The Mystery of Henry Ford

The author of several books, including AMERICAN CAPITALISM, A THEORY OF PRICE CONTROL, and THE GREAT CRASH, 1929, JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH is professor of economics at Harvard. He spent his boyhood on the Canadian border close to Detroit and within range of the legends which have overlaid the stubborn genius of Henry Ford.


HENRY FORD built the most famous car of all time, certainly the greatest manufacturing enterprise of its day; he would still be selected by a majority of literate people of the world as the most successful industrialist so far. No other American of this century, Roosevelt doubtlessly excepted, has been of such interest. This interest, in turn, has sustained a vast literature. Yet despite all that has been said and written, no man remains quite such a mystery to the historian as Henry Ford. Was he indeed a genius, and if so why did he do so many foolish things — things that were damaging to himself and his company no less than to others? Or was he ignorant and wrongheaded, even insane? In that case, how account for the phenomenal enterprise he created?

Henry Ford died of a cerebral hemorrhage eleven years ago at the age of eighty-three. In the decade since his death these questions have remained unanswered, and perhaps before they are answered men will cease to ask them. Still the matter is worth a try, and thanks to the memoirs of Ford subordinates, the labors of skilled and diligent historians, and the good sense and responsibility of the Ford family in making their record available for study, there is now more to go on than ever before.

The literature of Ford and the Ford Motor Company has passed through three distinct phases. Ford and his company became nationally and internationally famous in 1914, the year of the five-dollar day. For the next fifteen years the Ford literature was composed in a mood of nearly unalloyed wonder. Authors visited Highland Park, where the moving assembly line was born and which was the main center of manufacturing until the close of World War I, and thereafter the vast plant on the River Rouge. Their only problem was to find adjectives. For many authors the wonder was unquestionably heightened by the fact that these were the first manufacturing plants of any kind that they had seen.

And if the plants were marvelous, so must be their owner, for no American businessman was more intimately identified with his enterprise than Ford. From almost the beginning he owned a majority of the stock, and after 1919 he owned the whole company, lock, stock, and barrel. Until he was eighty, Henry Ford remained the most powerful figure in the company he founded.

Ford was himself, at least nominally, one of the largest sources of this approving literature. Although nothing in the Ford legend is better established than his rustic contempt for the man of words, he authored three books in the twenties and early thirties. Together they had a large circulation, and all spoke exceedingly well of Ford’s accomplishments and intentions. And perhaps immodesty should not be hinted, for they were written to the last paragraph by Samuel Crowther. A few samples of Ford’s writing have survived in the form of letters. His syntax and spelling have the unpredictability of the planetary transmission.

One may add that these books, apart from glorifying Ford, showed a virtuosity both in rewriting history and in devising a rationale for earlier decisions that would today seem impressive even to a biographer of Mr. Dulles. Thus it was that Ford’s ideas on the importance of keeping clear of the banks, on how to run a railroad, on mass production, the moving assembly line, and the five-dollar day were formed and retrospectively issued. Ford used to say: “We go forward without facts and we learn the facts as we go along.” Charles Sorenson (not a hostile witness) has said that he should have added: “I have a hunch; and I’ll have it put into words if it works out.”

But this was a long time later. In the great years Ford’s view of Ford was widely accepted at face value. One inquiring journalist was not surprised at learning from Ford (presumably on the basis of some briefing) that he was the twentiethcentury Leonardo da Vinci. When Ford promised to rebate every cent of his profits on World War I production, the whole country applauded. When he thriftily reneged later, few noticed.

These years were not without their sour notes. Ford’s political adventures inevitably brought attack. The peace ship of 1915 was enthusiastically ridiculed, although possibly it was one of Ford’s better ideas. To hope that men and women of good will might mediate a conflict in which the generals had been reduced to marching their men in masses against machine guns was natural if maybe optimistic. In any case, no one had a better plan.

In these years, also, Ford tangled with Colonel McCormick. The Tribune was angered by Ford’s pacifism in a war which the Colonel was destined, by his subsequent rescript, to win virtually singlehanded. It called Ford an “anarchist” and an “ignorant idealist.” Ford then made the hideous mistake of suing for libel, and the Tribune lawyers undertook gleefully to prove their point at least about the ignorance. When questioned about the American Revolution, Ford remembered imperfectly that there had been one in 1812. He apparently confused Benedict Arnold with one Horace L. who had written a book about the company’s shop practices. But these misfortunes did not seriously dim the image of Ford as a great man. Nor did his later adventures in anti-Semitism.

