(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Robert Lacey’s main focus here is on the father, son, and grandson who controlled the Ford Motor Company for three quarters of a century. Dominating the study is Henry Ford I, the quixotic founder of the company who became a legitimate folk hero. Lacey emphasizes Ford’s genius as an engineer and manufacturer by treating such subjects as the development, moving assembly line production, and marketing of the first car for Everyman, the Model T, and the innovation of the Five Dollar Day.

Lacey also concentrates on the contradictions in the elder Ford’s personality. Enlightened in his treatment of blacks and of his employees in general, Ford was a virulent anti-Semite who, in his own newspaper, the DEARBORN INDEPENDENT, vilified Jews unceasingly and served as an inspiration to Hitler. An avowed pacifist who funded the abortive Peace Ship in an attempt to bring World War I to a speedy conclusion, Henry I rapidly became a major war-profiteer. A loving husband and father who glorified nineteenth century values in his creation of Greenfield Village, he openly supported a mistress, Evangeline Dahlinger, and her son, John, whom he probably sired. A man who prided himself on his independence and judgment, he allowed himself to come increasingly under the malevolent influence of Harry Bennett, who, given free rein, allied himself with organized crime to intimidate union organizers in Ford factories and worked successfully to alienate Henry from his only son...

(The entire section is 435 words.)