The Henry Ford is the largest indoor-outdoor history museum complex and a National Historic Landmark in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan, United States. The Henry Ford is an internationally recognized cultural destination that brings the past forward by immersing visitors in the stories of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and innovation that helped shape America. A national historic landmark with an unparalleled collection of artifacts from 300 years of American history, The Henry Ford is a force for sparking curiosity and inspiring tomorrow’s innovators. The Henry Ford bringgreat American stories to fuel a spirit of innovation and inspire a can-do culture.
The Henry Ford provides unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, stories, and lives from America’s traditions of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and innovation. Our purpose is to inspire people to learn from these traditions to help shape a better future.
The museum collection contains the presidential limousine of John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln’s chair from Ford’s Theatre, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop, the Rosa Parks bus, and many more historical exhibits. A continually expanding array of content available online provides anytime, anywhere access to The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation.
Nearly 1.8 million visitors annually experience its four venues: Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, Ford Rouge Factory Tour, and Benson Ford Research Center.
The Henry Ford is also home to Henry Ford Academy, a public charter high school that educates 485 students each year on the institution’s campus.
Architect Robert O. Derrick designed the museum with a 523,000 square feet (48,600 m2) exhibit hall that extends 400 feet (120 m) behind the main façade. The façade spans 800 feet (240 m) and incorporates three structures from Independence National Historical Park—Old City Hall; Independence Hall and Congress Hall.
The Edison Institute was dedicated by President Herbert Hoover to Ford’s longtime friend Thomas Edison on October 21, 1929 – the 50th anniversary of the first successful incandescent light bulb. The attendees included Marie Curie, George Eastman, John D. Rockefeller, Will Rogers, Orville Wright, and about 250 others. The dedication was broadcast on radio with listeners encouraged to turn off their electric lights until the switch was flipped at the Museum.
The Edison Institute was, at first, a private site for educational purposes only, but after numerous inquiries about the complex, it was opened as a museum to the general public on June 22, 1933. It was originally composed of the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, and the Greenfield Village Schools (an experimental learning facility). Initially, Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum were owned by the Ford Motor Company, which is currently a sponsor of the school and cooperates with the Henry Ford to provide the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. The Henry Ford is sited between the Ford Dearborn Development Center and several Ford engineering buildings with which it shares the same style gates and brick fences.
In 1970, the museum purchased what it believed to be a 17th-century Brewster Chair, created for one of the Pilgrim settlers in the Plymouth Colony, for $9,000. In September 1977, the chair was determined to be a modern forgery created in 1969 by Rhode Island sculptor Armand LaMontagne. The museum retains the piece as an educational tool on forgeries.
In the early 2000s, the museum added an auditorium to the building’s south corner. This housed an IMAX theater until January 2016 when museum management decided to change formats for the facility to better fit with its mission. The renovated theater reopened in April of that year.
Henry Ford: Collector
By the late 1920s, Henry Ford had become the primary collector of Americana in the world.
Creating Our Campus
Henry Ford built two separate facilities linked by his theories of education: an indoor museum to tell the story of America’s technological progress and an outdoor village to show how these types of objects were made and used.
A Unique Educational Vision
In Henry Ford’s Edison Institute schools, students learned not only from books, but also from objects and hands-on experiences.
Our 20th Century Legacy
Learn about how The Henry Ford’s one-of-a-kind collection, exhibit experiences, and educational programs expanded after the passing of Henry Ford in 1947.
Evolution of Our Collection
Collecting policies, procedures, and goals shifted over the decades following Henry Ford’s death, but stayed consistent with Henry Ford’s founding vision.
America’s Stories Come to Life
By the beginning of the 21st century, our campus had grown into a unique multi-venue destination.
Despite operating challenges, the education of schoolchildren through exposure to authentic artifacts and hands-on endeavors remained a central mission for The Henry Ford.
With the advent of the digital revolution and advances in modern technology, The Henry Ford is finding new ways to achieve its mission.
