Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Greenfield Village

Most every American recognizes the names of Edison, Firestone, Frost, Webster, and Ford and can  associate each name with its respective fame: Light bulb, phonograph, moving picture for Edison; tires for Firestone; poetry for Frost; dictionary for Webster; and motor car and assembly of motor cars for Ford. However, let's add one more for Henry Ford: he is responsible for having the foresight for initiating Greenfield Village, located next to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where the history of these giants, and many other greats, is preserved and open to the public for a small admission fee.

As the sign above indicates, Edison assembled a team of inventors and set high goals for them: one major invention every 6 months and one minor invention every 10 days. He set up his experimental facilities in the small village of Menlo Park, New Jersey, in 1876.
Henry Ford brought many of the original buildings to Greenfield Village where visitors can walk through them and listen to guides tell stories about these great men and point out specific facts about the laboratories.
Edison's light bulb invention in the picture below is one of my favorite lab sites.

Edison's facilities cover several acres at Greenfield Village, and Nancy and I trekked through them all, but we were fascinated by a number of other attractions, too.

Farm buildings from the boyhood farm of Firestone strike a handsome figure in the distance.

The land is farmed according to the times of Firestone's childhood.

Of course, I'm always curious to check out the machinery.

Henry Ford had a high regard for agriculture.

The streets of Greenfield Village are lined with historic buildings, and tour guides driving Model T's give block by block tours to visitors. 
Living facilities of Frederick Douglas, McGuffey's, one of Robert Frost's houses, the grade school Henry Ford attended, slave quarters, and Webster's house are among the many, many buildings on display, many of which are equipped with self-guided tours.

Looms always capture my wife's interest, and as we visit the a building containing several looms, the guide working the looms explains some fascinating details. 

Did you know a Frenchman used a type of punch card to create intricate loom designs automatically?
In the picture below, you can see how the holes in the large cards can dictate the loom's movements, creating a programmed pattern.

Jacquard invented this loom in 1801, but his work was based on other inventions of Frenchmen as early as 1725.  It may be a stretch to say this is a forerunner to a computer, but the computer cards work on the same principal of punched holes commanding a machine.  Fascinating, eh?

Another interesting bit about Edison is explained on the sign below. We almost lost him to Canada!
This pretty much  busts the myth of "accidental" inventions.

Greenfield Village is huge, and every acre of it is worth the time. Next time you're driving by Detroit, swing by. It's easy to get to and good for a full day's outing for the whole family. There are ample restaurants and, of course, gift shops on the grounds.

Here's Nancy coming out of the gift shop. Note the large bag she carries.

A parting shot of Nancy and I hoping a little bit of Edison's genius will catch us.

Except for the photograph of Nancy coming out of the shop, all photographs were taken by Nancy A. Fredrickson.

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