Monday, April 28, 2008

Henry Ford, a Common Man with Uncommon Friends

Uncommon Friends

Henry Ford, a Common Man with Uncommon Friends
Biographies of Ford's Uncommon Friends
Who were the Uncommon Friends?


Uncommon Friends
by James Newton.

Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel, and Charles Lindberg were twentieth-century giants known personally by not only Mr. Newton, but by each other. In this book, the author recalls a lifetime of friendship with all of them.

Purchase Uncommon Friends, from the Henry Ford Estate online gift shop

Martha Berry, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, Charles Lindbergh, Alexis Carrel, George Washington Carver, Jens Jensen, John Burroughs and Jack Miner were significant in contributing to society. These pioneers explored and revolutionized light, sound, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, education and conservation. Each person made a mark to benefit mankind. Through hard work, determination, and intimate friendships with one another they bridged the gap between their respective fields and met the needs of their generation. While an age has passed their legacy of accomplishments and friendships remain.

Henry Ford was the leading manufacturer of American automobiles in the early 1900's. He established the Ford Motor Company, which revolutionized the automobile industry with its assembly-line production method. In 1914, he paid workers $5 a day and reduced the workday from nine to eight hours; he also introduced a profit-sharing plan.

Ford had a nose for finance and devoted time and energy to educational and charitable projects. He established both Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. In 1936, Ford and his son Edsel established the Ford Foundation, the world's largest foundation, which provides grants for education, research, and development. His genius was the ability to cut through complicated problems.

Thomas Alva Edison is undoubtedly the most famous inventor in American history. Edison designed, built, and delivered the electrical age. He was the epitome of the self-made man; he was a poor boy who achieved fame and fortune through hard work. Although he had only three months of formal schooling, Edison became known as the "Wizard of Menlo Park."

Edison commented that, "anything that won't sell, I don't want to invent; its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success." He was among the country's few millionaires in the late 1800's. Edison had a total of 1,093 patents, one for every 12 days of his adult life. On October 12, 1931, at the U. S. President's request, the lights were turned off at 10:00 a.m. for two minutes all over the United States in his memory.


Harvey Firestone was the founder and president of one of the country's fastest growing tire companies, and one of America's best-known businessmen. Real keys to his leadership were his ability to delegate responsibility, and to know men. He used "consensus management" by getting opinions of his management staff and having them come to obvious decisions. He had a genius in choosing the right person for the right job. "My most valuable executives have picked themselves by their records; people prove themselves at lower levels." He was one of the first in the country to offer company stock to his employees at reduced rates, so that hey could be part of the operation.


John Burroughs was born on April 3,1837, on a farm near Roxbury, N. Y., in the Catskill mountain region. After a sketchy early education, he became a country schoolteacher at 17 and then studied at Ashland Collegiate Institute and Cooperstown Seminary. His earliest essays were published about 1860 in journals that included the Saturday Press and the Atlantic Monthly. He later described the Atlantic as his "university," and he was a frequent contributor to it.

From 1863 to 1872, Burroughs worked as a government clerk in Washington, where he became a close friend of Walt Whitman. After 1872, he lived, studied nature, and wrote in the Catskill region, first on a farm, near, Esopus, N.Y. and after, 1908 on his family farm, near, Roxbury. He died aboard a railroad train in Ohio on March 29, 1921.


Charles A. Lindbergh is best known as the man who flew solo from New York City to Paris in 1927 and for the kidnapping and murder of his son in 1932. But he was a much more complex man. Between 1931 and 1935, he invented an "artificial heart" with Dr. Alexis Carrel. He worked for the U. S. Government in obtaining military knowledge about Nazi Germany prior to World War II, but was against the U. S. entering the war. He was regarded as the world's foremost authority on aviation matters and his words carried much weight. When war was declared against Japan, he discontinued his noninvolvement activities, flew about fifty combat missions as a volunteer, and served as an advisor to the U. S. military. Pan American World Airways hired him as a consultant on jet transport purchases; he eventually helped design the Boeing 747.

Lindbergh received the 1954 Pulitzer Prize for his book The Spirit of St. Louis. Between the late 1960s and the early 1970s, he became an active environmentalist. He turned down an invitation to the 40-year anniversary of his historic trans-Atlantic flight. Lindbergh died of cancer in 1974 in his home on the Hawaiian island of Maui.


George Washington Carver, the second son and youngest of three children of Negro slave parents, was born on a farm near Diamond Grove, Missouri.

Carver received a B.S. from the Iowa Agricultural College in 1894 and a M.S. in 1896. He became a member of the faculty of Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in charge of the school's bacterial laboratory work in the Systematic Botany department. His work with agricultural products developed industrial applications from farm products, called chemurgy in technical literature in the early 1900s. His research developed 325 products from peanuts, 108 applications for sweet potatoes, and 75 products derived from pecans.

He moved to Tuskegee, Alabama in 1896 to accept a position as an instructor at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute and remained on the faculty until his death in 1943. His work in developing industrial applications from agricultural products derived 118 products, including a rubber substitute and over 500 dyes and pigments, from 28 different plants. He was responsible for the invention in 1927 of a process for producing paints and stains from soybeans, for which three separate patents were issued.

