Industry & Manufacturing

Ford’s Model T

This article was published in Michigan History Magazine in 2005 and shared by the Archives of Michigan. This Tuesday, July 30th, is the 150th birthday of Michigan’s most influential figure, Henry Ford. The photo with the article seems to have vanished, but we have replaced it with an incredible shot by Lou Peeples. Be sure to click the photo to see it bigger!

title=“I will build a motor car for the great multitude,” Henry Ford announced. “It will be so low in price,” he added, “that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one.” With these words Henry Ford introduced the world to the Model T. It was October 1908 and, when the Ford Motor Company quit making the Model T nineteen years later, it had become one of the world’s most popular cars.

The Model T (there were models A through S) carried a 4-cylinder motor, and traveled up to 45 miles per hour. It came in one color, black.

The Model T also introduced drivers to new mechanical improvements. In a Model T, the driver controlled the car with three floor pedals: a brake and a pedal for forward and one for reverse. This left the driver’s hands free to steer the car. Unlike most cars of the time, the steering wheel was on the left side of the car.

The Model T was popular because it was cheap (eventually less than $300) and easy to fix. All a driver needed were pliers and a screwdriver to keep it running. Spare parts were easily available, and the Model T never seemed to wear out.

Americans loved the Model T. A woman from Georgia wrote Henry Ford, “Your car … brought joy into our lives.” The Model T even developed international fame. As one newspaper noted, “The Ford Motor Company has beaten out both the [U.S.] flag and the Constitution in carrying civilization into the wild places of the world.”

In 1927 the Ford Motor Company stopped making Model Ts; it had produced 15,007,033 cars. In the 1970s, Germany’s Volkswagen Beetle finally surpassed the Model T in numbers made.

As the Ford Motor Company likes to say to this day, the Model T “put America on wheels.” How true.

PHOTO: Model T circa 1922 by Lou Peeples

The impact of record low Great Lakes levels

This post originally appeared on Michigan in Pictures.

Low water levels, West Arm Grand Traverse BayOn Michigan in Pictures I usually blog beautiful things, but today I’m featuring an ugly thing that we in Michigan should all be concerned about. Traverse City based Circle of Blue has an in-depth feature on the record-low level of Lake Michigan-Huron:

The latest numbers released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on February 5 show that both lakes Michigan and Huron — which are two connected lakes — are experiencing their lowest point since records began in 1918. Water levels were an average of 175.57 meters (576.02 feet) for the month of January, approximately 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) lower than the previous record set in 1964.

“Not only have water levels on Michigan-Huron broken records the past two months, but they have been very near record lows for the last several months before then,” said John Allis, chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office at the Corps, in a press release. “Lake Michigan-Huron’s water levels have also been below average for the past 14 years, which is the longest period of sustained below-average levels since 1918 for that lake.”

The low water levels, which the Corps attributes to: below-average snowfall during the winter of 2011-2012, last summer’s drought, and above-average evaporation during the summer and fall of 2012, have the potential to hurt the Great Lakes’ shipping industry.

…For the water levels on Lake Michigan-Huron to reach even near-average water levels again, the Corps said it will take many seasons with above average precipitation and below-average evaporation.

Read on at Circle of Blue for much more including the struggles that wildlife are having with the changing climate. You can also view the release from the Army Corps of Engineers and see historic Great Lakes levels back to 1918. From the Army Corps, I learned that at 1 1/2 ft below normal, ships are losing 8-10% of their carrying capacity.

Beyond harm to the multi-billion dollar shipping industry which feeds countless industrial endeavors, the low lake levels are making many of our recreational harbors inaccessible. These feed our multi-billion dollar sport fishing industry and  this has prompted Gov. Snyder to endorse a $21 million emergency dredging plan, $11 million of which would come from Michigan’s general fund. With over a half a million jobs in Michigan alone tied to the health of the Great Lakes, getting a handle on the threats that impact them are likely to be at the center of our policy and spending for a long time.

In a curious bit of synchronicity, you can see just how vital the Great Lakes are to Michigan in Michigan Sea Grant’s reports on Economic Vitality and the Great Lakes. View this photo bigger and see more in their Grand Traverse Bay Low Water slideshow.

Lots more Lake Huron and Lake Michigan on Michigan in Pictures.

