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Henry Ford And His World

The controversial and brilliant Henry Ford and the world he invented.

Henry Ford sits at the tiller of his first automobile, the Quadricycle, in front of the John Wanamaker salesroom on Broadway between 49th and 50th Streets in New York City in 1904. (AP)

Henry Ford sits at the tiller of his first automobile, the Quadricycle, in front of the John Wanamaker salesroom on Broadway between 49th and 50th Streets in New York City in 1904. (Ford Motor Company/AP)

We all know the bare-bones story of Henry Ford.  And it’s incredible enough.  The stern, driven man who brought us the assembly line, the Model T, the $5 day — when that doubled the average wage.

But it’s worth stepping back again to look at the big, big picture.

Did Henry Ford crack open the modern age?  He invented it, he said himself.  And he may have been right.  Remaking our environment, our very sense of the world.

We’re looking again at that.  And who’s our Henry Ford right now?

This hour, On Point: Revisiting Henry Ford.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Richard Snow, author of “I Invented The Modern Age: The Rise Of Henry Ford” — read an excerpt below.

Bill Wasik, senior editor at WIRED, who recently wrote “Welcome To The Programmable World,” a feature article about the future of technology. (@billwasik)

Excerpt

Excerpted from “I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford.” Copyright © 2013 by Richard Snow. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Bill Wasik On The Future Of Technology

WIRED’s Bill Wasik, author of the feature article “Welcome To The Programmable World,” said Google’s self-driving car and electric car maker Tesla represent two different examples of the future of technology.

Wasik described Google’s self-driving car as an example of applying the information revolution to the “ultimate in old-fashioned industrial product.”

As for Tesla, he said the manufacturer is “basically trying to rethink from the ground up the ways that cars are made — it’s a lot about materials, it’s a lot about processes and efficient, a lot of the same stuff that Henry Ford revolutionized but brought into the 21st century.”

Tweets From During The Show

From Tom’s Reading List

WIRED: Welcome To The Programmable World — “In our houses, cars, and factories, we’re surrounded by tiny, intelligent devices that capture data about how we live and what we do. Now they are beginning to talk to one another. Soon we’ll be able to choreograph them to respond to our needs, solve our problems, even save our lives.”

The Daily Beast: The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Henry Ford — “Henry Ford is among the strangest—and in some ways the least appealing—of great men. He hated cows, and declared in absolute seriousness ‘The cow must go!’ He believed the Jews had invented jazz as part of a race-wide campaign to corrupt, and then dominate, America. In 1915 he chartered an ocean liner, filled it with intellectuals and journalists, and set sail for Europe ablaze with a messianic intention. In the words of The New York Times’s headline, ‘GREAT WAR TO END CHRISTMAS DAY. FORD TO STOP IT.'”

Forbes: Would Henry Ford Double His Workers’ Wages Today? — “The Wall Street Journal ran an excerpt last week of a new Ford biography by Richard Snow, who highlights Ford’s sudden decision to raise wages at his factories to $5 a day in 1913. ‘This at a stroke doubled the prevailing salary for industrial work, and it caused a sensation,’ Snow writes. One reason Ford’s decision triggered such an uproar (albeit mostly positive) is that it was not, on the face of it, necessary. There was no shortage of workers at the lower wage level, so why give an unforced pay raise — let alone a doubling?”

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