- Historic Sites
What happened when the richest man in America decided to collect one of everything
December 1980 | Volume 32, Issue 1
As the years sped by, the Motor King spent less and less time at his factory and more and more time in his village. He stocked its one-room schoolhouses with children and visited them each morning to hear them recite from their McGuffey readers. At the Clinton Inn he ate the meals prepared by the girls in their cooking classes. At Magill’s jewelry store he could be found at a workbench repairing watches just as he done as an ill-paid apprentice who had to work nights at Magill’s to eke out a living. At what he took to be Stephen Foster’s birthplace—it wasn’t—Ford often spent his evenings picking out beloved Foster tunes on the organ or tinkering with the Swiss music box that played “Swanee. ” On Sundays he and his wife Clara would often attend the little chapel that stands at one end of the Greenf ield Village common. At dusk, when the visitors had left and the illusion of the past was at its strongest, he and Clara would amble together down the silent, unpaved streets of the sweetly re-created world where motor cars and mass production were kept safely at bay.
Late in his life a housemaid overheard Henry Ford ask a minister: “Do you think God wanted me to make cars?” The maid never heard the clergyman’s reply, but there is little doubt what answer would have pleased the Motor King by then. The answer, of course, is yes and no.