IN THE depression the Ford literature changed. In 1929 Charles Merz had published his And Then Came Ford, a generally factual story of the company and man and the first such history. After 1930 there was no more of Growther’s talented fiction. In the twenties Ford had regularly promised either the incredible or the impossible — flivvers that would fly, pastoral factory towns, a magic wand over Muscle Shoals, farms devoid of drudgery and made prosperous by the sale of soybeans and straw. These things did not happen; but people were willing to believe they might, and so possibly was Ford. In the thirties these visions became less frequent, although they did not entirely cease. As late as 1940, when the country was worriedly assessing its defenses, Henry Ford readily promised a thousand bombers a day.

In the world at large Ford and the Ford Motor Company were vigorously criticized. Men who were knowledgeable in the automobile business said that Ford was not progressive — he had remained frozen to the obsolete Model T. The company was obviously losing ground to G.M. and Chrysler. The good executives had been purged. Harry Bennett and his private army were moving in.

In the years of the proletarian novel and the New Deal, when Ford was anti-union, much of the critical literature was naturally of the Left. But with time the criticism spread. Conservative journals were heard from. So were former Ford executives. For a while during World War II, instead of the thousand bombers a day from Willow Run, it looked as though there would be hardly any. It became known that the government was thinking of taking over. This was damaging, although eventually the bombers came. In 1948 Keith Sward published The Legend of Henry Ford. The author’s sympathies were plainly with Local 600 of the United Automobile Workers and not with Ford. But it was no shallow partisan tract. Sward documented in detail Ford’s shortcomings as an employer, a manufacturer, and as a man. Friendlier observers who followed Sward felt obliged to refute his charges. In the process an almost equally dismal truth often emerged.

The legend of Ford benevolence also received a severe pummeling. And so, toward the end, did the legend of Ford omnipotence. However, no one, not even Sward, denied Ford the credit for building the greatest industrial establishment of its day or suggested that in doing so he was less than an industrial superman. The reputation of Ford the great entrepreneur — the man who was capable of first glimpsing opportunity and pioneering where others imitated — remained intact. He was a genius or at least an ex-genius.

Moreover, by the thirties and forties Ford was becoming a folk figure. He helped with his unbelievable promises and also his impenetrable epigrams. (“I never made a mistake, and neither did you.”) More important, Ford the man was becoming the beneficiary of the nostalgic affection that was felt for his machine, the immortal Model T. The car was by now a keystone of American humor. Ford joke books were sold. They recounted the yarn about the man who asked that his Ford be buried with him. It had never failed to get him out of a hole. The car and the man had much in common. Both were spare, unadorned, and utilitarian. They were individualists with more than a touch of eccentricity, and in both the eccentricity increased notably with age. In his Farewell to Model T, Lee Strout White said in 1936: “The car is fading from the American scene — which is an understatement because to a few million people who grew up with it, the old Ford was the American scene.” And so, by now, was Henry Ford.

LAST of all in the literature of Ford have come the memoirs and the efforts at objective history. Numerous former Ford executives have been encouraged to tell what they remembered of the great days. Even Harry Bennett has published his recollections. In 1956 the memoirs of Charles E. Sorenson {My Forty Years With Ford) made their appearance. Sorenson, Cast-Iron Charlie to the trade, had survived longer in Ford’s confidence than any other man. He was an able engineer and organizer and a superlative hatchet man. Although he dealt somewhat sketchily in his book with this latter talent, other Ford executives whose careers he ended have gone into it in respectful detail.

However, nothing on Ford compares in significance with the detailed history now being written by Allan Nevins and Frank Ernest Hill. The first volume (Ford: The Times, the Man, the Company, Scribner’s, 1954) told the story up to World War I. The second volume (Ford: Expansion and Challenge, 1915—1933), which appeared last year, deals with the years in which the Ford Motor Company reached its zenith and then began to lose ground to its rivals. Another is to come. The second volume covers the period about which there has been the most controversy and on which the public has been provided with the greatest amount of misinformation. This book is superbly researched, and the writing is infinitely superior to the tendentious drivel in which the ordinary company history is offered. The authors are determined to be fair to Ford, yet they deal candidly with an inordinate amount of highly unflattering material. The picture of Ford which they leave is not wholly plausible. But if an acceptable view of Henry Ford ever gains currency, it will owe the most to Nevins and Hill.