George Washington Carver was honored by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in July 14, 1943 dedicating $30,000 for a national monument to be dedicated to his accomplishments. The area of Carver's childhood near Diamond Grove, Missouri has been preserved as a park, with a bust of the agricultural researcher, instructor, and chemical investigator. This park was the first designated national monument to an African American in the United States. George Washington Carver was bestowed an honorary doctorate from Simpson College in 1928. He was made a member of the Royal Society of Arts in London, England. He received the Spingarn Medal in 1923, which is given every year by the National Association for the Advancement of colored People. The Spingarn Medal is awarded to the black person who has made the greatest contribution to the advancement of his race. Carver died of anemia at Tuskegee Institute on January 5, 1943 and was buried on campus beside Booker T. Washington. *

* Reprinted with permission: "The Faces of Science: African Americans in the Sciences" Mitchell C. Brown, Princeton University, Date Accessed: August 1, 2004


Dr. Alexis Carrel completed his formal medical education in 1900 for the University of Lyons (France). He moved to the United States in 1904 where he worked for what is now known as the Rockefeller Institute. Subsequent progress in surgery of the heart and blood vessels and in transplantation of organs has rested upon the foundation he laid down between 1904 and 1908.

Carrel received the 1912 Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology for his work with blood vessel suturing and the transplantation of organs in animals. He and Charles Lindbergh collaborated in inventing a perfusion pump for circulating culture fluid through an excised organ. His pioneering techniques paved the way for successful organ transplants and modern heart surgery, including grafting procedures and bypasses.

Jack Miner was born John Thomas Miner in Dover Center, Ohio on April 10, 1865. He moved to Canada in 1878 and established a bird sanctuary at Kingsvi!le, Ontario, in 1904. He soon became known as one of the chief bird conservationists in North America. In 1931 his friends established the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Foundation to ensure the continua tion of his work. Miner died in Kingsvi!le on Nov.3, 1944.


Martha McChesney Berry was the founder of the Berry Schools for academically able but economically poor children of the rural South—those who usually could not afford to go to other schools. These schools of the early 1900s grew within three decades into Berry College, a comprehensive liberal arts college. As a result of her work of forty years with the schools and college, Berry is among Georgia's most prominent women of the first half of the twentieth century.

Jens Jensen: Maker of Natural Parks and Gardens, by Robert E. Grese

Jens Jensen was one of America's greatest landscape designers and conservationists. Using native plants and "fitting" designs, he advocated that our gardens, parks, roads, playgrounds, and cities should be harmonious with nature and its ecological processes--a belief that was to become a major theme of modern American landscape design. In Jens Jensen: Maker of Natural Parks and Gardens, Robert E. Grese draws on Jensen's writings and plans, interviews with people who knew him, and analyses of his projects to present a clear picture of Jensen's efforts to enhance and preserve "native" landscapes.

Purchase Jens Jensen: Maker of Natural Parks and Gardens, from the Henry Ford Estate online gift shop

Jens Jensen came to America in early 1881, bringing with him an appreciation and love of nature and an unusual skill as a landscape architect, having attended the agricultural and horticultural colleges of Copenhagen, Berlin, and Hanover.

His ability was quickly recognized and he became superintendent of the Union and other small parks in the Great West side of Chicago. Later, he became superintendent of Humboldt Park, general superintendent of the Great West Park System, which includes the famous Garfield Park Conservatory.

Jens grew to love America and marveled at its tremendous industries and commercial undertakings, but he soon realized "that the overcrowded city chains the mind of the people, dwarfing the mind, and a love for the living green, which is a natural heritage." He became a pioneer and fought for open spaces and sunshine for our cities by building parks and playgrounds and by spreading the gospel of "back to nature". *

Many parks and estates in various cities throughout the United States were the result of Jensen's genius, as were most of the estates along Chicago's famous North Shore. In addition to landscaping Fair Lane, he completed four homes for Edsel Ford and projects for the Dearborn Inn, Henry Ford Hospital, Henry Ford Museum, and the Ford pavilion at the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress.

On October 1, 1951, just seventeen days after his 91st birthday, Jens Jensen died at "The Clearing," the unique nature institution he had established in Ellison Bay Wisconsin.

William Ford (Henry's Dad)

William Ford

Since his immigration, in 1847, from County Cork Ireland to the burgeoning country village of Dearborn, Michigan; William Ford had worked hard. By the summer of 1863 he had married Mary Litogot (1861) and stood as a prosperous farmer as well as a respected community leader. On July 30, 1863 William and Mary's eldest surviving child was born. The couple named him Henry.

It did not take long for William to recognize his son's fascination with all things mechanical.

William tried to let the boy put his abilities to use around the farm whenever possible. It was in the company of his father that a young Henry Ford first saw a portable steam engine moving along the road under its own power. An intense moment, it-awakened him to the possibilities of a self-contained, self-propelled vehicle.

A love of nature was also fostered by the ways William tended his lands and by the teachings of Henry's grandfather, Patrick O'hern. Much of Ford's outlook on life came from his mother Mary, who taught him to read from his first McGuffy reader and instilled in him a sense of order, individualism and self-discipline. Her death in 1876 had a profound effect. "The house," recalled Henry, "was like a watch without a mainspring."

On April 11, 1866 Clara Jane Bryant was born. She was the eldest daughter (after two brothers) in a family of ten children born to Martha and Melvin Bryant. Like the Fords, the Bryants were a prosperous farming family, also active in the Dearborn community. Clara's father, Melvin, was active in both church and township affairs and served several terms in the state legislature. Martha Bryant was also active in her church as both Sunday school treasurer, teacher and as a member of the missionary society. As the oldest daughter in a large family, Clara helped her mother around the house with mending, washing, cooking, and baking.

