The Triumph of an Idea; the Story of Henry Ford

The Triumph of an Idea; the Story of Henry Ford

Posted by jack_miller | Published a year ago

With 1 ratings

By: Ralph Henry Graves

Purchased At: $26.00

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Well….if you’re looking for a book that paints a true picture of Henry Ford, then this book – originally written in the 1920s, and published in 1935 – is not it. The book reads more like an advertisement than a biography. Ford, his business practices, and his automobiles are praised Ad nauseam. He is portrayed as a man who never made mistakes; if he made money, he was a brilliant businessman. If he lost money, it was because he was more concerned about doing the right thing than worrying about his bottom line. He is represented as having had a marvelous sense of social justice: a man who instituted high minimum wages for his workers, and provided work for those with disabilities and criminal records. Some of the praise is no-doubt warranted, but it’s hard to say how much because this book is so very-obviously biased. A Google-search on Ford and the minimum wage, (for example) suggests that in raising his wages, Ford was motivated more by minimizing turnover than by any real desire for social reform.

While the Wikipedia article on Henry Ford is far more informative than this book in regards to the man himself, this book is nonetheless a fascinating read. The very nature of the book as an unabashedly-triumphal story of the expansion of industry is itself interesting. In an age when we worry about CO2 emissions and climate change, this book trumpets the expansion of the automobile industry in glowing terms.

That’s not the only interesting history told. Every chapter of the book begins with a chronology of important historical events that took place during the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1935, these interludes were presumably meant to provide context, and to remind readers of “how far we’ve come”. In the modern day, they serve the same function, though not precisely in the way the author intended! It is wonderful to read about the events and people of those years as seen through the lens of a contemporary. Some of the events discussed are well-known to modern readers – the sinking of the Titanic, for example, or the pioneering flight of Charles Lindberg. But other catastrophes and events of equal or greater proportion that no doubt captured the hearts and minds of the public at the time have been all-but-forgotten. Incidentally, I was reminded (as I always am when I read history like this) how casually lives were lost one hundred years ago, and it made me happy to be living in an age of regulation and oversight.

The bottom line is that you if you want to learn about Henry Ford, you’re better off looking elsewhere. But if the style and substance of a 1930s extended advertisement, mixed with tidbits of history sounds interesting – or at least entertaining – then this short book is worth a few hours.

- viviana_hernandez

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