The problem is that the authors, like others, are certain that he was a genius. The proof is in the car and the company he built. But can a genius be obtuse and even stupid? Can he be a man of uniformly limited ability, talent, and judgment? There is a mass of evidence, most if it uncontroverted, to show that Ford was all of these things. Consider the following deficiencies on which the Ford literature is substantially agreed.

As a public figure Ford was untutored, erratic, and incompetent.

This was amply demonstrated. In 1918 he ran for the Senate on the Democratic ticket; and in 1924 he was, for a time, unquestionably bitten by the presidential bug. Neither of these forays did anything to disprove his own exceptionally candid observation that “About politics as a business I know nothing at all,” or the acid suggestion of the New York Times that his election in 1918 “would create a vacancy both in the Senate and in the automobile business.”

Ford made no speeches because he could not speak. His most memorable contribution to political thought was the hint that, if elected Senator, he would take the Ford organization to Washington to help him. When he was reminded during the senatorial campaign of an earlier boast that he had rarely bothered to vote, he let it be known that in 1884, at the age of twenty-one, he had gone promptly to the polls and on his father’s advice marked his ballot for President Garfield. That was three years after Garfield had been assassinated.

In his campaign Ford was for Wilson and the League of Nations. But anyone who is impressed by this alignment with the angels must bear in mind his later flirtation with such unrewarding figures as Father Coughlin, Fritz Kuhn, and Gerald L. K. Smith. Nor would any man of political wisdom or even of ordinary political shrewdness have had truck with the Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion, a known forgery, or the rest of the racial rubbish that month after month appeared in the Dearborn Independent along with Ford’s own page and which blamed the Jews for virtually every misfortune ever experienced by man. When, in the end, the objection to this farrago became overpowering, Ford set a new standard for audacious falsehood by explaining that someone had put it all in the paper when he wasn’t looking. (Previously he had defended it as “eminently fair, temperate, and judicial.”)

Ford’s much-touted economic and social philosophy was a fraud.

His fame here rested principally on his presumed vision of the rewards of mass production and the importance of high wages. There is complete agreement with Sorenson that Ford’s larger ideas on these matters were worked out well after the fact and mostly by the able Samuel Crowther.

Mass production — elaborately synchronized fabrication, flow, and assembly of parts and components and product — was no doubt carried further at Highland Park in the second decade of the century than in any other plant in the world. But this was a development, not an invention. Ideas were borrowed from dozens of other establishments of the day. The Ford engineers and managers were forced to improvise and experiment because of the relentless demand for cars. Ford’s own role in this development was certainly no greater than that of several others. The most spectacular of the Ford contributions to mass production was the steadily moving assembly line. Of this, Sorenson avers, Ford was very skeptical.

A number of the more critical authors like Sward, and even Roger Burlingame in his short but thoughtful biography, attribute the five-dollar day to James Couzens. He was seeking, they argue, by one brilliant stroke to stop an excessive labor turnover and to get out more cars. On the weight of the evidence this is at least doubtful. The idea was apparently mooted at a conference at the plant held either on New Year’s Day, 1914, or the following Sunday, and it is sensible to believe both that the proposal came from Ford and that he was encouraged to offer it because of the profits the company was making. (In 1913 the company had netted $27 million on sales of around $100 million.) In any case, Ford was in charge, and this kind of decision, as distinct from a general engineering development like mass assembly, must be credited to the boss.

However, it doesn’t matter, for Ford continued to be a high-wage employer for only a few years. World War I came and with it inflation. Ford wages for a long while remained the same. By the early twenties the rest of the industry had caught up with Ford (where the minimum had gone to six dollars a day) and for skilled workers others were paying more. Meanwhile, Ford’s car had become obsolete, but Ford was still convinced that people would buy if only the price were low enough. The price was low — a Ford roadster cost $290 F.O.B. Detroit in 1926 — and so were costs. They were brought down by taking it out of the men. Sorenson and his associates became the masters of the speed-up. In 1914 the Highland Park plant was no doubt a pleasant and remunerative place to work. By the mid-twenties the River Rouge, from even the most friendly evidence, was a machine-age nightmare. Recalling the early twenties William C. Klann, one of the ablest of the older Ford executives, has said: “Ford was one of the worst shops for driving the men.” The driving continued until 1941, when the United Automobile Workers CIO finally organized Ford — the last of the auto makers to yield. By then wages, and more particularly working conditions, in the home of the five-dollar day were definitely substandard. Ford Local 600 would long be a focus of turbulence and left-wing influence. Its members had experienced at first hand the tangible fruits of Ford’s wage philosophy.

