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Henry Ford, ignorant genius - introduction

1863-1947

 


Henry Ford was an industrial genius, but his lack of education left him without great depth of character or cultural sophistication.
Introduction, first document in a new major psychological study by abelard.

 

marker at abelard.org Henry Ford, ignorant genius - introduction
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'In cities and towns the noise and clatter of the streets will be reduced, a priceless boon to the tired nerves of this overwrought generation. Then there is the humanitarian aspect of the case. To spare the obedient beast, that since the dawn of history has been man's drudge—will be a downright mercy. On sanitary grounds too the banishing of horses from our city streets will be a blessing. Streets will be cleaner, jams and blockades less likely to occur; accidents less frequent, for the horse is not so manageable as a mechanical vehicle.' 1895 [1]

Index
background and motivations
character
Ford: businessman
timeline, with incidents
the ‘writings’ of Henry Ford - bibliography
other major sources
end notes

 



 

background and motivations

Henry Ford was educated before the rise of modern ideas such as relativity and Freudian psychology. Ford grew up in a world where there was tremendous excitement at the ever-widening vistas opened by the success of the Newtonian paradigm. Every problem could be fixed if you followed simple mechanical rules. Laplace had said that if one could only know the position of every part of the universe, then one could completely predict all future things and states.

Everything became to Ford a mechanical problem to be ‘solved’, not just engines or transmissions but also human society, his factories and human problems. Now such an approach has some merit when dealing with standardised machine parts. However, it is not entirely sane when over-extended to treating individuals and international politics as if they are recalcitrant parts, which just need a bit of filing or hammering in order to persuade them into a desired square or round hole.

Ford was a farm boy, bored by the farm, with great ambitions to achieve: to stop the drudgery of farm life and to mechanise it. He did a very great deal to fulfil his ambitions. From early on, Ford wanted money and was mightily impressed by his great hero, Thomas Edison. Coming from a stiff and unbending background with rules and aphorisms for everything, a hard world of duty and church, Henry Ford was bored and sought adventure and a wider world. From his narrow community, he received only the most basic and narrow education. At the same time, he lived in an environment where the growing individual had to learn a great variety of tasks: ploughing, fixing gates, tending animals, sharpening tools, driving horses, cutting back the forest in preparation for planting and a thousand other details.

Henry Ford was a business and engineering genius; that did not make him a nice or wise or educated man. He was a monomaniac who could play but one tune superbly, but who meddled and drifted from one enthusiasm to another like some bored child let loose in a sweet shop. He was a man carried away by a false sense of importance and a resentment at not being taken with more seriousness than he merited. He was as a child, attempting to show off to gain the approval of those better educated and more ‘sophisticated’ than him.

Because of his immense wealth and reputation, he was treated with a deference which he could not merit and was patronised by his ‘educated’ inferiors, which also he did not deserve. Having only eight years schooling, he could not read well or hold his own socially. These experiences disoriented this rather simple and narrow man to such a degree that he did not conduct his life with reasonable wisdom. But he still changed the world radically, though perhaps not as he would have wished in his heart of hearts could he have read the future more clearly.

He was a pacifist who produced a massive weight of killing machines and also set alight one of the greatest evils of modern times. He was a farm boy who loved the countryside, but put in motion modern urbanisation, pollution and noise. He was an uptight, over-controlling prig who enabled one of the greatest means to freedom in history. It is strange how men often achieve just the reverse of their dreams. (See also the psychology and development of Adolph Hitler Schicklgruber.)click to return to index

 

character

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another.”
James M. Barrie

Henry was an ignorant bully and a poor father. It is interesting that his son, Edsel, became much of what Henry was not, but which Henry may well, in his soul, have hoped to be. Edsel was a devoted and loyal son, who likely read what was in his ignorant father’s heart, and Edsel became an impressive adult. Henry’s grandson, Henry Ford II, has been said to have spent his life atoning for his grandfather’s sins.[2]

It seems little noted that Henry Ford personally held world speed records for a short time with cars that he built, in days when such activities were extremely dangerous. Henry’s main concern in being tempted towards racing, and away from manufacture, was a grasping for money. Henry had great vision and publicity skills, and was widely vaunted as an altruist, an image he sought to project with considerable energy. However, Henry was also a ruthless, violent capitalist. It is an error to imagine that one cannot both benefit the public and a workforce, while simultaneously doing rather well for oneself.

