Prime Mover

The Model T Ford made the world we live in. On the 100th anniversary of the company Henry Ford founded, his biographer Douglas Brinkley tells how.

"I will build a motor car for the great multitude,” Henry Ford proclaimed to the public when he announced the machine that would change America and indeed the world. “It will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one—and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s greatest open spaces.”

It was quite a sales pitch. At the time of the Model T’s introduction, on October 1, 1908, the Lord’s pastoral delights remained almost exclusively the domain those wealthy enough to get to them.Read more »

The Greatest Comeback

After one Ford changed America, another accomplished something almost as amazing

I‘ve always thought that one of the saddest words in the English language is has-been . While it has a modern ring—perhaps because the movies and television have produced so many stars who’ve enjoyed, in Andy Warhol’s famous phrase, 15 minutes of fame—the phrase actually was first recorded in 1606, when London’s Globe Theatre was the pinnacle of show business. Of course, there are has-beens to be found far from the stage.

 
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Hot Rods Redux

Decades after they were first cobbled together by enthusiastic amateurs, they are coming to be recognized as perhaps the supreme folk art of the American century

The scene was faintly outrageous. Purists turned their heads away in disgust, the unintiated gaped, and a few of the anointed smiled. Read more »

Inventing The Commercial

THE IMPERIUM OF modern television advertising was born in desperate improvisation

It was 1945, and everybody needed everything. If you knew how to build a car, a house, or a washing machine, you could sell it faster than you could make it. Car dealers, including fine old names that soon would be history—Hudson, Nash, Packard, and Studebaker—all had long waiting lists. Many dealers bluntly Quoted not the price of the car but the price of getting on their waiting lists. Read more »

The Emperor’s Pierce-arrow

When American cars ruled the world

THE CURRENT VOGUE FOR PUSHING TO SELL AMERICAN AUTOMOBILES ABROAD can certainly be called overdue. No one has seriously tried such a thing in generations. To make inroads on the number of Volkswagens in Mexico or of Austin Minis in France or on the sea of Japanese automobiles in Japan might seem unprecedented. But actually it’s just an attempt to recapture former markets. Read more »

Landscapes Of Power

Charles Sheeler found his subject in the architecture of industry. To him, America’s factories were the cathedrals of the modern age.

In the fall of 1927 the Philadelphia advertising agency N. W. Ayer and Son came up with a campaign for the Ford Motor Company: a series of photographs of Ford’s thousand-acre industrial site on the Rouge River near Detroit, which would portray the company itself as an efficient machine, an icon of American industry. Ayer had a photographer in mind: a Philadelphian named Charles Sheeler. Read more »

Citizen Ford

He invented modern mass production. He gave the world the first people’s car, and his countrymen loved him for it. But at the moment of his greatest triumph, he turned on the empire he had built—and on the son who would inherit it.

Part One The Creator Read more »

The Greatest American Cars

A leading authority picks the top ten. Some of the names still have the power to stir the blood. And some will surprise you.

Few enterprises for any alleged expert in a given field can be more hazardous than the compilation of a “best” or “worst” list. The undertaking of such an effort immediately invites second-guessing by everyone else with similar credentials and offers the risk that any number of them may give valid, even insurmountable, proof that their selections are superior.Read more »

Henry Ford

—a complex man

One of the most remarkable facts about Henry Ford is that his fame and the Ford legend were born almost simultaneously, and born full-grown. Both came late in life, when he was fifty. The industrialist, we may say without exaggeration, was little known until he suddenly became a world celebrity. He was tossed into international eminence on January 5, 1914, when the Ford Motor Company startled the globe with its “Five Dollar Day.”Read more »