Ford plant exhibit debuts at Iron Mountain museum

Associated Press

Iron Mountain — A new permanent exhibit featuring the Iron Mountain Ford Motor Co. plant in Kingsford is open at the Cornish Pumping Engine and Mining Museum.

Menominee Range Historical Foundation historian and vice president Bill Cummings compiled the information and period photographs to tell the story of Ford’s role in the area’s history, according to The Daily News of Iron Mountain.

In June 1920, Henry Ford bought the Michigan Land and Iron Co., consisting of nearly 430,000 acres in the Upper Peninsula.

After a search for a suitable site, Ford announced its decision to establish a manufacturing plant south of Iron Mountain on July 16, 1920. The following day workers began laying out the site.

In mid-August, the Michigan Iron, Land and Lumber Co. was organized by Ford interests for the purpose of conducting the Iron Mountain sawmill and body plant, as well as the extensive Ford logging operations in the Upper Peninsula.

On March 9, 1923, president Edward G. Kingsford announced the name of the company had been changed from the Michigan Iron, Land and Lumber Co. to the Ford Motor Co., the subsidiary having been absorbed as a part of the parent plant at Detroit.

The local plant was always referred to as the Iron Mountain plant, even after the village of Kingsford, in which it was located, was chartered Dec. 29, 1923. Ford sold its holdings here to the newly-organized Kingsford Chemical Co. on Dec. 4, 1951. The official transfer of property occurred on Dec. 17.

Because thousands of employees worked at the Iron Mountain Ford plant between 1920 and 1951, many current and former area residents have family connections.

The new exhibit features 30 enlarged photographs from the collection of the Menominee Range Historical Museum and other individuals. Baker Sign Company produced the display, working with Cummings.

On the west wall display the spectacular night view of the Ford Plant is the focal point, together with four aerial shots showing the plant layout from different perspectives with Kingsford Heights, the Ford Addition and Breitung in the background. A map published by the J.A. Minnear Real Estate Co. in 1920 shows “Ford’s Factory Lands” with the property extending south and west of the city of Iron Mountain to the Menominee River.

On the north wall the dramatic story of the acquisition of the Joseph Mongrain farm upon which the plant and the Ford addition was built is featured. Additional photographs include the Ford Club House and Ford Hospital, the Ford Commissary, as well as the construction of the Ford Dam on the Menominee River and the famous Ford-Edison-Firestone-Kingsford camping party at Cowboy Lake in August 1923.

The north wall display also includes photographs showing construction of the original power house, the second power house with the memorable 190-foot twin towers and the interior of the machine shop. Information regarding Henry Ford and Mary Frances “Minnie” (Flaherty) Kingsford, his first cousin, and her husband, Edward G. Kingsford, who played a significant role in the acquisition of lands and the early development of the plant, is also located here with photographs of the Kingsfords.

On the east wall photographs and captions tell about the construction of the original sawmill and hot pond, the carbonization building, the log stockpiles, the dry kilns, the body plant interior, the bagging of charcoal briquettes, the production of the Ford “woodie” Sportsman convertible bodies and the Country Squire station wagon, the last body model produced in Kingsford.