Friends, Families & Forays
Scenes from the Life and Times of Henry Ford
Publication Year: 2002
Published by: Wayne State University Press
Cover, Title Page, Copyright
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This work contains fifty-five short stories describing people and pursuits that colored the life of Henry Ford. These accounts are not generally known and have not been published in a book until now. My goal is to provide a detailed...
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The compilation of these stories would not have been possible without the cooperation of the staff of the Benson Ford Research Center of Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village over a period of several years...
Part I: Friends and Acquaintances
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1. Greenfield Dancing Club of 1882
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This story draws particularly on the 1950 reminiscences of Fred Gleason, a close friend of Henry Ford. Henry Ford quit school at age sixteen in 1879, having finished the sixth grade. He immediately left the farm for...
2. Thomas Edison
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Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, in 1847. The family moved to Port Huron, Michigan, when Tom was seven years of age. He is said to have done poorly in school and to have owed his education primarily to his mother...
3. Harvey Firestone
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Henry Ford was almost thirty years old on February 10, 1893, when he bought himself a bicycle at the rather expensive price of forty dollars. His bicycle had pneumatic tires. Three years later, when he built his first automobile...
4. John Burroughs
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John Burroughs, a naturalist and writer, came to Henry Ford’s attention in 1912 after Ford had begun taking a serious interest in birds. That interest seems to have stemmed from his foster grandfather Patrick Ahern’s nostalgic...
5. Martha Berry
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Known as the “Sunday Lady of Possum Trot,” Martha McChesney Berry (1866–1942) provided an education for hundreds of mountain boys and girls from the area surrounding Rome, Georgia. One of six daughters of wealthy...
6. George Washington Carver
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Few people are surprised to find that Henry Ford came to be friends with fellow inventor Thomas Edison and fellow industrialist Harvey Firestone. Less well known are his friendships with naturalists John Burroughs...
7. McGuffey Readers
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Both Henry and Clara Ford studied the McGuffey Readers when they were in school. Mastering the First through Sixth Eclectic Educational Series was then an accomplishment in reading not attained until well into college...
8. Mahatma Gandhi
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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869–1948), a frail, ascetic Hindu, spent most of his life in a nonviolent struggle to free India from British domination. At age eighteen, he had gone to London, where he studied law at the...
9. Henry Clausen
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Back in 1872, along with thousands of others, a twenty-six-year-old man named Henry Clausen came to America from Germany. During the period following the Civil War, many Germans came to Dearborn Township...
Part II: Relatives
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10. Ford Family Tree
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The Ford family tree, in whatever form it is found, is based on the work of Raymond H. Laird, a Ford Motor Company engine engineer and husband of Emma Ford, a cousin of Henry Ford. The tree is depicted in botanical...
11. Ford Cemetery
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In 1832, Samuel Ford and Ann (Nancy) Smith Ford, both of Ireland, settled on eighty acres at what is now the southwest corner of Joy and Greenfield Roads in Detroit. There were no roads at that time, and the property was...
12. Great-grandmother Rebecca
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Rebecca Jennings Ford (1776–1851) and William Ford (1775– 1818) were ancestors of all the Fords of Dearborn — that is, all the many Fords related to the famous automotive Henry Ford. In Ireland between 1792 and 1811, Rebecca...
13. Great-uncle Robert
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The Ford family tree as drawn by Raymond H. Laird in 1925–26 has a main branch missing: the family of Robert Ford. There were four Ford brothers who came to America from Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century...
14. Brother John
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John Ford, born February 4, 1865, in the Ford homestead in Springwells Township at the southeast corner of Ford Road and Greenfield, was the son of William Ford (1826–1905) and Mary Litogot Ford (1839–1875). John was named...
15. Sisters Margaret and Jane
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Margaret Ford was born on August 14, 1867, in the Ford homestead on the southeast corner of what are now Greenfield and Ford Roads in Springwells Township, Michigan. Her father, William, was then forty-two years...
16. Brother Will
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Will Ford has been described as having lived in the shadow of Henry. But Will Ford was anything but a shadowy figure. He was considered to be an upright, straightforward gentleman, less glorified but perhaps better liked by many...
17. The Litogots
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The Litogot name, as influential in Henry Ford’s bloodline as the Ford name, has been difficult to trace. It is known that Henry’s grandfather William Litogot had settled in the vicinity of Taylor Township, Michigan, considerably...