Even hostile narrators conceded that in the early years of the five-dollar day Ford’s welfare programs for his workers had merit. The famous Sociology Department helped immigrant workers to learn English and to protect themselves from the innumerable sharks who sought to appropriate their pay checks. But paternalism degenerated into petty interference and even tyranny. Ford was greatly opposed to his workers having male boarders in their houses. Evidently no wife is really to be trusted. He conducted a relentless crusade against alcohol and tobacco. In the twenties a Ford deliveryman in Omaha, when offered a cigarette for some courtesy, asked with obvious embarrassment if he could keep it until evening. He dared not smoke on duty. When the depression came and the bread lines lengthened, Ford said that it was “wholesome” and that “these are the best times we ever had.”

Henry Ford was not a businessman.

On this the evidence is decisive. Ford paid no attention to questions of company organization — there was little after Couzens left — or to administration, costs, marketing, customer preference, or (at least by his own assertion) profits. The older executives at the Ford Motor Company agree that power was not delegated but was appropriated. In the latter years Harry Bennett carried this technique to its logical conclusion by basing his authority on armed force. Balance sheets and cost accounts meant nothing to Henry Ford. Neither did his dealer organization, although when Model T ceased to sell he blamed it on the dealers. One of his contributions to merchandising Ford cars was to ban advertising for several years. Some will suggest that he had the greatest of all business talents: a sure feel for what the customer wanted. In his greatest day, Ford did; he saw the demand for a durable, cheap car. But in the twenties he failed to see that people, new car buyers at least, were beginning to want something more. He stuck with Model T and surrendered the leadership of the automobile industry to General Motors. He is remembered for saying that the customers could have Model T in any color “so long as it is black.” This was refreshing individualism but also supreme indifference to those he served. A good businessman doesn’t tell the customer to go to hell.

A considerable part of Ford’s business reputation dates back to his success in 1919 in buying out (for a total of $105,820,894.57) the minority stockholders, and then in 1920-1921, when the post-war depression came, saving the company from the influence of the bankers from whom he had borrowed to buy the stock. Ford had received a credit of $75 million, not all of which was used, from Chase Securities Corporation, the Old Colony, and Bond and Goodwin of Boston.

These transactions were shrewd. To some sensitive souls they might also have overtones of coercion. Whether they were good business is much less clear. The stockholders were first softened up for the sale by cutting the dividends on their Golconda to a nominal amount. Then when the courts, in a spectacular decision, ordered Ford to resume dividend payments, he let it be known that he was leaving the company and would soon, through another firm, bring out a new, better, and much cheaper Ford. After this disquieting news had had a chance to sink in, Ford representatives came along with an offer. (This was handsome. Most of the Ford stock was purchased for $12,500 a share, an increase, in a matter of fifteen years, from $100.) Then no more was heard of the new company or the new car.

The company was saved from the bankers by equally compelling methods. When car sales fell off in 1920 and left Ford with his debt and a heavy inventory of materials and parts, he had the latter converted into Model T’s. These were then consigned in volume to the dealers, who had the choice of getting the money to carry them or getting out of the business. Most of them got the money. Ford’s debt was transferred from himself to his thousands of dealers.

But what did Ford gain? The company could probably have had its loans extended; it is hard to believe that it would have gone bankrupt, for the slump was soon over. Everyone has since believed that the banker influence would have been inimical, but few have paused to consider that General Motors did not suffer because of such influence. On the contrary, in the immediately ensuing years this banker-ridden company (by Ford’s standards) forged far ahead of the Ford Motor Company. Actually the notion that the bankers would be disastrous was the invention of Henry Ford, who propagated it sedulously to the whole world.

What Ford won by these coups was the autocratic power which was nearly to ruin him. And it brought the final parting with a genuinely talented businessman to whom his debt was enormous, James Couzens.