Although Clara Bryant and Henry Ford grew up within eight miles of each other, a friendship did not develop between them until 1885. They first met at a New Year's Ball, held at a local establishment called the Martindale house. They spoke for only a few moments, but afterwards Henry Ford resolved to meet Clara Bryant again. Young Ford attended many dances that winter, but it was not until nearly a year later that he saw Miss Bryant again. By April of 1886 they were engaged.

Within thirty minutes of their meeting at the Martindale house, Mr. Ford said he knew Clara was the girl for him. It took a bit longer to convince Clara and her mother. After their engagement, Martha Bryant made the young couple wait another two years. She thought her daughter at twenty was too young for marriage. Henry Ford and Clara Jane Bryant were married on April 11, 1888, the bride's twenty-second birthday; the groom was twenty-four. Henry Ford often referred to his wife as his "Believer". Clara's faith and confidence through many years of moves, trials, and hard work, allowed Henry Ford to pursue his dream, bringing the Ford's to the pinnacle of success and, in 1915, to their stately Fair Lane home.

Clara Jane Bryant

An artistic, modest, and intelligent gentleman, Edsel Ford moved with the Grosse Pointe set.

In November 1893, the Ford's first and only child was born. An artistic, modest, and intelligent gentleman, Edsel Ford moved with the Grosse Pointe set. The Fords disliked the extravagance of the rich Detroiters that had migrated east to this exclusive area. When the decision was made to move from their Edison Avenue home to a more secluded local, the Ford's forsook Grosse Pointe and built their home in Dearborn on Ford farmland along the Rouge River.

To encourage twenty-three year old Edsel to spend his leisure time at home and avoid the temptations to engage in smoking or drinking, practices not tolerated by Mr. Ford, amenities such as a billiard room, bowling alley, and indoor swimming pool were included in Fair Lane's design. However Edsel stayed at home for less than a year. On November 1,1916, in a simple ceremony, Edsel Ford married Eleanor Clay, niece of department store magnate, J. L. Hudson. The couple moved to the posh Indian Village area of Detroit, 12 miles from the Ford Estate.

Edsel and Eleanor's marriage led to the birth of the Fords' four grandchildren, Henry II (1917), Benson (1919), Josephine (1923), and William Clay (1925). The first, Henry Ford II, instantly became a fixture at Fair Lane. The grandchildren spent many enjoyable afternoons with their grandparents at the estate. Besides the bowling alley and indoor swimming pool the grandchildren
enjoyed many unique playthings including a miniature farm complete with scaled down equipment, mini Custer cars for scurrying about the Estate's drive, and holiday visits with Santa Claus at a log cabin workshop.

From her study overlooking the Rouge River, Mrs. Ford administered the estate, managed staff and conducted meetings associated with horticulture, health care social and spiritual societies. Clara Ford had a great knowledge of flowers and spent several hours a day studying materials on the subject. She knew her garden projects and love for flowers interested her husband only mildly. On the other hand, she was indifferent to his experimental development of farm methods and plants. Both found delight in Fair Lane's acres of woods filled with the birds and wildlife.

With great wealth at hand, the Fords still held to many of their 19th Century ideals. Even after becoming a multimillionaire, Mr. Ford spent many long hours at the factory or tinkering in his laboratory, sometimes forgetting to come home to dinner. Mrs. Ford would spend evenings reading in the Library, doing needlepoint or darning worn socks for her husband.

For over 31 years, Mr. and Mrs. Ford enjoyed this private place, a haven for themselves, their friends and family. Mr. Ford once said, "I believe a home isn't four walls; it's a place where you get strength to go on".

The Fairlane Story

Aerial View

Front of House

A stately self-contained enclave of privacy and natural beauty, tucked away on 1300 acres of rambling Dearborn farmland. Fair Lane stands today as a true reflection of Henry and Clara Ford's interests and ideals.

In 1909, with the success of the Model “T," Henry Ford began building his vast Highland Park Complex. The automobile industry was quickly becoming America’s largest and this growth was led by the Ford Motor Company. To bring the price of the Model “T” within the grasp of the average man, Ford introduced the assembly line to the automobile industry in 1913.

Production jumped to 1,000 cars per day in 1914 and then to 2,000 cars per day in 1916. With this rise in productivity, Henry Ford found it possible to make his workers customers as well, announcing a $5.00 day in January 1914. This unprecedented step, more than doubling wages overnight, also proved to be a great public relations move, driving sales still higher and turning Mr. Ford into a worldwide celebrity.

Such success brought a stream of uninvited callers to the doors of Henry and Clara Ford's Edison Avenue, Detroit mansion. Reporters, salesmen, and job seekers deprived the family of the privacy they desired. They soon wished to build a new home, one removed from the rapidly expanding city, where they could satisfy their love of nature, gardening and bird watching, in particular. Never comfortable with the boisterous lifestyle of Detroit society, the Fords abandoned plans to follow the migration of the city's wealthy to the eastern suburbs, and instead chose to build on a 1,300-acre tract of land approximately two miles from Mr.Ford's birthplace.

The new fifty-six room residence and estate were named “Fair Lane” after an area in County Cork, Ireland, the birthplace of Mr. Ford's foster grandfather, Patrick Ahern.

