The Legend of Henry Ford Paperback – January 1, 1968
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The author begins with a summary of the car and how it gained popularity in the 1890's. Ford, attempting to break into the industry as a young and passionate engineer, first stepped foot into auto sales in the very early 1900's. In his racing days, Ford's cars were well known for their fast speed and reliability (relative reliability). After surpassing several obstacles including state regulation, patents, and just downright business failure, Ford finally became a force to be recon with as the Ford Motor Company (formed in 1903) began to offer a car based on the popular racing car the "999".
Over time, Ford with his passion for engineering became obsessed with shortening the production process and cutting production costs. He collaborated with some of the greatest engineering minds in the country over the course of decades. While assembly lines were already used in other industries (the author mentions the meat industry), Ford was hardly satisfied by a simple conveyor belt. Needless to say, Ford continually updated the assembly line so intensely that it became the foundation for nearly every manufacturing process to this day.
I have always been told how great Ford was with paying his employees and providing a great working atmosphere. Much to my dismay, I could not have been further from the truth. While capitalist forces did force Ford to raise wages (turnover and training costs got out of hand), every wage increase came with increased pressure to improve productivity. The same goes for cutting the working day's hours down and the shortening of the work week. "Pressure" is a down play, as Ford Service (the division responsible for "monitoring" labor) was anything but pressure. Ford made a habit of not just disallowing talking and laughing, but having Ford Servicemen regularly berate, beat, and fire his employees on a whim. The author explains very clearly how badly Ford truly treated his employees.
The second half of the book is dedicated to Ford's battle with labor unions and how this battle played out leading up to WWII. Without ruining anything for the reader, one may look forward to reading how Ford took care of politicians who got out of line and laborers who threatened to strike, while surrounding himself with convicted felons as both personal protection and Ford Service monitoring needs. The reader will also learn more about Ford's avowed anti-sematism and the audience he captivated with it (Hitler not only gave him an award, he had a mural of Ford in his office).
My grievance with the "spin" of the author is that, while it is clear that Ford's actions were anything but saintly, there were a multitude of actions that I felt were delivered in the same negative tone which did not deserve it. However, this small point aside, I highly recommend this book for anyone who wishes to learn more about Ford and the early auto industry in general.