THE ATLANTIC’S BOOKSHELF
These reviews of recent books of unusual value are based upon lists furnished through the courteous coöperation of such trained judges as the following: American Library Association Book List, Wisconsin Free Library Commission, and the staffs of the public libraries in Springfield (Massachusetts), Newark, Cleveland, Kansas City, and St. Louis.
by Doubleday Page & Co. 1922. 8vo. viii + 289 pp. $3.50.in collaboration with Samuel Crowther. Garden City:
ONE expects an autobiography and finds something else—a book difficult to classify, just as its subject, Henry Ford himself, is difficult to classify. Perhaps it may best be described as a statement of social philosophy by a victorious individualist.
The Ford here portrayed is not quite human, so intent is he on work as contrasted with life, on ideas as contrasted with incidents. His most poignant memory of his boyhood home is that ’there was too much work around the place.’ Of his parents and the nurture and discipline they gave him, he tells us nothing. We learn of his marriage incidentally to his setting up a sawmill which provided lumber for his first domestic establishment. The boy must have had his dreams and the man his romance more compelling than motors: but, they are not here recorded.
Instead appears the full-length record of the Ford Motor Company. But even so, the minor characters in this tale of achievement are not Couzens, Hawkins, Lucking, and the others who helped Ford put his dominant idea across, but Models A, B, C, on up to the -world-encircling Model T. The principles of manufacturing and merchandizing back of this triumph are fully expounded: but just as one misses due tribute to subordinates, so likewise does one miss due credit to luck. Yet luck and loyalty Henry Ford has had in abundance.
If, however, there be lacks here, there are likewise bounties. A mind keen and fearless, ignoring precedent, scornful of history and expert testimony, a mentality beyond the sway of self’s demands and dominated by the idea of business for service— that is the Henry Ford of Mr. Crowther’s pages.
Ford on manufacturing is an inspiration — the world trails him and the future will follow him. So also on wages, if the world be wise in time. In fact, whatever Henry Ford has met face to face he has mastered and is a sound teacher thereon: but with the recklessness of the unafraid, he guesses, sometimes shrewdly, sometimes wildly, about some of the other things. He guessed on the peace ship, is guessing on the Jews, and is all askew on money. Says he solemnly, ‘Gold itself is not a valuable commodity. It is no more wealth than hat checks are hats.’ At Henry’s age has he no gold tooth, no gold watch, to teach him that gold is more than money? With equal positiveness are many uncertainties stated. All businesses, he thinks, can be run as his. Not proven. Killing drudgery is one of his passions, yet is not monotony the soul of drudgery? And by his own confession he has increased monotony in manufacture.
Yet, scornful as he is of many things needed to improve our world, and overconfident as he is of the greatness of his contribution to our times, the Henry Ford here revealed is the most significant American of his generation. There is no dodging that conclusion.