Henry and Edsel: The Creation of the Ford Empire

Overview

The epic struggle between a father and son and the building of a worldwide business empire
In this retelling of the story of the rise of Ford Motors, journalist Richard Bak offers a daring new perspective on the human drama that helped shape one of the world's great business empires. No dry corporate history, Henry and Edsel focuses on the epic battle of wills between the unyielding Henry Ford, his gifted son Edsel, and his "second son," the brutal and insidious Harry Bennet who...

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Overview

The epic struggle between a father and son and the building of a worldwide business empire
In this retelling of the story of the rise of Ford Motors, journalist Richard Bak offers a daring new perspective on the human drama that helped shape one of the world's great business empires. No dry corporate history, Henry and Edsel focuses on the epic battle of wills between the unyielding Henry Ford, his gifted son Edsel, and his "second son," the brutal and insidious Harry Bennet who rose from barroom brawler to become Henry's heir apparent. Bak dispels the common misperception of Edsel Ford as a weak and ineffectual manager, and explains that it was in fact Edsel's level-headedness and imaginative business solutions and that allowed the company to survive the many challenges to its survival in the first half of the twentieth century. Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary celebration of Ford Motor Company, Henry and Edsel is sure to be warmly received by history buffs and business readers.
Richard Bak (Detroit, MI) is a veteran journalist who has written widely on the Fords and the automobile industry.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
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 Form Motor Company. In 1908, the company produced the Model T, a simple designed car form the average family that was wildly successful and make 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 Form 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 dies 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. (Oct.) (Publishers Weekly, August 18, 2003)

One of many books on the Ford Motor Company published in this, its centennial year, Bak's work focuses on the relationship between founder and patriarch Henry Ford and his son, Edsel. It is a true story perhaps better suited to a TV movie: the strong-willed father runs the company with an iron fist. marginalizing his talented son and instead relying on fixer/brawlerwler Harry Benrtett. Why Ford Sr. embraced Bennett and not his son comes down to ego. Even after Henry, at age 75, finally turned the company over to his son, Bennett was still on the payroll. Edsel died of cancer in 1943 after leading the Ford Motor Company for only two years. An elderly Henry, loath to give lip his leadership role, resumed the presidency. But while Edsel has often been portrayed as a weak and ineffectual leader, Bak counters that Edsel was a sensible manager whose creative business solutions helped the company survive the many tough challenges in its first decades. This work is valuable as both a sociological and a psychological study, and business and automotive historians will also be interested. —Eric C. Shoaf, Brown Univ. lib., Providence, RI (Library Journal, September 15, 2003)

"...the book is rich in detail..." (Director, January 2004)

"...good at illuminating the often ridiculous quarrels between the pair..." (Focus, February 2004)

"...offers a new perspective on the human drama that changed the shape of Ford...must reading for anyone interested in business..." (Bolton Evening News, 11 March 2004)

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. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471234876
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/26/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 313
  • Sales rank: 523,419
  • Product dimensions: 0.75 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 6.14 (d)

Meet the Author

RICHARD BAK is a veteran journalist who grew up in Detroit and now lives in Dearborn, Michigan. Bak, who worked on the assembly lines at Ford and Chrysler, has written widely on the Fords and the automobile industry. His twenty books include biographies of Charles Lindbergh and Joe Louis. Bak has received two book of the year awards from ForeWord magazine: one for a narrative history of Tiger Stadium and the other for a chronicle of Detroit’s first three centuries.

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Table of Contents

Acnowledgments.

1. Farmboy, Tinkerer.

2.The Horse is Gone.

3. Rearview Mirror: Ford the "Automobileer" in 1900.

4. Who Can't Afford a Fordmobile?.

5. Hunka Tin.

6. The Five Dollar Day.

7. Rearview Mirror: The Crystal Palace in 1914.

8. War on Several Fronts.

9. Joy Ride.

10. Farewell, Lizzie.

11. Chronicle of the Neglected Truth.

12. The Little Man in the Basement.

13. Rearview Mirror: The Crown Prince at Work and at Play.

14. Airships and Time Machines.

15. An Invitation to Organize.

16. Bullets and Frescoes.

17. A Matter of Style.

18. The Overpass.

19. Rearview Mirror: Battling "Fordism" in 1937.

20. A New Social Order.

21. You Know How Father Is.

22. Running on Empty.

23. Rearview Mirror: The Last Years of the Flivver King.

Postscript. Ford After Ford.

Notes.

Selected Bibliography.

Picture Credits.

Index.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2004

    A GoodRead!

    Richard Bak is a long-time resident of Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan, and doubtless absorbed much of the Ford legacy simply by growing up in a place that Ford formed. This book is not exactly a corporate history, not exactly a biography and not exactly a tell-all celebrity book, but it has elements of each. The most interesting pieces include the extended reminiscences by people who lived and worked closely with the Fords, and especially with Edsel¿s family. He has long lingered in the shadow of his famous father and it is somewhat surprising to discover that he had some fine qualities. These reminiscences have poignant moments that establish the veracity of any number of proverbs on money, happiness and the foibles of the great. The book is reasonably well written and fairly concise. It recapitulates the essentials of the Ford story, though it glances over the evolution of management and organization at the company. We assure you that you¿ll get the full Ford saga here, though you may have to extrapolate the business lessons it teaches for yourself.

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