Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

deanallison2

Studio artist Dean Allison is our August Artist in Residence at The Henry Ford. Looking forward to a week of new ideas and exploration, Dean joins our artists in the Greenfield Village Glass Shop Aug. 13-17. Follow him on Instagram and learn more about his background below.

Tell us a little bit about you and your work.
My work deals with portraiture and documenting people in glass. I’m interested in the figure and physical details that translate identity and the human condition. Most of my work is cast and utilizes molds and processes like bronze casting.

How did you get started with glassblowing?
I took an elective in glass when I was an undergraduate in college. I wasn’t interested in 3D work at the time, but that swiftly changed, and glass became a material I grew to love.

deanallison1

What piece are you most proud of that you’ve created to date?

That is a difficult question because each piece has differing challenges and obstacles. The most ambitious piece was titled “The Boxer.” It is a piece that I worked on for more than three years, ultimately made in five parts. I designed and built specialized equipment to make the piece. I mixed and melted all the glass from scratch and learned a great deal from the many processes involved.

deanallison3

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

People, memories, conversations, human interaction, and social concerns.

What are you most looking forward to as being an Artist in Residence this year?
Creating a new body of work that involves experimenting with the figure on a smaller scale and finding inspiration in gesture and form.

thf173150
Chatty Cathy Talking Doll, ca. 1963, an inspiration for Gabby Gabby. THF 173150

Since 1995, Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story” films have led the industry in combining computer-generated animation with powerful, heartfelt stories. One of the reasons that adults and kids alike are drawn to these films is the clever selection of toys. More often than not, these are based upon real toys that are fondly remembered by viewers from different generations (see several examples of these from The Henry Ford’s collections in the blog post, “The Real Toys of Toy Story”).

This summer’s release of “Toy Story 4”—with its cast of old friends along with several newly introduced toys—allows us the perfect opportunity to once again delve into The Henry Ford’s collections and see what real toys provided inspiration for this fourth “Toy Story” installment.

The Heroes

thf173933
Kentucky Fried Chicken Spork, 1978-90. THF173933

A heroic spork? Yes, indeed! This time around, Pixar decided to explore what would happen when a handmade toy named Forky (with a plastic spork for a body) meets the old gang of mass-manufactured toys. 

Sporks have a long, mostly unsuccessful history. Think about it. When you combine a spoon and a fork together, neither of them is going to work very well. Interlocking or folding sets of camp utensils have always been more popular with backpackers and Boy Scouts. Nevertheless, by the 1970s, plastic sporks were making their way into fast-food restaurants—to use for, as Forky describes it, "soup, salad, maybe chili, and then the trash!” Kentucky Fried Chicken was one of the first fast-food chains to regularly feature sporks, like the one shown here.

thf294575
Image of Little Bo-Peep as part of Mother Goose Series, trade card for baking soda, John Dwight & Co., 1900. THF294575

In “Toy Story 4,” Bo Peep returns as a much more assertive and heroic character. Here we learn that she was once part of a lamp that Andy’s sister, Molly, had in her bedroom to help her fall asleep. In fact, the classic nursery rhyme, Little Bo-Peep—first printed in full in 1810—reveals that this young shepherdess lost her sheep because she had also fallen asleep! 

Other connections exist between the old nursery rhyme and the newer, more independent Bo Peep.  In the nursery rhyme, Bo Peep’s sheep lose their way because sheep are known to flock together. In “Toy Story 4,” Bo Peep’s three sheep are also inseparable—in fact, they are molded together as one piece, leading to often humorous results! In addition, a shepherdess would have traditionally used her crook not only to manage her sheep but also to defend them from attack by predators. In the film, Bo Peep similarly uses her crook to keep our heroes from harm.

thf141193
Polly Pocket Watch Happy Meal Toy, 1995. THF141193

The appearance of Giggles McDimple in “Toy Story 4” likely delighted girls who grew up in the 1990s, as Giggles and her “home” reference the highly popular Polly Pockets of that era. These were first conceived by a British Dad for his daughter in 1983, using a powder compact as a tiny house that could fit in a pocket. Bluebird Toys, of Swindon, England, licensed the concept when these first appeared on the market in 1989, with Mattel in charge of distribution. In 1998, Mattel purchased the rights to manufacture Polly Pockets, then immediately redesigned them into larger dolls with changing garments. While various versions were produced after that, the original minuscule figures with jointed legs and peg-like bases that slotted into holes inside their cases never returned.  

In “Toy Story 4,” Giggles compensates for her minuscule size by displaying an air of confidence and a can-do attitude—just the kind of out sized personality that little girls of the 1990s might have ascribed to their own Polly Pockets. 

thf302676
Evel Knievel X-2 Sky Cycle Toy, 1976-8. THF 302676

Duke Caboom—"Canada’s Greatest Stuntman”—is not an exact imitation of Evel Knievel, but this “Toy Story 4” character was certainly inspired by the famed 1970s stunt daredevil. Robert Craig Knievel, who was known at an early age for his combined athletic prowess and guts, became a national sensation in the 1970s, when he was featured several times on “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” Knievel’s tremendous crowd appeal motivated Ideal to reproduce an action-figure version of him along with various stunt-related accessories—like this X-2 Sky Cycle that replicates the one he used during an attempted jump over Snake River Canyon, Idaho, in 1974. 

