Greenfield Village

7/9/13 Tuesday at St Clair, MI (St Clair-TT)

Warning: this is a long post.

Last night they predicted severe storms with the possibility of a tornado for today, so this morning we checked the weather. Lo and behold, it is clear until possible scattered showers in the pm, then severe storm overnight. Thus we went ahead with our plan to see Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI, leaving a bit after 8 am, according to plan.

We ran into a car accident on I-94, so that slowed us down, but we got to Camping World first. Unfortunately, they only had 1 of the 3 items we wanted, a #8 water filter. The #7 water filter must be special ordered (or get at an RV supply store) and a replacement strut (the one from Larry’s doesn’t really fit), which they told us would be at an auto store.

A little after 10 am, we were parking our car in the lot for the Ford history attractions. Warning: it’s quite a walk from the lot to Greenfield Village and the Village is similar to Williamsburg – huge because it’s a small city. Thus we learned the hard way that when you pack a picnic lunch (which most did), you carry it with you. Also a bottle of water. (There are about 3 water fountains/restrooms in the complex.) We didn’t bring the lunch or a water bottle from the car. At lunchtime we were about as far away from the car lot as you could get, so we decided it was best to save the time and struggle (90 degrees, maybe 85% humidity) to get back to that very hot car. Tickets: $22/senior (62) + $5 for parking. Lunch: $7.50 for sandwich with side.

As I said before, Greenfield Village is a lot like Williamsburg – where history is recreated in buildings and historic characters, over 300 years of history. Ford collected many historic buildings, forming these areas in his village: Working Farms, Henry Ford’s Model T, (Railroad Junction which we skipped), Main Street (village shops around the 1800’s), Edison at Work, Porches & Parlors.

IMG_0491 IMG_0518 IMG_0700You can also pay to ride a variety of vehicles: Steam railroad, Shuttle (horse carriage), Omnibus (like Glacier Park buses), Model T, Carousel. We chose to walk. Many buildings are not reproductions, but the original structures, moved from there original locations.













IMG_0768 IMG_0514 IMG_0771 IMG_0772Working Farms, Firestone Farm (1880’s). Notice the standing water in the field – from last night’s storms. Here the people spend their working day in character. This lady is showing us the cinnamon pastries she’d made this morning. They needed to iron, but the clothes (hanging in the cellar) were still too wet (all this humidity). Notice the honey colored liquid on the right? It’s called scrum, the “Gatorade” of their day. It is made from 50/50 honey and vinegar, then that’s 1 part to 7 parts water. When one of the farmers drank it, she told him it was for refreshment. He said water is refreshing!














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The coal stove, burning on this hot, humid day (to cook, iron). In the cellar, you can see the ham hanging. This was from their own raised pigs. It’s really moldy, so she was concerned that it may be too moldy. {Later, at a slave cabin, the guide told us this weather is unusual. Last year was unusually dry, this year unusually hot and humid, like the tropics. Hmm. I thought this was normal.} In the barn a farmer is giving a heifer milk. Apparently he is so vigorous that he’d waste a lot of his mom’s milk, so they’re bottle feeding him. Notice how the bottom of the bottle is against his knee. That knee really got a work out from the calf pushing hard in pulses.








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Working Farms, Richart Wagon Shop, Soybean Lab (filled with farm equipment)





Simple Threshing Machine (1845)





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Harvesting Grain by Hand (Scyths), then by machine: Reaper










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On our way to Henry Ford’s Model T, we met a Forest Ranger from the 1800’s on a Morgan horse. Sweet! Later in our trek, we encountered a young man with his bicycle. How do you suppose he gets up on it? The last picture shows the step that’s always available (on the back wheel). We got them from England at the end of the 1800’s, for men only. They built the bike as we know it for women, around the early 1900’s. In time, the men wanted that style as well, so the early style phased out.















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Henry Ford’s home, complete with garden in back and sheep in the front (his folks were farmers, but Henry hated farm chores. He loved taking things apart and by 6 years old he could take apart a watch and put it back together. When he got married, he and Clara lived in apartments. He built this “Kitchen Sink” gas engine on their kitchen counter. Clara was a huge supporter of his efforts, although, getting this engine to start on Christmas Eve, while she was preparing Christmas dinner, was not something she appreciated. Our guide is putting 10 drops of gasoline in, before pushing the wheel to start the engine. Ford then transformed a shed behind their duplex in Detroit into a workshop, where he built his “Quadricycle”. The door wasn’t wide enough to get the vehicle through, so he knocked out some bricks to get it out.

















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He started 2 companies before “The Ford Motor Company”, which stuck.










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On Main Street: Wright’s Cycle Shop. It’s amazing that 65 years after the Wright brothers built our first airplane, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon.









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On Main Street: Sir John Bennett Jewelry Shop. Mr. Bennett liked the story of the mythical Gog and Magog, the ancient protectors of Britain, so he re-created them for the front of his shop. They chime every 15 minutes. I liked the dragon weather vane best. They sold sweets there.













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At Edison at Work: Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Machine Shop. Thomas Edison’s “dynamos” or electric generators were tested here. This area became the world’s first electric generating plant. The 1st photo is of the generator at the bottom, the 2nd shows the belts and pulleys they were attached to, in order to run the machines (by the pulley/belt turning). The 3rd shows these machines that made machines. The last is a Combination Gas Machine, that provided illuminating gas for the gas lights, Bunsen burners etc. Ford had Edison’s Menlo Park moved here. When Edison came and saw the building and contents he said it is 99% accurate, the dirt was missing, it just wasn’t this clean.