TEDx … Michigan

TEDxGR by tedxgrandrapids
TEDxGR by tedxgrandrapids

TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader and has branched to include TEDx.

TEDx was created to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate relevant dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. These events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.

The heart of TED and TEDx are talks by leaders in their field about the subject of their passion. The thousands of talks online feature some of the best thinking about who we are and where we’re going that you will find anywhere. The TEDxTalks are available on YouTube, and every Tuesday (or so) we’ll feature talks from TEDx events in Michigan that deal with some of the specific issues we’re facing. Find them at TEDxMichigan on Absolute Michigan!

For an idea about the scope, here’s a listing of upcoming and past TEDx events in Michigan. Bear in mind that admission to these events is highly coveted, so if you are interested in attending, get engaged as soon as you can!

Below the listing we have the first of our videos. It’s from last year’s TEDxGrandRapids and features Sheryl Connelly, manager of Global Trends and Futuring at Ford Motor Company talking about how to think like a futurist, and also how to get the most out of TEDx.

Clouds over the solar industry

Stan Ovshinsky by OnInnovation
Stan Ovshinsky by OnInnovation

In ECD files for Chapter 11 protection, the Freep reports that:

The shakeout in the solar power industry claimed another victim Tuesday as Auburn Hills-based Energy Conversion Devices (ECD) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced plans to sell its assets, including its main subsidiary, United Solar Ovonic. (links are our addition)

The move brings to an end the 51-year history of one of the most innovative companies in the state, a pioneer of nickel-metal-hydride batteries and thin-film solar laminates.

“I have tears in my eyes thinking about it,” said Stanford Ovshinsky, ECD’s 89-year-old founder who retired from the company in 2007. “It’s more than sadness. It’s grief.”

ECD is the latest victim of an industry-wide convergence of over-supply and the drying up of subsidies. What may be lost in the story is the significance of Energy Convergence Devices as a force for innovation. For more about that, check out this OnInnovation interview of ECD founder Stan Ovshinsky – click his name for more at

Michigan International Auto Show in Grand Rapids – January 26-29, 2012

Michigan turns 175 Thursday and Absolute Michigan is giving away a whole bunch of prizes to people on our email list to celebrate! One of the items is 2 tickets to the Auto Show – you can sign up for our list at the bottom of this article.

Smile by pairadocs
Smile by pairadocs

The Michigan International Auto Show returns to DeVos Place January 26-29, 2012 with manufacturers from around the world setting up their finest traveling displays. The show is West Michigan’s largest consumer show and offers you a chance to view your next new car with some 300 new vehicles on display. From sedans to vans, SUVs & trucks to hybrids and sports cars. If it rolls on 4 wheels, chances are you’ll see it at the factory representatives from nearly 40 different manufacturers.

“This year, visitors will find vehicles displaying increases in innovations and design, as well as energy efficiency models as the auto industry rises to the challenges placed before it,” says Terry Burns, Executive Director of the Grand Rapids New Car Dealers Association. “New models, new designs and new technologies are helping our industry bring itself back up along a path of recovery as we move into 2012 and beyond.”

A highlight of the show is the Million Dollar Motorway, which is expected to be bigger and better than ever before featuring a variety of high end cars including Bentley, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Maserati and Lamborghini, each valued at more than $100,000. There are also exhibits from the Gilmore Car Museum that offer you a chance to take a trip back in automobile history.

Here’s a video from last year’s show to give you an idea of what to expect.

Absolute Michigan is committed to helping our readers get more out of Michigan. To that end, we are adding an exciting new program featuring giveaways of products and services from all kinds of Michigan businesses. It's free, fun and all you have to do to be eligible is to be on our email list - sign up using the form below. We guarantee that we will not share your email address with anyone!
If your business is interested in participating, you can get all the information right here.


2012 North American International Auto Show

The 2012 North American International Auto Show aka the Detroit Auto Show runs January 14-22, 2012 at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan.

2013 Dodge Dart by ChriKett Photography
2013 Dodge Dart by ChriKett Photography

The first Detroit Area Dealer Association (DADA)-managed Detroit Auto Show was held in December 1907 at Riverview Park. In 1987, the show was re-focused as an international event, and 2012 is their 24th annual under the new format. The center of the event are concept cars and exhibitions by car companies from Acura to Volvo and of course Detroit standards like Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, GMC and Lincoln.

