Learn how the bus on i beg your pardon Rosa Parks satellite that work in 1955 to be restored—going native a discarded relic in one Alabama ar to one of the most popular artefacts in Henry Ford Museum.

Museums regularly showcase artifacts that represent far-ranging technological advances as signs of our clinical progress. Cultural innovation, however, is more an overwhelming to convey. In our quest to spotlight society change, curators in ~ The Henry Ford search for objects the embody few of America’s most compelling social movements. On December 1, 1955, African-American seamstress Rosa Parks to be arrested because that failing to offer up she seat ~ above a Montgomery city bus to a white man, breaking existing segregation laws. Many believe this action sparked the Civil civil liberties movement. When the chance arose, our staff known that the Rosa Parks bus would certainly be one extraordinary enhancement to the museum—though it would certainly be a long journey come acquire and restore it.

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Questioning the Bus’s Authenticity

The bus identification number was not tape-recorded in any official records when Rosa Parks to be arrested, so years later, plenty of museums and organizations were looking for the bus, however no one was rather sure i m sorry bus that was. As soon as bus #2857 was retired in the at an early stage 1970s, Roy H. Summerford the Montgomery purchase it. At the time, agency employees called him the it to be the Rosa Parks bus. Summerford and his descendants preserved the bus in a field and used it to save lumber and tools. Once Summerford happen away, the bus became the home of his daughter and also son-in-law, Vivian and Donnie Williams. Although the Williamses knew that this had been established as the Rosa Parks bus, they had actually no papers to prove it.

Robert Lifson, president of Mastronet, an web auction house, determined he want to auction off the bus for Mr. And also Mrs. Williams. He started a search for documents authenticating the bus—and he found one.


Rosa Parks Bus in Field

Authenticity Emerges

Montgomery bus station manager Charles H. Cummings had actually maintained a scrapbook the newspaper write-ups during the 1955–56 Montgomery bus boycott. Following to short articles describing the arrest the Rosa Parks, he wrote "#2857" and also "Blake/#2857." James Blake was the bus driver who had actually Rosa Parks arrested. The son and wife of Mr. Cummings, now deceased, check that that jotted down the bus number since he feeling the events were for this reason important.

Often, together in this case, historical truth is not officially recorded, however is passed along in exclusive memoirs and oral tradition.


Bidding on History

In September 2001, an post in the Wall Street Journal announced that the Rosa Parks bus would certainly be auctioned digital in October, and also we instantly began researching this opportunity.

we spoke come people associated in the initial 1955 events, come those who planned various other museum exhibits, and also to historians. A forensic record examiner to be hired to check out if the scrapbook was authentic. A Museum conservator saw Montgomery come personally study the bus.

Convinced the this was the Rosa Parks bus, we made decision to bid top top the bus in the web auction.

The bidding started at $50,000 on October 25, 2001, and also went until 2:00 to be the following morning. Us persevered, with our employee bidding $492,000 come outbid others who wanted the bus, including the Smithsonian Institution and the City the Denver. In ~ the same time, ours team also bought the scrapbook and a Montgomery City Bus currently driver"s uniform.


Restoration Begins

Next came the restoration. After sitting unprotected in a field for 30 years, the is no surprising the The Rosa Parks bus required a considerable amount that work. The seats and engine had actually been removed, many windows to be broken, metal had actually rusted through and also the lime, white and gold paint job was a mere zero of its previous self.

Our skilled conservation staff carefully examined the vehicle and also consulted with assorted experts. 3 interested suppliers bid ~ above the considerable restoration work, and finally, MSX International, an automotive engineering and technical solutions firm headquartered in Southfield, Michigan, was selected to perform the work at a cost of end $300,000.

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Museum and also MSX employee researched every detail of the bus so the the restoration would be important authentic. Original product was reused wherever possible and original parts from the same 1948 GM buses were used when necessary. Our goal was to reclaim the bus to its problem in 1955—a seven-year-old urban transit coach.