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.  It was created out of my love for the place as well as my passion for history.
Nearly 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 write about the school that Greenfield Village initially began as.
That is a whole 'nother ball of wax.
Maybe in the future...

~   ~   ~

"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 in 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 layout 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 two 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 celebration,  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 layout 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 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 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 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 place 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 you see 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 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 peek 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.






















~   ~   ~

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Year in the Past: Reenacting With Ken 2018

"What is it about the past that enthralls me so? I have asked myself that question many times but I have no absolute answers."
Enthralled indeed - these were the first lines written in my very first Passion for the Past posting way back in November of 2007. And I've been trying to figure it all out ever since.
Time intertwines with time
as it keeps on slipping into
days of future passed...
I mean, you all know me as an active living historian frequently engaging in presenting life as once lived oh-so-long-ago. It seems I find myself wearing the clothing of our country's ancestors and seemingly time traveling to America's past quite often. While time travel itself might be impossible (so far), we, as historical reenactors, feel our hobby is the next best thing...if we do it right, and keep all modernisms at bay the best we can. (Not too long ago I walked away from a few period dressed reenactors who were engaged in a topic about Trump and modern politics, and they made the attempt to include me. I told them a big part of the reason I reenact was to get away from the modern day. They scoffed at me.
I don't care. They ruin what could be/should be time away from that stuff).
As far back as I can remember, I've wanted to experience life in the colonies or in the Victorian era. I wanted to be there, and experience, with all five senses, the lives of those who lived "back then."
So, as far as bringing the past to life (or traveling back in time), only by way of living history can one remotely experience a touch of the past in that manner.
I still do not know why the past enthralls me in the way that it does. I probably never will know why.
No matter, for I am who I am. And this is me.
February stands alone as the one sole month in 2018 that I was not in period clothing. I'll have to do better in 2019 because in 2017 I hit all 12 months!
Now, as you will see, I bounce back and forth between two worlds of American history: the 1770s and the 1860s. And then I find my way back to the 21st century. Not all of my time-travel opportunities are "official reenactments," by the way; I tend to visit historic Greenfield Village (on my own), participate in museum & presentation activities (usually with my presentation partner or with friends), and even shop at living history sutler shows while in period clothing.
Some 'moderns' have made comments to me about how uncomfortable period fashions must be. I fully disagree, for I find that I rather enjoy wearing the styles of the past, especially my colonial clothing, for they are pretty comfortable and, well, I feel 'right' in them. To be honest, I actually like that style even better than my modern jeans & t-shirts. In fact, a few friends of the female persuasion have mentioned more than once they wished that more men would dress in 18th century garb. I suppose if I could get away with it, I would dress that way daily. However, I don't think the world of the 21st century would understand...
As far as the style and comfort in my Victorian-era 1860s clothing...I like the top hat. Okay...my hats in general. The clothing just isn't very comfortable to me. It feels too much like a modern suit.
But if I am around a lady wearing her hoop skirts, the style fits right in the period.
Anyhow - - let's head back to a year ago when 2018 was a clean slate and see how I filled the pages with my time-travel adventures:
January: The 21st Michigan Civil War era Christmas Party
My year always begins with the 21st Michigan Civil War Reenactor's annual Christmas party, held inside the old school house in Eastpointe built in 1872. 

Period music, dancing, clothes, and (mostly) food. 
Oh yes, a good time indeed.

January: 1860s Farm Presentation for a school
Larissa and I 
doing a historic presentation for elementary aged kids in Detroit about every day life on an 1860s farm. 

March: Kalamazoo Living History Show
Most reenactors in our neck of the woods (the north-central region of the U.S.) 
look forward to the annual Kalamazoo Living History Show, and many, like us, don our period clothing to do so.
They are advertised as being "the largest indoor event in the Midwest devoted to pre-1890 antique firearms, period clothing and crafts, re-enactment and living history supplies."
March: Kalamazoo Living History Show
Yep, that's why some folks travel from as far away as Wisconsin to attend, such as Jenna Theisson & her husband, Jon. We were pretty excited to finally meet each other - we've been Facebook friends for years and now we were friends in person!

March: Night at the Museum
I love participating in the Plymouth Historical Museum's "Night at the Museum," which is based on the movie of the same name. A few of us reenactors take part and present ourselves as any number of famous people from the past. As the kids walk up to us, we come alive and begin speaking about our lives and why we were famous or important in history. I, of course, always portray Paul Revere.
I love doing this.

April: Benefit for the Plymouth Fife & Drum Corps
Again I am in Plymouth, but this time to help out the Plymouth Fife & Drum Corp, with Dr. Benjamin Franklin and I (again, as Mr. Revere) spending time to mingle with the dinner guests.

April: Benefit for the Plymouth Fife & Drum Corps
I feel like I am a-waiting a visit from Thomas Jefferson, being in such fancy surroundings.