Blogs & Social Media from the Detroit Auto Show

Our favorite for coverage this year is mLive’s Detroit Auto Show coverage. They have a look at Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s visit to the show, some concept car highlights from the 2012 floor and the back and forth between Governor Snyder and a Wayne State student. After Snyder issued a call for grads to stay in Michigan, biomed engineering student Ramkumar Annamalai  asked him why if eduction was so important has Michigan seen cuts that remove a lot of what attracts top students.  It’s an interesting exchange that highlights one of the real challenges manufacturing and research in Michigan are facing. You can also get comprehensive reporting from the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.

As usual, you can find unabashed car love with a healthy dose of humor from the  2012 Detroit Auto Show on Jalopnik.  Over at Autoblog they feature podcasts and articles including their Editor’s top 5 picks from the show (spoiler: #1 is the 2013 Ford Fusion which also captured Autoweek Magazine’s coveted Best of Show award). Another source that’s getting more and more relevant is  Autoblog Green who has features on the frighteningly cute Tata, a sub-$19k Prius and the Smart-for-Us urban concept mini-truck pictured right. Pretty much everyone with a blog is covering it of course, from Motor Trend to Popular Mechanics.

The North American International Auto Show has gotten into the social media swing in 2012 with a Facebook page their NAIAS official Twitter. You can also of course dive right in to #NAIAS on Twitter.

Attending the North American International Auto Show

The NAIAS web site has everything you need to know about attending the public show and tomorrow night’s black tie charity preview. If you do attend and take pictures or video, we’d love it if you’d share them with us in the Absolute Michigan Flickr group or shoot us the link to YouTube vids!

Detroit Auto Show Photos

Plymouth Fury!The NAIAS has a nifty virtual show floor.  Christian Kettenbell took the photo at the top and he has a really nice slideshow from 2012. You can see a whole lot more by checking Detroit Auto Show and/or NAIAS on Flickr. The blogs & papers above are another great source of photos of production cars and concepts as well.    If you’d like to step back in time, check out this Detroit News Rearview Mirror feature The Detroit Auto Show: from beer gardens to tabernacles to Cobo Center.

Anything else to add or ask? Post it in the comments!

Detroit Auto Show Videos

You can watch the snarky, kind of slow and frankly down on the auto show 2012 North American International Auto Show Preview from Drive and the un-snarky and faster paced preview from Autoweek TV. Our favorite, however, is this selection of highlights from the Media Preview on the 2012 show floor by Global News ENG Cameraman Ben Jonah. Got other ones you like? Add them in the comments below!

  • A family with a Rickenbacker car
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    Seeking Michigan: Eddie Rickenbacker and the Rickenbacker Motor Company

Seeking Michigan: Eddie Rickenbacker and the Rickenbacker Motor Company

Seeking MichiganSteve Ostrander, Michigan Historical Museum and courtesy Seeking Michigan and the Archives of Michigan. The goal of Seeking Michigan is simple: to connect you to the stories of this great state. Visit them regularly for a dynamic & evolving look at Michigan’s cultural heritage and see more stories from Seeking Michigan at Absolute Michigan.
Eddie Rickenbacker

Eddie Rickenbacker, circa 1919. Photo from the National Archives and Records Administration holdings (ARC identifier 533720). Digital copy found on

Ace of Aces

After shooting down twenty-two enemy aircraft and four barrage balloons in less than a year, Captain Edward “Eddie” Rickenbacker became the most celebrated Allied airman of World War I, earning him the title “Ace of Aces.” He received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the French Legion of Honor, the Croix de Guerre, the Distinguished Service Cross and seven other medals.

At the close of the war, Rickenbacker returned home to a hero’s welcome of ticker-tape parades and other events in his honor. He retreated to the seclusion of the New Mexican desert to contemplate his future. He had been a race car driver before the war, and automobiles again filled his mind. He decided to build a car bearing his name.

Michigan’s Clean Energy act generating results

Clouds are Cooler than Smoke by Jon DeBoer
Clouds are Cooler than Smoke by Jon DeBoe

I guess it’s Coal Week on Absolute Michigan. After taking a look back at the history of coal mining in the Saginaw Valley on Tuesday, we’re back on the subject with news from the Great Lakes Echo.

