Monday, July 30, 2018

Happy 155th Birthday, Henry Ford

Monday, July 30, 2018

Loretta reports:

Today, 30 July, is automaker Henry Ford’s birthday. I’ve shown you some parts of the Fort Myers, Florida estate he shared with inventor Thomas Edison, here, here, and here.

I’ve also pointed out the way that the motorcar was quickly adopted for long-distance travel, even though the cars broke down frequently, roads could be little more than wagon tracks, and gas stations and auto mechanics were unheard of. But none of these obstacles stopped Americans from getting on the road and going—either on cross-country races or south, for warmer weather. With the advent of affordable autos came the Snowbirds—the Tin Can Tourists I posted about here and here.

All the same, I didn’t really know much about Ford beyond what little we learned (and mostly forgot) in school, back in the last century, about U.S inventors and innovators.

But I happened on this feature (please scroll down to the second article) at the Library of Congress site, which puts Ford and his world into perspective. Along with songs and recollections, it also provides an early film of an automobile parade—which was probably not the horse’s favorite experience that day.
First & ten millionth Ford 1924

Sharp-eyed readers will note the “Ford Song” by one “A. Flivver, composer.” Flivver is early 20th century slang for an automobile.

Images: Photo above left 1919 Model T at Edison-Ford estate, Photo copyright © 2018 Walter M. Henritze III.  At right,  First and ten millionth Ford (1924), courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. 
Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Tim Harding said...

I don’t doubt that Henry Ford had major manufacturing achievements, but are his fascist political views relevant at all?

Kathy Whalen said...

Thank you, Tim, I am here to point out the same thing. As important as it is that we learn about his Fascist leanings, it is also important to call out his virulent anti-Semitism, which led him to publish vile articles in his own Dearborn newspaper which was distributed in dealerships around the country. Henry Ford's legacy is problematic and often whitewashed. Shame on the Library of Congress!

Lucy said...

Like many, I've never heard anything of Henry Ford's personal history or beliefs. In the years when I was growing up, "Ford" still meant something solidly manufactured and built to last. My grandfather told stories of Ford plants hiring a man whose only job was to hit brand-new cars coming off the assembly line with a sledge hammer. If a dent was made, the car was considered faulty, and scrapped.

One of our childhood songs ran, "Once upon a time, there was a little Ford, the cutest little Ford that you ever did see...."

That there should be a darker side, however, doesn't really surprise me. Events as told in many history books are often nearer fantasy than fact; and lies are perpetuated by omission more frequently than they are stated.

Lucy said...

For anyone who is curious, this appears to be a well-researched article on Henry Ford's complicated and sometimes very dark legacy.

It is significant, I think, that while Ford may always have held anti-Semitic feelings, his almost unimaginably bizarre public campaigns against Jews did not begin until several years after his failed Peace Ship venture of 1915. The Peace Ship episode, which took place when Ford was 52, was itself so ill-conceived and childish that it raises questions of Ford's mental status at that time. Lawyer Samuel Untermeyer, though referring to Ford's attacks on Jews, put the matter best: "Why can't the people realize that a cheap, petty, ignorant man who has grown rich can get just as crazy as any poor devil of an inmate of a lunatic asylum?"

Unfortunately, in Ford's case, his wide influence was pervasive, and had ugly results around the world. After doing a little more reading on the subject, I can only regret that it is so rarely exposed and understood today.

Unknown said...

I am glad to see comments calling out Henry Ford's well-known antisemitism and support for the Nazi party. And, I am HUGELY disappointed that the writers of the blog seemingly had no idea of his blatant support for the Nazi party. (All they needed to do was read the wikipedia entry.) His bigotry, anti-semitism, and nazism was no big secret. Wishing 'happy birthday' to this man is like wishing happy birthday to the devil.

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