Every century or so, our republic has been remade by a new technology: 170 years ago the railroad changed Americans' conception of space and time; in our era, the microprocessor revolutionized how humans communicate. But in the early 20th century the agent of creative destruction was the gasoline engine, as put to work by an unknown and relentlessly industrious young man named Henry Ford.
Born the same year as the battle of Gettysburg, Ford died two years after the atomic bombs fell, and his life personified the tremendous technological changes achieved in that span. Growing up as a Michigan farm boy with a bone-deep loathing of farming, Ford intuitively saw the advantages of internal combustion. Resourceful and fearless, he built his first gasoline engine out of scavenged industrial scraps. It was the size of a sewing machine. From there, scene by scene, Richard Snow vividly shows Ford using his innate mechanical abilities, hard work, and radical imagination as he transformed American industry.
In many ways, of course, Ford's story is well known; in many more ways, it is not. Richard Snow masterfully weaves together a fascinating narrative of Ford's rise to fame through his greatest invention, the Model T. When Ford first unveiled this car, it took 12 and a half hours to build one. A little more than a decade later, it took exactly one minute. In making his car so quickly and so cheaply that his own workers could easily afford it, Ford created the cycle of consumerism that we still inhabit. Our country changed in a mere decade, and Ford became a national hero. But then he soured, and the benevolent side of his character went into an ever-deepening eclipse, even as the America he had remade evolved beyond all imagining into a global power capable of producing on a vast scale not only cars, but airplanes, ships, machinery, and an infinity of household devices.
A highly pleasurable listen, filled with scenes and incidents from Ford's life, particularly during the intense phase of his secretive competition with other early car manufacturers, I Invented the Modern Age shows Richard Snow at the height of his powers as a popular historian and reclaims from history Henry Ford, the remarkable man who, indeed, invented the modern world as we know it.
©2013 Richard Snow (P)2013 Tantor
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I have never read anything about Henry Ford until this book except when mention in a biography of another person such as John D. Rockefeller and his business dealings with Ford. Richard Snow covers Ford’s life from childhood to death but mostly concentrates on the area of his developing his engine and first cars. I found it interesting that Ford was in some ways was brilliant in his ability to see the end results of his car design and able to devote all his energy and time to develop it and then in his ability to deal with people he failed miserably. He failed at building two car companies before his success with the Ford Motor Company. He was the first to develop the assembly line or mass production and World War Two triggered more companies to quickly follow his methods of mass production. He attracted too him men of great skill’s and ability but then he pitted them against each other and he would fire the looser. He hired more black Americans than any other auto company but as he aged he revealed he was anti-Semitic. He distrusted bankers, Wall Street men and other financial people to the point he never invested in Wall Street which saved him in 1929. He hated investors and he maneuvered his company when it was successful to get rid of his primary investors and became the largest stock holder of the company. He hated to have anyone tell him what to do. According to Snow after he got control of Ford he appointed his son Edsel as company president but he never let go of the control of the company. As I read the book I got the feeling that Ford was his own worst enemy. All these contradiction and Snow’s excellent writing ability reveals an interesting story. It is obvious that Snow did a great deal of research to write the book. Sean Runnett did a great job narrating the book.
A Michigan native (Lansing) and having visited Greenfield village several times in my youth, I thought it almost an obligation that I read the Henry Ford story. I'm proud to say I'm a Ford owner and have been since I started driving and so was really looking forward to the history behind the brand. The book did not disappoint! From the first chapter until the Epilogue I found this tale fascinating. Henry Ford did in fact invent the Modern Age, and everything that is automobile.
Henry Ford and his quest for perfection almost derailed his future in automobiles in the early goings similar to how Steve Jobs almost lost Apple. Though Ford never lost his company (far from it, eventually becoming the sole owner), the desire to make his early vehicles better than they were slowed his progress at first but he persevered by producing the most recognizable, reliable, sturdiest brand in the industry.
As brilliant as the man was, he was not without his shortcomings. He despised bankers and lawyers and had a hatred of anything Jewish which the book does a good job in telling the nasty details. Sad to hear from such a pioneer in his era.
I enjoyed the book cover-to-cover though was a little disappointed with the very brief outline of his death (literally the last page of the book). He died with little fanfare though his legacy was decided many years before by the brand he created and the cars and trucks that are on American roads today. An excellent read and well worth your time!
Yes... very riveting book... I rarely have time to sit and read.. I went through this book why too fast... I will be doing it again...
The factors that came together to creat the assembly line.
The assembly line or development of the modern engine.. makes me feel like the age of discovery, at least the phase I would have fit in has past..
Made me think what it took to bring it all together... excelent narrator...
Great narrative. .. I don't usually read bios but really enjoyed this book.. nice surprize...
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