Motoring History: Henry Ford (Part Three)

EdselFordHenry Ford, with only an eighth grade education, always valued hard work.  He did, however, make sure that his only child Edsel received a good education at a prestigious Detroit all-boys school.  As a young boy, Edsel had followed his father around the plant, much to the delight of Henry – to see his son in coveralls and getting his hands dirty was what he expected.

All along he was being groomed to run the company someday.  However, after Edsel graduated he preferred to spend time with the Detroit well-to-do crowd, marrying into one of the most prominent families in Detroit.  Eleanor Clay’s uncle was the founder of the Hudson’s Department Store.  The differences in Henry and Edsel were striking – Henry was a highly disciplined individual who neither drank nor smoked and Edsel had a taste for the high life.

After Henry announced his plans to build a new plant and install his son as the new CEO of Ford Motor Company (this after ridding himself of investors and the Fords now owning all the controlling shares of the company), he still continued to run the show despite stepping down from leadership.  Edsel was left to handle the day-to-day sales and production of their flagship Model-T.

Edsel came up with the idea that the administration building needed to be enlarged due to overcrowding.  When Henry saw the hole that had been dug for the foundation, he insisted the new building was unnecessary.  Edsel acquiesced and offered to fill the hole.  Henry, however, told him to leave it just as it was.  That way Edsel would have to see the hole every day.  He remarked to a close friend, “I don’t know what kick father gets out of humiliating me this way.”

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