Most great figures in American culture and history reveal great contradictions, but none more so than Henry Ford. Vincent Curcio's compact, lively biography offers new insight on the man who not only founded Ford Motor Company and Henry Ford Company (later Cadillac) but also institutionalized the assembly line production process and (some argue) created the middle class in America. Ford invented an entire physical, economic and social system through the assembly line production of the Ford Model T automobile. By constantly improving his product, sales rose, enabling Ford to lower its price until it became a universal commodity. Ford created a market for this commodity by paying his workers so well that, for the first time in history, the people who manufactured a complex industrial product could own one. This was "Fordism, " social engineering on a vast scale. But Ford's anti-Semitism would forever stain his reputation and shadow his legacy. Hitler admired him greatly, both for his anti-Semitism and his autocratic leadership, displaying Ford's picture in his bedroom and keeping a copy of Ford's My Life and Work by his bedside. Despite this, Ford's workers were loyal.
Ford offered good pay, good benefits, English language classes, and employment for those who struggled to find jobs - handicapped, African-American and female workers. Ford was a man both invigorated by the possibilities of modernism and yet conflicted by its implications. This new Lives and Legacies volume explores the dimensions of Ford's indisputable greatness while acknowledging the deep flaws that complicate his legacy.