish the two men would continue in this vein...you know, bringing American history to life. These are not your typical Hollywood History garbage strewn out with big names to make a buck; instead they are filled with top-notch quality depictions of battles and even life on the homefront. Realism at its finest.
Rosies - The real deal (actual picture)
So as I watched this WWII box set, which, in its entirety, has twenty episodes total, I began to think of the reenactors who portray this era. I have a few friends who absolutely love this early 1940s time of boogie woogie, Rita Hayworth, streamline cars, Clark Gable, classic movies, and Bing Crosby. And I thought I would throw the spotlight on a couple of young women who have taken the 1940s citizen patriot to a high level. Each have spent years as ladies of the 1860s, and each has also been period-dressed presenters at historic Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. So it's suffice to say they do know their history pretty well. Though the ladies love to dress in the clothing of the mid-19th century, they have also found the era of WWII America - the early 1940s - to be a fascinating time for women.
The idea that so many Civil War reenactors, both men and women, have ventured out to other times in history is intriguing to me. I mean, I'm no different, for I also reenact in two different periods, but both of mine are pre-20th century, so the idea of my two friends finding an interest in the 1940s piqued my interest, and I set out to learn more of why they chose the later period rather than remain in an earlier time.
I think you will enjoy what you are about to read (and see), even if the 1940s are not your cup of tea, for their passion of the past shows.
Beckie preparing for her
journey to the 1940s.
Beckie is a long-time living historian and seamstress who has been a Civil War-era reenactor for over a decade. I'm also proud to say that she is a member of my period vocal group, Simply Dickens.
When I queried her on the passion she has for the time of her grandparents, she gave me this explanation: "The first time I participated in a 1940s event was for Wyandotte's Victory Rally (in Wyandotte, Michigan). I think it was 2012. I was volunteering at the Wyandotte Museum and was asked by the then director to help. She wanted a home front vignette and I agreed to help with it." So she and her friend Donna, for the first time, went into the public eye to represented the home front and talk to visitors about "how ladies did their part towards the war effort."
And that got her historical mind a-thinking...
Please understand, Beckie doesn't do anything lightly - she especially takes her history seriously, and because of this she wanted to feel totally immersed in the era and decided that dressing the part would be the best way to present it. "I made a dress and apron from some patterns of the era and made sure I was dolled up from head to toe," she said. "It was a blast! We showed another side of the war that most people don't see. The struggle was real at home and those left behind had to learn how to make due without things that many of us take for granted today."  She was very pleased at the "tons of compliments on our display and our presentation," but the best one she received was from a gentleman who "told us we looked beautiful and reminded him of his mother. He told us that women in the 1940s were so elegant and classy, and our presentation of the era brought back some great memories. At that point, I was hooked!"
Donna & Beckie at their first-time-ever representation of 1940s women.
So Beckie took a giant feet-first leap from the 1860s and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" to the 1940s and "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me." As she herself put it, "The more I researched the period, the more I started to love the look and the entire era. Women and men both looked clean and polished, even when they were in comfy clothes. People got dressed up to go to the grocery store! Who does that now-a-days?"
Beckie "all dolled up."
To help get herself in the mood, she will watch some of her favorite movies from or about the era, such as Pearl Harbor from 2001 ("I cry every time the Japanese start bombing, the pain and fear they must have felt"), Hacksaw Ridge, Life is Beautiful, and Casablanca (of course!), just to name a few. She also enjoys listening to 40s music. "My Sirius is usually set to the 40s Junction channel when I climb in my car, and I've got a large playlist that I'm continually adding to. I also have a huge stack of records that I listen to often when I'm sewing."
As a Civil War reenactor and seamstress, Beckie has always enjoyed researching the clothing of the 1860s, and it was a natural segue into the world of bright red lipstick, wavy hair, and skirts & blouses. "There are a lot of patterns out there that allow me to sew my own outfits, which makes this seamstress super happy." And then there are the websites like pinterest to help her with hairstyles and makeup. "I've got the makeup thing down but I'm still working on the hair," she told me. "For ladies back then, the hairstyles were no big thing because they did them every day, like us throwing our hair in a messy bun today. I'm a work in progress."
Hey! This could be my mom! Or at least one of her older sisters.
But it's not just the girly fashions of the home front that Beckie enjoys, for being the historian that she is, she is quite aware there was a war on, therefore she takes the time to research the military factors. She admits that she doesn't know as much about the battles as she would like, but is gaining knowledge through her adamant research. However, she is also learning about how the ladies participated in the military: "My Aunt Alice was a Lieutenant first class JG in the WAVEs, a branch of the Navy, and that sparked me into looking into different branches," she said. "I'm considering doing a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) impression."
These days Beckie mainly spends most of her time representing a Rosie the Riveter at the Yankee Air Museum in Belleville. "I absolutely love being a tribute Rosie! I have the chance to show the strength of these fantastic ladies who did their part in the home front, building bombers, driving buses and taxis, working in banks and offices." Basically doing things that were not considered lady like, as she put it. But it was because it was their duty to their country that these 1940s women stepped out of the confinement set up for them by previous generations.
And she is proud to represent those women that did step out. "I strive for authenticity so my jumpsuit is based off of a WWII air raid suit, which was used protect clothing during air raids."
And she proudly exclaims, "I was even told that my jumpsuit looked like the jumpsuit an original Rosie wore when she worked on the line!"
(That's Beckie on the right)
If that doesn't confirm her interpretation, I couldn't tell you what would.
She also explained that, "The job of the Rosies from Yankee Museum is to inform people of who Rosie was and what she did towards the war effort and to help raise funds to save the last remaining piece of the Willow Run bomber plant, where the B-24 Bomber was built." They have a drill team, of which she is a part of, that marches in parades all over the state to help raise awareness. "We're like those briefcase guys but way better." In fact, in 2018 they were invited to march in Washington DC's National Independence Day Parade! "It was fantastic and we actually got to stop in front of the review stand to perform."
Only two sugar ration stamps left.
(This is an original ration booklet
given to her at an event)
Something else Beckie likes to do is to bring as much of the 1940s era into her present life as feasibly possible. And those of you who read this blog consistently are quite aware of that many reenactors, including this author, does the very same of our chosen period in time. But this is not an unusual practice among those of us who participate in the living history hobby. "I am trying to pull more of the 1940s style into my everyday life. I just love the look and I want to express myself in this classy style. I'm continually researching - a history background will certainly do that to you!"
However, Beckie hasn't left the Civil War behind. "I still enjoy Civil War reenacting because I get to represent a lady of the era and create a persona and outfits that complete the look," she says, "but I must admit that it's definitely nice to get out of the corset and hoopskirt. It's definitely a different experience reenacting the 1940s than the 1860s. Ladies had a very limited existence during the Civil War, although there were some standouts who did their part or disguised themselves to fight. Women in the 1940s still were supposed to be housewives but WWII recognized that women could play an important part and, at times, did an even better job then men did."
There were rumors that Civil War reenacting was losing ground, that people were leaving the hobby.  But then I came to realize that they weren't leaving reenacting...they were only expanding on their love - their passion - for history. As Beckie puts it, "I honestly love portraying a part of history, and the chance to do so is great. I think it makes me feel the part and it makes everyone else around me enjoy the event more."
And she hopes to meet more original Rosies, "while they are still with us," and through their own personal stories, perfect not only her look, but her persona as well, for she wants to be "as accurate as possible."
Rosie...the riveter!
Everyone stops to admire the scene, Rosie at work on the B-Nineteen
She’s never twittery, nervous or jittery
Rosie the Riveter
What if she’s smeared full of oil and grease, doing her bit for the old Lendlease
She keeps the gang around - they love to hang around
Rosie the Riveter