During the peak of his popularity, Knievel’s flashy white leather jumpsuit and reputation for keeping his word helped reinforce his heroic, larger-than-life image. That is, until 1978, when he was convicted of assaulting the author of a book written about him and his popularity quickly plummeted. The tragic backstory of Duke Caboom and his kid who rejected him is a fitting connection to the real-life 1970s Evel Knievel and his young fans. 

thf94338
G.I. Joe Desert Troop Dusty with Sandstorm, his coyote, 1990-91. THF 94338

Combat Carl makes a small but unforgettable appearance in “Toy Story 4”—especially if you stay to the very end of the credits. He played a bit part in the first “Toy Story” film, then a larger role in Pixar’s 2013 Halloween TV special, “Toy Story of Terror!”  Combat Carl is an everyman military action figure reminiscent of G.I. Joe action figures of the 1980s and ‘90s.  Mattel introduced the first G.I. Joe in 1964—a 12” poseable version that directly referenced the military men who saw action during World War II and the Korean War. An African-American version of G.I. Joe was introduced in 1965. 

As a result of the unpopular Vietnam War in the late 1960s and the rising price of plastic in the 1970s, G.I. Joes declined in popularity until they were discontinued in 1978. But they made a stunning comeback during the 1980s as 3-3/4” adventure-team action figures. This G.I. Joe action figure from The Henry Ford’s collection, named Dusty, was introduced in 1991, after the Persian Gulf War inspired toys based upon the real-life conflict. Exuding a great deal of self-possessed machismo but also tugging at our heartstrings a bit, Combat Carl always leaves us rooting for him. 

The Villains

thf287020
Shown on the right side of the page, Chatty Cathy is featured in the 1964 Sears Roebuck & Co. Christmas Catalog. Note her Gabby Gabby-like freckles! THF287020

At first glance, the scheming Gabby Gabby appears to have been based upon Chatty Cathy, introduced to the American public in 1960 as the first in a new line of Mattel talking dolls. Like Gabby Gabby in the film, Chatty Cathy’s “voice” was activated by a pull string in the back. The first Chatty Cathy, who had blue eyes and sported a blonde bobbed hairdo, recited 11 phrases at random via a record that was driven by a metal coil wound by pulling the toy’s string. Her phrases were voiced by June Foray, also famous as the voice of Rocky the Squirrel in “The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show.” Newer versions of the doll sported a wider choice of hair and eye colors as well as an African-American version. By 1963, when this version of Chatty Cathy was introduced, she had long pigtails and her vocabulary had increased to 18 phrases.

According to director Josh Cooley, Gabby Gabby was based more directly upon an evil doll named Talky Tina, who appeared in a 1963 “Twilight Zone” episode. In this edge-of-your-seats episode, a family’s problems are made worse when a talking doll—which was loosely based upon Chatty Cathy and was also voiced by June Foray—develops a mind of her own and wreaks havoc on the family, inevitably leading to a tragic ending.

thf294577
Page of doll carriages, Sears Roebuck & Co. Christmas Catalog, 1964. THF294577

As Woody and Forky search for Bo Peep in the quiet atmosphere of the antique shop, the sudden sound of a squeaky doll carriage edging closer but just out of view is one of the more hair-raising moments in the film.  Sure enough, it reveals itself as Gabby Gabby’s mobility device and there is good reason for viewers to be nervous. Some of us have a visceral memory of those squeaky doll carriages of the mid-20th century, before safety and cost issues replaced the carriages’ metal and vinyl parts with plastic. 

Doll carriages were generally based upon full-size baby carriages of their era.  In the late 19th century, these were often quite elaborate, made of wicker with brass fittings and matching parasols and only affordable to the wealthy.  As the 20th century progressed, pop-up tops, removable beds, and suspension systems made baby carriages more comfortable and convenient, and they also became more affordable to families of different economic levels.  The three options shown in this 1964 Sears Roebuck Christmas catalog—of varying prices and materials—are all reminiscent of Gabby Gabby’s squeaky—and sneaky—doll carriage. 

thf141192
Doll Dessert Set, 1935-40. THF141192

In “Toy Story 4,” Gabby Gabby is delighted when the antique shop owner’s granddaughter, Harmony, sets up a toy tea set and pretends to take tea—hoping beyond hope that when her voice box is fixed, Harmony will invite her to join in. 

Since the 19th century, miniature tea sets were a traditional way for little girls to practice adult skills and feminine roles. It was up to them, however, to decide whom to invite for company. Images, like the cover of this doll dessert set, often show little girls having tea with favored dolls and stuffed animals. Indeed, in previous “Toy Story” movies, we saw both neighbor Sid’s little sister and young Bonnie engage in this type of imaginative play. The strengthening of bonds between little girls and their dolls through pretend tea-drinking is something that Gabby Gabby desperately wants—so much so that she will resort to desperate measures to have it. 

thf106436
Charlie McCarthy Doll, 1937-40. THF106436

Without a doubt the creepiest characters in “Toy Story 4” are the Bensons—the group of ventriloquist dummies that Gabby Gabby enlists to do her bidding. Dating back to 18th-century traveling fairs, ventriloquists “threw” their voices to appear as if they were coming from elsewhere, usually a puppet or other semi-lifelike figure referred to as a dummy. During the early 20th century, Edgar Bergen popularized the idea of comedic ventriloquism, teaming up with his “cheeky,” boyish dummy, Charlie McCarthy.  Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy became so popular that they appeared on “The Chase & Sanborn Radio Hour” from 1937 to 1956, as well as later films and TV programs. As shown here, Charlie McCarthy was reproduced by Effanbee as a child’s toy, complete with different outfits and a carrying trunk. 