Henry hated war profiteering, but was one of the greatest of war profiteers. It is often difficult for writers to understand that such a personality is not particularly complex, nor in much self-conflict. As a highly competitive personality, it is not entirely surprising that Henry denigrated his rivals. Nor, as an uptight moralist, is it surprising that he thought himself to be above the corruption he imagined around him in supposed lesser beings. Competitiveness erodes the standards of many a social riser.

Henry was a pathological liar and bullshit artist. He was a crude ‘moralist’ who probably took a mistress at one point, often treated staff disgracefully, who became the richest person in the world, while all the time ranting almost endlessly about the inferior morals, exploitation and fecklessness of others.

My best bet is that Henry was entirely unconscious and immune to his objective hypocrisy. He simply had very little close social awareness, while demonstrating an incredible talent for showmanship and self promotion, allied with a total blindness to other individuals.

Henry Ford is the child that burns down the barn in all innocence, wondering what all the fuss is about when taken to task. He had an ability to convince himself that whatever Henry wants, Henry should have and those who criticise are entirely idiotic or even criminally dangerous. I am quite convinced that Henry’s attacks on the Jews were self-justified by his wish to promote his ‘newspaper’ with sensationalism, meanwhile persuading himself that he was educating and instructing the Jews ‘for their own good’. His resentments may also have been aggravated by the refusal of some others to treat him with the deference he felt to be his due, and to feelings of inferiority in the presence of those much better educated and more sophisticated than himself.

I have read Ford’s shallow and scurrilous attacks on the Jews, and they tell far more about Henry than they do about Jews. Just about every supposed ‘criticism’ could be read as a means of distancing himself from his own actions, his guilt feelings, by projecting his own weaknesses on others. Virtually all the accusations Ford makes of ‘the Jews’ directly fit parts of his own behaviour.

Parts of these writings by Ford are directly plagiarised by Hitler in Mein Kampf, written later.

It is virtual certainty that Henry funded Hitler, while Hitler in turn fed Henry’s ego. Hitler had a portrait of Henry on his wall and copied much of his Jew baiting straight from Ford’s own writings. Each man, a narrow uneducated ‘success’, admired the other in mutual support. Ford had automated factory production and Adolph set in motion the automating of society, these two are soul mates under the skin. It is sobering to realise that Ford was within a very short distance of becoming a senator, and that he was suggested by silly people as a possible president; fortunately he lost interest in political office as he moved onto his next enthusiasm.click to return to index

 

 


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Ford: businessman

Ford was an inveterate self-publicist, always willing to skim or distort the truth in order to promote his image, his fortune and his power. It is therefore wise to take any of his pronouncements with some caution; only by putting many incidents together can a reasonable comprehension be gained of what went on in his mind. It is reasonable to suggest that Ford was obsessed with money and business and manufacture.

“My company will kick about me following racing, but they will get the advertising and I expect to make $ where I can’t make at manufacturing.”[3]

Ford had been looking for ways to make money through mass-production from early on; he had looked into the possibility of making watches [4]. That incident is dated to 1880-1882, when Ford was in his late teens. It was a little before this time that Ford claims to have become aware of Edison [5], whom he came to hero worship and eventually befriend. Edison was a pioneer of mass production and it seems likely that this encouraged the teenager’s interests, ambitions and direction.

ab-notes:
Old maxim “The world looks different to the man in his castle and the beggar at the gate.”
Citizen’s wage”click to return to index

timeline with incidents

1863 Born
1899 First attempt – failed.
1901 Second attempt : developed into the Cadillac car company, now swallowed up in General Motors Corporation.
1903

Ford Motor Company formed.

1906

Malcomson and others forced out, giving Ford control.

1908 – 1927 Model-T. Ford model-T motor car
1916 – 7 Dodge brothers (of DodgeMotors, now swallowed up in the DaimlerChrysler Corporation) finessed out.
1918 Purchases Dearborn Independent newspaper and develops anti-Semitic campaign (1920).
1921

Externalises debt, forcing concessionaires to borrow in place of the company.