This is the type of fortitude we should all have when we don period clothing.

Now we'll head over to the 1940s time-travel experiences of Jillian:
Not necessarily a WWII event, it is still a scene directly out of the 1940s~
This photo was one that I set up at Motor Muster inside Greenfield Village, and it seems to show the young Jillian, perhaps as a teenager, admiring her sisters and brother for their part in the War effort.
Jillian began reenacting WWII in 2017 with her first event taking place in Chesterfield Township (Mi). When I asked her what drew her to the 1940s, she replied with, "WWII is appealing to me because it is another important piece of history. Since we have people from that generation still living, it is tangible history, and we have a responsibility to help preserve their stories as much as we can."
Home on leave...
She went on to tell me that through WWII reenacting, there was more access for women to reenact their part in the war. And she felt the need to show that little-known piece of the past. After co-founding the reenacting group, W.A.S.P. Re-enacted (W.A.S.P. stands for Women’s Airforce Service Pilots), the ladies involved can now tell the story of 1,074+ women who were not recognized as a military unit, even though they were private pilots trained the same as the Army pilots (but were not trained in combat or battle flight formations). As the website states:
We are a small, yet mighty, group of American female “pilot” reenactors based out of Michigan, who are dedicated to authentically representing the 1,074 WASP of the Second World War.
Jillian said, "Their duties included towing targets for ground to air gunnery practice, ferrying airplanes from assembly line to base or between bases, 'tracking and searchlight missions, simulated strafing, smoke laying and other chemical missions, radio control flying, basic instrument instruction, engineering test flying, administrative and utility flying.'”
It was by completing those duties that the WASP could then free the male pilots to participate in combat duties. According to the Director of Women’s Flying Training, Jacqueline Cochran, in her final report on the program, the WASPs “flew during operational duties nearly every type of airplane used by the AAF, from the small primary trainer to the Superfortress (B-29), including the Mustang, Thunderbolt, B-17, B-26, and C-52 … the women pilots … flew approximately 60 million miles for the Army Air Forces.”
Some of the W.A.S.P.s check out the latest issue of Life Magazine.
(In this photo we have Amanda Baughman, WASP PILOT, on the left, that's Jillian, XO, holding the magazine
 in the center, and Lacey Opdycke, CO, is pictured on the right)
Jillian proudly stated that "The W.A.S.P.s were incredible women who were not recognized for their efforts until the 1970s. It is our responsibility to help keep their story alive."
And Jillian really enjoys her role in remembering WWII, for it has "more opportunities for women to play a different type of role."
This photo captures the three main ladies of W.A.S.P. who
participated in the reenactment
of D-DAY, which took place in 2017 in Conneaut, Ohio.
When I asked her in which era of the reenacting hobby does her loyalties lie, she responded with, "I think I have an interest in both. It’s really important to me to tell the true history of both the Civil War and WWII."
During her research of Daughters of the Regiments (Civil War), she learned of the many women who were out on the battlefields, including Franklin Thompson, a woman who dressed as a man during and for a few years after the war. Thompson published a best selling book based on her experiences. As Jillian told me, "Women who did dress as men on the battlefields didn't always keep records, for they were sometimes discovered by their handwriting. I find myself learning a lot about both time periods equally."
Jillian is grateful, however, to the men in Civil War reenacting that are supportive of her own role as a Daughter of the Regiment and is glad she could help bring the truth of women who truly were on the battlefield into Civil War reenacting.
Another photo of Jillian taken on the porch of the Wright Brothers Home inside Greenfield Village.
A snapshot right out of the past.
Like Beckie, Jillian is also has a passion for the past and researches deep to find the little-known stories of people that deserve to be remembered and told.