The Charlie McCarthy dummy and related doll were not intended to be evil (although some people would maintain that all ventriloquists’ dummies are creepy).  Credit for that goes to the fact that the Bensons were more directly inspired by a series of “Goosebumps” books by R. L. Stine that began in 1993, featuring the villainous Slappy the Dummy. Though the book is from a later era, Slappy’s appearance recalls the ventriloquist dummies of Charlie McCarthy’s time. In “Toy Story 4,” the Bensons have no voices because there are no humans to provide them. And their bodies are soft with no structure because, without humans to operate them, their body parts just dangle.  Very clever!  And definitely creepy! 

Will there be a “Toy Story 5”—with new toys, the return of familiar old toys, and a fresh spin on their interconnecting stories? Only time will tell.

Donna R. Braden is Senior Curator and Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.

thf124600
A happy family on a road trip inside their 1958 Edsel Bermuda Station Wagon. THF124600

Nothing epitomizes the 20th-century American family vacation more than the station wagon. After World War II, as family vacationers flooded the highways out to enjoy all that America had to offer, the station wagon became the quintessential family car.  Although they had been around for a few decades, station wagons by this time had become roomier, more comfortable, and more within the reach of family budgets. 

thf275653
As shown in this circa 1953 Coleman brochure, station wagons proved the perfect vehicle for families who needed to haul lots of gear for their “back to nature” camping vacations.  THF275653

When limited-access turnpikes and interstate freeways expanded across the country during the 1950s and 1960s, sales of station wagons exploded. From three percent of all cars sold in 1950, sales of these cars mushroomed to 10 times that in 1955. By the end of the decade, some one in every five cars sold was a station wagon.

As family vacation trips lengthened, so did the time family members spent on the road together in the car. However, even though the ads claimed that vacations taken in a roomy, comfortable station wagon could improve family relations, this wasn’t always the case. Younger family members, in particular, inevitably got cranky and bored--threatening any attempt at family togetherness and fun. Enter a host of family car games and activities.

thf275640
Mom and the kids read together in the back seat of the family car, with apparent disregard for “buckling up” for safety. THF275640

During the 1950s and 1960s, inventive game manufacturers, creative writers, and ingenious publishers devised all manner of family games and activities.  These were intended to keep family members occupied, reinforce family togetherness, and increase the fun of traveling together. 

thf206270
Book of Ford Travel Games, free dealer giveaway, 1954. THF206270

During the post-World War II era, many of the car games and activities with which we are still familiar today were published and disseminated. This 1954 Ford dealer giveaway book was dedicated to the author’s four teenagers, “whose restlessness during childhood days first made these games necessary.” Most games in it, intended to be played by young and old, were the “scavenger” type, that would “help much to pass the time in an enjoyable manner” while “affording an opportunity for all members of the family to enjoy doing things together during the long hours on a motor trip.” The object of these scavenger-type games was to see who was the first one to find the items on the list, including car license plates, animals, sounds, and songs. Other games and contests included the classic I Spy game, a memory game called My Grandfather’s Trunk, and identifying shapes by looking at cloud formations.

thf275639
Ford Game and Travel Book with stamps, 1959. THF275639

The 1959 Ford Game and Travel Book included games, songs, stories, riddles, and information enough to “provide hours and hours of pleasure for the whole family during the trip.”  It included 128 full-color stamps to affix to various pages.  The games and activities were much the same as those in the 1954 Travel Games book. 

thf275643
Fun on Wheels book for AAA, by Dave Garroway, 1960.  THF275643

Dave Garroway, the founding host and anchor of NBC’s Today TV show from 1952 to 1961, was known for his easy and relaxing style. By the time this book was published in 1960 for members of the American Automobile Association, Garroway would have been a familiar name in most households. This book of “sit-able” games, quizzes, riddles, contests, puzzles, songs, and coin tricks “guaranteed miles of motoring pleasure” and was intended to “make any trip easier, safer, and more agreeable for parents and youngsters alike.”

thf140655
Auto Bingo game, 1960s. THF140655

Auto Bingo, a product of the Regal Games Manufacturing Company from Chicago, Illinois, was introduced in the 1950s and proved incredibly popular during succeeding decades.  The classic game, shown here, is still produced today.

thf140659
Traffic Sign Bingo, 1960s. THF140659

The popularity of the classic Auto Bingo game spawned many variations, like this Traffic Sign Bingo, with magnetic game pieces.

thf275646
Ad for 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity Estate station wagon. THF275646

 

Although the OPEC oil crisis and tougher emission standards dealt a blow to the station wagon market in the 1970s, station wagons were still considered the family vacation vehicle of choice.  By the early 1980s, these vehicles had greatly expanded in size and comfort over their 1950s counterparts.  Manufacturers promoted their spaciousness, like this ad that likened the 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity Estate wagon to a family room!  This is, in fact, the very type of vehicle that was satirized in the 1983 film National Lampoon’s Vacation--although the Griswold family’s clunky green Family Truckster was actually a modified 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire.

thf150890
Fisher-Price mini-van toy, a repackaged version of the company’s earlier mini-school bus, 1986-90. THF150890

While we may have chuckled at the Griswolds’ Family Truckster in 1983, the future of the station wagon as a family vacation vehicle was, in fact, no laughing matter.  Families would soon prefer roomy minivans, introduced in 1984, and fully-featured SUV’s in the 1990s, to haul kids and luggage on long-distance trips.

thf275648
The family vehicle pictured on the cover of this 1985 travel game and activity book is more akin to a minivan than a station wagon. THF275648

As family road trips continued in subsequent decades, such innovations as portable music and gaming devices and in-car DVD players came to occupy and entertain family members during long trips.

thf153124
A 1982 redesign of the original Sony Walkman, the first portable audio cassette player introduced in 1979. THF153124

But classic family games and activities persisted, in both traditional and newer versions.

thf140658
This set contained 10 games (including Solitaire, Checkers, and Mini-Chutes and Ladders). Its interchangeable game board contained holes to hold peg-like game pieces in place. THF140658

thf106452
Scrabble isn’t the best idea for a travel game, as letters are small and can easily get lost. Later versions of this game came with magnetic letters. THF106452

Today, we have a plethora of personal and mobile technologies to keep individuals occupied in the car on long-distance vacations (if they don’t opt for much speedier air travel). But these devices also separate and isolate members of the family. It’s nice to know that, if you want, you can still find classic family car games and activities online or available as digital downloads. And, of course, there’s still the old way of learning the classic games--passed down from parent to child.