In February 1914, work began on what would be the couple's final home. Between 500 and 800 masons, wood carvers, and artisans worked year round to complete the estate as quickly as possible. In keeping with the Ford's love of nature, the residence was built with rough-hewn Ohio limestone to harmonize with the surrounding countryside. The grounds, designed by noted landscape architect Jens Jensen, were transformed from farmland into a natural, native landscape.

Fair Lane is neither the largest nor the most opulent house of its era. Mr. Ford was proud of his simple tastes and felt no need to flaunt his substantial wealth. He cautioned the architects against building lavishly; the residence's total cost was not to exceed $250,000. Despite this directive, at the time of completion the building cost $1,875,000. Interior decorating cost an additional $175,000 with property development and landscaping adding another $370,000 to the final bill. By January 1916, the Fords were completely settled into their new home.

During the Fords' residency, Fair Lane bustled with activity. In addition to the residence and its powerhouse, the estate included a summer house, man-made lake, staff cottages, gatehouse, pony barn, skating house, greenhouse, root cellar, vegetable garden, thousand-plant peony garden, ten thousand plant rose garden, a "Santa's Workshop" for Christmas celebrations, maple sugar shack, working farm for the Ford grandchildren built to their scale, agricultural research facilities, and five hundred birdhouses to satisfy Mr. Ford's interest in ornithology.

Because the Fords designed the residence to be so private and self-contained, it is uncertain how large of a staff was retained to run the estate. About a half-dozen people worked in the residence, and technicians, stokers, and electricians were always on duty in the estate's powerhouse. A considerably larger staff was needed to maintain the extensive gardens of the estate. Up to twenty-five men tended the grounds on a seasonal basis, but exact numbers are difficult to determine due to Mr. Ford's practice of augmenting the staff with people temporarily pulled from his assembly lines.

Henry Ford enjoyed Fair Lane for over thirty years until his death in 1947. When Mrs. Ford died three years later, her grandchildren commissioned Parke-Bernet Galleries of New York to conduct an auction of the home's furnishings.

In 1952, the Ford Motor Company purchased the estate from the heirs and, after renovating parts of the interior, established its corporate archives in the residence. Ford Archives stayed until 1957, when the company donated
the residence, powerhouse, 210 acres, and $6.5 million to the University of Michigan for the creation of the Dearborn campus. In 1963 a local group, the "Women of Fair Lane," persuaded university officials to allow tours of the home, which lasted for three years, when Ford Motor Company and the University of Michigan reacquired some of the rooms for administrative purposes. The Henry Ford Estate, including 72 of the original 1,300 acres, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Public tours of the historic home were re-introduced in the 1970s. Since then, a limited staff, generous contributors, and approximately 250 volunteers successfully continue the process of rebuilding the estate and reviving its former splendor.

Work has been undertaken to preserve and protect the site for future generations. Interior rooms and five acres of gardens and grounds have been renewed and restored. Critical infrastructure repairs have been completed. Just recently, the 1915 Powerhouse began generating electricity again. The tremendous strides that have been made are significant and, in large measure, are driven by the importance of the Henry Ford Estate, as a National Historic Landmark, to the local and world community.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Edsel, A Car Is Born

On September 4, 1957 the Edsel made its debut in showrooms across the country. The launch came on the heels of an extensive, expensive and exceptionally successful marketing campaign that had everybody talking about this mysterious new automobile. Months earlier ads began running that simply pictured the hood ornament, underscored with "The Edsel is Coming." Another ad depicted a covered car carrier with the same tag line. Meanwhile, the company went to great lengths to keep the car’s features and appearance a secret. Dealers were required to store the vehicles undercover, and could be fined or lose their franchise if they showed the cars before the release date. With all the hype it’s no surprise that consumers were eager to see what the fuss was about.

When September 4th rolled around consumers flocked to the dealerships in record numbers. For a day or so Edsel executives were thrilled—until they realized that people weren’t buying, they were only coming to look. "The company expected to sell a daily minimum of 400 Edsels through 1,200 dealers," says Gayle Warnock, director of public relations for the Edsel launch and author of The Edsel Affair. "That was the pencil pushers’ requirement for a successful launch. We never made it," he laments.

"The public thought there was something radically new coming out," reminds Bob Ellsworth, owner and operator of "But it was really just another 1958 [model] car. It had more gizmos and gadgets on it but it wasn’t anything that lived up to the hype." In retrospect, Warnock realizes that Edsel executives didn’t take the most sensible approach to marketing the car. "I learned that a company should never allow its spokespersons to build up enthusiasm for an unseen, unproven product," he says.

"There were cases where cars that weren’t exactly complete showed up at dealerships. They would have a list on the steering wheel saying which parts were missing."

With early sales unexpectedly sluggish, Edsel executives began to worry. Even generally positive reviews from the media weren’t enough to soothe them. "The looks and styling were lauded by the press when the car first came out," says Phil Skinner, a respected Edsel historian. "The front end design was the most prominent feature. If you consider other cars from the mid-1950s, they all looked somewhat alike. Basically it was two headlights and a horizontal grille. By having the big impact ring in the middle—what we now call a horse collar—it really set the Edsel apart," he continues.

According to Mike Brogan, president of the International Edsel Club, creating a unique appearance was one of the goals of the Edsel’s chief designer, Roy Brown Jr. "He set out to create a car that was instantly recognizable from a block in any direction," says Brogan.