Now this is the Beckie and Jillian I know!
Welcome back to the 1860s ladies!
I want to thank both Beckie and Jillian for kindly answering my questions about their ventures into WWII. I am proud to call each my friend, whether at a reenactment or when we visit or just talk on the phone. And I know a few others who have gone forward in time to the 1940s, including men, and though it may not be "my time," I am still grateful that they are showing another important period in our Nation's history...and the world's history.
As for me, like I said I have no interest in portraying the 1940s myself, for it was my parents era (my father was a WWII veteran, stationed in Okinawa), and to replicate their lives, for me, would be, simply put, weird. I grew up hearing their stories first-hand, and as interesting as they were, I have no want to reenact that time; I prefer the pre-electric eras - those days before the electric light, before the automobile, before telephones and phonographs, before movies and radio...
As for these two lovely ladies you see on the left, here, they continue on in the 1860s as well. And, who knows? Maybe I can entice them to join me in the 1770s one day.
And thank you both for allowing me usage of your photos!


Before We Leave Dept:
Kudos to a few other friends of mine who also enjoy spending time in the both the 1940s as well as the 1860s:
Jennifer is another friend who found a
passion for WWII fashion and history.
 I'll never forget when she called me up after her first reenactment, all on fire with excitement about how she found her place in time. I could hear the passion in her, much like it is with me and colonial, and I hope she will be able to follow that passion as far as it can take her.
You go for it, my friend!
Here is Jennifer with Larissa, both of whom took part
in a Rosie the Riveter gathering. In fact, they broke the
record for the most Rosie's gathered in one place:
(From the Guinness Book of World Records): The largest gathering of people dressed as Rosie the Riveter is 3,734, and was achieved by the Yankee Air Museum (USA) at the EMU Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA, on 14 October 2017.
The Yankee Air Museum attempted to reclaim their previous record from 2014. They even had some "original" Rosies present who actually worked in the factories in WWII. The oldest Rosie present was 101 years old.

Meg is yet another friend who has found herself immersed in the 1940s.
 Like Beckie & Jillian, both Jennifer and Meg also enjoy the Civil War era as well but have a strong interest in the WWII period, nearly all for the same reason. (I hope they don't mind me stealing their photos from their Facebook pages!)
I have not been to a full-blown WWII event, though I hope to sometime soon.
I think it would be very cool to see the era of my parents come to life.

Until next time, see you in time.


~To learn more about the music of the era of the WWII generation, click HERE
~To check out the Band of Brothers & The Pacific Box Set, click HERE
~For information about the group, W.A.S.P. Re-enacted, click HERE






















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Monday, January 28, 2019

The Beginnings of Greenfield Village: Saving Americana

Just so you are aware, this blog and post are not affiliated with - and, therefore, not endorsed by - The Henry Ford (Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum) in any way, shape, or form. It was created out of my love for the place as well as my passion for history.
All of the written information here came from The Henry Ford in some form or another, much of it through the large collection of guidebooks I have acquired, the placards placed at each structure inside the Village, the historic presenters (current and former), books such as 'A Home For Our Heritage' and 'Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village: An Illustrated History,' as well as through my own personal research at the Benson Ford Research Center. I have tried to cross-reference all of the information to ensure its accuracy.
Please note: I do not talk about the school that Greenfield Village initially began as.
That is a whole 'nother ball of wax.
Maybe in the future...

