“Your car is self-contained–it carries its own power-plant … keep at it.”
This is the story of the rise of the automobile and mass production.
Powerful steam engines. Electric lights and telephones. The Second Industrial Revolution is radically remaking the turn-of-the-century United States. It’s in this world of technological change that a Michigan farm boy finds himself drawn into the growing “horseless carriage” craze, and particularly, to an emerging technology known as the internal combustion engine.
Henry grows through success and failures (both with car designs and various companies), finally lands on what many would call perfection: the Model T. He and his team then come up with a new method of efficiency that makes the car so cheap, almost anyone can buy it–a method called “mass production.” Mix that with his incredibly high wages and Henry is quickly becoming a national hero.
But it’s not all smooth sailing. Henry has disputes with partners, must fight a patent claim, and does paying $5 per day give him the right to pry into–to dictate even!–the private lives of his employees? And later still, as the Model T’s production enters its final years, the man of mechanics uses his incredible influence and prestige to fan the national flame of the interwar period’s growing anti-Semitism; it’s an undeniable and indelible stain on the legacy of the man who hubristically yet perhaps accurately once boasted: “I invented the modern age.”
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