Until 1915 the Ford Motor Company, as a business, was run by Couzens. He set up the dealer organization, managed sales, bought materials and parts, approved capital outlays, enforced cost discipline, kept the books, watched the earnings, and held and paid out the money. He was a superb organizer, and he had a brilliant sense for large issues and small. His later career in politics — as a Roosevelt Republican he eventually got the Senate seat for which Ford was defeated —showed that he was a man of many talents. He was not Ford’s man. Couzens was a part owner and junior partner. Though he admired his senior partner, he once said that he would work with Henry Ford but not for him. One clue to the Ford mystery lies in the fact that the company ran into its first serious troubles within a short time after the departure of Couzens.

Ford was not a good judge of men nor did he build up a loyal force of executives to compensate for his own shortcomings.

A visitor to Ford’s office in the twenties was interested to observe a half life-size picture of the Prince of Wales, the present Duke of Windsor. “I met him twice when he was over here,” Ford told his visitor. “I think he is the hope of England.” Ford’s judgment of local talent was no better. The most damaging of his selections, of course, was Harry Bennett. The latter, along with his satellite prize fighters, punks, strong-arm men, and assorted baccalaureates of the Michigan penal institutions, eventually made the Ford Motor Company into something approaching an industrial charnel house. And Harry was Henry’s boy. Everyone, including Bennett himself, agrees that Ford, so far from treating him like his own son, treated him far better.

But more noteworthy than Ford’s disposition to select the wrong man was his penchant for firing the good ones. Under his leadership the history of the company became one of endless purges and resignations. On the whole the ablest went first. Couzens, Knudsen, Wills, Hawkins, Rockelman, the Lelands of Cadillac and Lincoln, Klingensmith, Kanzler the list goes on and on. These were not superannuated company bureaucrats. Most of them were in their prime, and with rare exceptions they were grabbed up by General Motors, Chrysler, or by one of the smaller rivals. Those who went to Chrysler and General Motors had the pleasure of helping their new employers end Ford’s leadership of the industry.

As time passed, Ford took delight in speeding his departing help with devious sadistic gestures. Men discovered they had been fired when they learned that their office furniture had been moved out or, as on one occasion, when their desks were chopped up with an ax. However, quite a few were given the bad news with unadorned bluntness by Charles E. Sorenson, who in the end, like Robespierre, knelt under his own guillotine. By then any display of ability was dangerous.

Ford had appalling shortcomings as a mechanic.

This will be the most difficult to swallow and not alone by those unlearned in the Ford lore. Nevins and Hill say flatly that “as a mechanical genius [he was] perhaps the greatest of his time.” Even the most hostile commentators agree on this point. But those who use these phrases do not reconcile them with Ford’s actual performance as a mechanic, which they also chronicle.

Ford seems to have had no knowledge of chemistry, physics, or mathematics. On the contrary, he was given to wild fantasies on scientific matters, such as his conviction that meals should be so ordered that starches, proteins, and fruit acids should not be mixed. He was not even qualified in the simple techniques of the engineer’s and designer’s trade. Few things have been more debated than whether Ford could read a blueprint. But it is agreed that he wouldn’t. The Ford method was utterly empirical — to cut and try.

Until nearly the last Model T came off the line, Ford took a resolute stand against the most elementary improvements. By then Sears Roebuck and like concerns were offering (in addition to endless gadgets) numerous substitute parts designed to improve the performance of the Model T. Many of them — the Sears carburetor, for example — did. Model A was a monument to the tenacity and deviousness by which Ford subordinates managed to get agreement to a selective slide transmission, hydraulic (or even adequate) brakes, and better tires. Model A was greatly delayed because Ford had no research or engineering organization worthy of the name. His laboratories, all agree, were an empty shell partly because Ford was suspicious of college-trained men. A man of modest mechanical perception, let alone a mechanical genius, would have seen the need for a trained research and engineering organization in the country’s largest manufacturing enterprise in one of its most aggressively competitive industries. When, after much trouble and uncertainty, Model A was finally in production, Ford resisted improvements in that.

Nor were these mechanical crotchets confined to cars. Ford worked at the Detroit Edison Illuminating Company in the days when direct current was still in use. By the time the great plant at River Rouge was under construction, DC had given way to AC. The latter had formidable advantages in efficiency, economy, and technical adaptability. Ford, nonetheless, insisted that the generators at the Rouge and also the myriads of individual motors which by now had replaced the shafts and pulleys be on DC. His engineers knew he was wrong but did not dare oppose him. Eventually the plant had to be changed to AC at a cost of some $30 million.

