Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress

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9780142004395: Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress

In this monumental work, one of our finest historians reveals the riveting details of Ford Motor Company’s epic achievements, from the outlandish success of the Model T and V-8 to the glory days of the Thunderbird, Mustang, and Taurus. Brilliant innovators, colorful businessmen, and clever eccentrics, as well as the three Ford factories themselves, all become characters in this gripping drama. Douglas Brinkley is a master at crafting compelling historical narratives, and this exemplary history of one of the preeminent American corporations is his finest achievement yet.

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In conjunction with its 100th anniversary, the Ford Motor Company opened its monumental archives to the unfettered research of author/historian Douglas Brinkley. And while the 800-page history that resulted from that work (as well as Brinkley's tireless, amply footnoted source work elsewhere) is comprehensive to a fault, the scope and enduring impact of the industrial colossus wrought by Henry Ford make it often seem like mere introduction. Brinkley's meticulous, enlightened work can't help but find endless fascination with the company's founder, whose presence resonates through every phase of the company's history, from its fitful start (FMC was the third company to bear the Ford name), through the rise of the Model T (still one of the most ubiquitous and revolutionary mechanical contrivances of the last millennia), to its cycles of corporate decay and rebirth (variously via Iacocca's Mustang in the 60's and the technical innovations and potent retrenchment of trans-nationalism in the 90's). Henry Ford remains one of the greatest human paradoxes in a century filled with them: a largely self-taught engineer who couldn't read a blueprint, yet became a mass-production visionary; an employer whose social conscience (and no small amount of shrewd business acumen) doubled the salary of his employees one era, employed thugs to crush their union organizing efforts the next; a world figure who read little, yet published much, including anti-war editorials and vile, anti-Semitic tracts--despite the fact that his monumental manufacturing facilities were designed by Jews whose friendship and professional relationships he cultivated. The enviro-social impact of Ford's industrial innovations continues to loom, and Brinkley hardly ignores them. But his research is largely focused on the rich players (and their often perplexing psychology) of the Ford saga, all-too-human characters whose ambitious empire will continue to cast its long shadows over many a generation to come. --Jerry McCulley

About the Author:

Douglas Brinkley is a distinguished professor of history and director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans. His books include The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey Beyond the White House, Rosa Parks: A Life, and Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War.

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