The Rise of Henry Ford

Richard Snow, Author
Richard Snow. Scribner, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4516-4557-6
Reviewed on: 02/18/2013
Release date: 05/14/2013
By breaking up the trajectory of this complicated figure’s life into neat, digestible segments, Snow—a novelist, poet, and former editor-in-chief of American Heritage magazine—delivers a highly readable biographical account of Ford’s ascendance to automobile baron. The author traces Ford’s development from a young man on his father’s farm, where he nurtured an abiding distaste for manual labor and a penchant for all things mechanical, to his watershed first encounter with a steam-engine tractor, and on to his maturation as the business savvy and calculating leader of the largest automobile manufacturing company in the world. Throughout, Snow (A Measureless Peril) parses the shrewdness, contradictions, bigotry, obstinacy, and ultimate devolution of Ford’s character while highlighting the pragmatism, the striving for simplistic perfection, and the genius that introduced the world to mass production and one of its earliest achievements: the Model T. The unprecedented wealth and fame this vehicle bestowed upon Ford is well-known, and Snow deftly sets his subject’s innovations against the backdrop of an ever-industrializing country and a burgeoning automobile industry. Supplemented with detailed research into Ford’s relationships with his family, colleagues, and competitors, Snow’s portrait is of a man equally easy to admire and disdain, but impossible to dismiss. Agent: Emma Sweeney, Emma Sweeney Agency. (May 14)