Henry and Edsel: The Creation of the Ford Empire

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9780471234876: Henry and Edsel: The Creation of the Ford Empire
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The epic struggle between a father and son and the building of a worldwide business empire
In this retelling of the story of the rise of Ford Motors, journalist Richard Bak offers a daring new perspective on the human drama that helped shape one of the world's great business empires. No dry corporate history, Henry and Edsel focuses on the epic battle of wills between the unyielding Henry Ford, his gifted son Edsel, and his "second son," the brutal and insidious Harry Bennet who rose from barroom brawler to become Henry's heir apparent. Bak dispels the common misperception of Edsel Ford as a weak and ineffectual manager, and explains that it was in fact Edsel's level-headedness and imaginative business solutions and that allowed the company to survive the many challenges to its survival in the first half of the twentieth century. Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary celebration of Ford Motor Company, Henry and Edsel is sure to be warmly received by history buffs and business readers.
Richard Bak (Detroit, MI) is a veteran journalist who has written widely on the Fords and the automobile industry.

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From the Inside Flap:

One hundred years after a rawboned mechanical genius transformed his vision of "a car for the masses" into one of the world’s first major automobile manufacturers, a great story remains to be told. It is a multigenerational saga of fathers and sons and the epic struggle for control of an industrial empire.

Henry and Edsel is the first biography to focus on both the legendary founder of the Ford Motor Company and the son who led the company’s transformation from successful manufacturer to business empire. Author Richard Bak offers a daring new perspective on the human drama that changed the shape of Ford. He examines the ongoing friction between Henry and Edsel over adapting to a changing competitive environment and lays bare the stark contrasts between the two men–both their personalities and their approach to the design, construction, and marketing of automobiles.

In these pages, Henry Ford emerges as a complex and self-contradictory man who was not entirely comfortable in the new world that he had done so much to create. Renowned as an innovator, he resisted desperately needed changes in his own company–everything from painting cars any color other than black to providing financing for car buyers. A self-styled friend of the working man, he despised labor unions and appointed the ruthless Henry Bennett to squash any hint of unionization at Ford.

Among the many surprises in this fascinating exploration of the ultimate family business run by the quintessential business family is its portrait of Edsel Ford. Often viewed as a weak and ineffectual manager, Edsel is revealed as a gifted, levelheaded, and imaginative businessman with a keen sense of where the market was headed. When the company’s very survival was at stake during the tumultuous 1920s and 1930s, it was Edsel who envisioned and pushed for the daring changes that turned Ford into a powerful, modern corporation.

Another compelling character in this classic American story is Henry Bennett, often referred to as Ford’s second son. A hard-drinking barroom brawler in his youth, Bennett rose through sheer toughness and force of will to become Henry Ford’s heir apparent. The climactic struggle among these three very different men to control the vast and growing Ford empire was one of the most dramatic conflicts in the history of American business.

Complete with compelling portraits of important Ford competitors, executives, and family members, as well as a fascinating array of family and official company photos, Henry and Edsel is must reading for anyone interested in business, the auto industry, or the fascinating world of the early twentieth century.

From the Back Cover:

An Epic Battle of Generations

It is commonly believed that Henry Ford was a dynamic, innovative visionary who ran his company with an iron hand and an eye to the future–while his son Edsel was a weak, if dutiful, heir and an uninspired manager, who followed his father’s orders. Henry and Edsel, the first biography to focus on both father and son, turns that common belief on its ear.

Offering a daring new perspective on the human drama that changed the shape of Ford Motor company, author Richard Bak explores the ongoing friction between Henry and Edsel over adapting to a changing competitive environment and lays bare the stark contrasts between the two men. Henry emerges as a complex and self-contradictory man who was not entirely comfortable in the new world that he had done so much to create, while Edsel is revealed as a gifted, levelheaded, and imaginative businessman with a keen sense of where the market was headed. Among the many issues examined in this fascinating history are:

  • The years-long conflict over modifying the Model T
  • Edsel’s successful development of the Lincoln Continental
  • Henry’s hatred of labor unions and the rise of Henry Bennett
  • Edsel’s relentless struggle to modernize and transform the company
  • The climactic struggle between Henry, Edsel, and Henry Bennett for control of the Ford empire

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