A nuts-and-bolts biography of the great American visionary portrays a character of enormous contrasts.
Curcio (Chrysler: The Life and Times of an Automotive Genius, 2000, etc.) certainly does not whitewash Ford’s troubling character flaws, manifested in periods of parochialism, anti-Semitism and megalomania, but the author does a fine job delineating the staggering influence Ford wrought on the modern industrial landscape. His system of mass production revolutionized life for the average worker, creating a new social class that could also enjoy the goods that it made; on the other hand, Ford’s urbanization helped destroy the agrarian life that he so nostalgically valued. Curcio covers several important currents that shaped the leader Ford would become: his resolve early on, with the death of his beloved, supportive mother, to keep his own counsel, which both worked toward his enormous success, as he followed his egalitarian business instincts, and blinded him to the wounds inflicted by his anti-Semitic editorials in the early 1920s; his ability to attract the best and the brightest in the industry, such as the Dodge brothers, accountant James Couzens and “father of the assembly line” Clarence Avery, among many others; and his lack of a formal education, which Curcio speculates had something to do with his inability to check his attraction to some wacky and hurtful ideas strangely at odds with his overarching views about happy, peaceful, harmonious workers. Yet Ford could also admit when he was licked, as evidenced by his apology in 1927 to Jewish lawyer Aaron Sapiro, a retraction of his attacks on Jews and his concession to the unionizing of Ford’s River Rouge plant in 1941.
An evenhanded study by an author determined to cover all the bases.