Anyone for a rousing game of I Spy?

Donna R. Braden, Senior Curator and Curator of Public Life, grew up in a large family and took many family vacations with her parents and four brothers in their Country Squire station wagon.

thf90908
1950 Plymouth Deluxe Suburban Station Wagon. THF90908

The earliest station wagons hauled travelers and luggage between train stations and hotels. Wagons remained low-production specialty vehicles until the 1950s, when parents embraced them as ideal vehicles for transporting growing families. Packed with children, groceries, camping gear, or luggage, station wagons became the very symbol of the family car.

thf105553
Durant Motor Company, "The New Star Car," 1924. THF105552

Star, made by Durant Motor Company, became the first manufacturer-produced station wagon in 1923. Early wagons, also known as depot hacks, were utility vehicles, and not very family-friendly.

thf105554
"The New All-Metal Plymouth Suburban, the Car with 101 Uses," Chrysler Corporation Plymouth Division, 1949. THF105554


By 1949, when the Plymouth Suburban was introduced, families were growing and suburbs expanding. The utility of the modern Suburban appealed to parents, and the first all-steel body was a major upgrade from older wood-body wagons.

thf105560
1957 Ford Station Wagon Ad, "Nine's Fine!" THF105560


By 1957, all wagons had steel bodies. But designers applied wood—or fake wood—to “woody” wagons for many years.

thf105557
1961 Chevrolet Catalog, "There's a Chevy Wagon for Every Purpose, Every Family!" THF105556

Even compact cars like the Chevy Corvair had wagon versions. This 1961 Chevy sales brochure touted its rear-engine Corvair Lakewood, with storage in front and back.

 

thf6651
“Batman Cartoon Kit” Colorforms, 1966-68. THF 6651

It was the 1960s—the golden age of television. Some 95% of American homes boasted at least one TV. These were primarily black and white sets, as color TV was still out of the reach of many families. It’s hard to imagine now but there were only three channels at the time. Every year, the three networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC) vied for viewer ratings, shifting and changing shows and showtimes at two pivotal times during the television season—Fall and Winter.

As the Fall 1966 season unfolded, it became evident to TV viewers that something extraordinary was happening. Sure, there were the usual long-running sitcoms, like Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, and The Beverly Hillbillies. But change was in the wind. A new crop of programs emerged—colorful, fast-paced, poking fun at things that were supposed to be serious and exploring contemporary social issues.

Why the difference all of a sudden? Many of these shows were aimed at the youth audience, considered by this time an influential group of TV watchers. Others purposefully took advantage of the new color televisions. Sometimes show producers and creators were simply tired of the old formulas and wanted to break out of the box.

Let’s take a look at a few highlights from the 1966-67 TV season—starting with the staid and true and working up to the wild and wacky—and see what all the hubbub was about!

Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (Sunday, 7:30-8:30 p.m., NBC)

thf174650
Snow Globe, “The Wonderful World of Disney,” 1969-79. THF174650

On Sunday nights since 1954, millions of Americans had tuned in to watch Walt Disney host his TV show, with a changing array of animated and live-action features, nature specials, movie reruns, travelogues, programs about science and outer space, and—best of all—updates on Walt Disney’s theme park, Disneyland. Since 1961, this show had been broadcast in color.

The 1966-67 season was particularly memorable because Walt Disney tragically passed away on December 15, 1966. But since the episodes had been pre-recorded, there was Walt still hosting them until April 1967. Viewers found this both comforting and disconcerting. Finally, after April, Walt was dropped as the host and, eventually, the show was retitled The Wonderful World of Disney. It ran with solid ratings until the mid-1970s.

Bonanza (Sunday, 9:00-10:00 p.m., NBC)

thf174648
“Ponderosa Ranch” Mug, ca. 1970. THF174648

Viewership was high on NBC on Sunday nights at 9:00, as Bonanza was one of the most popular TV shows of all time. Running for 14 seasons and 430 episodes, this series about the trials and tribulations of widower Ben Cartwright and his three sons on the Ponderosa Ranch was an immediate breakout hit when it premiered in 1959, amidst a plethora of more run-of-the-mill prime-time westerns. Its popularity was primarily due to its quirky characters and unconventional stories—including early attempts to confront social issues. It was the first major western to be filmed in color and was the top-rated show on TV from 1964 to 1968. Bonanza ran until 1973.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Friday, 8:30-9:30, NBC)

thf92303
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” lunchbox and thermos, 1966.  THF92303

Premiering in September 1964, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. took full advantage of the popularity of the spy genre launched by the James Bond film series. In fact, early concepts for it were conceptualized by Bond creator Ian Fleming. In this series, Napoleon Solo (originally conceived as the lone star) and Russian agent Ilya Kuryakin (added in response to popular demand) teamed up as part of a secret international counterespionage and law enforcement agency called U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement). Solo and Kuryakin banded together with a global organization of other agents to fight THRUSH, an international organization that aimed to conquer the world.