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"Preservation owes a lot to Henry Ford. But in the process of making people aware of the value of the past, he made a number of mistakes. One that modern experts find most objectionable was his uprooting of buildings from their original sites, thereby stripping them of their historical context, all in the name of historical preservation."
(The above came from a Detroit Free Press newspaper article from, I believe, the early 1980's.)

A tribute to Thomas Alva Edison
I've heard this argument countless times during discussions. I've also read newspaper and magazine editorials concerning this practice. And it never ceases to amaze me that some can't see the forest for the trees. Love him or hate him (and there are plenty of both out there), he has done such a service to history - American history - and I deeply appreciate it, for his accomplishments in this field have fed my historical thirst like little else.
To find where this interest of the past Ford had came from, let us go back and dig into the roots of the formation of historic Greenfield Village, the place where Mr. Ford had begun the preservation of a quickly disappearing America of long ago:
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!" '
An original McGuffey Reader
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 complete collection of the 145 different editions, he found he had a penchant for collecting. He already had garnered 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 was around this WWI era that, in part, due to his strong pacifism during that "Great War," a number of newspaper articles were published expressing Mr. Ford's anti-war sentiment, called him an anarchist, among other things, and quoted him as saying, "History is more or less bunk..." which has been repeated often ever since. What most folks don't know is that this "bunk " comment was stated for reasons other than what the press said. It is here that I quote from the book, A Home For Our Heritage by Geoffery C. Upward: "...what (Ford) meant and explained many times in later years was that written history reflected little of people's day-to-day existence. 'History as it is taught in the schools deals largely with...wars, major political controversies, territorial extensions and the like. When I went to our American history books to learn how our forefathers harrowed the land, I discovered that the historians knew nothing about harrows. Yet our country depended more on harrows than on guns or great speeches. I thought a history which excluded harrows and all the rest of daily life is bunk and I think so yet."
It was shortly after the war, in 1919, that Ford found that his birthplace home was in danger due to a major road expansion through the property of his family's farm. The house lay directly in the path of the road. Ford and family decided to prevent this awful occurrence by moving his house and barns out of harms way. But, they didn't stop there. They also restored the old homestead back to the way they remembered it being in 1876 - the year Henry's mother passed away. They searched high and low for every artifact that matched their memories and soon found many more items than necessary. Mr. Ford kept them all, and then some.
Not long before his death, Ford had his birth home removed to his Greenfield Village, where it still sits as an honor to the man who put the world on wheels.
The Ford home in its original location...

And how it looks restored today...just as it did over 150 years ago.
The out-of-state preservation of the Wayside Inn
by Henry Ford. It was built in 1686 and became
an inn is 1716.
According to numerous sources, the idea for preservation and the displaying of the everyday items he had (and continued to acquire) extended into the mid-1920's. He was asked to restore The Wayside Inn in South Sudbury, Massachusetts, built in 1686. Well, when Henry Ford purchased the Wayside Inn in 1923, he envisioned transforming the old Colonial Inn into a living museum of American history, an interest that predates the development of both Colonial Williamsburg and his own Greenfield Village. Pursuing his vision to create a living museum of Americana that would be the first of its kind in the country, Ford purchased 3,000 acres of property surrounding the Inn, added eight new buildings to the site, and collected antiquities for display purposes. It was in this manner Ford could preserve the setting in which the inn was located as well.
A very interesting coincidence in his preservation of the Wayside property included "one house, the circa 1700 Plympton House on Dutton Road, (which was) disassembled and moved to Greenfield Village."
How very cool!
Henry Ford also purchased and restored the 1846 Botsford Tavern, located outside of Detroit. Ford had first seen the tavern while courting his future wife, Clara, in a horse and buggy in the 1880's. Ford and his soon-to-be-wife were regulars at the Saturday night dances and became good friends with the owner. In fact, according to the Detroit News (from 1925): Mr. Ford was always a favorite and no matter how big a crowd or how many guests, there was always a stall for Henry's horse. The "young Ford boy" was granted another honor by Mr. Botsford, and that was permission for him and his sweetheart to place their wraps in the parlor, a place reserved only for the intimate friends of the proprietor's family.
This "young Ford boy" purchased the inn in 1924 and did extensive restoration, doubling the size of the ballroom, adding to the kitchen, and sprucing up the other rooms, all the while restoring them as close as he could to their original splendor. He, too, held grand parties and balls here, but seemingly all but forgot about the old building once the planning of his Greenfield Village commenced.
The 16 Mile House / Botsford Inn - restored in the mid-1920s by Henry Ford - 
still stands near its original location in Farmington, Michigan.
Throughout the 1940's the Botsford was rarely used.
However, the restoration bug had bitten Mr. Ford, and it awakened a passion for social history in him like nothing ever had before.
One little known fact was that the city of Williamsburg, Virginia offered to have Ford purchase the more than a dozen colonial era buildings on the original sites in hopes of a financial backing to turn the original capital of Virginia into a living history extravaganza.
Ford declined. He felt he had a better idea.
Once the decision had been made to build a museum like no other, he decided the land upon which he stored his antique collection would be the perfect spot to build this unique American village, and by October of 1927 construction had begun under chief architect Edward Cutler and the watchful eye of Henry Ford himself. The two men planned the lay out of the village together early in 1927, copying the traditional early American plans of a village green surrounded by a church, town hall, and other buildings.
The following pictures were taken in 1926 (top) and early 1929 (bottom) - photographer not listed - on what would eventually become the Porches and Parlors section of the Village:
This road should be familiar to those who know Greenfield Village fairly well. Within a few years from when this photo was taken the homes of Chapman, Adams, Webster, and Giddings, as well as the British Cotswold Stone Cottage would be placed on the left, and the Edison home, the Susquehanna plantation, and the Plympton house would be placed on the right.

