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My Forty Years with Ford

Charles E. Sorenson with Samuel T. Williams Introduction by David L. Lewis

Publication Year: 2006

An unflinching eyewitness account of the Ford story as told by one of Henry Ford’s closest associates.

Published by: Wayne State University Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xvii

Charles E. Sorensen was an auto industry giant and one of the most important persons in Henry Ford's life. Surprisingly, he is the subject of only one book, this one, based largely on his oral reminiscences. The reminiscences were taped at the Ford Archives in...


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1. "All That I Saw"

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pp. 3-10

When Henry Ford was born, Abraham Lincoln had two more years to live. And about no other two Americans have more words been said, more ink been spilled. One preserved the Union and emancipated the slaves. The other evolved an industrial system which revolutionized American life and work and emancipated workers from backbreaking...

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2. What Was Henry Ford Really Like?

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pp. 11-23

He was unorthodox in thought but puritanical in personal conduct. He had a restless mind but was capable of prolonged, concentrated work. He hated indolence but had to be confronted by a challenging problem before his interest was aroused. He was contemptuous of money-making, of money-makers and profit seekers, yet he made more money and greater...

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3. Henry Ford's Man

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pp. 24-35

Henry Ford was no mystic or genius. He was a responsible person with determination to do his work as he believed it should be done. This sense of responsibility was one of his strongest traits. I often tried to persuade Mr. Ford to diversify his business; get into the food-producing field, because he liked...

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4. What Made the Ford Organization Tick?

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pp. 35-44

Two events of 1903 were of momentous consequence to the world. At a beach near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Wilbur and Orville Wright were the first human beings to fly a heavier-than-air machine, and transport became three-dimensional. In Detroit, Ford Motor Company was incorporated. It was destined to make motor transport...

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5. Work Was Play

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pp. 45-55

In 1906, long before Couzens left, Henry Ford became president of the company after the death of John S. Gray. Although he headed Ford Motor Company and owned a majority of its stock, circumstances prevented him from exercising complete control. The obstacle was a financial one. The company was making money, the popularity of Model...


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6. I, Charles Sorensen

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pp. 59-69

I often wonder where I would be today had my father missed the boat to America over seventy years ago. I was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, September 7, 1881. A short distance away at the time was the i8-month-old son of Customs Inspector Knudsen. Our paths didn't cross until thirty years later, and I had the good fortune to beat Bill...

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7. I Go to Work for Ford

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pp. 70-83

When Tommy Cooper brought him to my patternmaking bench that spring morning, I had heard about Henry Ford but had never seen him. He had won considerable local fame as an automobile racing driver—Detroit newspapers, then wrestling with French terms in the motorcar field, referred to him as a "chauffeur." The October before...

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8. Couzens, Wills, and Flanders: Three Ford "Greats"

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pp. 84-96

It was Henry Ford's good fortune to have at his side three "greats" in the early days of his company. They were James Couzens, C. Harold Wills, and Walter Flanders, all three of whom left Ford Motor Company for one reason or another. Without the bulldog driving energy of Couzens in handling the purse strings and in constant nagging of...

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9. Model T

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pp. 97-112

It took only a few days to block off the little room on the third floor back of the Piquette Avenue plant and to set up a few simple power tools and Joe Galamb's two blackboards. The blackboards were a good idea. They gave a king-sized drawing which, when all initial refinements had been made, could be photographed for two purposes: as a protection...


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10. The Birth of Mass Production

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pp. 115-132

We have seen how Model T slowly evolved. An equally slow evolution was the final assembly line, the last and most spectacular link in mass production. Both "just grew," like Topsy. But, whereas the car evolved from an idea, mass production evolved from a necessity; and it was long after it appeared that the idea and its principles were reduced...


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11. The Five-Dollar Day

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pp. 135-149

In March, 1956, the minimum wage became by act of Congress $i an hour or $8 a day. Back in 1914, Henry Ford raised his minimum wage from $2 to $5 a day. The passage of time has dulled the significance and far-reaching results of that action of more than forty years ago. Proportionately, the Ford increase would be equivalent to raising...

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12. We Start the Rouge

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pp. 150-164

In the late summer of 1915, I was lunching with Henry Ford at Highland Park when he left the table to answer a telephone call from Mrs. Ford. He came back to me and said, "Where is Joe Galamb? I want him to go to the house with me. I want him to do some interpreting for me from a Madame Schwimmer who speaks Hungarian. Joe is...

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13. We Finish the Rouge

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pp. 165-179

In February, 1919, the Michigan Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Dodge case. Ford Motor Company must pay an immediate dividend of $19,000,000 plus 5 per cent interest from date of decision in the lower court. Financially, this was not much of a setback, if any. The Dodges owned only 100 of the 1,000 shares of Ford stock;...

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14. Mr. Ford Buys a Railroad

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pp. 180-192

Of all the many fantastic things the Ford Motor Company tackled, I put the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad at the top of the list. The idea of buying this worn-down-to-the-flanges, 380-mile line was fantastic. Equally fantastic was the achievement of nonrailroad men in making the road pay and in selling out at a 250 per cent profit. Behind...

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15. Russian Adventure

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pp. 193-216

During his publicity-appreciation days, Henry Ford delighted in enigmatic remarks. Some were dutifully clarified and embellished by his collaborator, Samuel Crowther, and by his radio and editorial representative, William J. Cameron. Others were tossed off at interviewers and reporters, who set them down literally; and, because the meaning...

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16. Farewell to Model T

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pp. 217-231

Between October, 1908, and May 26, 1927, we had turned out 15,000,000 Model T's. I was sick of looking at them—sicker, in fact, than the public was. The people for whom Model T was made had outgrown the sturdy little vehicle that emancipated them from the horse, made the farm a suburb of the town, and put the automobile...

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17. Tractor Troubles

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pp. 232-250

Nothing should be simpler than putting a seed in the ground, then wait three or four months and reap the product. But around this supposedly simple seed-to-harvest progress has arisen the Farm Problem, a vexatious complication which affects national elections. Ford Motor Company had its Farm Problem, centering around tractors and a $341,000,000 lawsuit...


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18. Ford and the New Deal

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pp. 253-272

The year 1930 and the beginning of the Big Depression had revolutionary political and social consequences. During the twenty ensuing years relations between the people and the government changed drastically. The welfare of the people became a direct responsibility of government, whereas before then government was the responsibility of the people....

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19. The Biggest Challenge of My Life

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pp. 273-300

Operators, columnists, professors, preachers, and propagandists performed magnificently with the theme that World War II was a war between two ideologies. But whatever inflamed people's minds in warring countries, victory was on the side of the heaviest-armed battalions. The conflict became one of two systems of production....

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20. Henry Ford's Greatest Failure

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pp. 301-334

Henry Ford's greatest achievement was changing the face of America and putting the world on wheels. His greatest failure was his treatment of his only son, Edsel. And this treatment may have hastened his son's death. The elder Ford wanted Edsel to be like himself. What he forgot, or ignored, was the fact that his father wanted him to be like himself. William Ford, Henry's father, was a strongminded...


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pp. 335-345

E-ISBN-13: 9780814335697
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814332795

Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 45
Publication Year: 2006

Edition: 1
Volume Title: N/a

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Subject Headings

  • Ford Motor Company.
  • Ford, Henry, 1863-1947.
  • Automobile industry and trade -- United States.
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