During this, the Cold War era, it was groundbreaking for a show to portray a United States-Soviet Union pair of secret agents, as these two countries were ideologically at odds most of the time. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was also known for its high-profile guest stars and—taking a cue from the Bond films—its clever gadgets. In 1966, this series won the Golden Globe for Best Television Program and, building upon its popularity, spun off into two related double-feature movies that year. Unfortunately, attempting to compete with lighter, campier programs of the era, the producers made a conscious effort to increase the level of humor—leading to a severe ratings drop. Although the serious plot lines were soon reinstated, the ratings never recovered. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was canceled in January 1968.

I Spy (Wednesday 10:00-11:00, NBC)

thf275655_redacted
TV Guide featuring “I Spy” characters Robert Culp and Bill Cosby on cover, March 25-31, 1967. THF275655

One series that never opted for campy was I Spy, which starred Bill Cosby and Robert Culp playing two U.S. intelligence agents traveling undercover as international “tennis bums.” This series, which premiered in 1965, was also inspired by the James Bond film series and remained a fixture in the secret agent/espionage genre until cancelled in April 1968. I Spy, additionally a leader in the buddy genre, broke new ground as the first American TV drama series to feature a black actor in a lead role. It was also unusual in its use of exotic locations—much like the James Bond films—when shows like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. were completely filmed on a studio backlot.

I Spy offered hip banter between the two stars and some humor, but it focused primarily on the grittier side of the espionage business, sometimes even ending on a somber note. The success of this series was attributed to the strong chemistry between Culp and Cosby. Cosby’s presence was never called out in the way that black stars and co-stars were made a big deal of on later TV programs like Julia (1968) and Room 222 (1969).

Get Smart (Saturday, 8:30-9:00 NBC)

thf92304
“Get Smart” Lunchbox, 1966. THF92304

Premiering in September 1965, Get Smart was a comedy that satirized virtually everything considered serious and sacred in the James Bond films and such TV shows as I Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Created by comic writers Mel Brooks and Buck Henry as a response to the grim seriousness of the Cold War spy genre, it starred bumbling Secret Agent 86—otherwise known as Maxwell “Max” Smart, along with supporting characters, female Agent 99 and the Chief. These characters worked for CONTROL, a secret U.S. government counterintelligence agency, against KAOS, “an international organization of evil.” Brooks and Henry also poked fun at this genre’s use of high-tech spy gadgets (Max’s shoe phone perhaps being the most memorable), world takeover plots, and enemy agents. Somehow, despite serious mess-ups in every episode, Maxwell Smart always emerged victorious in the end.

Get Smart was considered groundbreaking for broadening the parameters of TV sitcoms but was especially known for catchphrases like “Would you believe…” and “Sorry about that, Chief.” Despite a declining interest in the secret-agent genre, Get Smart’s talented writers attempted to keep it fresh until it was finally cancelled in May 1970.

Batman (Wednesday and Thursday, 7:30-8:00, ABC)

thf174647
Toy Batmobile, 1966-69. THF174647

Bursting onto the scene in January 1966, Batman became an instant hit and took the country by storm. Batmania was in full swing by the Fall 1966-67 TV season. The series, based upon the DC comic book of the same name, featured the Caped Crusader (millionaire Bruce Wayne in his alter-ego of Batman) and the Boy Wonder (his young ward Dick Grayson in his alter-ego of Robin). These two crime-fighting heroes defended Gotham City from a variety of evil villains. It aired twice weekly, with most stories leaving viewers hanging in suspense the first night until they tuned in the second night.

This show successfully captured the youth audience, with its campy style, upbeat theme music, and tongue-in-cheek humor. Despite the fact that it verged on being a sitcom, the producers wisely left out the laugh track, reinforcing the seriousness with which the characters seemed to take the often absurd and wildly improbable situations in which they found themselves. The filming simulated a surreal comic-book quality, with characters and situations shot at high and low angles, with bright splashy colors and with sound effects, like Pow, Bam, and Zonk, appearing as words splashed across the action sequences on screen. The series was also replete with numerous gadgets and over-the-top props, with the Batmobile undoubtedly most memorable. Batman ran until March 1968, experiencing a significant ratings drop after its initial novelty faded.

Lost in Space (Wednesday 7:30-8:30, CBS)

thf92298
“Lost in Space” Lunchbox and Thermos, 1967. THF92298

Loosely based upon the story of the Swiss Family Robinson, this TV series depicted the adventures of the Robinson family, a pioneering family of space colonists who struggled to survive in the depths of space in the futuristic year of 1997—as the United States was gearing up to colonize space due to overpopulation. But the family’s mission was sabotaged, forcing the crew members to crash-land on a strange planet and leaving them lost in space.

The show had premiered in September 1965 as a serious science fiction series about space exploration and a family searching to find a new place for humans to dwell. But, in January 1966, pitted against Batman’s time slot, Lost in Space producers attempted to imitate Batman’s campiness with ever-more-outrageous villains, brightly colored outfits, and over-the-top action. The plots increasingly featured Robby the Robot and the evil Dr. Zachary Smith. Viewers and actors alike strongly disapproved of this shift. The show lingered on until March 1968.

