Henry Ford museum attendance spikes in 2019 with nearly 2M visitors

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Dearborn — The American industrialist and business magnate hoped people would travel to his museum to learn about innovation, ingenuity and resourcefulness and, in 2019, visitors did just that.

The Henry Ford welcomed more than 1.8 million visitors in 2019, officials said Wednesday.

It's the highest attendance for the institution since 2012, when the museum hosted the widely popular Titanic exhibit.

The Henry Ford welcomed more than 1.8 million visitors in 2019, officials said. It's the highest since 2012 when the museum hosted the widely popular Titanic exhibit.

The Henry Ford’s signature programs, Hallowe’en and Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village, both surpassed attendance goals with their second-highest years ever, welcoming more than 168,000 visitors combined. The Ford Rouge Factory Tour also recorded its second-highest attendance to date with more than 150,000 visitors.

"At The Henry Ford, our greatest strengths are our collections, venues and, of course, our people," said Patricia Mooradian, president and CEO of The Henry Ford, in a statement. "We have embraced an entrepreneurial spirit that is driving our mission and business forward and I’m most proud of the impact we are making not only within our community but throughout our great state and the world."

For his museum in Dearborn, Ford envisioned two separate facilities linked by his theories of education. An indoor museum would tell the story of man’s technological progress while an outdoor village would show how these types of objects were made and used, according to the museum.

Henry Ford stands beside a Model T in 1921. The model "for the ordinary man" was introduced on Oct. 1, 1908.  About one million Model T's were produced in 1921, and more than 15 million by the time production ended in 1927.

Ford hired Edward J. Cutler to labor in the muddy fields of Greenfield Village while architect Robert O. Derrick was designing a large indoor museum adjacent to the village.

After a decade of building, the museum opened in 1933, but exhibits weren't completed until the early 1940s. He held events including the "Light's Golden Jubilee" celebrations where President Herbert Hoover, Thomas Edison and Ford arrived on a train pulled by an 1850s locomotive.

Henry Ford named his new complex The Edison Institute of Technology, to honor his friend and lifelong hero Thomas Edison.

According to the museum's history, the three men went out to the restored Menlo Park Laboratory in Greenfield Village where Edison, then 82, re-created the lighting of his incandescent lamp. The event was broadcast live over national radio. Ford named his new complex The Edison Institute of Technology.

The Henry Ford’s unique collection and educational programs expanded after Ford died in 1947.

Museum officials track the facility's direct impact on the Michigan economy and say it brings unique visitors to the state. 

In 2018, The Henry Ford’s visitors spent more than $203 million in the Detroit area, contributed more than $181 million to the statewide economy and more than $298 million when secondary effects are added. Details on 2019 economic impact are still being calculated and will be finalized later this year, officials said.

The institution also saw an increase of 37% in visitors from outside Michigan, which officials say can be linked to the partnership with the Pure Michigan campaign, two national television shows, "The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation" and "Did I Mention Invention?" and its Invention Convention Worldwide programming. 

For 2020, officials expect another large crowd with the opening of Plum Market Kitchen in February and blockbuster exhibitions. The Henry Ford will be hosting the Midwest premiere of "Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes" in March, installing a permanent exhibition, "Driven to Win," in June, and another, "Apollo: When We Went to the Moon," in October.

The Henry Ford is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ticket prices range from $7.50 for movies to $25 general admission. For more information on The Henry Ford, visit thehenryford.org.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_