The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan is a salute to American achievement. In fact, it is the largest American history museum in the country. The facility was founded by Ford in 1929 first as a school, but then became a museum.The Henry Ford is about innovation, education, and ideas that changed the world. From the chair Abraham Lincoln sat in when he was assassinated, to the bus Rosa Parks rode on, to the Presidential Limos of Kennedy, and Reagan, to the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, it’s all here.
The Henry Ford was the site of the opening remarks for the recent Ford Trends conference, and was a wonderful place to have a cocktail party. We had dinner in the grand foyer, and then were free to wander the thousands (the museum’s collection measures in the millions) of items on display.
Here’s just a small look at some of the fascinating things you can see at The Henry Ford.
The Kennedy Limosine (above/below)
A 1961 Lincoln, this is the exact vehicle John Kennedy was riding in through Dallas when he was assassinated in 1963.
Although redesigned with added security features, this model would be used through Nixon and Johsnon‘s Presidencies, until 1977.
The Reagan Limo (above)
This 1972 Lincoln, previously used by Nixon, was where Ronald Reagan was pushed into the back seat after being shot by John Hinkley. All Presidential cars after Kennedy’s assassination were made with bullet proof glass and completely armored with a permanent roof. However, as a nod to the Presidential desire to still be seen, this model has a sunroof where the President could stand and wave.
The Bubble Top (above)
Eisenhower‘s 1950 Lincoln showcased the President’s desire to be seen in what was affectionately referred to as a “bubble top”.
The Sunshine Special (below)
Roosevelt‘s 1939 Lincoln was designed with 5 pages of specs delivered to Ford. Security was important for this vehicle as it was used by the President during the Second World War. Special accommodations for the President to easily get in and out were also added as his legs became immobilized from polio.
Rosa Parks’ Bus
The picture above is the one most commonly associated with the moment when Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus in 1955. Except that’s not the seat she actually sat in. That image was recreated years later. When Rosa boarded the Cleveland Ave bus in Montgomery, she actually sat on the other side. The bus has been restored in The Henry Ford and a light shines on the seat where Rosa Parks sat.
I was actually offended when I first turned a corner and saw the hooded KKK figure in the museum. It was shocking. Absolutely hateful. The figure is overlooking a display of a room that features partions for blacks and whites as well as separate water fountains for “coloreds.” I understand this was a period of time and a piece of American history, but it is just so difficult to see.
That is the chair Abraham Lincoln was sitting in at the Ford Theatre in April, 1865. You can still see the blood stains on the right side of the chair left after Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.
There is a huge collection of items throughout the rest of The Henry Ford. From vintage tractors to restaurant signs, vintage planes, to lifestyle memories through the decades, it’s a huge collection.