The Monkees (Monday, 7:30-8:00, NBC)

thf92313
“Monkees” Lunchbox and Thermos, 1967. THF92313

Where other shows might have been lighthearted, campy, or tongue-in-cheek, The Monkees at times verged on pure anarchy. This series, which premiered on September 12, 1966, led off NBC’s prime-time programming every Monday night. It lasted only two seasons but during that time, its star shone brightly. The Monkees followed the experiences of four young men trying to make a name for themselves as a rock ‘n’ roll band, often finding themselves in strange, even bizarre, circumstances while searching for their big break. Aimed directly at the youth audience, the band members were characterized as heroes down on their luck while the adults were consistently depicted as the “heavies.”

The Beatles’ films A Hard Day’s Night and Help! inspired producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider to create not only a show about a rock ‘n’ roll band but also to adapt a loose narrative structure (each member of the Monkees was trained in improvisational acting techniques at the outset of the show) and the musical sequences or “romps” that appeared each week. The series built a reputation for its innovative use of avant-garde filming techniques like quick jump cuts and breaking the fourth wall (that is, having the characters directly address the TV viewers). A well-oiled marketing machine behind the show also ensured that strong tie-ins were maintained with teen magazines, merchandise, and live concerts.

The Monkees won the Emmy for best comedy series during its first, the 1966-67, season. However, backlash was inevitable among critics and older teenagers when the Monkees admitted that they did not play their own instruments—although they clearly played them in their live concerts and, in fact, eventually had a falling-out with network executives about this very issue. Though the show was cancelled in 1968, it experienced a huge revival among younger audiences through Saturday morning reruns and especially with the 1986 MTV Monkees Marathon. Remaining band members Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith still attract large audiences of intergenerational fans at their live concerts, while reruns of their TV shows continue to draw new audiences.

Star Trek (Thursday, 8:30-9:30 NBC)

thf92299
“Star Trek” lunchbox, 1968. THF92299

When Star Trek premiered on September 8, 1966, science fiction shows were not very advanced—or even thought of very highly. Star Trek’s closest competitor, Lost in Space, offered only shallow plots, one-dimensional characters, and fake sets. No one could imagine at the time that this rather low-key show would become one of the biggest, longest-running, and highest-grossing media franchises of all time. This series traced the interstellar adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and his crew aboard the United Federation of Planets’ starship Enterprise, on a five-year mission “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Creator Gene Roddenberry, aiming the show at the youth audience, wanted to combine suspenseful adventure stories with morality tales reflecting contemporary life and social issues. So, to get by network scrutiny, he set the premise of the show in an imaginary future. With the freedom to experiment, he put in place one of TV’s first multiracial and multicultural casts and was able to explore through different episodes some of the most relevant political and social allegories on TV at the time. The stories were also considered exceptionally high quality for that era, involving believable characters with which viewers could both identify and sympathize. Unlike the gloomy predictions of most science fiction writings of the time, Roddenberry hoped that the futuristic utopia he created on Star Trek would give young people hope, that it would empower them to create a better future for themselves someday. Star Trek, with only modest ratings, lasted only three seasons. But it would go on to become a cult classic.  

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (Sunday, 9:00-10:00 p.m. beginning February 1967, CBS)

thf275657_redacted
TV Guide featuring The Smothers Brothers on cover, June 10-16, 1967. THF275657

In Fall 1966, The Garry Moore Show, a variety show on CBS hosted by the aging radio and TV star, was no match when pitted against Bonanza—even with this, its first season in color. Network executives, at their wit’s end to try to attract viewership, decided the only way they could come up with a quick replacement was to substitute another variety show. In desperation, they landed on a simple variety series featuring the soft-spoken, clean-cut, non-threatening folk-music-playing Smothers Brothers. Considered a “young act,” an added bonus was that their show might capture the coveted youth audience. Little did they know what they were in for.

As the show evolved, the brothers not only became more politicized themselves but felt that they owed it to their young viewers to increase the show’s relevance, boldly addressing overtly divisive political and social issues. Their staff of young writers was only too happy to comply. Unfortunately, as a result, the brothers were continually at odds with the network censors until the show was finally cancelled after three seasons. In its continual conflicts with network executives, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour turned the variety show genre on its ear and paved the way for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1968) and, in pushing TV’s all-out rebellion against the status quo, led an explosive charge that resulted in 1970s shows like All in the Family (1971).

These are but a few highlights from the 1966-67 TV season. Some say that this was the greatest television season ever, a clear indication that TV had finally come of age. Because of shows like these, television would certainly never be the same again. And, come to think of it, neither would we!

Donna Braden, Curator of Public Life, was 13 years old during that memorable TV season and proudly wears her fan club button to every Monkees concert she still attends.

Woodstock 1969

August 2, 2019

thf175753

Estimate: 200,000 attendees. Over 400,000 showed up.

This flag was at Woodstock, too--a witness to this legendary event that reflected the 1960s counterculture movement’s quest for freedom and social harmony.

Flags like this one were provided to vendors, musicians, and technical crew to allow them access to the Woodstock Musical Festival grounds at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in upstate New York during the August 1969 event. They were to fly the flag from their vehicles or attach it to their booths.

Woodstock’s organizers--none of whom were over 27-- billed the event as “An Aquarian Exposition: Three Days of Peace and Music.” Held from Friday, August 15 and extending into the early morning of Monday, August 18, the music festival featured 32 iconic performers including Joan Baez, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, The Who, the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix.

An Extraordinary Event Creates Enormous Challenges

There was a lot that went right with Woodstock. And many things that didn’t. The free-spirted and peaceful audience was filled with excitement and the musicians turned in electrifying performances. But the inexperienced organizers found their planning for this unprecedented event enormously inadequate--especially since they had to find a new venue only a few weeks before the concert.