The same road a couple years later. 
The building of Greenfield Village commences - - 
if you look close you can see the office of Luther Burbank off 
to the right. It's still there, in the same location.

The Eagle Tavern (then christened the Clinton Inn by Ford) has the distinction of being the second structure brought to be restored here, only following the JR Jones General Store (christened by Ford as the Waterford Country Store).
The Eagle Tavern was close to being razed before Ford rescued it, thereby preserving pieces of American history that would have been lost.
This old tavern was an eyesore to everyone who saw it...except for Henry Ford, who saw early American travel and felt that, even though it didn't belong to anyone famous, it was still important because it showed everyday life of the average traveling citizen of the mid-19th century.
This was how the Eagle Tavern (aka The Clinton Inn) looked before Henry Ford preserved and restored to its 19th century glory... 
...and thank God he did! What a gem!!

Another preservation is based on one of the most important buildings inside Greenfield Village, the Menlo Park Laboratory. In fact, the opening of Greenfield Village centered around the structure up and beyond all else.
Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and an original Edison helper from the 1870s, Francis Jehl, supervised the reconstruction of the Menlo Park laboratory inside Henry Ford's yet still unopened historic Greenfield Village. This was, perhaps, one of the most important projects in all of modern historical preservation, for it was nearly fifty years earlier when Edison perfected and showed off his working incandescent light right here in this building, and Henry Ford spared no expense in reconstructing the laboratory.
The very carefully restored main laboratory of Edison's Menlo Park complex as it now sits inside Greenfield Village
You must understand, Thomas Edison was Henry Ford's life-long hero and, as adults, were very close friends. So when Mr. Ford formed the idea for his magnificent museum he knew he wanted to pay tribute to this greatest of all inventors. What better way to do this than to restore the "factory" where so many of his greatest inventions took place?
In March of 1928, Ford began the restoration process. He wanted to reconstruct the Menlo Park complex as it was during the period when Edison and his skilled helpers worked at inventing "the future" - 1876 to 1886 - and he wanted it correct in every minute detail.
This photometer, located on the first floor of the lab, was used by Edison to measure 
and compare the amount of light produced by light bulbs versus candles.
To give a quick bit of history of the lay out of this laboratory, the first floor was used for mainly testing the products as well as measuring and processing. A small cubby was also used for Edison's original office.
It was on the 2nd floor that the real excitement took place, for it was here that Edison's workers had separate work stations for specific projects, oftentimes working throughout the night on experiments.
Edison had a pipe organ installed for entertainment during their few breaks. The men - Edison included - would take turns picking out a tune on the organ while everyone else sang.
Can you hear the men singing "Old Dog Trey" or "Rose of Alabamy" while 
the organ played in the background? 
I bet the sounds could be heard clear over at the boarding house!
It was unfortunate that the original site was nearly completely dismantled by neighboring farmers not too many years after Edison's move to West Orange, New Jersey in 1887. In fact, it was only a year after Edison had removed himself that cows (kine?) began to wander amongst the buildings of the complex, and a chicken farmer even allowed his flock to make the laboratory their home! Soon after, many local residents began using the quickly dilapidating building's boards to repair their own deteriorating barns and hen houses. A severe storm blew what was left of the building over in 1913.
Luckily, with Mr. Edison's help, many of the original boards were found, including some that were in storage, while others were regained through purchase of the sheds and other farm buildings mentioned above.
Through the aid of photographs and of the memories of those who worked there, Ford was also able to locate or find exact replicas of the furniture, tools, and other artifacts that once played an important role inside the lab.
Edison & Ford inspect the ruins where the original laboratory once stood 
in Menlo Park, New Jersey
Excavators dug through the original ground and not only found thousands of pieces of Edison's trash and other original "relics" from the lab that had been thrown out (which were gathered and shipped to Dearborn), but they could also see how the original buildings were positioned.
Once they were aligned in Greenfield Village in the same directional orientation as they were in New Jersey (including carloads of New Jersey clay from the original grounds!), the buildings became the focal point on what would be called "the greatest and most significant single preservation effort in America."
After the restoration was completed (with Francis Jehl's help), Mr. Ford asked Edison what he thought of the reconstruction. Mr. Edison replied that it was 99% correct. Wondering about that 1% that wasn't right, Ford questioned Edison what was not correct.
"It was never this clean!" Mr. Edison told him.
Here is the entire Menlo Park complex, situated exactly as it was in New Jersey. The brick building out in front was the office. Ford even brought tons of 
New Jersey clay for the structures to sit upon!

