DEARBORN - On Sept. 20, 1945, Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, wrote his letter of resignation to his board of directors, which states: “I hereby resign the office of president of this company, to take effect upon acceptance.”
This piece of history, among many others, have been kept safe and sound for decades – far away from the prying eyes of the public – and are currently housed inside Ford’s archives building.
“It’s been more than 50 years since journalists were invited to see the archives,” said Dean Weber, manager, Ford Archives.
Many have harbored a healthy curiosity and urge to get a behind-the-scenes peek at the elements that went into the production of some of today’s most timeless model vehicles, and last Friday, journalists were given that chance.
Archival documents, magazine articles, newspapers, advertisements, sketches, video reels, photographs, negatives and much more were all on display for 50 eager journalists to see firsthand.
Media were able to closely study and examine countless pieces of Ford history not seen before. However, a recent collaboration within the company is quickly working to change all of that.
Ford and The Henry Ford Museum are teaming up in an effort to memorialize the company’s legacy and help share key materials on www.TheHenryFord.org beginning in 2014.
“People have a great emotional connection to the company’s heritage,” said Weber. “We’re digitizing our heritage to get more online and reach new audiences.”
This ongoing initiative will focus on digitizing key assets from collections, including The Henry Ford Office Papers, comprised of documents Ford himself handled for nearly half a century. By making such timeless relics accessible to a broader audience through the use of social media, the company is expanding its reach globally and helping to further communicate the Ford story worldwide.
At the beginning of the tour, journalists were provided with a pencil, a pair of white gloves for artifact handling and an empty portfolio case, which attendees were encouraged to fill with an assortment of replica materials provided at each of the following five modules: Design in the Archives, Documents and Preservation, Ford and Popular Culture, Two Model T’s (on display) and Digitizing with The Henry Ford.
Every folder contained one or more photocopies, highlighting key moments in Ford’s iconic history – all telling parts of a bigger story. Some of the photocopies journalists were permitted to take home included Henry Ford’s letter of resignation, the U.S. $5 workday advertisement, a page from the Ford Times 10th-anniversary issue and product brochures of concept cars, such as the 1958 Ford Nucleon, 1962 Ford Mustang I and 1964 Ford GT-40.
Henry Ford and his wife, Clara, meticulously collected artifacts throughout their lives and that tradition has continued with the help of Ford Archives. Consequently, the company has been able to stay true to Henry’s vision by collaborating with the museum in an effort to tell the Ford story through a collection of company materials.
While not all of these historical pieces will be immediately available on TheHenryFord.org, selections from the following collections will be digitized to start:
1. Letter signed by Henry Ford when he handed leadership of the company to his grandson Henry Ford II
2. 450 rolls of film from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair
3. Ford Mustang heritage photography
4. Countless historic Ford and Lincoln advertising images
“At The Henry Ford, we are committed to digitizing our unique collections for the world to access,” said Marilyn Zoidis, director, Historical Resources, The Henry Ford. “The assistance we receive from collaborating with Ford’s archives furthers our efforts to share these important pieces of history like never before.”