Michigan coal-fired plants to close; wind and air to step up by Nick McWherter of the Capital News Service says that Consumers Energy will close seven coal-fired power plants in Michigan and has cancelled construction of another to focus on clean energy. In their news release on the topic, Consumer’s President & CEO John Russell said that their investments – part of a $6.6 billion plan to add value to customers and improve the environment - were projected to create more than 2,000 construction jobs in Michigan and provide significant emissions reductions. Environmentalists concur:

“There are simply smarter ways to produce energy then relying on coal,” said Bruce Nilles, national director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. The inherent costs associated with mining and burning coal make clean energy more attractive, he said. Economically and environmentally, coal does not make sense.

Michigan is now in position to make strides in clean energy throughout the state, he said.

“There is a significant shift going on in the electric sector,” Nilles said. “Michigan has a chance to really be at the forefront. It has one of the oldest coal fleets in the country; many of these plants are literally teetering. It presents a tremendous opportunity to put people back to work and eliminate all the pollution that today is having such profound impacts across the state of Michigan.”

The motivation for the decision is Michigan’s Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy act. Established in 2008, the act requires utilities to supply 10% of their energy via renewables by 2015. Consumers is the second largest utility in the state and is at 5% renewable generation right now. Last month they also started construction of their first wind-farm, the Lake Winds Energy Park, part of a $1 billion investment in Mason County. Follow that link for details and a video from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Experience Great Lakes Week with Great Lakes Now

Edited Oct 17, 2011 to bring in the archived content from Great Lakes Week 2011

Detroit Public Television (DPTV), in partnership with the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Commission, U.S. EPA, and Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition provided unprecedented access to the largest gathering of scientists, political voices, educators, environmentalists, and interested groups ever assembled to discuss the status and the future of the Great Lakes at

Sleeping Bear by ideowl
Sleeping Bear by ideowl

Great Lakes Week takes place October 11-14, 2011 and celebrates one of the world’s true natural wonders, the five interconnected Great Lakes. Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior provide jobs, recreation and drinking water to more than 30 million people in the Great Lakes basin. Great Lakes Week is a new partnership to improve the places around the basin where people live, work, learn and play. This week’s activities, meetings and conferences bring representatives of the U.S. and Canadian governments together with a broad coalition of public and private groups to highlight efforts to implement solutions for the lakes’ most pressing problems. The event is headquartered in a single city for the first time ever and that city is Detroit.

Today’s coverage kicks off at noon with an overview of Great Lakes Week, highlights of yesterday’s Great Lakes Commission Meeting. Also on tap is the International Joint Commission of US and Canadian government agencies, a report on U.S. and Canadian efforts to restore the chemical, physical and biological diversity of the Great Lakes Basin, updates on critical issues from algae to aquatic invasive species and the Great Lakes Town Hall featuring top officials from both the U.S. and Canada answering on-site and virtual audience questions (Twitter hastag #AskGLW). Much more to follow tomorrow and Friday – check the schedule of events out for an idea.

Michigan punches its ticket for high-speed rail

Vanishing Point by e.rabior
Vanishing Point by e.rabior

Business Week reports that Michigan made some major moves toward high-speed rail yesterday:

A high-speed passenger train service between Chicago and Detroit took two big steps forward Wednesday with a $196.5 million federal grant to Michigan and the state’s acquisition of a 135-mile stretch of track.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it has awarded Michigan the funds for signal and track improvements on the rail line between Kalamazoo in western Michigan and Dearborn in suburban Detroit.

…”Investing in rail service will spark economic development in communities along a corridor linking Detroit and Chicago, two vital Midwest cities,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement. “A faster, reliable passenger rail system is a priority for younger generations and vital to Michigan’s ability to compete globally as businesses look to locate or expand.”

Snyder added that the rail upgrades will speed freight transportation for Ford and other companies. You can read the complete release from the Department of Transportation forecasting that this will create 800 new jobs in Michigan.

You can see the Wolverine in action right here. It’s the train that runs three Detroit-Chicago routes daily. That’s a neat video showing just how fast a 95 MPH train is, but this fantastic timelapse from 1988 shot with a Super-8 from trainluvr is too good to pass up! Here’s Amtrak’s Michigan schedule too.