once as sensible as a banker and asnvisionary as a mystic—a quintessentialnAmerican hero.nThe entrepreneur has proved tonhave considerable appeal for the liberalsnwho bait the bureaucracy innCharles Peters’ Washington Monthly.nEven PBS is getting into the act with antelevision series, The Entrepreneurs,naired this spring. Surely the astoundingnpopularity of Lee lacocca’s autobiographynowes much more to that erstwhilenFord salesman’s ability to projectna hardworking, scrappy, entrepreneurialnimage than to any of his concretenachievements. No doubt, this imagenhelps account for the persistent suggestionsnthat lacocca would make a creditablenPresidential candidate.nFord was very far from being the simplenman of American folklore.n26 / CHRONICLESnIt is not the first time in this century,nthough, that a prominent automotivenexecutive has been put forward fornthe Presidency. As Robert Lacey remindsnus in his splendid book Ford:nThe Men and the Machine, that honornbelongs to Henry Ford, himself, perhapsnthe greatest of all American entrepreneurs.nThe glimpse Lacey’s booknaffords into the strange life and mindnof this entrepreneurial exemplar, asnwell as into the tangled psychologicalnlegacy he bequeathed to his offspring,nmay impart a more somber hue to ournimage of the buccaneering businessadventurer.nAlthough he was a man of demonicnenergy, with a kind of rough andnunreflective integrity about him, Fordnwas very far from being the simplenman of American folklore. Indeed, thenwords paradox and irony—not tonmention inconsistency—are likely tonrecur in any discussion of Ford’s lifenand work. He was a man able to looknboth forward and backward, often exhibitingnboth traits at the same time.nSuch a fusion of futurism and nostalgianwas characteristic of many Americansnwho came of age during thenProgressive era; one can find a similarnpattern in such different men as FranknLloyd Wright, Woodrow Wilson, JohnnDewey, and Charles Ives. Ford wasnmerely the most extreme example ofnsuch split-mindedness. Although henhad the prejudices of an agrarian populist,ncomplete with anti-Semitismnand hostility to bankers, Ford was onenof the most powerful of Americannindustrialists, pioneering not only thenassembly line but also somethingncalled “human engineering”—an intrusivenand coercive form of laborncontrol. He repeatedly affirmed thensolid and middle-American moralnteaching of the McGuffey Readers butnalso kept a mistress directly under hisnwife’s nose and delighted in the cruelnand repeated public abasement of hisnson and heir apparent, Edsel. He isnfamous for his injunctions about thenuselessness of history but was obsessednwith his own history, and, as Laceynshows, he loved to tinker with machinery.nFord hated farming but, in thenbest Jeffersonian fashion, idealized thenvirtues of country life; indeed, henspoke of his greatest achievement, thenuniversally affordable Model T, as anmeans by which a man could “enjoynwith his family the blessing of hours ofnpleasure in God’s great open spaces.”nHere is where the ironies of HenrynFord begin to extend beyond personalnidiosyncracy and begin to take on culturalnsignificance. Ford was the mostnpowerful force behind the automobilizationnof America, yet he had nonintimation of the effects of this technologynon “Cod’s great open spaces.”nOnce he had become wildly successfulnand unimaginably wealthy. Fordnplunged into what became the overridingnpassion of his later life: historicalnrestoration. The irony in this developmentncould hardly have been greater.nIt was as if Ford were trying to compensatenfor the forces he had unleashed,ntrying to preserve, in suchnprojects as Creenfield Village, “thenslow-paced, candlelit America,”nwhich writes Lacey, “he, more thannanyone, did so much to destroy.” Yetnthere is littie evidence that Ford hadnanything like compensation in mind.nAs Lacey’s account of Ford suggests,nthe entrepreneur is not always able tonsustain his efforts effectively. For, thensame single-mindedness that fires hisncreative imagination can as easilynblind him to realities. Henry Ford is ancase in point. Although his determinationnto provide “a motor car for thengreat multitude” was fabulously successful,nthat success was shorter-livednthan is commonly realized. Sales ofnnnthe Model T slipped steadily duringnthe prosperous mid-1920’s, as the TinnLizzie became old hat and the publicnflocked instead to buy the more gracefulnand fashionable Chevrolets, manufacturednat Alfred P. Sloan’s GeneralnMotors (and marketed on the installmentnplan). Hardheaded Henry Fordncould not believe that public dissatisfactionnwith his pet invention wasnresponsible for the declining sales figures.nHe refused to listen to the soundnadvice of his son Edsel, that the ModelnT had to be replaced. Such obstinacynis not unusual among entrepreneurialnpioneers, and it had unfortunate results.nThanks to Henry’s insistencenupon running the company with thensame personal oversight that he hadnexercised in the beginning, by 1930nthe Ford Motor Company lost its primacynin the industry to CM.nThe Ford family’s personal control,nthen, would have much to do withntheir company’s erratic performancenover the years. General Motors, on thenother hand, had devised a modernnmanagement structure—a bureaucracynbased upon systematic research,nrational planning, and a well-definednchain of command—which left thenchaotic, haphazard, and individualisticnmanagement style of Ford flounderingnin its wake. Only as Ford MotornCompany began adopting similarnmethods — not wholly implementednuntil the retirement of Henry Ford IInand the installment of Philip Caldwellnas the first non-Ford-family chairmann—was it able to keep pace.nSo much, then, for the stayingnpower of some entrepreneurs. For betternor worse, their characters and contributionsnhave not, in the final analysis,ndetermined the fate of modernnbusiness. It was not in Henry Ford’snfragmented and solitary life, as henshuttled daily between his gargantuannRouge River plant and his evermountingncollections of antiquities,nthat the future lay. Instead, it laynbehind the walls of General Motors’noffices on Grand Boulevard, thenworld’s largest office building in itsnday, where CM devised and perfectednthe methods of modern management.nYet, our understanding of what goesnon behind such walls, and particularlynin the hearts and minds of those whonlabor within them, still languishes innobscurity.n