April: Abraham Lincoln Round Table
Larissa and I did our 2nd farming presentation of the year, this time in (where else?) Plymouth for the Abraham Lincoln Round Table.

Every year I celebrate Patriot's Day by dressing period and heading out to Greenfield Village. This year was no different (and since I wrote an entire post about it HERE, I won't go into it again...), but I must tell you of my pre-adventure...
So on the morning of Saturday, April 21, as I drove to Greenfield Village while wearing my colonial clothing, the temperature gauge on my van went deep into the red, meaning my motor was about to overheat. I was on I-94 near the I-75 exit (exit 216) right in the heart of Downtown Detroit. Traffic was creeping along at a snail's pace, for there was an accident in the left lane, and the right lane was closed for construction, leaving only the center lane to accommodate thousands of autos in this major metropolis. Luckily, I was able to drive my van over to the side - the people let me through from the center lane. I got out and opened the hood - it seemed to me that my thermostat may need replacing.


Anyhow, seeing that traffic on 94 was at a crawl, and so many saw me dressed as, shall we say, Paul Revere, many honked and waved, and a truck driver yelled out, "Is everything alright?"
There I am, near the tow
truck. And there's my van.
The tow-truck driver took
the picture after we dropped
off the van.
Then the tow truck driver
wanted a picture with me,
so I put my tricorn hat on
him, and, as you can see,
he loved it!
I yelled back, "My horses got loose and took off from my carriage and now I'm stuck!"
He really laughed pretty hard, gave a thumbs up, waved, and crept along on his way.
When the tow-truck driver saw me, he just smiled and said, "I love my job!" and gave me this big ol' hug and then said, "You made my day!"
After getting my van to the repair shop near where I live, the tow truck driver took a picture of me, and then he had us take a selfie together...with him wearing my tricorn hat.
He commented about how he couldn't wait to show the other drivers at the garage.

And, lucky for me, I was able to get a copy of the two pictures he took.
The moral of my story? When lemons are sent your way, lemonade isn't far away.
So much for my trip to Greenfield Village on that Saturday, but at least I got to have a little fun, in spite of the situation.
But, fear not!
For I was able to celebrate Patriot's Day the very next day, Sunday April 22.

April 22: the next day at ~Greenfield Village~
 Colonial
I made it to the Village by way of my wife's carriage. 

The Plympton House in Greenfield Village played a small role in the Battle of Concord on April 19, 1775 (click HERE to learn about it), and it was a fine home to stand inside for my annual Patriot's Day sojourn. I really enjoy visiting such a place, but especially on Patriot's Day, a day only celebrated in a few states. Unfortunately, Michigan is not one of them. But I'm trying to change that.  

April 22: Greenfield Village - Colonial
Patriot's Day is not an actual event inside the Village; me and a couple of friends just kind of dress up and visit on our own accord.

No, I was not "working" in this photo. It is a posed shot originally to help me 
with my posting about springtime in the past.
Looks pretty authentic, methinks.

May: Civil War - Macomb County Celebration
We did a 200th anniversary of the county in which I reside - Macomb - 
by putting on a presentation of Civil War soldiers and civilians at 
the Eastpointe (Erin-Halfway) School House, built in 1872.

May: Night at the Museum #2
Here I am as Paul Revere, once again speaking to kids at the 

Plymouth Museum's "Night at the Museum" birthday party.
Plymouth loves history!

May: Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village
The linen suit brigade!

And probably the only 1860s clothing I enjoy wearing.
Memorial Day Weekend is always a fantastic time, for we spend three days at Greenfield Village's Civil War Remembrance weekend. Hundreds upon hundreds of 1860s reenactors convene and camp throughout the historic buildings.

May: Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village
My son does military, and does it well, and I am a civilian.
When it comes to reenacting, he is definitely a "mini-me," for he enjoys traveling to the past every bit as much as I do.

May: Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village
Myself and a few other 21st Michigan civilian members enjoyed a morning walk posing for pictures and generally glad to be where we were on such a beautiful (but very hot) day.

June: Civil War at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit
In contrast to the heat of Memorial Weekend two weeks earlier, we had a 
cold, rainy, windy day for this event, but that didn't stop us from still enjoying ourselves, for it rained in the 1860s, too.

June: Civil War at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit
I am always honored to reenact with the finest President Lincoln since 1865!
This man is Lincoln in every sense of the word. I am basing my interpretation of Paul Revere on Mr. Priebe's style, for I believe if one is going to become a person from the past, then he or she is to put his best foot forward to do so.

June: Colonial/RevWar at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit
Same spot, same month, different weekend, different time period,
same crappy weather.

But we did have General Washington join us.
Wow---think of it...within a two-week period I was able to spend time with two different Presidents!

