"" Writer's Wanderings: Mini Road Trip - Greenfield Village

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mini Road Trip - Greenfield Village

Of course there is a lot of Henry Ford represented here in the Greenfield Village. His childhood home for one and his early Bagley Avenue workshop where he put together his first gas powered car, the quadricycle. The workshop was actually a coal shed behind the duplex he and his wife, Clara, lived. Ford at the time worked as a powerhouse superintendent at the Edison Illuminating Company a short distance away.

The car was built inside the shed but Ford discovered that it would not fit through the door and had to enlarge the entry in order to take his vehicle outside for a test run. The first building of the company is here at Greenfield Village but only a smaller version of the original. Between 1903 and 1905, Ford assembled his cars at stations from purchased parts. It wasn't until 1913 that he came up with the moving assembly line.

The Mack Avenue plant produced 15 cars a day. The Model A sold for $750. And as it is today, various options were available at an additional cost.

Ford grew up and lived in an era when great innovations were being discovered and produced. He was truly an admirer of Edison and eventually opted to move the Menlo Park building from New Jersey to Michigan. Unfortunately, the building had so badly deteriorated that they had to rely on building plans to reconstruct Edison's workplace. Some of the materials of the original building were used but much of it is newer construction.

The Wright brothers were also among the innovators and inventors that Ford admired. Their cycle shop is one of the more interesting shops in the village. As you move through it, you can see the wind tunnel they built to test their theories of how to get lift for their aircraft. It's all in a glass box and the wind is produced by turning a crank. Once you get it up to speed, the small model wing lifts up from it's resting position.

In the back of the shop is the bare skeleton of the plane they built to fly at Kitty Hawk. The guide in the shop explained that the Wright brothers eventually built in a control for turning the aircraft that involved laying down in a cradle that moved as you moved your hips so that you could bank left or right while still holding the controls to the aircraft's power in your hands.

If you were into motors and huge generators, there was plenty to see. I couldn't help but think of how my father must have been enamored with all that he saw on that visit so many years ago. Dad repaired motors and did electrical wiring.

Of course, looking at some of the motors, I could hear my mother telling the story of how she had to wrap wires around a spindle keeping count of the number of times around on a match book (one match bent down for every 10 times around) and still answer the phone. Once his business got going, she was replaced by several employees and a secretary.

I'm glad. It gave her time to be my mom.

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