Henry Ford: The Steve Jobs of his time

Henry Ford in 1919

There is a new documentary airing tonight on PBS about one of the most successful businessmen in U.S. history, Henry Ford. His Model-T revolutionized middle class life in America a little more than a century ago.

Considered by some as the Steve Jobs of his time, Ford was not merely a businessman. He understood the American consumer in a unique way.

"Henry Ford, very early on, has this vision that the car can be made sturdy enough and cheap enough to be sold to a much larger percentage of the population than just the top one percent, the wealthiest," says Sarah Colt, who wrote and directed
tonight's episode of "American Experience" on Ford.

Adding to Ford's mystique, he always considered himself a man of the people, despite being one of the wealthiest men in the world.

"Ford hadn't completed more than eighth grade in school, and he really identified with the working man," says Colt. "He didn't like the East Coast elite, he didn't like bankers, he had an aversion to Wall Street."

Colt thinks Ford's greatest legacy is seen in the car-based culture in the U.S. today. "We live the way we do today because of Henry Ford," says Colt. "Cars were not going to be for the regular person until Ford came along... He really was a revolutionary, and he really changed how we live."

"American Experience Presents: Henry Ford" will air on your local PBS station tonight. Check your local listings.

 

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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