The original location--an industrial park near Woodstock, New York--pulled out only a month and a half before the event.  Fortunately, two weeks later Max Yasgur agreed to rent his Bethel, New York farm as the new venue. Nathan’s Hot Dogs--Coney Island’s famous vendor--pulled out when the location of the festival was moved.  Two weeks before the concert, the organizers hired Food for Love, a trio with little experience in the food business. Larger food-vending companies hadn’t wanted to take on Woodstock--no one had ever handled food services for such a large event. Many were reluctant to put in the investment required--what if the festival didn’t draw enough of a crowd to make a profit?

Woodstock’s organizers had told the Bethel authorities that they expected no more than 50,000 people. As the event drew near, with 186,000 advance tickets sold, 200,000 concertgoers seemed a more likely estimate. The organizers then hurriedly tried to bring in more toilets, more water, and more food. Woodstock would ultimately draw an inconceivable number--over 400,000 concertgoers.

The roads around Bethel became jammed for miles with people heading to the concert. Many abandoned their vehicles and made the long walk in. The plugged roads would also make it extremely difficult to get needed supplies in.

The stage, parking lots, and concession stands were barely finished in time for the event. Concert-goers started arriving two days before--with the ticket booths and gates still uncompleted. Since people were able to just walk in, the organizers were forced to declare it a free concert--creating a monumental debt for them. (Though profits from a soundtrack and movie made from films of the Woodstock Festival would help bring down the debt.)

Most concertgoers arrived expecting to be able to purchase food. Food for Love concessions were quickly overwhelmed.  Food became very hard to find. The Hog Farm, a West Coast commune hired to help with security, stepped in to help. They provided free food lines serving brown rice and vegetables--and granola. For some of the crowd, granola was nothing new. But for many it was. Granola would soon become the iconic food of the hippie era.

When the people of Sullivan County, where Yasgur’s farm was located, heard reports of food shortages, they gathered thousands of food donations, including 10,000 sandwiches, as well as water, fruit, and canned goods. Concertgoers who had brought their own food shared what they had with others.

It rained off and on during the event, interrupting or delaying performances--and creating a sea of mud. There weren’t enough receptacles for garbage.  People waited an hour to use one of the portable toilets--then finding it an extremely unsanitary experience when they finally reached the front of the line.

Yet--despite unbelievably crowded conditions with wall-to-wall concertgoers, massive traffic jams, serious food shortages, no running water, no telephones, no electricity (except for the performance stage--and even that was sketchy at times), lack of sufficient restroom facilities, and the muddy quagmire--Woodstock was a place of communal peace and sharing for the three days of the festival. There were no reported incidents of violence among this gathering of over 400,000 people.  

What Really Mattered

In the end, Woodstock wasn’t really about the food, the weather, or even the lack of creature comforts. For many who attended, Woodstock was about experiencing three days of legendary rock and roll music, being part of a peaceful community with hundreds of thousands of other young people, and immersing yourself freely and fully in the moment.  (And, yes, free love and drugs in addition to rock and roll.) The Woodstock concert logo on this flag--the guitar and dove of peace--sums up the idealism of many of Woodstock’s concertgoers.  

This flag’s faded and tattered appearance seems to suggest the logistical challenges of Woodstock. But it is more likely that its owner displayed this treasured keepsake for years after--the flag couldn’t fade this much or get this tattered in just three days. Instead, this flag attests to the eternal staying power of Woodstock as a cultural landmark for an entire generation of American youth--and for the nation.  

Woodstock captured, vividly and indelibly, the spontaneity and free spirit of the counterculture movement of the 1960s--and its vision of freedom and social harmony that would ignite change in American society during the coming years.

Woodstock made history.

Jeanine Head Miller is Curator of Domestic Life at The Henry Ford

Woodstock has left its “mark”--not only in memory--but in archeology. Binghamton University’s archaeology team can really “dig it.” In 2018, they determined the location of the stage. By analyzing rocks and vegetation, they also located the area of the vendors’ booths, known as the Bindy Bazaar.

IMG_9924-1

How does an 18th century teapot with a repaired spout relate to a hacked Speak n’ Spell?

Spontaneous design can be as trivial as using duct tape to fix a broken car bumper—or as critical as building a temporary survival shelter.

A new pop-up exhibit, Break, Repair, Repeat: Spontaneous & Improvised Design is the result of a collaboration between Curator of Decorative Arts Charles Sable and Curator of Communication & Information Technology Kristen Gallerneaux. The pair looked deeply into The Henry Ford’s collections, finding objects that had been broken, repaired, or created through improvisation—and acquired a few new artifacts along the way.

Some objects in this exhibit have been altered many times, have led multiple lives, and served various purposes. They have been intentionally modified to serve very specific practical needs, or to share an artistic vision.

From the traditional “make-dos” that originally inspired this exhibit to custom clothing—from pirate radios to handmade instruments—this exhibit exposes interesting collisions and connections, cutting across many of The Henry Ford’s collections areas.

Ultimately, this is an exhibit about unscripted innovation and the messiness of creative problem-solving. And the objects in it? They are intriguing because they are just the “right amount of wrong.”

See the artifacts included in this pop-up exhibit in this expert set. Break. Repair. Repeat. will be on exhibit in the cases outside The Gallery by General Motors in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation until September 15, 2019.

At Maker Faire Detroit 2019 this weekend we’re celebrating a decade of makers, entrepreneurs, and innovators. While making your way both inside and out of Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation enjoying the ultimate celebration of geek culture, make sure to be on the lookout for a collection of artifacts from the collections of The Henry Ford that complement the maker spirit. 