The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation™
Our Archive of American Innovation represents the core assets of
The Henry Ford that illustrate the process and context of innovation.
New Digital & Physical Experiences
Reimagined experiences at The Henry Ford incorporate technology as part of the story—and as an integral part of the visitor’s experience.
Partners in Education
The Henry Ford’s recent educational efforts focus on helping educators inspire students to think and act creatively, to innovate, and to adopt an optimistic, entrepreneurial, can-do spirit.
Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation:
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation began as Henry Ford’s personal collection of historic objects, which he began collecting as far back as 1906. Today, the 12 acre (49,000 m²) site is primarily a collection of antique machinery, pop culture items, automobiles, locomotives, aircraft, and other items:
The museum features a 4K digital projection theater, which shows scientific, natural, or historical documentaries, as well as major feature films.
An Oscar Mayer Wienermobile
The 1961 Lincoln Continental, SS-100-X that President John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated.
The rocking chair from Ford’s Theatre in which President Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was shot.
George Washington’s camp bed.
A collection of several fine 17th- and 18th-century violins including a Stradivarius.
Thomas Edison’s alleged last breath in a sealed tube.
Buckminster Fuller’s prototype Dymaxion house.
The bus on which Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat, leading to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Igor Sikorsky’s prototype helicopter.
Fokker Trimotor airplane that flew the first flight over the North Pole.
Bill Elliott’s record-breaking race car clocking in at over 212 MPH at Talladega in 1987
Fairbottom Bobs, the Newcomen engine
A steam engine from Cobb’s Engine House in England.
A working fragment of the original Holiday Inn “Great Sign”
A Chesapeake & Ohio Railway 2-6-6-6 “Allegheny”-class steam locomotive built by Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio. The Allegheny was the most powerful steam locomotive ever built.
Behind the scenes, the Benson Ford Research Center uses the resources of The Henry Ford, especially the photographic, manuscript and archival material which is rarely displayed, to allow visitors to gain a deeper understanding of American people, places, events, and things. The Research Center also contains the Ford Motor Archives.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the Henry Ford Museum exhibited a vast array of artifacts and media documenting the Titanic’s voyage and demise. The exhibit was hosted from 31 March to 30 September 2012.
Greenfield Village, the outdoor living history museum section of the Henry Ford complex, was (along with the adjacent Henry Ford Museum) dedicated in 1929 and opened to the public in June 1933. It was the first outdoor museum of its type in the nation, and served as a model for subsequent outdoor museums. Patrons enter at the gate, passing by the Josephine Ford Memorial Fountain and Benson Ford Research Center. Nearly one hundred historical buildings were moved to the property from their original locations and arranged in a “village” setting. The museum’s intent is to show how Americans lived and worked since the founding of the country. The Village includes buildings from the 17th century to the present, many of which are staffed by costumed interpreters who conduct period tasks like farming, sewing and cooking. A collection of craft buildings such as pottery, glass-blowing, and tin shops provide demonstrations while producing materials used in the Village and for sale. Greenfield Village has 240 acres (970,000 m²) of land of which only 90 acres (360,000 m²) are used for the attraction, the rest being forest, river and extra pasture for the sheep and horses.
Village homes and buildings include:
Noah Webster’s Connecticut home, which served as a dormitory for Yale students from 1918 to 1936, when it was obtained by Henry Ford and moved to Greenfield Village where it was restored.
The Wright brothers’ bicycle shop and home, which was bought and moved by Henry Ford in 1937 from Dayton, Ohio.
A replica of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory complex from New Jersey. Its reconstruction started in 1928. The buildings were laid out according to exact foundation measurements from the original site. It was furnished with original or faithful duplicates, all placed as they were originally.
Henry Ford’s birthplace, which was moved from Greenfield and Ford roads in 1944. Henry Ford had it furnished exactly as it was during his mother’s time.