Part III: Mechanical Exploits
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18. Getting Started
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Henry Ford grew up on a prosperous farm in Springwells Township about seven miles due west of Detroit. He attended school through the sixth grade and in 1879, at age sixteen, despite his father’s wishes, walked into Detroit...
19. Gasoline Rail Car
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Detroit truly could be described as having rapid transit when the electric streetcar replaced the horse car on Jefferson Avenue beginning on August 23, 1892. Twenty years earlier, the pokey horse-car system had left commuters completely stranded...
20. Ford-Edison Electric Car
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While working for the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit, Henry Ford had put together his first automobile, the Quadricycle, which he drove on the streets of Detroit in the early morning of June 4, 1896. In August of that year...
21. Excursion into Railroading
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In 1920, Henry Ford acquired 456 miles of deteriorated roadbed, forty-one railroad stations, seventy-five steam locomotives, 2,800 mortgaged freight cars, and twenty-seven vintage passenger cars from a line disparaged...
22. Fordson Truck
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The well-known Fordson tractor, designed by Eugene Farkas and first built by Henry Ford & Son — not by Ford Motor Company — was produced in Henry, Edsel, and Clara Ford’s brickyard factory on Elm Street in old...
23. Ford’s Amazing X-8 Vehicle
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We have quite universally recognized the Ford Model T as an outstanding automobile for its time. Henry Ford is given major credit for it, although men such as C. Harold Wills, Joseph Galamb, Charles Sorensen...
24. The Speedboat Miss Dearborn
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From 1920 until 1925, Edsel Ford, then in his late twenties, was playing with speedboats as well as with foreign sports cars. He did not race them himself because it was too dangerous. Although he would often drive the boats...
25. Ford’s Robot Engines
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In utmost secrecy during 1917, aircraft and engine specialists gathered at a farmhouse in an isolated section of Ohio to develop an odd vehicle to win the war in Europe. Involved were Henry Ford; his chief engineer...
26. Ford and the Metric Dilemma
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In August 1922, the editor of Ford’s Dearborn Independent received a letter from Aubrey Drury, executive secretary of the World Metric Standardization Council. It reads as follows...
Part IV: Financial Investments
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27. Kansas City, Mexico & Orient Railway
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The Detroit,Toledo & Ironton Railroad was not the first railroad in which Henry Ford invested. Eleven years earlier, he began investing heavily in the now-defunct Kansas City, Mexico & Orient Railway Company. On January...
28. Michigan Stump Farm
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The great white pine forests of Clare County in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula had been completely ravaged by greedy lumber barons by the end of the nineteenth century. In the aftermath, however, much of what was known as Pine Barrens...
29. Experience at Cape May
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Henry Ford, in January 1904 at age forty, had broken the world’s automotive speed record by bouncing and skidding across the bumpy ice of Lake St. Clair in 39.4 seconds per mile.Winning races such as these was to prove the speed...
30. Dearborn’s Deep Test Well
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Henry Ford was not only a very inquisitive person, but he also had the financial means to satisfy his curiosity in a number of unorthodox ways. Beginning in 1912, when Ford had perhaps more money than he knew how to spend...
31. Dearborn Flour Mill
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When Henry Ford was growing up on the farm, he was fascinated with mills operated by waterpower. Streams throughout the countryside were spotted with small sawmills sawing logs into lumber and gristmills grinding grain into flour...
32. Florida Rubber Plantation
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In February 1923, Harvey Firestone warned Henry Ford of an impending crisis in the supply of rubber for automobile tires. The British Rubber Restriction Act had become effective on November 1, 1922. This situation came about...
33. Edison Botanic Research Corporation
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At Fort Myers, Florida, in March 1924, Harvey Firestone and rubber experts from Liberia and Singapore were conferring with Thomas Edison concerning the possibility of rubber production in the United States. Tire manufacturers...
34. Frischkorn Investment Company
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During the mid-1920s, business was booming in Detroit. Real estate, in particular, was growing in value by leaps and bounds. In the New Center area out Woodward Avenue, a little more than four miles north of Detroit City Hall...
35. The Ford Foundation
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At least two factors persuaded the Ford family in 1936 to consider the future of Ford Motor Company. One of these was Henry’s health, which in January 1936 had suffered a setback caused by “a cerebral vascular accident...
