Ford, Edsel, 1893-1943

Alternative names
Birth 1893-11-06
Death 1943-05-26

Biographical notes:

Edsel Ford's interests beyond automobiles and the automobile industry were broad and varied. He was president of the Arts Commission of the Detroit Institute of Arts, a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, and a trustee for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, Inc. He was a member of the Isle Royal National Park Commission, chairman of the board of the Detroit University School, and a director of the Manufacturers National Bank of Detroit. He was active in Ford Motor Company educational and charitable enterprises, including the Edison Institute (now The Henry Ford), Henry Ford Hospital, and Henry Ford Trade School. Other interests included boating, aviation, photography, painting, and golf.

From the description of Personal files series, 1927-1944. (The Henry Ford). WorldCat record id: 62459678

In 1916, Ford Motor Company operated twenty-eight producing branch factories in the United States. A sweeping modernization of old buildings and major construction of a number of new factories was undertaken between 1919 and 1925; by 1925 the company had thirty-six branch factories. The control of the branches, both in manufacturing and selling was centered in Detroit. A line of releationship was clearly drawn from dealer to roadman to branch head to Edsel Ford in Detroit. The organization consisted of branch offices, headed by managers, who controlled their dealers through roadmen, or traveling inspectors. Each branch had an assistant manager, a wholesale manager in charge of the roadmen, and a superintendent who operated the assembly plant. The supervisors reported to Edsel Ford, and he closely managed the branch heads, particularly in sales, administration, and manufacturing.

From the description of Reports series, 1917-1936. (The Henry Ford). WorldCat record id: 62459661

In 1918, while Edsel B. Ford was secretary of the Ford Motor Company, A. J. (Alfred Joseph) Lepine began to do some of his clerical, stenographic, and phone work. Later that same year, Lepine was designated secretary to Edsel Ford. He served in this capacity throughout Edsel's career and presidency, staying on with the company after Edsel's untimely death in 1943 to manage matters relating to the estate. Others who worked in Edsel Ford's office included A. A. Backus, hired in 1923, who eventually took over bookkeeping and overall management when Lepine was out of the office; Floyd Carns, hired in 1924, who handled bookkeeping details; Hazen Behrens, hired in 1926, and Fred Chilton, hired in 1935, who both served as stenographers; and J. C. Gibbs, hired in 1937, who assumed various duties including accounting and tax work and stayed on to work for Henry Ford II. According to Lepine, filing in the office was always done by the stenographer and documents were filed two ways. Most correspondence was filed alphabetically by company name or personal name. Other items, particularly those that contained more than a few letters and evolved into larger files were filed by subject. Lepine estimated that the office processed approximately thirty or forty letters a day; about a dozen would be forwarded to Edsel Ford; others were handled by staff. John Crawford and his clerk George Couton also worked for Edsel Ford; Crawford signed correspondence as Assistant to the President. Most of the files, however, were maintained by Lepine and his staff.

From the description of Correspondence series, 1919-1945. (The Henry Ford). WorldCat record id: 62459645

From the beginning, Edsel Ford assumed responsibility for the business and commercial side of the Ford Motor Company, managing the details of daily routine. Early on, he oversaw the massive expansion of the company that took place between 1919 to 1925. A program of remodeling and new branch construction was initiated in this period and raw materials began to flow from the Ford iron mines and lumber mills of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, from Ford coal mines in Kentucky and West Virginia, and from Ford glass plants in Pennsylvania and Minnesota. Ships owned by the Ford Motor Company and Ford railroads carried goods. Ford manufacturing of parts such as batteries, tires, leather, cloth, and wire expanded. The Rouge River Plant produced coke, iron, steel, bodies, castings, engines and other elements for assembly plants. Sales were managed through branch offices, headed by managers, who controlled their dealers through roadmen, or traveling inspectors. Each branch had an assistant manager and a superintendent, 150 to 500 dealers, and ten to twenty-five roadmen. The control of both Ford manufacturing and sales was centered in Detroit; Edsel Ford presided over the business, branch, and marketing relationships of the company and over all foreign developments until his untimely death in 1943.

From the description of Subject file series, 1921-1942. (The Henry Ford). WorldCat record id: 62459649

In 1921, Edsel Ford was named treasurer as well as president of the Ford Motor Company.

From the description of Financial records series, 1903-1942. (The Henry Ford). WorldCat record id: 62459652

Edsel Ford was a connoisseur of fine art and antiques and a designer of considerable talent. His vision for the Ford Motor Company included attention to design, production, and sales, combining the beauty of custom design with the low cost of production. Edsel established the first Ford Motor Company styling section, initially heading a three man team which included John Crawford, his executive assitant as shopmaster and production expert, and Eugene Turrenne (Bob) Gregorie as his designer.

From the description of Edsel Ford Automotive Scrapbook series, 1911-1925. (The Henry Ford). WorldCat record id: 62459671

Edsel Bryant Ford was born November 6, 1893 in Detroit, Michigan, the only child of Henry and Clara Bryant Ford. Educated in public schools and the Detroit University School, he was pursuaded by his father when he graduated from high school in 1912 to assume respnsibilities at the company's new Highland Park Plant rather than going on to college. When Henry decided to build tractors as well as automobiles in 1917, he formed a new corporation, Henry Ford & Son, Inc. and began to produce the Fordson tractor in a Dearborn factory. Edsel was, however, already handling major responsibilities beyond tractors within the Ford organization. He was elected secretary of the company on November 1, 1915, and vice-president as well as secretary on January 18, 1917. On December 30, 1918, when Henry Ford resigned as president of Ford Motor Company, Edsel was named president effective January 1, 1919, a position he would hold for the rest of his life. (He was also appointed treasurer in 1921.) Particularly adept in planning, sales, and advertising, Edsel assumed responsibility for the business side of corporate affairs, overseeing, for example, the company's massive expansion from 1919 to 1925. In addition to the functional, Edsel believed an automobile could be beautiful. After the company puchased Lincoln Motor Company in 1921, he took charge of Lincoln design and marketed Lincolns with customized coachwork by leading American and European designers. He introduced and was instrumental in the design of the Model A in 1929, the Lincoln Zephyr in 1936, the Mercury in 1938, and the Lincoln Continental in 1940. Edsel had a lifelong enthusiasm for aviation and was a major sponsor of Admiral Richard E. Byrd's flights over the South Pole in 1919 and the North Pole in 1926. After the Stout Metal Airplane Company was absorbed by the Ford Motor Company in 1925, he encouraged the design of a trimotor airplane and fostered an annual Air Reliability Tour to promote dependable flying. He also encouraged Ford Motor Company's participation in events such as the World's Fairs of the 1930s. Edsel and Eleanor Lowthian Clay, whom he married in 1916, were benefactors to numerous organizations including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Museum of Modern Art, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit University School, Lincoln Highway Association, Shenandoah National Park, and Henry Ford Hospital. They had four children.

From the description of Edsel B. Ford office papers, 1903-1945 (bulk 1920-1940) (The Henry Ford). WorldCat record id: 62459642


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