Henry Ford’s prototype garage where he built the Ford Quadricycle.
Harvey Firestone family farm from Columbiana, Ohio, which was given to the Village by Harvey’s two remaining sons in 1983 to perpetuate their father’s memory. It took over two years for the disassembling and rebuilding process and has been operated as a working sheep farm since 1985.
The Logan County, Illinois courthouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law.
William Holmes McGuffey’s birthplace.
Luther Burbank’s office.
J.R. Jones General Store was built circa 1857 in Waterford Village, Michigan. It was removed to Greenfield Village in 1927 after being purchased by Henry Ford from its then-owner August V. Jacober for $700 and the agreement to rebuild a new store on its Waterford site. It was the first structure to arrive at the Greenfield Village site. The general store was placed in its permanent location facing the village green in the spring of 1929.
Ackley Covered Bridge, a 75′ wooden covered bridge, built in 1832 over Enlow Fork along the Greene – Washington County line in Southwestern Pennsylvania and removed to the village in 1937.
Cape Cod Windmill, also known as the Farris mill, is considered one of the oldest in America. It was originally built in 1633 on the north side of Cape Cod. It was moved several times around Cape Cod until it was gifted to Henry Ford from the Ford Dealers Association, and installed in Greenfield Village in 1936.
In 1935, a structure was added to the park and was identified as the home of Stephen Foster. The structure was identified by historians of the time as being authentic and was then deconstructed and moved “piece by piece” from Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania (now Pittsburgh) to Greenfield Village, Michigan. Foster’s niece insisted that it was not his birthplace and in 1953, the claim was withdrawn.
There are various modes of historic transportation in the Village providing rides for visitors, which utilize authentic Ford Model Ts, a 1931 Ford Model AA bus (one of about 15 known to exist), horse-drawn omnibuses, and trains pulled by steam locomotives.
The rail line on which the steam locomotives in Greenfield Village presently run originally consisted of a simple straight stretch of track along the northern edge of the museum property, and has been present ever since Greenfield Village was dedicated in 1929. The rail line, now named the Weiser Railroad, was later expanded into a continuous loop around the perimeter of the museum property, which was completed in stages between 1971 and 1972. This 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge passenger line is 2 miles (3.2 km) long and has four stations. All of the railroad’s stations consist solely of single side platforms except for the station in the Railroad Junction section, which also includes the relocated Smiths Creek Depot building originally built for the Grand Trunk Railway in 1858. In addition, the line utilizes a modern replica of a Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Railroad (DT&M) roundhouse built in 1884. At the time it was opened to the public in 2000, the new DT&M Roundhouse replica was one of only seven working roundhouses open to the public in the United States.
The railroad, unusual for a heritage railroad built purposely for tourism, has a direct connection to the United States National Railroad Network. The line to which it connects is a section of the Michigan Line owned by MDOT and is used by Amtrak’s Wolverine service, which runs between Chicago, Illinois and Pontiac, Michigan. In the past, Amtrak’s Greenfield Village station provided direct access to Greenfield Village near the Weiser Railroad’s Smiths Creek Depot for reserved tour groups of twenty or more. It was consolidated in December 2014 with the new John D. Dingell Transit Center. The new transit center is adjacent to the Henry Ford museum complex and has a gate allowing access to the complex via a short walk.
Benson Ford Research Center:
The Benson Ford Research Center is the world’s most comprehensive resource for researching collections and stories of American innovation, ingenuity and resourcefulness–and home to the experts who maintain and interpret our collections.
Civil War Remembrance:
Each year the Village honors the sacrifices and achievements of those who bravely fought in the American Civil War. The Civil War Remembrance event takes place Memorial Day weekend (Sat-Mon) every year. An estimated 750,000 people died during the Civil War. The Civil War Remembrance is a weekend event, which includes hundreds of Union and Confederate reenactors, musicians and historic presenters. This event features more than 400 Civil War reenactors who spend the entire weekend in the Village. Greenfield Village provides many opportunities in order to learn about the Civil War: exhibits, presentations, battle reenactments, concerts, short plays, hands-on activities and Q&A with historians.