Of the multiple structures that were part of the first actual public demonstration of the electric incandescent light that Thomas Edison gave on New Year's Eve 1879, only one remains, for all others have been torn down: the Sarah Jordan Boarding House.
Yep - it's in Greenfield Village, preserved for all the world to see for generations to come.
(The same can be said for the two Wright House buildings - the home and the Cycle Shop; both would have certainly been raised and/or forgotten about if Ford hadn't removed and restored them from Dayton, Ohio to his Village.)
"(Edison) led me to one of the windows to the south end of the second floor and pointed past the office building to a drab-colored frame house with green shutters, a short distance down Christie .
'Go over there,' he told me, 'and talk to Mrs. Jordan.'
Can you see Mrs. Jordan's house in the distance? Yes, this photo was taken from the 2nd floor of the Menlo Park laboratory
I picked up my satchel and made my way down stairs and out the front door. It was nearing the time when Christian folks had supper and went to bed.
There was a path leading to the side gate in the rear of the office building. Beyond it stretched Christie Street, running past the picket fence on the east side of the compound.
Sarah Jordan's Boarding House, in the same way Edison's worker's viewed it from the laboratory
The boarding house
I crossed the street diagonally and...I turned in at the far gate and set foot for the first time on the porch of the Jordan boarding house, which was to become my home for more than a year.
In a few moments I was introducing myself to a slight, frail little woman who was the proprietress. 
As the boarding house must've looked when young
Francis walk from Menlo Park Lab