June: Colonial/RevWar at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit
I thought this could be an interesting photo, so I set it up for Heather. 

Yep---it turned out exactly like I had hoped! 

4th of July - Greenfield Village - Colonial/RevWar
Wearing colonial clothing on the 4th of July in Greenfield Village: it all makes sense.
We are such proud Patriots!
Again, this is not a reenactment event. I have spent my 4th of July's at Greenfield Village in period dress for well over a decade.
Like I said, it all just makes sense.

4th of July: Greenfield Village - Colonial/RevWar
We are wearing clothing from the 1760s/1770s while inside a house that was standing during the time of the writing and printing of the Declaration of Independence...on the 4th of July~

In Michigan, it can hardly get better than that!
After spending a few hours in the morning at Greenfield Village, we moved onto Mill Race Village for another Independence Day celebration:
July 4th: Mill Race Village - Colonial/RevWar
I am standing along side of Benjamin Franklin and General George Washington as the Declaration is being read on Independence day!

Gives me chills.

July 4: Mill Race Village - Colonial/RevWar
Here we have two Kens on the replicated Concord Bridge fending off the Regulars.
No, this didn't actually happen on the 4th of July 
(it was on April 19th, remember?), but the visitors loved it.

July 4th: Mill Race Village - Colonial/RevWar
All but four people in this picture are members of my Citizens of the American Colonies living history group.
I am proud of my members, for we have set our standards high - and I believe it shows - and we are continuously working to climb even higher.

We are ever learning.

July: Charlton Park - Civil War
We are back to the 1860s here as we recreate a southern-leaning Maryland family scenario during the Civil War.

Yes, we get to reenact in a period house!

July - Charlton Park - Civil War
This is my reenacting family. At a couple of events during the year we reenact as husband, wife, and daughter to play out scenarios and to help make the past come alive more realistically for both visitors and living historians.

Being the farmers that we are, I believe this is an appropriate background.

July: Frankenmuth - Colonial/RevWar
This is a unique setting for our event in that it takes place in one of Michigan's top tourist attractions, Frankenmuth, where it's Christmas all year long, chicken is served morning, noon, and night, and Greta VanFleet, is the current hard rock music group, and they performed on Saturday Night Live!
At 5'7" I am not very tall compared to these guys, am I?

July: Frankenmuth - Colonial/RevWar
My daughter-in-law and grandkids had no idea I was in Frankenmuth participating in a reenactment, and were quite surprised!
My granddaughter just isn't sure what to make of her papa!

July: Frankenmuth - Colonial/RevWar
My daughter also came with my daughter-in-law. She does not reenact nearly as much as she used to, which I miss, but she did come and visit me, which made me very happy.

July: Fort Wayne, Indiana - Colonial/RevWar
This replicated 1815 fort is a wonderful place to have a RevWar/colonial reenactment, for its style definitely hearkens back to the 18th century, as you can see by this picture.

July: Fort Wayne, Indiana - Colonial/RevWar
I had the honor of reading the Declaration of Independence to the citizens below. However, I was stopped before long by the King's men and abused much; but the military captain told me not to be afraid, no one should hurt me. I told him they would miss their aim. He said they should not, I told him I knew better, and then I was roughly tossed out of the fort.
Yeah, we do enjoy ourselves.

August: Civil War at Port Sanilac
The reenactors who took place in our historic fashion show, where fashion is told through the everyday lives of everyday people.

August: 1860s Farming at Port Oneida
Larissa and I did yet another everyday life farming presentation at the Port Oneida Agricultural Fair, located in the north-western portion of Michigan's lower penninsula.
This was our third year taking part, and we enjoy it each and every time.
That's Heidi, upset that we began eating her cookies.

August: Colonial Kensington
In this picture you see members of Citizens of the American Colonies.
This event, held at a state park, is a wonderful setting and, lucky for us, the weather was mostly pretty nice.

August: Colonial Kensington
And for the first time, I brought my tent to this event! Of course, I let the honorable Dr. Benjamin Franklin share in our presentations. 

August: Colonial Kensington
So...Ken got the itch. Seeing how I looked in this photo with a borrowed musket, I actually went and purchased a musket of my own. "twill be seen in 2019.

August: Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs - 18th Century
My wife, Patty, broke her leg in May, so most of her reenacting activities were halted for the season. Except this one at the Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs encampment. I was so happy she put on her colonial clothing and joined me!

August: Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs - 18th Century
Larissa and I portray an 18th century farm couple, and we do our farm life presentation, modified for the mid-to-late 1700s, at this event. 

August: Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs - 18th Century
It was a mite breezy off of Lake St. Clair.
Working with the Voyageurs is one of my highlights.

So glad Larissa took this picture.

September: Civil War at Greenmead
My son, Miles, and I. When he knows his friends will
be at an event, he will most surely be there as well.