Inevitably, not all the reviewers applauded the unique new look. Some reviews were downright nasty. "One member of the media called it ‘an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon’ and another called it ‘a Pontiac pushing a toilet seat’," recalls Ellsworth. Even some of the positive reviews took a wait-and-see attitude, openly wondering about the public’s reaction to a huge, gas-guzzling vehicle with such distinctive styling.

Does Size Really Matter?
The origins of the Edsel can be traced back to 1948 when Ford decided it needed another line to compete against General Motors (GM). After all, GM had Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Buick and Cadillac—a family of cars where one could start out with an economical Chevy and progress up the line to a Cadillac. Similarly, Chrysler had Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler and Imperial. Ford, however, was limited to Ford, Mercury and Lincoln, and was distressed that consumers were stepping outside the family between Ford and Mercury.

As you’d expect, the Edsel was designed to meet the needs of a particular target audience. "When the Edsel was first developed it looked like big was the way to go," says Ellsworth, "but by 1958 people were thinking more along the lines of smaller economy cars. The public’s interest in huge, big fin cars with glitzy chrome was just about over," he notes.

To make matters worse, the company based its sales expectations on 1954-56 figures, a time when the auto market was going straight up. "They assumed that trend was going to continue," says Brogan. "They believed that by the 1958 model year they wouldn’t be able to build them fast enough."

It’s the Economy, Stupid
The high sales expectations became an issue when the economy slumped. "The projection was that 200,000 units would be produced the first year," says Skinner. "That would have represented about five percent of the total market, which was not too outrageous. However, 1958 was a horrible year for the automobile industry," he continues. "Only two cars—the Ford Thunderbird and a compact called the Rambler American—saw an increase over their 1957 production."

Two more subtle economic issues also weakened the Edsel’s early sales. At the time, new models typically came out in November for the following model year. However, the September launch meant that the cars reflected 1958 pricing, but were being sold against everyone else’s 1957 models. With dealers discounting their 1957’s (trying to clear them off the lots in anticipation of next year’s models), the Edsel looked expensive by comparison.

Compounding this problem was the fact that Edsel pushed its biggest, most luxurious and expensive model first—a tough sell against end-of-year specials in a recession year. Recalls Skinner: "Edsel would have done well to bring out the Pacer and Ranger series and promoted them as ‘You can buy this for just a few dollars more than a Ford, Plymouth or Chevrolet. You’re buying next year’s model today.’ And then brought in, ‘If you’re looking for the tops in luxury, here’s our Citation and Corsair.’" Towards the end of the 1958 model year the company began promoting how inexpensive it was to own a bottom-line ’58 Edsel, but the damage was already done.

Without an established customer base it’s no surprise Edsel sold only 64,000 units in its first year. And by that time, the company’s warts had really started to show.

EDSEL: Every Day Something Else Leaks
When Ford launched the Edsel it made a fateful and costly decision to create a brand-new division. "Edsel was its own division, with its own everything," says Ellsworth. "One of my pet peeves is that people are fond of calling it the ‘Ford Edsel.’ But the word ‘Ford’ doesn’t appear anywhere on the car. They even recruited brand-new dealerships instead of franchising with Ford/Mercury," he notes.

Ironically, the only thing Ford didn’t create from scratch was separate manufacturing facilities. "There were no plants set up to produce the Edsel, so the Edsel division had to rely on Ford and Mercury employees," notes Skinner. But squeezing in Edsels on the Ford and Mercury assembly lines proved to be disastrous from a quality control perspective because many Ford/Mercury employees resented having to build another division’s vehicles.

"There are a lot more Edsels out there than people who love them."

"As a result, the cars would come to the end of the line with parts missing and brakes not working," says Skinner. "A lot of cars that were unsafe for the road were being delivered to dealerships, as well as being very poorly put together. A lot of that is attributed to intentional vandalism, but to what extent, I don’t know."

Ultimately, a reputation for mechanical problems preceded the Edsel. "They occasionally ran out of parts and occasionally put the wrong parts on," concurs Ellsworth. "There were cases where cars that weren’t exactly complete showed up at dealerships. They would have a list on the steering wheel saying which parts were missing."

Mike and the Mechanics
The Edsel’s quality control issues were compounded by mechanics’ unfamiliarity with the car’s state-of-the-art technology. The most vexing problem was its automatic Tele-touch transmission, whereby the driver selected the gears by pushing buttons on the center of the steering wheel. "It was a pretty complicated system for its time and mechanics didn’t know how to fix it," claims Brogan.

Design flaws also created issues for Edsel owners. Even the hood ornament became a safety hazard. "They had to redesign it," quips Ellsworth, "because once you got the car up to 70 mph—which was easy to do—it would just fly right off."

Edsel? What About Utopian Turtletop?
Forty-five years later many people assume that the car’s name played a major role in its downfall. "Probably five percent of the problem was its name," claims Skinner. "A high quality car can be called almost anything except ‘lemon’." Oddly, the name could have been a lot worse. "One of the more popular stories kicking around is that they went to Marianne Moore [a popular poet] and asked her for input. She was good with flowery words but not all that good at naming cars and came up with things like ‘Utopian Turtletop’," claims Ellsworth.

Ultimately, the company did extensive surveys and even asked Ford staffers for suggestions. After considering thousands of names the company narrowed things down to a handful of choices including: Ranger, Pacer, Citation, Corsair and Ventura. Then they threw away all the market research and named it after Henry and Clara Ford’s only child, Edsel Bryant—a bizarre choice considering that the name didn’t mean anything to people living outside the state of Michigan. Ironically, four of the finalists ultimately became names of individual models.