The "far gate" that Francis walked through to see Mrs. Jordan.
Business was not yet brisk and she was glad to see a new lodger. She escorted me up the narrow winding stairs and into a large room at the front of the home. Although I did not know it at the time, I came later to the conclusion that the room she gave me was the best she had. It looked over the porch and had an additional window on the far side, making three windows in all. The furnishings were plain but ample - large clean bed, commode with wash bowl and water pitcher, bureau and a few chairs. Board and room, I learned, were to cost five or six dollars a week.
This is the room I suspect was the one Mr. Jehl describes here, for it matches his description closely (he only mentions one bed and no roommates)
I accepted the room at once and after unpacking my satchel by candle light and hanging up my clothes, went downstairs and took a seat in the dining room where two or three men were already at the table. By that time darkness had fallen and a coal oil lamp furnished the light for our supper.
Perhaps a brief explanation about the plan of Mrs. Jordan's boarding house might not be out of place here. It comprised two separate apartments, each unit in itself. One was shut apart from the other and  the communicating doors were usually kept locked. In one half lived Mrs. Jordan and her daughter, and the other was given over to the boarders. 
"Aunt Sally's" (as the boarders affectionately called her) family sitting room
This is where the boarders gathered for relaxation
Occasionally the door between the two front rooms downstairs was unlocked and that on the family side was made available to lodgers or visitors as a sitting room. The influx of lodgers taxed the capacity of the little dwelling and it was necessary to use the original sitting room as an overflow dining room to make possible a second dining table at meal time.
The whistle, calling the mechanics and workmen to their tasks in the machine shop, blew at seven o'clock in the morning. Those working in the laboratory with Mr. Edison did not follow its summons for they were likely to remain long after hours; but no matter how late they worked the night before, they usually rose early in the morning to be on hand for breakfast. The first who got to the table had the choice helpings and sometimes could squeeze in a second helping before the late comers arrived.
Supper was a bountiful meal with meat, vegetables, and fruit framing the main dishes. The big meal of the day - dinner - was at noon when soup, potatoes, and the pies, for which Mrs. Jordan was noted, were served.
This is where the men would eat
After the meal we sat for a time in the living room while Mrs. Jordan and her little ten-year-old daughter did the dishes in the kitchen just beyond.
Mr. Edison used to walk down the street past the house when he returned home after the long hours at the laboratory. Frequently at night after I retired in my room I heard his footsteps on the walk as he trotted homeward. On such occasions as he passed the house during the day, he stopped to chat with Mrs. Jordan, or with those of us who happened to be loafing on the stoop when the weather was nice."
Original photo taken sometime between 1879 and 1882 (The year Jehl left for Europe). That's Francis on the far right, Edison in the white shirt on the right, and Mrs. Jordan 2nd from left
Though it was not dark when I took this photograph, this is very similar to what Francis Jehl saw when he stepped forth from the (Sarah Jordan) boarding house. Yes, that's the Menlo Park complex you see there, and it now sits the same distance as it once did when Mr. Jehl worked there back in 1879.
No expense spared to preserve history.
So now, with his main buildings in place, including a few not shown here, the fun, after years of planning, could take place.
The day's festivities began with Thomas Edison's arrival, escorted by Ford and President Hoover, at Smiths Creek Station now restored in Ford's Greenfield Village.
Henry Ford was ready for his tribute to his hero Thomas Edison.
From what I understand, this is the first map
showing the original lay out of Greenfield Village
It was on October 21, 1929, the 50th anniversary of Edison’s incandescent lamp, that Henry Ford held a gala to honor Mr. Edison and was also the official dedication of the Edison Institute that included Greenfield Village and what became known as the Henry Ford Museum. Some 500 distinguished guests -- family, friends, inventors, business leaders and celebrities, including President and Mrs. Herbert Hoover, Orville Wright, George Eastman, Marie Curie, and Will Rogers -- were invited to this celebration and were able to roam about the Village as well as enjoy the anniversary's gala candle-lit dinner, which would take place inside the replicated Independence Hall portion of the museum building in the early evening.
For the opening day of Henry Ford's out-door open-air museum of Greenfield Village, it was, unfortunately, a cool one of rain and fog. His guests, however, still visited the buildings he had restored there, including all of the aforementioned structures mentioned above. Ford provided enclosed horse-drawn carriages to keep his nearly 500 visitors dry between stops.
The tour's highlight, of course, was Edison's Menlo Park complex, which was to be the focal point of the evening's Light's Golden Jubilee celebration.
Inside the reconstructed Menlo Park laboratory, Thomas Edison reenacted the events of his first-time ever lighting of his incandescent light bulb 50 years earlier. Included in the festivities was his former assistant Francis Jehl.
Although the laboratory is not "100%" original, it was close enough to perfect for Edison and his former helpers. Many of the items, the bottles and such, that are now upon the shelves are the very same that Edison had in the laboratory in the late 1870's and early 1880's. The idea that it was in this building (in all reality, it really was in this building when you think about it) that Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light, the phonograph, the stock ticker, a forerunner of the telephone, and over 400 other items, is enough to send chills down one's back  upon entering the complex.
And so here it was in 1929, exactly fifty years later from that very same October 21 date, in 1929, in this very same building, when Edison reenacted the lighting of the first incandescent light. Henry Ford and President Hoover were right there in the room with him while this event was nationally broadcast on radio.
Here is part of NBC's description of what happened as was heard nationwide:
"Will it light? Will it burn? Or will it flicker and die, as so many previous lamps had died? Now the group (Hoover, Edison, and Ford) is about the old vacuum pump. Mr. Edison has two wires in his hand; now he is reaching up to the old lamp; now he is making the connection...It Lights!"
The museum's replica of the Liberty Bell pealed for the first time. Electric lights blinked on across the nation; car horns sounded. The world showed it's gratitude - none more deeply than Ford.
As you can see, the chair Edison sat
 upon is truly nailed to the floor!
More important than dedicating his beloved Village and museum was the opportunity to honor the man who made possible great advances in industrial technology for the benefit of the entire world. Ford's new institution, formally named The Edison Institute, had been properly christened. (From Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village: An Illustrated History with revised text by Harold Skramstad Jr. 1993.)
After the glorious moment took place, Ford ordered his men to have the chair upon which Edison sat for the reenactment to be nailed to the floor as is.
Menlo Park truly was an invention factory - Edison didn't necessarily invent everything himself; he surrounded himself with the right workers such as Francis Jehl and others who had the right amount of curiosity and know-how, and together, just like the unsung workers in Ford's automobile factory 30 years into the future, came up with the inventions that changed the world.
And it still stands, for future generations to see where the future began.
Aside from Greenfield Village becoming a place of learning for school-aged kids, as well as special tours for the chosen few, everything inside the serpentine walls stood silent for most people, and the curiosity grew.
So, when and how did Greenfield Village finally open up to the general public for the first time?
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 years...it 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."
Greenfield Village in the 1930s
The book tells of the original plan, 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, and the rest, as is said, is literally history in the truest sense!