Motor Muster is one of two car shows that take place annually in Greenfield Village. Motor Muster is traditionally held on Father’s Day weekend. This event currently features cars built from 1932–1976, and features between 600–800 cars. Special attractions include car judging, and Pass in Review in which experts discuss highlights of the passing cars.
Every summer the Henry Ford has a Summer Camp. It takes place inside Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum between June and August. It is for children in grades 2-9. Each grade level has a different theme and children who participate in the Summer Camp have the opportunity to look at both the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village from different perspectives. Children participate in activities such as: apprenticeships, canoeing, glass blowing and other age-dependent activities.
World Tournament of Historic Base Ball:
The World Tournament of Historical Base Ball takes place every year in August. Guests get to take a step back in time to 1867 as vintage base ball clubs from around the country compete by the game’s early rules in a two-day exposition of historic base ball. The clubs engage in two days of throwing, batting and competition. The event is included in Greenfield Village admission.
Salute to America:
For four nights around Independence Day, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performs a patriotic concert on Walnut Grove in the Village. Attendance ranges from 5000–9500 per evening.
Ragtime Street Fair:
This weekend event in July was first presented in 2007 and ran annually through 2015. Ragtime Street Fair featured dozens of live performers, including the River Raisin Ragtime Revue, “Perfessor” Bill Edwards, Mike Montgomery, Nan Bostick, Taslimah Bey, John Remmers, and Tartarsauce Traditional Jazz Band, who celebrated the Ragtime era (ca. 1900-1917). The event also featured silent movies, phonograph demonstrations, a cake walk, a cutting contest, and a musical revue in Town Hall as well as the 1912 presidential campaign of Theodore Roosevelt. Instruction in the ragtime one-step was provided free of charge at this event.
Old Car Festival:
The Old Car Festival takes place every year in September. The Old Car Festival has been held on the first weekend after Labor Day since 1955. The festival takes over the streets and grounds of Greenfield Village with the sights, sounds, and smells of hundreds of authentic vehicles from the 1890s through 1932. This event features 500-700 cars. Special events include car judging, Pass in Review, the gaslight tour, and car races on the Walnut Grove field. Guests can take a self-guided tour of the exposition and talk to the owners of the treasured vehicles. Visitors can watch a Model T be assembled in just minutes, attend presentations, and hear experts share information about the vintage vehicles.
Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village:
The Village’s Halloween celebration features decorations, a headless horseman, witches, other costumed characters, treats and activities for visitors. It is held Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings in October.
The Christmas season has traditionally been very popular in Greenfield Village. Many buildings feature period decorations and evening tours are conducted along candle-lit paths. Visitors can view live entertainment and costumed presenters or ride in a horse-drawn carriage or Model T.
The Ford Rouge Factory Tour is a first-hand journey behind the scenes of a modern, working automobile factory. Boarding buses at the Henry Ford Museum, visitors are taken to the River Rouge Plant and Dearborn Truck Plant, an industrial complex where Ford has built cars since the Model A that once employed 100,000 people.
In 2003, the Ford Rouge Factory, the manufacturing facility for Ford’s Ford F-Series truck, reopened following extensive renovations. When it reopened in 2003, as sustainable architecture (Gold LEED Building) led by noted ‘green’ architect William McDonough, it also opened a new state-of-the-art visitor center highlighting the factory’s sustainable aspects and educating visitors on the legacy of the historic manufacturing facility as well as the vehicle manufacturing process that takes place within the manufacturing plant. The visitor experiences, designed by award-winning experience designer Bob Rogers and the design team BRC Imagination Arts, offers two multi-screen theaters, numerous touchscreen interpretive displays and overlook the world’s largest “Green” roof, atop the factory. Visitors then walk through the working assembly plant.