1947 Fifty Years Ago

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On April 7 Henry Ford died of a cerebral hemorrhage at his estate in Dearborn, Michigan. The eighty-three-year-old Ford and his wife, Clara, were just back from their winter home in Georgia, and although he had been plagued by intermittent senility since a stroke in 1938, he was unusually active and chipper on what proved to be his last day on earth. He began by downing a hearty breakfast, visited his River Rouge plant, Greenfield Village, and two cemeteries, and then inspected flood damage on his estate. Heavy rains had submerged his private power plant, and the foreman suggested that he check into a hotel for the night. Ford, perhaps remembering his rural Michigan boyhood, laughed off the suggestion with “My gracious, we have fireplaces.”

That evening the electricity came back on long enough for Ford to listen to his favorite radio programs. Then it went out again. Around nine o’clock the couple went to bed. Two hours later Ford complained of a headache and a dry throat. His wife sent the chauffeur to fetch a doctor, but before one could arrive, Ford died. Power had not yet been restored in his mansion at the time of his death, and thus the greatest of all machine-age giants, whose genius had transformed American industry and brought the benefits of technology to millions of ordinary citizens, drew his final breath in a dim, chilly room heated only by fire and lit with flickering candles.