Henry Ford and the American Dream
Producer: Sarah Colt
His innovative Model T transformed the lives of millions. His assembly line transformed the character of modern industry, introduced mass production, and re-defined the nature of work. His Five Dollar Day laid the foundation for American prosperity in the twentieth century, and planted the seeds for the middle class. His advocacy of consumption as a means to self-fulfillment helped create American consumer culture and re-defined the meaning of “the pursuit of happiness.”
But Ford rejected the culture he helped to create. Relying on his folk hero status, he expanded his influence beyond the car industry to publishing, politics and international diplomacy. Ford harkened back to a mythologized version of his youth, when America was a predominantly rural society. Nowhere was his increasingly misinformed and skewed vision of the world more on display than in his diatribes against Jews published in his newspaper The Dearborn Independent. Nowhere was his cruel and vicious behavior more obvious than in his treatment of his only child, Edsel.
By the 1930s, his factories had become dark places of intrigue and brutality. The pacifist and celebrated friend of the working man declared war on his own employees. By the time of his death in 1947, the man who had created so much of the modern world no longer belonged to it.