Many more examples could be cited. Indeed, it is not going too far to say that between 1920 and his death Ford’s resistance to mechanical innovation and on occasion to mechanical common sense cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, cost it the leadership in the automobile industry, and even threatened its survival. If this was genius, it was good for General Motors.

No ONE can debunk Ford. His accomplishments are there for all to see. The question is: How did a man with such grievous shortcomings do (or become identified with) so much?

I should not pretend to offer a final answer, but there are explanations which help to reconcile Ford’s shortcomings with his accomplishments. Seven of these seem to me important:

1) Because the Ford was the first car most people knew, Ford has been long awarded honors as an innovator that he never entirely earned. He built and drove his first horseless vehicle in 1896, but by that time dozens of boys and men had done or were doing the same thing. And some had done far more than Ford. The automobile, as Merz and doubtless others have said, was not invented. The vehicle and the engine that powered it were developed over a period of years. Ford was, on the whole, a late-comer. Four years before he made his midnight run in Detroit, the firm of Panhard & Levassor in Paris had issued a catalogue of their line of gasoline-powered cars and soon thereafter were publishing testimonials from satisfied customers. Things were less advanced in America — the gasoline buggy which the Duryea brothers drove in 1892 in Springfield, Massachusetts, was far more primitive than the French vehicles — but they and others were far ahead of Ford.

2) Ford, nonetheless, did build several of the carly cars, and for a brief period he made a name for himself as an automobile racer. These achievements, substantial if not unique, were accomplished in a city which was rapidly becoming enthralled by the automobile and in a country where many people saw that the automotive age was about to dawn. Ford’s reputation attracted a talented nucleus of men who saw these prospects, shared Ford’s interests, and deferred to his public name. Ford (initially) welcomed these men — Couzens, Wills, the Dodge brothers — and for this he should have all credit, but one can reasonably infer that they were not selected by Ford but that they selected Ford.

3) With one quality Ford was massively endowed, and no one can deny it to him: He was immovably stubborn. For a time in his early career this promised to commit him to racing and rather high-powered vehicles. Eventually this prospect came to seem unpromising even to Ford. Like other companies Ford was assembling a variety of models which were changed each year. He saw it was the cheaper ones that sold. So he turned with inflexible determination to the notion of a light, durable, and, above all, inexpensive car. So far as the record shows, this decision was entirely Ford’s. So, evidently, was the decision to fight the Seldon patents and the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers and thereby to win the freedom to produce whatever car he pleased.

And having reached his decision he stuck to it with unequaled tenacity. This time he was sticking to a decision that — until the competition of the used-car market developed — was magnificently right. The whole country wanted an automobile it could afford. This decision was the open sesame to greatness. With the same fanatical tenacity Ford later clung to the light, cheap model after it was no longer the right car.

4) The able mechanics who had joined up with Ford helped him make a good cheap car — the Model T. Mechanically it was not ahead of its time. But it was sound, simple, and inexpensive. And ready to organize the production and sale of this vehicle was James Couzens. We may grant that unless Ford had decided that the immediate future lay with a cheap car there would have been no Model T. But although Ford conceived of the Model T, Couzens made the Ford Motor Company. Ford’s mechanical ability may be challenged. Couzens’ business ability cannot.

5) The world has always assumed that it took a great man to build the Ford Motor Company. Considering the enthusiasm with which men greeted the automobile age, perhaps not. From the first year of its existence — five years before Model T — the Ford Motor Company made handsome profits, yet some of its cars were of exceedingly erratic performance. Given this eagerness, the stellar decision to go in for a cheap car, and a magnificent manager in Couzens, maybe success was almost automatic.

6) Ford was one of the most skillful and avid self-advertisers of the century. On this all contemporaries, from the most friendly to the most critical, agree. Only the world was unaware of the effort which Ford all but instinctively devoted to building the Ford myth. He seemed such an unassuming man.

7) Ford was born in 1863. He emerged as a national figure in 1914, the year of the five-dollar day, when he was fifty-one. Most of the mistakes which contradict his claim to stature were made after that. Any reasonable view of Ford must reckon with the fact that, in the years when the light beat hardest upon him, he was past his prime. Perhaps success itself served to freeze what had been an untutored and wayward but restless mind. Of the closing chapter — that of the harried Edsel and the ascendant Bennett — there seems no question. Ford was an old man who had held on too long.