top of page

The Cycle of Production

The Cycle of Production, which Architectural Forum deemed "unquestionably the most impressive display at the fair," exemplified Henry Ford's dictate for instructive exhibits, but, in a most innovative and entertaining manner. Industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague conceived the Cycle as a mixture of information and humor that would dispel the sense of commercialism and appeal to adults and children.

Teague designed the exhibit to show how twenty-seven raw materials were transformed by "man, management and machines to serve mankind" – that is, a Ford automobile. He wished to reduce the mechanical process to its simplest form.

To that end, Teague employed 142 human figures carved from wood and eighty-seven models with 133,600 moving parts to demonstrate the automotive process. For instance, the ox grinding the tung nuts, which weighs barely a half pound, required a 450 pound machine to revolve him around the stone mill.

The individual scenes rested on a 100-foot in diameter, 30-foot high turntable weighing 152 tons. 196 electrical switches controlled the working figures. If any problem arose, electricians and mechanics wove a maze of steel girders under and within the turntable to tackle the situation.

Fearing the entire building might sink an inch or two into the underground swampland, a smoothly running, the display floated on a moat containing 20,000 gallons of water and was rotated by a two horsepower motor. To disguise any noise from the machinery, Teague encircled the Cycle's room with 58,680-feet of Acoustone by US Gypson Company.

However, while many fairgoers seemed to appreciate the spectacle while passing through on their way to the Road of Tomorrow on the pavilion's exterior, in the early months few actually stopped long enough to look at the Cycle. Dorwin appropriated a new trick of the trade – narration and music. Every half hour a quiet sound system played Shubert's "Unfinished Symphony" and a specially composed score by Ferde Grofe and ended with a brief narration of the Cycle.

In fact, the music and narration worked so well that the area around the Cycle now became crowded with people staying to watch it revolve over and over. When the crowds lingered too long, engineers sped up the turntable. However, it was a major draw for the car company. In fact, Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Cycle twice and enthusiastically mentioned it in her "My Day" column.

The Road of Tomorrow

Edsel Ford stated: "'The Road of Tomorrow' is prophetically a precursor of the roads to come." The Road's designer, Walter Dorwin Teague declared that the construction showed "a world freed from many of the technical limitations of the past." The half-mile, spiral road of reinforced concrete and paved with non-skid Monocork, passed through a portion of the pavilion and then encircled the exterior garden and provided riders with the highest view of the fairgrounds from any pavilion.

Seventy-five young men trained as drivers for the Road. Each had to learn how to keep the car at a constant 12 mph and at a safe distance from the cars in front and in back, while traveling around the curves and inclines of the "Road." One driver on his first trip knocked over eight curb lamps on the upper ramp.

Thirt-six Fords, Mercurys, and Lincoln-Zephyrs carried 16,000 visitors daily around the Road. The company's drivers kept the automobiles in a consecutive sequence of yellow, blue and red, so as not to disturb Teague's exterior color scheme.

The drivers traveled about forty-five miles every day. However, the constant trip around the "Road" proved unbelievably monotonous. And ... the required 12 mph caused battery trouble as they could not recharge at that low speed.

Edsel Ford drove his father around "The Road of Tomorrow" at its dedication. Along for the ride were Grover Whalen and Mayor LaGuardia.

The Novachord Orchestra

The Novachord was Hammond Organ's first electronic tube based instrument. Employing 168 vacuum tubes and circuit ideas borrowed from ENIAC, the world's first computer, the Novachord resembled an organ with keyboards rotary knobs. And ... the Novachord plugged into an ordinary house circuit and has no motors or rotating mechanisms.

Skilled Novachord players could reproduce almost every sound of an orchestra. Thus, the musicians' union found the development of the Novachord quite disturbing. The keyboard could allow five performers to sound like an orchestra of fifty.

The Ford pavilion highlighted the new musical innovation by providing free concerts throughout the day in its Exposition Garden. One of America's most noted composers and arrangers, Ferde Grofe, conducted the five-member Novachord orchestra. The Daily Mirror called the noted musician "the Henry Ford of music."

Grofe constantly changed the orchestra's program. In early June the maestro added ten new arrangements to its repertoire including Chopin's Polonaise in A major and Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance. And, while the fair quickly abandoned its official song, "Dawn of a New Day" by George Gershwin, Grofe always included it in the orchestra's performance.

When Grofe attended the most recent running of the Kentucky Derby and composed themes on his experience which he arranged for his Novachord orchestra.

However, the Novachord Orchestra did not play without incident. On May 27, the five musicians broke into the opening bars of Grofe's "On the Trail" from the "Grand Canyon Suite" and reached the donkey's "hee-haw" when the power failed, making the poor animal's cry sound like he was grasping for his last breath.