Jeopardy Question: Who Is ‘An Edsel Owner’?
Over the course of three model years (’58, ’59 and ’60) approximately 118,000 Edsels were manufactured in the U.S. and Canada. Today, there are a couple thousand Edsels on the road, with three- to six-thousand others in storage or in various states of restoration.

"As a collector car it was recognized as a unique vehicle relatively early in its afterlife," says Skinner. Today, the Edsel is considered a poor man’s collectors car because "there are a lot more Edsels out there than people who love them," he offers.

What would possess someone to buy an Edsel? "I’m not a normal person to ask," quips Ellsworth. " "You definitely have to have something not screwed together right to be an Edsel owner. You get a lot of people pointing and staring, saying, ‘Oh, my God, it’s an Edsel.’"

"To this day, it’s still pretty embarrassing to be broken down on the side of the road with one."

These days, you’re not likely to see one on the road unless there’s an Edsel covention in your area. At these get-togethers, owners ogle each other’s cars, inquire about parts, and even engage in valve cover racing. "I’ve never seen it anywhere except an Edsel convention," says Ellsworth. "You take an Edsel valve cover, strap wheels to it, and then race each other." According to Ellsworth, owners also show off vintage memorabilia such as miniatures. "When the car first came out the dealers had 1/25-scale Edsels and if you took a test drive you got the little one for free," he says.

If it sounds a little strange most attendees would probably agree. "I don’t think any of us are normal, but for the most part it’s a good group of people," attests Ellsworth.

Bump In The Road?
Despite the perception that the Edsel was a catastrophic financial failure, Skinner contends that the monetary losses sustained by Ford weren’t overwhelming. "They lost $250 million in 1958 dollars, which would be comparable to $2.25 billion today. That’s a lot of money, but the stock didn’t really take a hit and Ford paid a dividend and posted a profit in all the years the Edsel was produced," claims Skinner.

Perhaps more significantly, much of the money invested in the Edsel paid off down the road. Many of the new technologies developed for and charged to the Edsel’s budget were applied to future Ford models. For instance, the Edsel was the first car to have self-adjusting brakes; by 1962 all Ford’s were equipped with self-adjusting brakes.

Bump Ahead
It’s also clear that the automobile industry benefited from Ford’s experience with the Edsel. For its part, Ford took its assembly plants away from the individual divisions and created a new division known as ‘manufacturing.’ The guy on the assembly line no longer worked for the Ford division, he worked for ‘manufacturing.’ "That meant that whatever car was coming down the line, he was responsible for making it the best he could. Quality was greatly increased," claims Skinner.

One company even used the Edsel as the model for what not to do. "About five years ago I interviewed Skip LeFauve," says Skinner, "who was the president/CEO of the Saturn Corporation. He said, ‘The Edsel Affair is what made Saturn a success.’ He bought a case of the books, gave a copy to all his executives and had them underline everything that Ford did wrong with the Edsel."

Not all Edsel devotees were convinced that Saturn was going to be successful. "I’ll never forget the first time I saw one," says Brogan. "I was driving my Edsel to one of the [Saturn] rallies in Nashville. I said, ‘Yeah, there’s the next Edsel.’ I guess I was wrong," he says.

You Drive Me Crazy
At this point it’s safe to assume that the Edsel will always be associated with failure. However, the car still has its defenders: "The Edsel is very misunderstood," claims Ellsworth. "It was a good, solid, fast, well-handling car. Sure it had problems, but nothing that should equate the name Edsel with failure."

Nevertheless, current-day owners will attest that there’s still a stigma attached to the Edsel. "Once it got a bad rap it became a joke to be caught driving one," reminds Brogan. "To this day, it’s still pretty embarrassing to be broken down on the side of the road with one."

Henry Ford Changes the World, 1908

At the beginning of the 20th century the automobile was a plaything for the rich. Most models were complicated machines that required a chauffer conversant with its individual mechanical nuances to drive it. Henry Ford was determined to build a simple, reliable and affordable car; a car the average American worker could afford. Out of this determination came the Model T and the assembly line - two innovations that revolutionized American society and molded the world we live in today.
Henry Ford did not invent the car; he produced an automobile that was within the economic reach of the average American. While other manufacturers were content to target a market of the well-to-do, Ford developed a design and a method of manufacture that steadily reduced the cost of the Model T. Instead of pocketing the profits; Ford lowered the price of his car. As a result, Ford Motors sold more cars and steadily increased its earnings - transforming the automobile from a luxury toy to a mainstay of American society.

The Model T made its debut in 1908 with a purchase price of $825.00. Over ten thousand were sold in its first year, establishing a new record. Four years later the price dropped to $575.00 and sales soared. By 1914, Ford could claim a 48% share of the automobile market.

Central to Ford's ability to produce an affordable car was the development of the assembly line that increased the efficiency of manufacture and decreased its cost. Ford did not conceive the concept, he perfected it. Prior to the introduction of the assembly line, cars were individually crafted by teams of skilled workmen - a slow and expensive procedure. The assembly line reversed the process of automobile manufacture. Instead of workers going to the car, the car came to the worker who performed the same task of assembly over and over again. With the introduction and perfection of the process, Ford was able to reduce the assembly time of a Model T from twelve and a half hours to less than six hours.

