Edsel Ford

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Edsel Ford
Edsel Bryant Ford.jpg
Edsel Ford, 1921
President of the Ford Motor Company
In office
1919–1943 [1]
Preceded by Henry Ford
Succeeded by Henry Ford II
Personal details
Edsel Bryant Ford

(1893-11-06)November 6, 1893
Detroit, Michigan
DiedMay 26, 1943(1943-05-26) (aged 49)
Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan
Spouse(s)Eleanor Lowthian Clay (1916–43; his death)
Relations Edsel Ford II (grandson)
William Clay Ford Jr. (grandson)
Children Henry Ford II
Benson Ford
Josephine Ford
William Clay Ford Sr.
Parents Henry Ford
Clara Jane Ford
OccupationPresident and CEO of the Ford Motor Company

Edsel Bryant Ford (November 6, 1893 – May 26, 1943) was the son of Clara Jane Bryant Ford and the only child of Henry Ford. He was the president of Ford Motor Company from 1919 to his death in 1943. His eldest son was Henry Ford II.

Henry Ford American captain of industry and a business magnate

Henry Ford was an American captain of industry and a business magnate, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production.

Ford Motor Company automotive brand manufacturer

Ford Motor Company is a multinational automaker that has its main headquarter in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. It was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. The company sells automobiles and commercial vehicles under the Ford brand and most luxury cars under the Lincoln brand. Ford also owns Brazilian SUV manufacturer Troller, an 8% stake in Aston Martin of the United Kingdom and a 32% stake in Jiangling Motors. It also has joint-ventures in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and Russia. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and is controlled by the Ford family; they have minority ownership but the majority of the voting power.

Henry Ford II American automotive industry executive; longtime president, chairman, and CEO of the Ford Motor Company; member of the Henry Ford dynasty

Henry Ford II, sometimes known as "HF2" or "Hank the Deuce", was the eldest son of Edsel Ford and eldest grandson of Henry Ford. He was president of the Ford Motor Company from 1945 to 1960, chief executive officer (CEO) from 1960 to 1979, and chairman of the board of directors from 1960 to 1980. Notably, under the leadership of Henry Ford II, Ford Motor Company became a publicly traded corporation in 1956. From 1943 to 1950, he also served as president of the Ford Foundation.


He worked closely with his father, as sole heir to the business, but was keen to develop cars more exciting than the Model T ("Tin Lizzie"), in line with his personal tastes. Even as president, he had trouble persuading his father to allow any departure from this formula. Only a change in market conditions enabled him to develop the more fashionable Model A in 1927. Edsel also founded the Mercury division and was responsible for the Lincoln Zephyr and Lincoln Continental. He introduced important features, such as hydraulic brakes, and greatly strengthened the company’s overseas production.

Ford Model T type of car; first automobile mass-produced on assembly lines

The Ford Model T is an automobile produced by Ford Motor Company from October 1, 1908, to May 26, 1927. It is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, the car that opened travel to the common middle-class American; some of this was because of Ford's efficient fabrication, including assembly line production instead of individual hand crafting.

Ford Model A (1927–31) compact car

The Ford Model A, was the second successful vehicle model for the Ford Motor Company, after its predecessor, the Model T. First produced on October 20, 1927, but not introduced until December 2, it replaced the venerable Model T, which had been produced for 18 years. This new Model A was designated a 1928 model and was available in four standard colors.

Mercury (automobile) automobile marque of the Ford Motor Company

Mercury is a defunct division of the American automobile manufacturer Ford Motor Company. Marketed as an entry-level premium brand for nearly its entire existence, Mercury was created in 1938 by Edsel Ford to bridge the price gap between the Ford and Lincoln vehicle lines. In a similar context, Buick and Oldsmobile served the same role within General Motors while Mercury competed against the namesake brand of Chrysler.

Ford was a major art benefactor in Detroit and also financed Admiral Richard Byrd’s polar explorations. He died of stomach cancer aged 49, with his father resuming the presidency of the company, before handing it over to Henry Ford II. The range of cars launched by Ford in 1957 under the name Edsel is remembered as one of the classic marketing failures.

Richard E. Byrd aviation pioneer, Medal of Honor recipient and United States Navy officer (1888-1957)

Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr. was an American naval officer and explorer. He was a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the highest honor for valor given by the United States, and was a pioneering American aviator, polar explorer, and organizer of polar logistics. Aircraft flights in which he served as a navigator and expedition leader crossed the Atlantic Ocean, a segment of the Arctic Ocean, and a segment of the Antarctic Plateau. Byrd claimed that his expeditions had been the first to reach both the North Pole and the South Pole by air. However, his claim to have reached the North Pole is disputed.

