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Jim's Jottings

Many thought Henry Ford crazy as a loon

October 06, 2010 - In a September edition of Jottings, I wrote about finding articles about Henry Ford that first appeared in the Detroit Free Press in 1938. Iffy The Dopester (Free Press editor Malcolm Bingay) headed the six-part series, Who does Henry Ford Think He Is?

I may cover all six parts in time, but I don't want to overkill right yet. The following is from part two.

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With vocal support from the electric man, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford set out to build a gasoline engine.

He got it going up to 15 miles per hour, making Detroiters indignant and scaring horses. In 1905, the City passed a resolution forbidding the use of the streets to "horseless carriages."

People said Ford had a bad idea that a low-priced car would be a success. Only the rich could afford the horseless carriage. Henry said, "No, the car will some day be a poor man's necessity."

A.Y. Malcolmson was the last big stockholder in Ford Motor Co. to quit. He said, "buy me out or let me buy you out." Henry borrowed $150,000 from Dime Bank and paid it back in nine months.

Selden Company claimed to have the original rights to the gasoline combustion engine. Ford thought he knew better. All the competitors started advertising against Ford Motor Co.

Some ads read, "If you buy a Ford car you buy a lawsuit."

Ford didn't fight back because, "It will give the public the idea that we are afraid of them, that they have a better product than we have. Never mention a competitor unless you say nice things about him."

Finally the Supreme Court ruled the Selden patent thing was phony, that their claims were unwarranted-that Henry was right.

Now all that money that he had been piling up in escrow to pay damages was ready cash at hand. The whole sum, some odd millions, was thrown back into production and that tremendous impetus made the Ford Motor Co. the biggest thing of it kind on earth.

Many who thought Henry Ford was crazy for fighting Selden, later said he was an anarchist and a destroyer of the capitalistic system when he announced his $5-a-day-pay plan.

In 1914 Henry Ford said, "Higher wages and shorter hours meant greater production of goods and therefore greater wealth for all the people."

He got more free advertising out of that five-dollar-a-day scheme than any other man ever got on this earth, Iffy said.

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In a couple weeks I will let Iffy recap How Wall Streeters went after Ford Motor Co.

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I've never been a fan of Chicago. In 1946, I was standing outside their train depot in my sailor suit, when I guy offered to sell me a pair of nylons for $10. I was told nylons were hard to get

I'm 19, and that's my excuse. He said, "Give me your $10. You stay outside that store and I'll get them."

He got me.

I wish that had been the last time I was gotten. Other scams have been much more costly.

Back to the now. The Port Huron to Chicago (Amtrak) train has gained in popularity through years. One of my friends has a son employed by Amtrak, who says the Blue Water is set to break 150,000 passengers for both the calendar and fiscal years 2010.

He's guessing it at 154,000.

Around the end of December, to the end of January, the Blue Water will carry its four millionth passenger since its inception in 1974.

My old man was a railroad man in Durand on the Grand Trunk (Amtrak) from 1926 to 1950. He said something like this: "The line would fold if I retire."

Of course, he also called me "Molasses" because I moved so slow. One out of two isn't bad.

Jim Sherman, Sr. is president of Sherman Publications, Inc. He has penned "Jim's Jottings" since 1955.
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