1947 Died
click to return to index

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the ‘writings’ of Ford - bibliography

As stated, Ford’s ability to read was somewhat limited; therefore most of his writings were ghosted by others who were more adept.

The following are Ford’s more respectable literary efforts. While they contain sections of ranting and self-promotion, he is absolutely fascinating on business and the building of a massive business empire. He has much still to teach many a businessman to this day.

1922

My life and work by Henry Ford (pbk)

My Life and Work

  • 1996, Beaufort Books Inc, hbk, 0405050887, $39.95 [amazon.com]
  • 2003, Kessinger Publishing, pbk, 0766127745, $19.69 [amazon.com] / £21.95 [amazon.co.uk]
  • 2004, Kessinger Publishing, LLC, e-book (Adobe), 811K download, B0002ZKUA8, $1.99 [amazon.com]

  • 2004, hbk, Lightning Source UK Ltd, 1417911050 hbk £22.95 [amazon.co.uk]
  • 2004, pbk, Lightning Source UK Ltd, 1417911026, £17.95 [amazon.co.uk]
  • n/d, e-book (Adobe), 1st World Library - Literary Society, B0002EBH2O, £3.14 [amazon.co.uk]
M life and work by Henry Ford (e-book UK)
1926

Today and tommorrow by Henry Ford (hbk)

Today and Tomorrow
Probably his best and most important effort, said to have been issued in the 1950s, to every engineer in the Toyoto company by the founder of Toyota, Taiichi Ohno. This book should be generally required reading, particularly for business courses.
  • 1988, hbk, Productivity Press Inc, 0915299364, $30.00 [amazon.com]
  • 1995, pbk, Productivity Press Inc, 0915299364 £16.75 [amazon.co.uk]
Today and Tomorrow by Henry Ford (pbk - UK)
1930

My friend Mr Edison by Henry Ford

My Friend Mr. Edison, also published as Edison as I Knew Him

  • 2003, Kessinger Publishingpbk, 076614447X, $11.17 [amazon.com] / 11.95 [amazon.co.uk]
 
1931

Moving forward by Henry Ford (pbk)

Moving Forward

  • 2003, pbk, R A Kessinger Publishing Co, 0766143392, 22.95 [amazon.co.uk]
 
Ford’s jew-baiting articles appeared in the Dearborn Independent between 1920-1922.
They were reprinted in The International Jew, a four volume reprint of some of a series of articles published between May 22 1920-Jan 14 1922 in the Dearborn Independent, a newspaper used by Ford in order to promote his ramblings. The ramblings re-appear, often effectively verbatim, in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, 1925-26.

It is interesting to note that Ford continually rails at ‘Jews’ for many of the business practices and other personality quirks that he widely exhibited in his own life. These Dearborn articles are kept in print, for the most part, by strange anti-Semite groups; while much of the writings about Henry Ford have attempted to minimise or ignore them. At the time of publishing, they sold in millions and were published in many languages. Ford eventually retracted his claims with a grovelling apology, but it is very likely that his apology was as insincere as his original claims.
  • Ford, Henry, The International Jew, 1920; reprint 1998, 0849004187, $10.00 [amazon.com] out of print (?)
  • 2003, pbk, R A Kessinger Publishing Co, 0766178293, £20.95

other major sources

Henry Ford’s Own Story, Rose Wilder Lane, 1917
Originally written for ‘The Bulletin’ magazine, I think in parts, in 1915. The book has the look of being updated and fluffed out to extend it to book size, thus there is much repetition as it progresses.