Much like the fascinating diversity of makers you will encounter across the faire, the selection of artifacts, many not often seen on display, let alone actually operating, also represent a quite an array of ingenuity. They run the gambit from delicate artistry to powerful brawn. These artifacts will be out of storage for a limited this weekend - get your tickets now to see them for yourself.

thf152413
Violano Virtuoso, 1925 

thf154330
Mechanical Singing Bird, 1890-1910 

thf152490
Mutoscope, 1900-1905 

thf167026
“Electric Traveling Crane” Arcade Game, circa 1933  

thf159913
1922 Detroit Electric Coupe 

thf54049
Replica of 1896 Ford Quadricycle 

thf20656
Port Huron Steam Traction Engine

Jim Johnson is Director of Greenfield Village and Curator of Historic Structures & Landscapes at The Henry Ford.

Maker Faire Detroit

thf138461
Construction at Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village, January 1985. THF138461 

Guided by the 1980s mission-based phrase, “Stories of a Changing America,” Greenfield Village took on new life and Henry Ford Museum exhibits explored new topics. These included the acquisition of the Firestone farmhouse and creation of its living history program (1985), the “Automobile in American Life” exhibit (1987), and the “Made in America” exhibit (1992). During the 1980s and 1990s, museum staff placed new attention on accurate research, creative program planning, and engaging public presentations. 

Additions the collections: 1980s 

Elizabeth Parke Firestone donated a large segment of her stunning wardrobe in 1989, including custom-made garments created for her by prominent American and European couturiers. Firestone was an early client of French designer Christian Dior, who had just caused a sensation introducing his “New Look” to a post-WWII world, emphasizing slim waists and rounded feminine features. Firestone visited Dior’s Paris salon in 1946 and commissioned this dress, made for her daughter Martha’s wedding to William Clay Ford. - Jeanine Head Miller, Curator of Domestic Life 

This type of lamp is typically called a "Television Lamp." It was made to sit atop a television console and to provide a low level of illumination, sufficient to keep one's eyes from being "harmed" by watching the small TV screens of that time (1946-1960). This marks a change in collecting as curators sought out objects that provided insight into social history. - Charles Sable, Curator of Decorative Arts 

For 50 years Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation generally presented artifacts in a traditional typological format. Tractors, airplanes, furnishings -- you name it -- sat in tidy rows where visitors were left to trace an item's technological evolution. That all began to change in the 1980s as the museum refocused on social history. No exhibit signaled this shift more dramatically than "The Automobile in American Life," opened in 1987. Cars were moved out of their stodgy rows and instead placed alongside contextual items like maps and travel literature, menus from quick-service restaurants, and replicated roadside lodgings. This Holiday Inn "Great Sign" was one of the more visible artifacts acquired for the new show. - Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation 

In 1982, Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village purchased the Seymour Dunbar Collection from Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry. The collection consists of over 1,700 prints, drawings, maps, and other items documenting various modes of travel from 1680 to 1910. Dunbar compiled this material while researching his four-volume history of travel in the U.S., which was published in 1915. - Andy Stupperich, Associate Curator, Digital Content 

Reflecting a new emphasis on social history, museum staff developed interpretive exhibits that integrated objects from across collections categories to examine special themes. “Streamlining America” explored an influential mid-20th-century ideology and design style. This striking poster, selected for the exhibit, embodies the streamlined environment of the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. - Saige Jedele, Associate Curator, Digital Content 

Harold K. Skramstad, Jr., president of The Edison Institute, considered the opening of Firestone Farm a "landmark event." Why? The house, barn, and outbuildings added a living historical farm to Greenfield Village, complete with wrinkly Merino sheep collected to sustain the type and increase interpretive potential. - Debra A. Reid, Curator, Agriculture and the Environment 

Kitschy coin collectors convey Americans’ changing views of man’s ability to go where none had gone before.

There was a time when outer space belonged to the realm of fantasy and science fiction. Through movies, radio, television, comic strips and comic books, kids cheered as fantasy space heroes like Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Tom Corbett-Space Cadet safeguarded Earth’s inhabitants from evil forces. Futuristic space toys proliferated, from atomic ray guns and wind-up robots to toy spaceships. Then something happened. The United States and the Soviet Union began to explore outer space for real. When the Russians launched Sputnik I in October 1957, the “space race” took off, leading to a new era of more realistic space toys. 

The Henry Ford’s collection of space-themed banks, dating from 1949 to 1964, captures the span of these two perceptions of outer space — as just a fantasy world to being a real place into which humans ventured. These mechanical banks, produced by Detroit-based companies Duro Mold & Manufacturing and Astro Manufacturing, were offered at individual bank branches as incentives for kids to start bank accounts. Having the branch bank’s name affixed to the front of one of these futuristic coin collectors was a sure sign that the financial institution was modern, progressive and in step with the times.

thf173778
Atomic bank (c. 1949): co-opting a popular word of the Cold War era.

thf173780
Rocket bank (c. 1951): resembling comic-book-style rockets.

thf173779
Strato bank (c. 1953): the coin was shot through the “stratosphere” to the moon.

thf173781
Guided missile bank (c. 1957): the first type made by Astro.

thf173786
Plan-It bank (c. 1959): a play on words, depicting the sun surrounded by nine orbiting planets.

thf173783
Satellite bank (c. 1961): this time - resembling a real rocket.

thf173782
Unisphere bank (c. 1964): topped by the iconic centerpiece from the New York World’s Fair.

thf173785
Destination moon bank (c. 1962): featuring the moon atop a realistic-looking rocket.

See more mechanical banks in our digital collections. 

Donna Braden is Senior Curator & Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.