Edsel company

Edsel is an automobile marque that was planned, developed, and manufactured by the Ford Motor Company for model years 1958 through 1960. With the Edsel brand, Ford had expected to make significant inroads into the market share of both General Motors and Chrysler and close the gap between itself and GM in the domestic American automotive market. Ford invested heavily in a yearlong teaser campaign leading consumers to believe that Edsels were the cars of the future – an expectation they failed to meet. After being unveiled to the public, they were considered to be unattractive, overpriced, and overhyped. Edsels never gained popularity with contemporary American car buyers and sold poorly. The Ford Motor Company lost $250 million on Edsel development, manufacturing, and marketing.

Life and career

Edsel Ford's Model 40 Special Speedster Edsel Ford's Model 40 Special Speedster.jpg
Edsel Ford's Model 40 Special Speedster

Edsel Ford was born in Detroit, Michigan, US, as the only child of Clara and Henry Ford, being named for Edsel Ruddiman, one of Henry Ford's closest childhood friends.

Detroit Largest city in Michigan

Detroit is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Michigan, the largest United States city on the United States–Canada border, and the seat of Wayne County. The municipality of Detroit had a 2017 estimated population of 673,104, making it the 23rd-most populous city in the United States. The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area. Regarded as a major cultural center, Detroit is known for its contributions to music and as a repository for art, architecture and design.

He was groomed to take over the family automobile business, and grew up tinkering on cars with his father. He became secretary of Ford in 1915, and married Eleanor Lowthian Clay (1896–1976), the niece of department store owner J. L. Hudson, on November 1, 1916. [2] [3] Together, they had four children: Henry Ford II (1917–1987), Benson Ford (1919–1978), Josephine Clay Ford (1923–2005), [4] [5] and William Clay Ford (1925–2014). [6] [7] They made their home at 2171 Iroquois Street, in the Indian Village neighborhood of Detroit. [8]

Joseph Lowthian Hudson American businessman

Joseph Lowthian Hudson, a.k.a. J. L. Hudson, was the merchant who founded the Hudson's department store in Detroit, Michigan. Hudson also supplied the seed capital for the establishment, in 1909, of Roy D. Chapin's automotive venture, which Chapin named the Hudson Motor Car Company in honor of J.L. Hudson.

Josephine Clay "Dody" Ford was an American philanthropist and the only granddaughter of Henry Ford.

Indian Village, Detroit Neighborhood and historic district in Detroit, Michigan, USA

Indian Village is a historic, affluent neighborhood located on Detroit's east side, bound to the north and south by Mack Avenue and East Jefferson Avenue, respectively, along the streets of Burns, Iroquois, and Seminole. The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Ford went to The Hotchkiss School, in Lakeville, Connecticut, and the Detroit University School. His family donated to both institutions. The school library at Hotchkiss is named the Edsel Ford Memorial Library.[ citation needed ]

Hotchkiss School school in Lakeville, Connecticut

The Hotchkiss School is a private, nonsectarian, coeducational, college preparatory boarding school in Lakeville, Connecticut, founded in 1891. The school offers a classical education with grades 9–12 and a postgraduate (PG) option, attracting students across the United States and 34 foreign countries.

Lakeville is a village in Litchfield County, Connecticut, bordering Dutchess County, New York. It is part of the Town of Salisbury but it has its own zip code (06039). It is southwest of Salisbury Village on U.S. Route 44. The Hotchkiss and Indian Mountain Schools are located in Lakeville.

The younger Ford showed more interest than his father in flashier styling for automobiles. He indulged this proclivity in part with the purchase of the Lincoln Motor Company in 1922. His affinity for sports cars was demonstrated in his personal vehicles: Edsel bought the first MG motorcar imported to the US. In 1932, he had an aluminum, boat-tailed speedster automobile custom designed by Ford's first designer, E. T. (Bob) Gregorie and featuring Ford's brand-new V8, the first low-cost, eight-cylinder engine. This car was sold at an auction during the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in 1976. [9]

After becoming the president of Ford, he long advocated the introduction of a more modern automobile to replace the Model T, but was repeatedly overruled by his father. Dwindling market share finally made introduction of a new model inevitable: the Model A.

During the design of the Model A in 1927, Henry Ford assured mechanical quality and reliability, allowing his son to develop the body, with the help of designer József Galamb. Edsel also prevailed upon his father to allow the inclusion of four-wheel mechanical brakes and a sliding-gear transmission on this model. The resulting Model A was a commercial success, selling over four million during four years of production.