October: Colonial Harvest at Greenfield Village
Here I am visiting with Rebecca at my very favorite (and my most photographed) house inside the Village, the Daggett Break Back house that was originally built in Connecticut around 1750.

October: Colonial Harvest at Greenfield Village
As one who portrays a farmer, I enjoy becoming part of an agricultural scene where nothing of today can be seen.

October: Colonial Harvest at Greenfield Village
My lovely wife (and photographer) joined me, and we had such a splendid and relaxing time together.
It felt like fall.

October: Muster at the Mill - RevWar/Colonial
Time to queue up!
This was a fun picture taken by Beth or Kevin from B&K Photography.

October: Muster at the Mill - RevWar/Colonial
Charlotte, a member of my Citizens of the American Colonies group, came to the Muster at the Mill reenactment prepared to clean the shoes of all the gents who needed cleaning. And just doing something as simple as this drew a crowd.
As I have said many times before, anybody can do period things in modern clothes and few will pay attention, but put that same person in period clothing and all of a sudden it becomes fascinating...and historical.

October: 1860s Harvest at Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne
It's October in Michigan; just what would people on 
the home front be doing this time of year if it was the 1860s?
Why...it's harvest time - - the busiest time!

And every year the 21st Michigan civilians bands together to put on our own historic harvest presentation. 

November: An 18th Century Autumn at Greenfield Village
It is now early November - there is a nip in the air - enough where my son and I, and his girlfriend, can wear our cloaks as we traipse about the Village, enjoying our time amongst all of the history.

November: An 18th Century Autumn at Greenfield Village
It almost looks like a backdrop behind us, but nope---it's the real deal. So beautiful.
The stone fence behind us was built around 1620.
Two weeks later found me back at Greenfield Village, celebrating Black Friday the only way I feel is right - by staying away from the stores and diving into the past:
November: A Colonial Black Friday at Greenfield Village 
Rebecca and I always seem to have wonderfully historical conversations, and we exchange ideas and share knowledge on many topics of the past. She is a wealth of information, especially on the colonial period.

November: A Colonial Black Friday at Greenfield Village 
And then there's Roy, who is also another with extensive knowledge of the 18th century. And there are others...they just are not in this particular collection of photos.

December: An 1860s Christmas at the Fort
Creating a historic family to recreate a Christmas
celebration of the past. Only we aren't reenacting;
we truly are celebrating Christmas. It just so
happens that we are in a historic setting while in
period clothing, doing what folks would have
done over 150 years ago.
There's no pretending.
Except for us being a *real* family - -
that's the only pretend part.
But everything else is real.

December: An 1860s Christmas at the Fort
And we even ate our dinner, which was served by our servant (who actually did serve us) by oil lamp light in the dining room of the old house.
It's an experience like no other, I can tell you that for certain.

Immersion like little else.

Back to our historic presentations...have you been keeping track?
This is something we so enjoy!
December: Colonial Farm School Presentation
Not too long before Christmas and Larissa & I are,
once again, teaching school kids about life in the past.
Oh, if I could only make a living doing this!

So---the next picture is not a reenactment at all, but I am in my 1860s clothing:
Throughout December: Simply Dickens
As you may know, I head up a period vocal group called Simply Dickens, and we perform throughout the Christmas season, singing old world carols, most of which are not well-known today.
Yes, we dress "Victorian" and play all over the metro-Detroit area.

December: Citizens of the American
Colonies Christmas party 

I have hosted a Civil War Christmas party for the 21st Michigan for around 15 years, but this was my first colonial Christmas gathering. It was mainly for the members of my living history group of the same name

December: "Citizens of the American Colonies" Christmas party 
An afternoon dining on cuisine of the 18th century with fine friends and resplendent reenactors celebrating the Christmastide.
This was a small and quiet time - just to give it a try.

December: "Citizens of the American Colonies" Christmas party 
Though my gathering was mainly for the members of my living history group, I welcomed members of the 1st Pennsylvania, for their civilian members are welcome to be a part of our group since they have no civilian contingent.
I am already planning the party I will host next year - - - 

And that, my friends, is a year's worth of time-traveling with Ken. Even without February being in the mix, I still found myself wearing the clothing of the past seemingly almost as much as I wear my modern clothing. To be honest (and I've said this before), I enjoy historical wear, and if I had my way I would be in my "small clothes" (the old elegance of knee-breeches, ruffled shirts, long stockings, cocked hats, and buckled shoes) almost daily, for I find they are not only very comfortable to wear (or maybe I'm just comfortable wearing them), but look pretty cool as well.
Either way....
But, alas, I would probably be put into a home for the bewildered, and then what would my poor wife do? Sit and be lonely for her dear husband, I suppose.
And we don't want that!
So I must settle waiting for the opportunities as each arise.
And I am good with that!

Until next time, see you in time.






















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