Henry Ford was a smart fellow. Of course, you know that he said you could have any color you wanted as long as it was black. And he did us a good favor by building the “Model T.” But his legacy is greater than the automobile.
We went to “The Henry Ford” complex in Dearborn, Michigan to tour the Ford plant, the museum, and Greenfield Village. Two days was not enough. We did the Ford River Rouge Complex first. (Rouge is French for red dirt, which was the color of the land where they built the factory if I got that right.) That facility is where they make the F-150 truck currently.
In my former life, I worked on the BMW assembly line for five years, most of which was while earning my Masters in Biblical Counseling. It was a painful experience that took several years after I left to recover from the physical problems of production line work.
At the Rouge plant, the assembly workers have headphones, mobile devices, their choice of clothing (shorts), and anything else they want, within limitations, as long as it does not hinder quality. We did not have those options back in the day at BMW. Perhaps things have changed since then. We also were not a union shop, which makes a difference.
The Ford Museum
The museum was phenomenal too. It was an eclectic collection of planes, trains, and automobiles from the past one hundred years. Henry Ford was a collector before other folks thought about the value of such artifacts. I was talking with one employee who said they could not get those pieces today because people see the value of them and want them for themselves.
Henry saw the value back then, as well as those Ford visionaries who came after him. They collected such things as Presidential automobiles, e.g., the one when Reagan was in when Hinckley shot him, Kennedy’s car, FDR’s car, and Teddy Roosevelt’s carriage. (Teddy did not believe in automobiles; he was old-school.)
There were scores upon scores of other historic cars and paraphernalia from our American past. I liked the huge trains. They had the train car that Ford and Edison traveled in when they needed to get away from public life. It had everything you want in an “RV.” There were NASCAR and Indy cars too.
If you’re old enough to remember some of those events or if you have a history background, it would be a rich, sentimental, and rewarding experience for you.
This place is far better than Colonial Williamsburg. (I’m not counting the black lady who sang for me. That was an all-time highlight that I continue to savor.) They do a much better job with their “living history” aspect of this enormous property. It’s acres and acres of diverse American history from the early 1800s through the 1900s. One of the unique features is how they cobbled together the vast expanse of history. It’s not just from one era, i.e., Colonial America.
You have the home of the Wright Brothers, brought in from Ohio. You then have Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park complex where he did his creative work. (His goal was to have a major invention every six months and a minor invention every ten days. (I, obviously, aim too low.)
Then there is Noah Webster’s home, a courthouse where Abe Lincoln conducted law, and fifty other homes, cabins, and stores from America’s past. There is a living farm where they eat what they grow. They were having lunch when we walked into their little home. It just happened to be the home of Henry Firestone. They would not let me eat with them. They would let me use the outhouse. Of course, there are spinning shops, printing shops, glass blowing shops, and many more shops.
It was amazing.
The downside is that we covered all this in two days. I missed a few movies and did not spend enough time in the museum. I did get my steps in though, and that was a plus. It reminded me of the two months we spent out west, in that it’s not enough time to take in our amazing country.