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In Edison’s lab, workers used these furnaces to heat strips of bamboo, wood and other materials in airtight graphite boxes to create thin carbon strands that they tested as light bulb filaments. This next is a Galvanometer, which measured the amount of electric current used in Edison’s experiments. It was so sensitive that it had to be anchored to brick pillars embedded in the ground. On the second floor you can see the organ the men played for amusement at the back. When he first demonstrated his light bulb to reporters, way more came than he expected. He made all the lights in the complex turn on at once. The chair in the center was where Edison sat (age 82) when he came here to celebrate 50 years of his electric light bulb. Realize that 30 others had created such bulbs, but none could sustain the light like his did. Plus he created a way to generate the power needed.







At Porches & Parlors: Robert Frost’s Home






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Noah Webster’s Home, the “Blue Book” speller that sold 23,000 copies in his lifetime and way more after that. (Blue Book because of the blue paper used on the corners). During the 1840’s he became one of the most published authors in American history – at the forefront of the growing movement towards books. Painting a room was way more expensive in those days than wallpaper (front parlor). Webster’s Study.

















IMG_0658With the money from speller sales, he was able to build his home and spend 25 years writing his Dictionary – an effort to have all Americans speak like New England aristocrats. He was the one who standardized American spellings (like honor, not honour and theater not theatre). It took 8 years to sell the 2,500 copies of the 2 volume work, priced at $20 (2 weeks wages).



Guide talking in Hermitage Slave’s Quarters.






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Still at Porches & Parlors: Sounds of America Gallery. Musical instruments there: The first photo includes a Zither (at top, center), a Ukelin (at bottom, left center). In next photo is a Dulcimer, then a Tenor horn in the next. In the next is a Euphonium, on the left. Finally, an Edison Cylinder Phonograph.























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At this point we took a break from the heat and stepped inside “Town Hall” to watch a presentation of “Simply Gershwin”. This was my favorite attraction of all; the music, the singing and the dancing. Heaven.










Re-energized, we headed for the Liberty Craftworks section. Here is the original Loringer Gristmill (1830 in Michigan), powered by a water wheel. Edward Loringer built it and operated it until he was 91. It had great automatic features, that made it unpopular with others in the industry, because it put people out of work. The columns similar to those at the left have belts that carry the corn to the grist wheel (to the right of the guide), then these columns’ belts would carry the results (corn, scratch, meal and flour) on to be sorted. The 3 different forms of corn are from differing amounts of grinding. Lots of corn in the hopper meant little grinding, thus more scratch (for animal feed) was created).

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Colonial Weaving machine. With 2 or 6) shuttles for the feet that shift the warp up or down).










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Jacquard Weaving machine. Using the cards to create many different ways for the weave to go).  This was a pre cursor to the original IBM punch cards, then computers.










Flying Shuttle machine. Still by hand, but these shuttle weft threads are passed from one side to the other so fast, they can do 90-100 shots per minute.





At the Pottery Shop, he is taking off clay from the bottom of a leather hard pot. When I learned pottery, we were told that the light weight of the bottom of a pot indicated the skill of the potter (forming the pot that way in the first place).



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At the Printing Office, I got to make a print myself, although our guide inked it. She let me keep the print; of Henry Ford’s Home. She mentioned that they’ll be celebrating his birthday, July 30, 1863 soon (150 years ago). I excitedly shared that my birthday is July 29th! This press is the original, from the 1800’s.







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At the Tin Shop the lady showed us how the Hurricane Lamp (made from tin over iron, later over steel) worked. After lighting the candle inside, you could swing it as you made your way in the dark to the back shed (John said “or outhouse”), used just like our modern day flashlights. I’m sure I’ve seen that image in pictures of Paul Revere, but she noted that there was hardly enough light for this lantern to do that job.






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In the Glass Shop they took the glass out of the furnace (SO hot on such a hot day), then attached a drill at the other end, then pulled it really far, to create a glass stick, that they’d break into small sticks for their glass productions. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the Amish group that came shortly after we did. In the last photo, he is creating something new with the glass remaining on the post.











Everything made in this village is used here. I saw a rug in one house, clearly made on the loom we saw in the Weaving Shop. Many things, especially the glass works are for sale in the Liberty Craftworks Store. I saw the neatest quote on a card there: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” By Dorothy Parker.



They had the loveliest red Tiger Lilies (I’ve not seen them in that color, red), so I had to share.

At this point, we were pretty tired, so we beat feet to our car. Was it hot!! It’s outside reading said 95 degrees. Inside may have been over 100 degrees. My bottle of water was hot. Hey, we knew air conditioning would kick in eventually. Since we left around 4:45 pm, we knew we were in for commuter traffic and so it was. Funny, on our way in we got delayed because of a traffic accident and that happened on our way out. There was also just lots of traffic, especially where construction put the lanes from 3 to 2. We got home about 6 pm, only 20 minutes later than we would have. Of course, Miss Zanzibar was cooking hot! We got all the windows open, fans running. Eventually we started the A/C. For supper we had our picnic lunch!


About Patricia Elser

I've always loved the loose, flowing, transparent look of watercolors, of Chinese paintings and their calligraphy, but alas, no watercolor classes were available when I was in school, so that interest remained buried until my children were grown. Even then, I was afraid that I couldn't really paint, so upon my sister's advice, I actually started to take classes. I signed up for every class available, determined to learn no matter how afraid I was. I came upon a teacher, Stan Miller, who inspired me, who opened the door to success in watercolor. I love to look at beautiful images. I want to capture them forever. All my life, photography was how I gathered images of the beauty I saw. Thanks to all that photography, I enjoy composing pictures, especially up close. Watercolors allow me to add more of me in their translation of that beauty. My paintings reflect my love for music and dance, with their rhythm and flow. I am fascinated by the play of light, so it appears in my pictures as drama for they are filled with darks and lights. Maybe it's the challenge, maybe it's the beauty, but now, when a work comes together, it fills my soul.
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