Developing the Model T

The Ford Motor Company manufactured its first car - the Model A - in 1903. By 1906, the Model N was in production but Ford had not yet achieved his goal of producing a simple, affordable car. He would accomplish this with the Model T. Charles Sorensen - who had joined Henry Ford two years earlier - describes how Ford had him set up a secret room where design of the new car would be carried out:

"Early one morning in the winter of 1906-7, Henry Ford dropped in at the pattern department of the Piquette Avenue plant to see me. 'Come with me, Charlie,' he said, 'I want to show you something.'

I followed him to the third floor and its north end, which was not fully occupied for assembly work. He looked about and said, 'Charlie, I'd like to have a room finished off right here in this space. Put up a wall with a door in big enough to run a car in and out. Get a good lock for the door, and when you're ready, we'll have Joe Galamb come up in here. We're going to start a completely new job.'

The room he had in mind became the maternity ward for Model T.

It took only a few days to block off the little room on the third floor back of the Piquette Avenue plant and to set up a few simple power tools and Joe Galamb's two blackboards. The blackboards were a good idea. They gave a king-sized drawing which, when all initial refinements had been made, could be photographed for two purposes: as a protection against patent suits attempting to prove prior claim to originality and as a substitute for blueprints. A little more than a year later Model T, the product of that cluttered little room, was announced to the world. But another half year passed before the first Model T was ready for what had already become a clamorous market...

The summer before, Mr. Ford told me to block off the experimental room for Joe Galamb, a momentous event occurred which would affect the entire automotive industry. The first heat of vanadium steel in the country was poured at the United Steel Company's plant in Canton, Ohio.

Early that year we had several visits from J. Kent Smith, a noted English metallurgist from a country which had been in the forefront of steel development...

Ford, Wills, and I listened to him and examined his data. We had already read about this English vanadium steel. It had a tensile strength nearly three times that of steels we were using, but we'd never seen it. Smith demonstrated its toughness and showed that despite its strength it could be machined more easily than plain steel. Immediately Mr. Ford sensed the great possibilities of this shock-resisting steel. 'Charlie,' he said to me after Smith left, 'this means entirely new design requirements, and we can get a better, lighter, and cheaper car as a result of it.'

It was the great common sense that Mr. Ford could apply to new ideas and his ability to simplify seemingly complicated problems that made him the pioneer he was. This demonstration of vanadium steel was the deciding point for him to begin the experimental work that resulted in Model T...

Actually it took four years and more to develop Model T. Previous models were the guinea pigs, one might say, for experimentation and development of a car which would realize Henry Ford's dream of a car which anyone could afford to buy, which anyone could drive anywhere, and which almost anyone could keep in repair. Many of the world's greatest mechanical discoveries were accidents in the course of other experimentation. Not so Model T, which ushered in the motor transport age and set off a chain reaction of machine production now known as automation. All our experimentation at Ford in the early days was toward a fixed and, then wildly fantastic goal.

By March, 1908, we were ready to announce Model T, but not to produce it, On October 1 of that year the first car was introduced to the public. From Joe Galamb's little room on the third floor had come a revolutionary vehicle. In the next eighteen years, out of Piquette Avenue, Highland Park, River Rouge, and from assembly plants all over the United States came 15,000,000 more."

Birth of the Assembly Line

A few months later- in July 1908 - Sorensen and a plant foreman spent their days off developing the basics of the Assembly Line:

"What was worked out at Ford was the practice of moving the work from one worker to another until it became a complete unit, then arranging the flow of these units at the right time and the right place to a moving final assembly line from which came a finished product. Regardless of earlier uses of some of these principles, the direct line of succession of mass production and its intensification into automation stems directly from what we worked out at Ford Motor Company between 1908 and 1913...

As may be imagined, the job of putting the car together was a simpler one than handling the materials that had to be brought to it. Charlie Lewis, the youngest and most aggressive of our assembly foremen, and I tackled this problem. We gradually worked it out by bringing up only what we termed the fast-moving materials. The main bulky parts, like engines and axles, needed a lot of room. To give them that space, we left the smaller, more compact, light-handling material in a storage building on the northwest comer of the grounds. Then we arranged with the stock department to bring up at regular hours such divisions of material as we had marked out and packaged.

This simplification of handling cleaned things up materially. But at best, I did not like it. It was then that the idea occurred to me that assembly would be easier, simpler, and faster if we moved the chassis along, beginning at one end of the plant with a frame and adding the axles and the wheels; then moving it past the stockroom, instead of moving the stockroom to the chassis. I had Lewis arrange the materials on the floor so that what was needed at the start of assembly would be at that end of the building and the other parts would be along the line as we moved the chassis along. We spent every Sunday during July planning this. Then one Sunday morning, after the stock was laid out in this fashion, Lewis and I and a couple of helpers put together the first car, I'm sure, that was ever built on a moving line.

We did this simply by putting the frame on skids, hitching a towrope to the front end and pulling the frame along until axles and wheels were put on. Then we rolled the chassis along in notches to prove what could be done. While demonstrating this moving line, we worked on some of the subassemblies, such as completing a radiator with all its hose fittings so that we could place it very quickly on the chassis. We also did this with the dash and mounted the steering gear and the spark coil."


The basics of the Assembly Line had been established but it would take another five years for the concept to be implemented. Implementation would await construction of the new Highland Park plant which was purpose-built to incorporate the assembly line. The process began at the top floor of the four-story building where the engine was assembled and progressed level by level to the ground floor where the body was attached to the chassis.

