Henry and Edsel: The Creation of the Ford Empire

By Richard Bak | Go to book overview

Postscript
Ford after Ford

Clara Ford, having grown frail and melancholic after Henry left, died in a hospital bed on September 20, 1950, following a brief illness. The passing of the eighty-three-year-old matriarch had no effect on the Ford Motor Company's direction, for it had already been left to a third generation of Fords—Edsel's three sons— to guide it into the postwar world.

They inherited a mess. “At Ford's today,” Newsweek observed in 1947, “the name of Harry Bennett is a convenient peg on which to hang the blame for everything that ever went wrong.” But there was plenty of blame to pass around, David Halberstam would write in The Reckoning, beginning with the company's founder:

By fighting the unions so intransigently, Ford … had ensured that
when the unions finally won power they would be as strong as the
companies themselves, and that there would be a carryover of dis-
trust and hatred which would make them—even in the postwar
years when the unions became a junior partner—an adversarial, dis-
trustful junior partner. There were other, more concrete, burdens
as well. Because he had been locked in the past and had frozen his
technology, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Worse, he
had done something that was truly cruel and, in a family company,
professionally ruinous—he had destroyed his own heir, one who was,
in Detroit's phrase, a damn good car man. There was no doubt in the
minds of the ablest Ford men of that day, and of their competitors at
GM, that if the old man had stepped aside, Edsel Ford would have
improved the company tremendously. But he never got the chance.

-284-

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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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