Henry and Edsel: The Creation of the Ford Empire

By Richard Bak | Go to book overview

22
Running on Empty

One time Mr. Ford came into the shop in the evening and no one else was
there. He pulled out his wallet, which had loose leaflets in it with pictures
of Edsel and the grandchildren. He paid me and said, “Joe, look. This is
Edsel when he was a little child and I was very proud of him. Here are the
grandchildren, Benson, Henry, Billy, and Josephine. My son had everything
to live for but he worked too hard and now he is gone.” I looked at his face
and he had tears in his eyes. He was a lonely old gentleman.

—Joseph Zaroski, Henry Ford's barber

On May 30, 1943, just two days after burying his son, Henry Ford officially reassumed the presidency of the Ford Motor Company. At the same board meeting, Henry appointed Harry Bennett the company's administrative director and a member of the board of directors. Edsel's grieving widow and children were insulted by the insensitivity of the timing. Their outrage was tempered by a sense of dread. How could the already drifting company hope to survive with Henry, a man born just days after the battle of Gettysburg, at the helm?

Henry was increasingly showing signs of confusion. He would be completely lucid one day, but then on the next, his attention would wane and his memory would often fail him entirely. Rufus Wilson, his chauffeur for many years, was in a position to trace the old man's rapid decline. “I'm pretty sure that Edsel Ford's death and the war shortened Mr. Ford's life by five or six years, maybe a little bit longer. I daresay Mr. Ford showed signs of failing both physically and mentally. He was

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Henry and Edsel: The Creation of the Ford Empire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • 1: Farmboy, Tinkerer 1
  • 2: The Horse is Gone 18
  • 3: Rearview Mirror Ford the “automobileer” in 1900 32
  • 4: Who Can't Afford a Fordmobile? 38
  • 5: Hunka Tin 51
  • 6: The Five-Dollar Day 64
  • 7: Rearview Mirror the Crystal Palace in 1914 78
  • 8: War on Several Fronts 83
  • 9: Joy Ride 106
  • 10: Farewell, Lizzie 125
  • 11: Chronicle of the Neglected Truth 141
  • 12: The Little Man in the Basement 154
  • 13: Rearview Mirror the Crown Prince at Work and at Play 163
  • 14: Airships and Time Machines 172
  • 15: An Invitation to Organize 188
  • 16: Bullets and Frescoes 200
  • 17: A Matter of Style 210
  • 18: The Overpass 221
  • 19: Rearview Mirror Battling “fordism” in 1937 231
  • 20: A New Social Order 238
  • 21: You Know How Father Is 250
  • 22: Running on Empty 261
  • 23: Rearview Mirror the Last Years of the Flivver King 275
  • Postscript - Ford After Ford 284
  • Notes 293
  • Selected Bibliography 302
  • Picture Credits 305
  • Index 307
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