In 1916, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and a large entourage embarked upon a camping trip through the backwater towns of America. The effort was a great success and inspired many other trips over the next 30 years.
One year, the group stopped for gas at a small filling station. As the attendant filled the tank, Firestone struck up a conversation, asking the grease monkey about the weather and the year's crops. He then introduced himself:
"I'm Harvey Firestone."
"Sure you are," replied the attendant, pointing at Ford. "And who's that?"
"That's Henry Ford," Firestone replied.
"Uh huh, and who's that?"
"That's Thomas Edison."
"Thomas Edison? The next thing you're going to tell me is that the man in the front seat is Santa Claus!"
The man in the front seat? The pioneering naturist John Burroughs, famed for his long white beard!
Henry Ford was once asked why, when problems arose, he typically visited his executives on their own turf rather than calling them into his office. "To save time," Ford explained. "I've found that I can leave the other fellow's office a lot quicker than I can get him to leave mine."
Henry Ford: Mad About Soy
One day in 1939, in an endeavor to demonstrate the commercial potential of a certain lowly vegetable, Henry Ford attended a convention outfitted (with the exception of his shoes) in clothes made entirely from soybeans.
(During the Depression, Ford spent many hours at a lab near Detroit trying to turn soybeans into cheap plastic to reduce the cost of his Model T cars. In 1941, when Ford unveiled a handmade car with a plastic body made entirely from plants, one reported called it "part salad, part automobile.")
Henry Ford once enlisted an efficiency expert to examine the operation of his company. While his report was generally favorable, the man did express reservations about a particular employee.
"It's that man down the corridor," he explained. "Every time I go by his office he's just sitting there with his feet on his desk. He's wasting your money." "That man," Ford replied, "once had an idea that saved us millions of dollars. At the time, I believe his feet were planted right where they are now."
A firm believer in vertical integration, Henry Ford produced virtually everything required for the manufacture of a Model T - from steel and wire to rubber and glass - at his massive factory compound in Dearborn, Michigan.
Indeed, while endeavoring to make use of left-over wood scraps, Ford ended up inventing... charcoal briquettes.
"Ford produced the car of the decade in 1957 - the Edsel. Half of the models sold proved spectacularly defective. If lucky, you could have got a car with any or all of the following features: doors that wouldn't close, bonnets and boots that wouldn't open, batteries that went flat, hooters that stuck, hubcaps that dropped off, paint that peeled, transmissions that seized up, brakes that failed and push buttons that couldn't be pushed even with three of you trying.
"In a stroke of marketing genius, the Edsel, one of the biggest and most lavish cars ever built, coincided with a phase when people increasingly wanted economy cars. As Time magazine said: 'It was a classic case of the wrong car for the wrong market at the wrong time.'
"Unpopular to begin with, the car's popularity declined. One business writer at the time likened the Edsel's sales graph to an extremely dangerous ski-slope. He added that, so far as he knew, there was only one case of an Edsel ever being stolen."
[This message has been edited by mustangs68 (edited 04-17-2005).]