Before we leave, however, there are two structures that used to be situated inside Greenfield Village - in fact, they were there during the October 21, 1929 Light's Golden Jubilee ceremony - but have since been removed. Luckily, they are still available for us to see:
The Pioneer Log Cabin / Salter House:
Similar in basic design as the Gardner House (see the next house below the cabin), this 1820's (or 1840's, if the information at Crossroads Village is correct) log cabin met a similar fate as its clapboard counterpart; in 1995 it was moved to Crossroads Village in Flint, Michigan (the Gardner Home removed to the Dearborn Museum grounds). 
Yes, Michigan had log cabins at one time!
This cabin was originally located about a quarter of a mile from the Ford Farm and had been occupied by John Salter, a German immigrant, of which Ford would visit.
Ford architect, Ed Cutler, remembered that the whole structure was originally carted over to Greenfield Village in one piece on a large truck. All the photos here were taken after its removal to Crossroads Village, where you can still see the treasure that once stood inside Greenfield Village.
The kitchen area of the cabin.
As you can see, the inside walls were completed.
Though small, it does not necessarily have a log cabin appearance on the interior.
I was told that since Greenfield Village already had a log
cabin (the McGuffey Birthplace), they felt they did not
need two, which is why it was donated to Crossroads.
I am so very glad it was not taken apart and stored away.

Next we have 
The Gardner House:
Originally located in the Scotch Settlement area of Dearborn Township, the Gardner House was built in 1832 by Richard Gardner, one of the original settlers of the area, and he and his wife - with their ten children - lived in the relatively small house for many years. It was similar to the Pioneer Log Cabin (see above), except that it has the additional refinement of clapboard siding.
This is such a beautiful representation of an early Michigan home.
Henry Ford recounted his own personal memories of the Gardner House:
"This morning I was by a home called the Gardner Home, where, as a boy, I used to frequently stop when I was coming back from Detroit at a late hour.

Rather than go on to the house and disturb my father, I would sleep with the Gardner boys. This morning I was by that house because we plan on removing it to the historic village we are about to build."

The structure was in place inside Greenfield Village by June of 1929 and remained there until 1996 when it was removed to the premises of the Dearborn Historical Museum, where it can still be visited according to the hours of the society.
As you can see, the Gardner House is faithfully restored
to its 
period in time, inside and out.
I have not heard why this building, which meant so much to Henry Ford, was removed from Greenfield Village, for it is a very fine example of an 1830s home, something not seen very often. A plus is at least we can still visit this historic structure.
Oh, if it were only staffed with period-dress workers or volunteers...
I am not sure if the furnishings were also part of the deal
when The Henry Ford gave this structure to Dearborn.
If you live in the Dearborn area and have not ever visited the Gardner House, I highly recommend that you do, for I don't think you will be disappointed.

I have visited the Gardner House as it sits inside its new location numerous times, and the Dearborn Historical Museum folks have done a wonderful job in keeping it historically accurate, though I must admit that I very often wish it was still 
situated inside Greenfield Village, for to see period dress people inside keeping it alive is what I long for.
I wish I had taken pictures of both the Salter Log Cabin and the Gardner House as they were inside Greenfield Village, but they were removed before my passion for photography took effect.

Before we take our leave, I would like to add a couple more interesting notations -
From the August 1, 2002 Chicago Tribune obituaries:
James Jordan Humberstone, 73, a Chicago resident known for his expertise in antiques and his dedication to the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan, died of heart disease Friday, July 26, in his home. Mr. Humberstone was the only child born in the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village, Mich. His father was the chief curator for the industrialist's living museum and, like many who worked there, the Humberstones lived in the museum quarters. Their home was in the Sarah Jordan Boarding House, which once was the New Jersey residence of Thomas Edison. Ford asked the family to name their child Sarah if it was a girl and Jordan if a boy, said Henry Prebys, Mr. Humberstone's friend and a museum curator. "It's why he went by `Jordan' instead of `James.' He was particularly proud of that."

And also:
Through my own Friends of Greenfield Village Facebook page I had been proud to become friends with a former very early Greenfield Village presenter, "Robert "Bob" Copp. who died on Sunday, October 28, 2018. He was 97. 
Detroit News obituary for Mr. Copp stated:
"Robert Copp was also proud of his work as a guide at the Greenfield Village Museum (Dearborn) where he was among the first group hired in 1937. He served in that capacity part time for several years and remained an avid supporter of the Henry Ford Museum, including editing Wikipedia articles and being active on the Greenfield Village Facebook page."
I am very proud to have had Mr. Copp be a part of my little Friends of Greenfield Village page. The best part is he was also an active member - he enjoyed giving all of us a little peak into the early days of Greenfield Village.


I hope you enjoyed a little trip down Greenfield Village Memory Lane.
With that, until next time, see you in time.

If you are interested in delving deeper into the history of some of the structures inside Greenfield Village, please click the following links:
The Giddings House
The Noah Webster House
The Ackley Covered Bridge
The Eagle Tavern
The Firestone Farm
The Richart Carriage Shop
Doc Howard's Office - Tales of a 19th century circuit-riding doctor
The Plympton House

For those of you that have never been to Greenfield Village, you should plan a trip there. If you are a lover of history, especially American history, this should be on your bucket list. Though the Henry Ford Museum is open year-round, Greenfield Village is open mainly from mid-April through November, with a special Christmas program throughout the month of December.
To do it right as a one-time out of town visitor, you will need a minimum of two days...possibly three.






















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