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December 19, 2020
It is one of three vaults where Ford Motor Co. archivists keep photographic negatives, film negatives and videotape for the iconic 117-year-old automaker. All three vaults are set to different environmental conditions. The one with photos remains at 41 degrees and 51% humidity and it takes a full day to warm up the negatives to be scanned into the computer system. This is where the 1968 Santa photo, never before publicly seen, was stored. The coolers are nicknamed Henry, Clara and Edsel — after the Ford family. Photo negatives are in the Henry.
Combing through log books that date to the 1920s with thousands of entries, the archives team that preserves history for the company discovered 16 film negatives in a paper sleeve from that 1968 Santa shoot, explained Ted Ryan, Ford's archivist and heritage brand manager. Now, after 52 years, it's finally being printed for public view. The image features Santa standing in an icicle-covered Gen-1 Bronco convertible. It was one of a series of Santa photos in various vehicles over the years, shot for Ford World, a biweekly internal newspaper.
And never used or released publicly. "It's always been sitting on the shelf," said Jiyan Cadiz, Ford spokesman.
The photo was taken in what's called the "cold room" at Ford. It's a very deliberate technique used for dozens of photos between 1945 and 1970, Ryan said. The cold room exists primarily to test cold weather capabilities of vehicles. It's still used today. "If we're testing winterability of the car, we stick it in there to get it to a negative 30 degrees. If we leave it there for two days, will it start?" Ryan said. Santa was in the room to make it look like the North Pole. The discovery was made by archivists in 2019 as part of Ford's preparation for bringing back the beloved Bronco after a quarter-century absence. The Bronco launch team felt like the image reflected Detroit history and nostalgia that should be shared. So they decided to release the image in a way that dovetailed with the Bronco build.
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