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Seekers for facts on the mind and character of the man before 1914 find that the materials are scanty, that most of them pertain to his activities as a racer and in the shop, and that when pieced together they furnish no real portrait. The spate of articles, books, interviews, and reminiscences becomes ever more torrential.“The Ford and Charlie Chaplin,” remarked Will Rogers, “are the best known objects in the world.” As the renown grew, unfortunately, so did the confusing legend.One of the most remarkable facts about Henry Ford is that his fame and the Ford legend were born almost simultaneously, and born full-grown. The industrialist, we may say without exaggeration, was little known until he suddenly became a world celebrity.
As one parodist of the Ford Motor Company slogan put it, “Watch the Ford myths go by!
”Lord Northcliffe extolled Henry Ford to the British public as symbol and exemplar of American energy, confidence and resourcefulness. Schwab, invited to a dinner by Baron Rothschild, electrified the table by describing Ford’s achievements.
But which lines in that image were false, and which true?
The task of gaining a true portrait was not simplified by writers who tried to establish an artificial pattern, for of all human beings the complicated, disorganized Ford least responds to that effort.
The amounts they directed this way aren’t comparable to anything we can find today.
They funded everything from churches to art museums to public swimming pools.freely gave away most of their fortunes to charitable and philanthropic causes.These men, who amassed fortunes taking America from post-Civil War to world super power, are often looked back on as corrupt and at the core of worker exploitation, but their story is much more complex than that.Carnegie proposed that the best way of dealing with the new phenomenon of wealth inequality was for the wealthy to redistribute their surplus means in a responsible and thoughtful manner.This approach was contrasted with traditional bequest (patrimony), where wealth is handed down to heirs, and other forms of bequest e.g.Ford was, of course, known in the Detroit area as an astonishingly successful manufacturer, and in the automotive world as the dauntless leader of the battle against the Selden patent monopoly, bunt elsewhere until 1914 the name Ford connoted a brand, not a man.Henry Ford’s sudden fame did not burst and fade; it remained fixed in the skies as a brightening star.He believed in a version of philanthropy that was entirely driven by the free-market.In accordance with the tenets of the gospel of wealth, many of the “barons” gave away sums (so to speak) by directing most of their fortunes to philanthropic causes.He had founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903, when already forty; after some years of uncertain struggle, he had produced a model, distinguished from previous Models B, N, and S by the letter T, which precisely filled a ravenous national want; he had erected at Highland Park, just outside Detroit, one of the best-planned and most efficient factories in the world.He and a group of tireless, gifted associates were bringing to birth that magic implement of global change termed mass production; still little understood (for most people ignorantly equate it with quantity production, which is merely one of its half-dozen chief components) , and then not understood at all.