Ford Saga | Daily News


Ford Saga

The mad scientists of Channel 4’s Utopia hope their germ will wipe out humanity.
The mad scientists of Channel 4’s Utopia hope their germ will wipe out humanity.

“Look what I have found,” I cried in ecstasy. I wanted to say ‘at last I found it.’

“Another book?” Asked my wife.

“No. It’s not just another book. This is the book I was trying my best to find. At last, I got it. I have got it. So I want to reread it.”

This happened to be a book that inspired me to design a series of Sinhala radio features during the late seventies. The series though written by me was inspired by two radio veterans: Thevis Guruge and Lucien Bulatsinhala.

No stone unturned

Coming on to the subject, the book I reread happened to be a voluminous one titled as ‘Ford, the Men and the Machine’ by Robert Lacey. The biographer, Lacey, has not left stone unturned in the explorative manner in which he handles the research project of presenting the history and the trials and tribulations in the life of Ford, the most senior person known as Henry and the other Ford who became his inheritors, their ups and downs and challenges, detours in the auto industry in America.

On reading page by page about the saga of Fords, commencing with Henry Ford, proceeding on to his son, Edsel, Ford, as the third in the line a kinsman in the lineage of Fords, I felt the truism that truth is stranger than fiction has come to stay in this inspiring biography of events that centre around vigilance, courage, inspiration and above all perhaps the unknown entity called the human cosmic plane. At the outset, it must be said that the voluminous work that runs for 748 pages with 38 chapters with such human aspects of inspiration, learning, innovations, aspirations and challenges. As the biographer Lacey outlines, spanning more than 100 years and four generations. The story of Henry Ford, the automobile company he created, and the dynasty he founded is one of the greatest dramas of our time.

Yet never before has it been told from beginning to end in all its richness.

In a narrative form that resembles an epic tale or a saga, Lacey captures the childhood inspirations of Henry who is said to have been an extraordinarily skilled child. Then, as he grows old, he becomes an observative young man who is proved to be a gift of rare fortune in his achievement possessing private tragedies, drawbacks, feuds and victories. As a child, he had shown an extra talent in the field of automobile machines that created at times fun to the adults, but innovations to the scientists. The saga, in the wods of Lacey, is predominantly a tale of two Henry Fords. The first Henry is a creator of a business. Then comes Henry who is named after his grandfather. Henry senior’s son’s name was Edsel. Lacey uncovers, as far as a researcher could, possibly to do find all the details pertaining to the two Henrys of three generations via interviews as well as documented evidence found in files and cupboards.

Exemplary design

As far as possible, photographs are used to illustrate certain validity. The evolution of the Ford Car is one such example of the changes that took place in the design as well as the machinery of the Ford industry. Lacey makes the reader feel that the senior-most Ford happened to be a sort of prophet or visionary. Here he takes into account some of the notebooks of Ford in order to classify the concept in Chapter Ten titled as ‘No stockholders, no parasites’.

Ford had jotted down a statement that goes as ‘money, the root of all evils’. Henry Ford is also shown as a sort of a political thinker who had read quite a number of documents on the Russian revolution and its effects on social welfare. As such, he had been known as a donor of money to hospitals, child welfare centres and educational institutes.

“I can give you a portion of what I have earned. That’s all I can do,” Ford had said emphatically.

The unending tale of Fords encircles the episodes of merrymaking and parties. Henry Ford I as well as the grandson Henry Ford II happened to be good singers and dancers. Their company and colleagues were at times enticed by their active performances. As such, they had welfare measures for the employees as well as the employers. In order to educate and inform the public as to what happens in their firms, the Fords initiated a journal. It was titled Ford Chronicle.

In-house journal

The journal was meant to carry events not only among themselves, but also about extra activities too. Though it started as an in-house journal, the success was widely felt and as such the Fords had the chance to trigger off an extra unit for journalism. In an appendix, Lacey traces the Ford family from Henry Ford’s parents (William Ford and Mary Litogel) to a lineage of three generations.

Lacey records, with care, several events in the Ford family that hit the headlines in American newspapers. At times, it is about a wedding held over a record period of seven or eight days continuously inviting various types of visitors as well wishers. Then there are events in the launching of newly branded or named Ford Car. The names given are selected with care underlining the social effect that they may create globally.

It is said that Fords preferred to contact poets and other creative writers in the naming process. We only know a few names like Ford Prefect and Ford Anglia. But there is quite a lot. Money was loftily spent in order to select a name or a brand mark. The Ford automobile industry grew to the extent when a whole geographical area known as Detroit was known by the term Ford Country. Those who acquainted with the Ford industry were reluctant to leave the area.

In this epilogue of the saga on Ford, Lacey records the extent to which the lineage of Fords had their likings and disliking as well as the misgivings that were extended to the firing of subordinates in the industry. But at times, friendly arrangements were done to bring about a settlement. The epilogue also includes events of Ford’s attachments and leanings to such spiritual activities as adhering to Krishna conscience and other religious cults.

All in all, the work transcends the mere barriers of biography where shades of diversity in the lineage of Ford are depicted sensitively.

I feel that those who are bent on profile writing ought to peruse these pages carefully. Robert Lacey notes that he had come all the way from London to Detroit in order to spend his time resourcefully. Needless to say, Lacey has obtained the dividends in the process.

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