"By August, 1913, all links in the chain of moving assembly lines were complete except the last and most spectacular one - the one we had first experimented with one Sunday morning just five years before. Again a towrope was hitched to a chassis, this time pulled by a capstan. Each part was attached to the moving chassis in order, from axles at the beginning to bodies at the end of the line. Some parts took longer to attach than others; so, to keep an even pull on the towrope, there must be differently spaced intervals between delivery of the parts along the line. This called for patient timing and rearrangement until the flow of parts and the speed and intervals along the assembly line meshed into a perfectly synchronized operation throughout all stages of production. Before the end of the year a power-driven assembly line was in operation, and New Year's saw three more installed. Ford mass production and a new era in industrial history had begun"

Great Quotes by and about Henry Ford and the Model T.

From Mr. Ford's notebooks:
"Money the root of all evil, unless used for good purpose."
In the book written by Robert Lacey "Ford The Man and the Machine"

"I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one-and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces."-Henry Ford

"History is more or less bunk."--Henry Ford

"The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed ."
--Henry Ford

"The Customer Can Have Any Color He Wants So Long As It's Black". -- Henry Ford

"It is all one to me if a man comes from Sing Sing or Harvard. We hire a man, not his history." --Henry Ford

"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success."--Henry Ford

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young." - Henry Ford

"Don't find a fault. Find a remedy." --- Henry Ford

"What we call evil is simply ignorance bumping its head in the dark." - Henry Ford

"If you think you can or you think you can't, you will ALWAYS be right." -- Henry Ford

If you chop your own wood it will warm you twice. - sign in Henry Ford's house.

"Life is a series of experience, each of which makes us bigger even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and griefs which we endure help us in our marching onward." - Henry Ford

"One of the great discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do. Most of the bars we beat against are in ourselves --- we put them there, and we can take them down." --- Henry Ford

"Money is like an arm or a leg; use it or lose it." Henry Ford

"Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it." - Henry Ford

"Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently." -- Henry Ford.

"If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man can have is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability." - Henry Ford

"A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business." -Henry Ford. Interview 1919

"Exercise is bunk. If you are healthy you don't need it, if you are sick you shouldn't take it." - Henry Ford

"We wants to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history we make today." - Henry Ford, Chicago Tribune 25 May 1916

"At least I don't have to deal with the robot's union." - Henry Ford

Henry Ford (1863-1947)

Automobile manufacturer Henry Ford was born July 30, 1863, on his family's farm in Dearborn, Michigan. From the time he was a young boy, Ford enjoyed tinkering with machines. Farm work and a job in a Detroit machine shop afforded him ample opportunities to experiment. He later worked as a part-time employee for the Westinghouse Engine Company. By 1896, Ford had constructed his first horseless carriage which he sold in order to finance work on an improved model.

Ford incorporated the Ford Motor Company in 1903, proclaiming, "I will build a car for the great multitude." In October 1908, he did so, offering the Model T for $950. In the Model T's nineteen years of production, its price dipped as low as $280. Nearly 15,500,000 were sold in the United States alone. The Model T heralds the beginning of the Motor Age; the car evolved from luxury item for the well-to-do to essential transportation for the ordinary man.

Ford revolutionized manufacturing. By 1914, his Highland Park, Michigan plant, using innovative production techniques, could turn out a complete chassis every 93 minutes. This was a stunning improvement over the earlier production time of 728 minutes. Using a constantly-moving assembly line, subdivision of labor, and careful coordination of operations, Ford realized huge gains in productivity.

In 1914, Ford began paying his employees five dollars a day, nearly doubling the wages offered by other manufacturers. He cut the workday from nine to eight hours in order to convert the factory to a three-shift workday. Ford's mass-production techniques would eventually allow for the manufacture of a Model T every 24 seconds. His innovations made him an international celebrity.

Ford's affordable Model T irrevocably altered American society. As more Americans owned cars, urbanization patterns changed. The United States saw the growth of suburbia, the creation of a national highway system, and a population entranced with the possibility of going anywhere anytime. Ford witnessed many of these changes during his lifetime, all the while personally longing for the agrarian lifestyle of his youth. In the years prior to his death on April 7, 1947, Ford sponsored the restoration of an idyllic rural town called Greenfield Village.

You Can Paint It Any Color As Long As It Is Black.

It has never been proven that Henry Ford ever said, "You can paint it any color...," but the phrase has survived for 3/4 of a century and does indicate something about America's beloved Model T: its "steadfastness," its enduring and endearing "sameness." The first production Model T Ford was assembled at the Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit on October 1, 1908. Over the next 19 years, Ford would build 15,000,000 automobiles with the Model "T" engine, the longest run of any single model apart from the Volkswagen Beetle. From 1908-1927, the Model T would endure with little change in its design. Henry Ford had succeeded in his quest to build a car for the masses.

With the development of the sturdy, low-priced Model T in 1908, Henry Ford made his company the biggest in the industry. By 1914, the moving assembly line enabled Ford to produce far more cars than any other company. The Model T and mass production made Ford an international celebrity.
Because of the amazing run of this model, we decided not to focus on just one year of the "T." Instead, the selected materials will follow the automobile through its entire production.

About our Car: (Pictured at top) This 1914 Touring Car is one of several Model T Fords given to naturalist John Burroughs by his friend, Henry Ford, in an ultimately successful attempt to convince Burroughs that cars aided, rather than hindered, the study of nature.