As president, Edsel Ford often disagreed with his father on major decisions and was occasionally humiliated in public by the older man. [10] The relationship between the father and son was always close, but always fraught with unhealthy aspects. [11] Edsel managed to introduce many lasting changes. He founded and named the Mercury division. He was responsible for the Lincoln Zephyr and Continental. He significantly strengthened Ford Motors' overseas production, and modernized the company's cars, such as by introducing hydraulic brakes.

World War II

The Ford Motor Company played a key role in the arming of the US "Arsenal of Democracy". With Edsel leading the company, he set the goal of producing one bomber per hour at Ford's expansive Willow Run manufacturing complex, where the B-24 was produced. [12] It was said that the stress of this job caused Edsel to become mortally ill.

Death and legacy

Edsel Ford developed metastatic stomach cancer and undulant fever. [13] Surgery for the cancer was unsuccessful due to the metastasis. Ford died in 1943 at Gaukler Point, in his lakeside home in Grosse Pointe Shores, at the age of 49. [14] [15] [16] His father resumed the presidency of the company. All of Edsel Ford's nonvoting stock was donated through a codicil in his will to the Ford Foundation, which he had founded with his father seven years earlier. He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan.

Each of Edsel Ford's children inherited sizable shares in the Ford Motor Company, and the three sons all worked in the family business. Henry Ford II succeeded his grandfather as president of Ford on September 21, 1945. [17]

Edsel Ford was one of the most significant art benefactors in Detroit history. As president of the Detroit Arts Commission, he commissioned the famous Diego Rivera Detroit Industry Murals in the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). [18] He was an early collector of African art and his contributions became part of the core of the original DIA African art collection. After his death, his family continued to make significant contributions.

He helped finance exploratory expeditions, including the historic flight of Admiral Richard Byrd over the North Pole in 1926. Byrd, in his Antarctic expeditions, also financed by Edsel, named the Edsel Ford Range of mountains after him. Other Antarctic homages include Ford Massif, Ford Nunataks, and Ford Peak.

Two of the three high schools in Dearborn are named after Edsel Ford: Edsel Ford High School and Fordson High School; Fordson was the brand name of a line of tractors and was originally started as a separate company, Henry Ford & Son, later absorbed into the Ford Motor Company. Interstate 94 in the Detroit Metropolitan Area is named the Edsel Ford Freeway.

In September 1957, Ford Motor Company unveiled a new division of cars called Edsel. The Edsel division included the Citation, Corsair, Pacer, Ranger, Bermuda, Villager, and Roundup models. The Edsel division is remembered as a significant commercial failure. The cars sold moderately well in their first year, but the Edsel division was discontinued soon after the 1960 models were introduced.

Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

Edsel and Eleanor Ford, 1924 Mr and Mrs Edsel Ford cph.3b29705.jpg
Edsel and Eleanor Ford, 1924

In 1929, the Ford family moved into Gaukler Point, their new home designed by Albert Kahn in 1929, on the shores of Lake St. Clair in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan. The estate's gardens were designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen with his traditional long view, giving visitors a glimpse of the residence down the long meadow before revealing the entire house at drive's end. [19]

He also designed the gardens for Edsel and Eleanor's summer estate Skylands in Seal Harbor on Mount Desert Island in Maine. [19] [20] Jensen designed work for their two other Michigan residences, one being Haven Hill, between 1922 and 1935. [19] Haven Hill, now within the Highland Recreation Area near White Lake Township in southeastern Michigan, is designated as both a Michigan State Historical Landmark and State Natural Preserve. Jensen's landscape elements, with the diversity of tree, plant, and animal life, combine aesthetics, history, and nature. [21] [22]

Edsel Ford died at Gaukler Point in 1943. His wife Eleanor continued living there until her death in 1976. It was her wish that the property be used for "the benefit of the public." The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is now open to the public. [23] Located on 87 acres (35.2 ha), the house has an excellent collection of the Fords' original antiques and art, and the historical landscape grounds on the lakefront. The museum currently hosts tours, classes, lectures, and special events. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. [24]

See also

Business position

Business positions
Preceded by
Henry Ford
Chief Executive Officer of the Ford Motor Company
1919–1943 [1]
Succeeded by
Henry Ford

