Party Like it’s 1896

May 24, 2010 at 10:13 pm / by

An interesting convergence was on view at the 2010 Bay Area Maker Faire. One of this year’s major corporate sponsors was the Ford Motor Company. Your first reaction may be that the DIY festival has sold its soul for corporate sponsorship gold. In fact, what was on display this year was a cultural–corporate convergence. Within eyesight of the Ford display were the Apocalypse players, a band of artists and performers who go beyond retro to actually recreate a fantastic vision of the good old days, roughly circa 1896.

Detroit was the Silicon Valley of the early 20th century with hundreds of companies literally starting in the barns of tinkerers. The most famous and perhaps most enduring of these was Henry Ford. On display (and running) was a recreation of Henry Ford’s first horseless carriage, built in 1896. Indeed, this was the highlight of a half dozen assorted pre-war American cars. (That would be pre-World War One.) The kinship with the crazy home-built contraptions roaming the Faire grounds was pleasing and startling. The Maker Faire looks to bring it all home this year with its first Detroit Maker Faire. Can the spirit of the Maker Faire help spark a renaissance in the home of some America’s original tinkerers? Has Detroit truly embraced the spirit of the Maker Faire and found its roots?

The news on Monday, May 24 reported that Ford would invest $135 million in Michigan to design, engineer and produce components for its next generation of hybrids and fully electric vehicles. Indeed, the future development of electric and hybrid vehicles will be centered in the Detroit area. I’m going to come out against the cynics and naysayers: good old American ingenuity has found a renaissance in the DIY counter culture, and Ford looks to be reclaiming its heritage.

photo by M Skaffari
Photo by M Skaffari

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *