From Publishers Weekly
Bak (Detroit Across Three Centuries) gives new life to the well-known story of industrialist Henry Ford (1863-1947) and his rise from Michigan farm boy to the powerful head of an automobile manufacturing company. Deeply interested in anything mechanical, Ford left the family farm to become a machinist's apprentice, an engineer, a race-car builder and, in 1903, founded the Ford Motor Company. In 1908, the company produced the Model T, a simply designed car for the average family that was wildly successful and made Ford a millionaire. Responsible for implementing the assembly line in the mass production of cars, Ford also initially provided his workers with a living wage. In this engrossing history, the author traces the power grabs at Ford Motor, focusing particularly on the relationship between Ford and his only son, Edsel, both of whom spring to life here. Although Ford initially planned to have Edsel take over the company, he relied on the advice of Henry Bennett, the tyrannical security chief, who thought that Edsel was a weakling. According to Bak, Edsel was a cultured, talented man and an expert at designing cars. He did not share his father's hatred of unions that translated into repeated violence against organizers. Ford outlived his son, who died of cancer, a death many believed to have been hastened by conflicts with his father. Despite their problems, Ford loved his son and was deeply grieved by his death. Fully documented here (though not for the first time) is Ford's virulent anti-Semitism, which he expressed through articles in the Dearborn Independent. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Get a horse!" onlookers shouted at Henry Ford as he drove his first car. Yet the Ford Motor Company, a multibillion-dollar empire, grew out of that original experiment. The automobile manufacturer greatly influenced American culture, using the assembly line to maximize production and profits while raising wages and lowering prices--and enabling his employees and the mass market to buy his cars. In describing the struggle between Henry and his only child, Edsel, the author weaves a tale of success and failure, intrigue and human frailty. Henry is painted as an eccentric, erring leader, while Edsel is depicted as a heroic and imaginative executive who withstood the cunning of Henry's designated successor (outsider Henry Bennett) to save the company. This book's publication coincides with the 100th anniversary of the company's incorporation and likely received the blessing of the current family management. With the reported years of rancor in the Ford family, we do not know how balanced Bak's characterizations of the major players are. Mary Whaley
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