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  1. 1 2 "Henry Ford". Ford Motor Co. Archived from the original on April 5, 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-14. The years between the world wars were a period of hectic expansion. In 1917, Ford Motor Company began producing trucks and tractors. In 1919, a conflict with stockholders over the millions to be spent building the giant Rouge manufacturing complex in Dearborn, Michigan, led to the company becoming wholly owned by Henry Ford and his son, Edsel, who then succeeded his father as president. After Edsel Ford died in 1943, a saddened Henry Ford resumed the presidency. Henry Ford resigned for the second time at the end of World War II. His eldest grandson, Henry Ford II, became president on Sept. 21, 1945. Even as Henry Ford II drove the industry's first postwar car off the assembly line, he was making plans to reorganize and decentralize the company to resume its prewar position as a major force in a fiercely competitive auto industry. Henry Ford II provided strong leadership for Ford Motor Company from the postwar era into the 1980s. He was president from 1945 until 1960 and chief executive officer from 1945 until 1979. He was chairman of the board of directors from 1960 until 1980, and remained as chairman of the finance committee from 1980 until his death in 1987.
  2. "Henry Ford Estate: The Ford Family". HenryFordEstate.org. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
  3. "Henry Ford's Only Son Marries". The New York Times . 1916-11-02. (Subscription required (help)).
  4. "Josephine Clay Ford, 81, a Philanthropist, Dies". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2005-06-03. Josephine Clay Ford, a philanthropist who was the sole granddaughter of the automotive pioneer Henry Ford, died on Wednesday. She was 81 and lived in suburban Grosse Pointe Farms. Her death was announced in an e-mail message to Ford Motor Company employees by the company chairman, Bill Ford Jr., a nephew. The message did not give a place or cause of death. Mrs. Ford, known as Dody, established a foundation with her husband that donated millions of dollars. Mrs. Ford was born in 1923, the third of Edsel and Eleanor Ford's four children. Edsel was Henry Ford's only son. Grosse Pointe Farms.
  5. "Josephine C. Ford is Wed in Michigan; Granddaughter of Founder of Motor Company Is Married to Walter B. Ford 2d, U.S.N.R." The New York Times. 1943-01-03. (Subscription required (help)).
  6. 1930 United States Census for Detroit, Michigan.
  7. "Martha Parke Ford Makes Debut". The New York Times. 1967-06-17. (Subscription required (help)). Martha Parke Ford, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Clay Ford, made her debut tonight at a reception at the Ford home on Lake Shore Road in nearby Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan
  8. Simmons, Zena. "Detroit's historic Indian Village". The Detroit News . Retrieved 2007-04-11.[ dead link ]
  9. Gross, Ken. "1932 Ford Model 18 Edsel Ford Speedster". RM Sotheby's. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  10. "Edsel Bryant Ford". edsel.com.
  11. Sorensen, Charles E.; with Williamson, Samuel T. (1956), My Forty Years with Ford, New York, New York, USA: Norton, LCCN   56010854 . Various republications, including ISBN   9780814332795 ., pp. 301–333.
  12. Warren, Tamara (2014-07-19). "Willow Run, Edsel Ford and Detroit's role in arming the U.S. in WW II". Detroit Free Press .
  13. "CORPORATIONS: Death & Taxes". Time . 41. 1943-06-07. (Subscription required (help)).
  14. "Edsel Ford Dies in Detroit at 49. Motor Company President, the Only Son of Its Founder, Had Long Been Ill". The New York Times. Associated Press. 1943-05-26. Edsel Ford, 49-year-old president of the Ford Motor Company, died this morning at his home at Grosse Pointe Shores following an illness of six weeks.
  15. Lewis, David L. (1976). The Public Image Of Henry Ford. ISBN   978-0-8143-1892-8 . Retrieved 2010-10-09.
  16. "Edsel Agonistes". Time. 2007-09-07. Retrieved 2007-08-21. Edsel was a first name before it was ever a car name. But it was never a very popular thing to call a child: according to the Social Security Administration—which has time for this sort of thing—the name Edsel has ranked only as high as 400th on the top 1,000 names for boys, and that was in 1927. More popular names that year included the soaring Kermit, Buford and Elvin.
  17. "Henry Ford & Family". Ford Motor Company. Archived from the original on 2007-02-13. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
  18. "American Art". Detroit Institute of Arts. Archived from the original on 2016-01-25. Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  19. 1 2 3 Grese, Robert E. (1992). Jens Jensen, Maker of Natural Parks and Gardens. The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 102, 160, 184. ISBN   978-0801842870. (Subscription required (help)).
  20. "From My Home to Yours". Martha Stewart Living. June 2007. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
  21. "Pictures". The Haven Hill Project.
  22. "Highland Recreation Area Welcome". The Haven Hill Project.
  23. "The Ford Family". Edsel & Eleanor Ford House.
  24. "Edsel and Eleanor Ford House". National Park Service . Retrieved 2008-06-11.

Further reading

Business positions
Preceded by
Henry Ford
President of the Ford Motor Company
Succeeded by
Henry Ford II