Written by a writer (who later became highly respected) and written before Henry wrote his own version. R. W. Lane is the name behind ‘Little House on the Prairie’ with her mother) and the idiosyncratic but highly rated The Discovery of Freedom, Man’s Struggle Against Authority (1943).
Henry Ford and the Jews, A. Lee, 19??
A wide-ranging but sometimes sloppy chronicle of Ford’s attacks on the ‘Jews’.
 Lee, Henry Ford and the Jews, Stein & Day, 1980 is a recent reprint, currently out of print.
Many books clearly self-censor anything potentially damaging to Ford. The Ford Company long attempted to protect his image, to the extent of attempting to buy up and repress negative books or comment. The following is widely and reasonably regarded as the standard work on Henry Ford, his work and his life, but it does tend to be somewhat sycophantic and skip over the seamy side.
Ford, The Times, The Man, The Company, Allan Nevins, Vol. 1 of 3, 1954 Scribner
Ford: Expansion and Challenge: 1915-1933, Allan Nevins, Vol. 2 of 3, 1957
Ford, Decline and Rebirth, 1933-1962, Allan Nevins, Vol. 3 of 3, 1962, reprint 1972
A modern readable biography with less detail, but it is also less reticent or reverential than Nevins.
The Public Image of Henry Ford, D. L. Lewis, 1976 and 1987, 0814318924click to return to index

end notes

  1. From Horseless age, first issue, Nov. 1895, p.8; quoted on p.165, Nevins, vol 1, 1954

  2. Henry Ford and the Jews, A. Lee p.3; quoted from Detroit Jewish News.

  3. Nevins, vol.1, p.210, from a Ford letter dated ~Jan 6 1902.

  4. Nevins, vol.1, p.86; also on p. 24 of My life and work.

  5. My Friend Mr. Edison, p.14.

  6. “For some time past I have given consideration to the series of articles concerning Jews which since I920 have appeared in the Dearborn Independent. Some of them have been reprinted in pamphlet form under the title “The International Jew.” Although public publications are my property, it goes without saying that in the multitude of my activities it has been impossible for me to devote personal attention to their management or to keep informed as to their contents. It has therefore inevitably followed that the conduct and policies of [my] publications had to be delegated to men whom I placed in charge of them and upon whom I relied implicitly.

    “To my great regret I have learned that Jews generally, and particularly those of this country, not only resent these publications as promoting anti-Semitism, but regard me as their enemy. Trusted friends with whom I have conferred recently have assured me in all sincerity that in their opinion the character of the charges and insinuations made against the Jews, both individually and collectively, contained in many of the articles which have been circulated periodically in the Dearborn Independent, and have been reprinted in the pamphlets mentioned, justifies the righteous indignation entertained by Jews everywhere toward me because of the mental anguish occasioned by the unprovoked reflections made upon them.

    “This has led me to direct my personal attention to the subject, in order to ascertain the exact nature of these articles. As a result of this survey I confess I am deeply mortified that this journal, which is intended to be constructive and not destructive, has been made the medium for resurrecting exploded fictions, for giving currency to the so-called Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion, which have been demonstrated, as I learn, to be gross forgeries, and for contending that the Jews have been engaged in a conspiracy to control the capital and the industries of the world, besides laying at their door many offenses against decency, public order, and good morals.

    “Had I appreciated even the general nature, to say nothing of the details, of these utterances, I would have forbidden their circulation without a moment’s hesitation .... I deem it my duty as an honorable man to make amends for the wrong done to the Jews as fellow-men and brothers, by asking their forgiveness for the harm that I have unintentionally committed, by retracting so far as lies within my power the offensive charges laid at their door by these publications, and by giving them the unqualified assurance that henceforth they may look to me for friendship and good will.” [dated 7 July 1927]

    In addition, Ford promised that he would publish no more offensive articles and agreed to withdraw The International Jew from the book market. Out-of-court settlements were made with Sapiro and Bernstein. Ford also discharged Liebold from the general managership of the Independent and Cameron from his editorial post, though both remained in his employ. Ford had decided as early as the spring of 1927 to suspend the weekly, having instructed Black at that time to work out a liquidation plan. The paper stopped accepting subscriptions in July, and Ford-in answer to Brisbane’s Hearst-backed offer of $1,000,000 for the property-stated that he was going to convert the Independent into a house organ. However, the magazine was suspended permanently in December 1927.

    [Quoted from David Lewis, The public image of Henry Ford, pp 145-146]

click to return to index

Related further reading

marker at abelard.org Henry Ford, ignorant genius - introduction
marker at abelard.org Henry Ford, ruthless business manipulator
marker at abelard.orgHenry Ford, mechanical man - Model T, modern times
marker at abelard.org Quotes by and about Henry Ford

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