Part V: Humanitarian Efforts
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36. Fordism: An Economic Philosophy
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Although Henry Ford spoke but a few words at a time, and those seldom in public, he was an evangelist — by demonstration rather than talk. Ford demonstrated an economic philosophy that appealed to millions of people worldwide...
37. The Sociological Department
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When Henry Ford in 1908 was satisfied that he had an almost perfectly designed automobile in his Model T and was already rapidly outgrowing the assembly capabilities of his Piquette plant, he moved at once to build the huge...
38. Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital
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Of all the medical facilities sponsored by Henry Ford, the largest by far was Henry Ford Hospital of Detroit, a gigantic hospital to serve the general public. In his factories, of course, there were hundreds of small first-aid stations...
39. Letters from the Past
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Henry Ford was publicly chastised for his lack of knowledge of American history during the Chicago Tribune trial of 1919. Ford had made a statement during the trial that history as taught in textbooks was “bunk” and that textbook...
40. Quest for Alcohol Fuels
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By 1916, the Model T had been a tremendous success, and the Fordson tractor was on its way. This was the year the Fords moved into Fair Lane and the Henry Ford & Son partnership was established. This partnership included...
41. Cooperative Farmers Association
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Henry Ford grew up a farmer’s son. His father gave him an eighty-acre farm of his own when he was twenty-four, a year before he was married. In 1902, although he was working in the automobile business in Detroit, he purchased...
42. Two Camps for Boys
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On June 15, 1940, newspapers announced, “Henry Ford today launched a ‘National Youth Movement’ of his own.” To 25,000 other industrialists and manufacturers in all parts of the United States, he mailed a letter pointing...
43. Georgia Experiments
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By 1924, Henry Ford had manufactured 10 million Model T automobiles and had time and money to do just about anything he enjoyed doing. Just why he would at that time choose a project involving the little town of Ways Station...
44. Ford and the Disabled
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As early as 1911, when John R. Lee joined the Ford Motor Company as manager of personnel, Henry Ford began paying particular attention to the assimilation of disabled people into the workforce. It is said that at that time...
45. Did You Hear from Mr. Ford?
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Henry Ford’s general policy was to answer every letter written to him. It was good public relations. On one occasion at least, however, he is said to have observed a secretary working on a stack of letters and to have pushed the stack...
Part VI: Luxuries
46. Fair Lane
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Henry, Clara, and Edsel Ford were living very comfortably on Edison Avenue in Detroit when the Selden patent suit was settled in favor of Ford at New York in January 1911. This was a great relief to Ford and to the Ford...
47. The Mangoes
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The Ford and Edison families were not particularly close until 1914, when John and Emily Burroughs and Henry and Clara Ford were invited by Thomas and Mina Edison to visit them at their Fort Myers home known as Seminole...
49. The Railway Car Fair Lane
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Following the institution of the five-dollar day in 1914, Henry Ford found it increasingly difficult to travel without immediate recognition by the public and constant annoyance by reporters. Traveling locally by automobile...
50. Wayside Inn
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Prior to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Tales of a Wayside Inn, this structure was known as the Red Horse Tavern. To quote from the famous poem, “And half effaced by rain and shine, the Red Horse prances on the sign...
51. Botsford Tavern
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Botsford Tavern operated for nearly 160 years on Grand River Avenue in Farmington, Michigan. Built in 1836 by Orrin Weston, it began to be run as a tavern in 1841. Known in its early days as Sixteen- Mile House, as measured...
52. Dearborn Country Club
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In 1923, the Ford Engineering Laboratory, being built on Oakwood Boulevard and housing Henry Ford’s private office, established Dearborn rather than Highland Park as headquarters of Ford Motor...
53. Richmond Hill
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At the time Henry Ford decided to purchase the Richmond Hill plantation along with several other antebellum plantations near Ways Station, Georgia, in December 1924, the winter home of the Fords was next door...
54. Huron Mountain Club
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People living in Dearborn sixty to seventy years ago read in the newspapers each summer of the annual trip of Henry and Clara Ford to their summer home in the Huron Mountains. Their “cabin” at the Huron Mountain...
55. Henry Ford in Sculpture
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Henry Ford’s likeness is represented in a variety of media. Commonplace are simple two-dimensional photographs, which exist by the thousands. Coins and medallions honoring Ford have been distributed by the hundreds...
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Page Count: 448
Publication Year: 2002