Edsel Bryant Ford

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Edsel Bryant Ford

Birthdate: (49)
Birthplace: Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, United States
Death: May 26, 1943 (49)
Gaukler Point (his home), Grosse Pointe Shores, Wayne County, Michigan, United States (stomach cancer & complications from undulant fever)
Place of Burial: Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Henry Ford and Clara Jane Ford
Husband of Eleanor Lowthian Clay
Father of Henry Ford II ("HF2" and "Hank the Deuce"); Benson Ford; Josephine Ford; Mary "Polly" Giffin and William Clay Ford, Sr.

Occupation: President, Ford Motor Company
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Edsel Bryant Ford


Edsel Bryant Ford (November 6, 1893 – May 26, 1943), son of Henry Ford, was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA. He was a president of Ford Motor Company from 1919 until his death in 1943.

Life and career

As Clara and Henry Ford's only child, Edsel was groomed to take over the family automobile business, and had grown up tinkering on cars with his father. He became secretary of Ford in 1915 and married Eleanor Lowtian Clay (1896–1976), niece of department store owner J. L. Hudson, on November 1, 1916. Together they had four children: Henry Ford II (1917–1987), Benson Ford (1919–1978), Josephine Clay Ford (1923–2005), and William Clay Ford (born 1925). They made their home at 2171 Iroquois St, in the Indian Village neighborhood of Detroit.

Ford went to The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut. His family have been donors to the school, and the school library is named the Edsel Ford Memorial Library.

The younger Ford showed more interest than his father in flashier styling for automobiles. He indulged this proclivity in part with the purchase of the Lincoln Motor Company in 1922. His affinity for sports cars was demonstrated in his personal vehicles: Edsel bought the first MG motorcar imported to the United States. In 1932 he had an aluminium, boat-tailed speedster automobile custom-designed for him by Ford's first designer, E.T. (Bob) Gregorie. This car had a number of features that were not available on any other car. Most of the design features appeared in many Ford models throughout history. The car had Ford's brand-new V8, the first low-cost eight-cylinder engine. The car is considered the world's first "Hot Rod" by many car experts and historians, and one of the most desired automobiles in history.[citation needed] Two years later Edsel had another car designed, this one a low-riding aluminum-bodied speedster. The latter two cars he kept for the remainder of his life and inspired the design of the Lincoln Continental. The 1934 roadster was sold at auction in 2009 for $1.79 million dollars.

After becoming president of Ford, Edsel long advocated the introduction of a more modern automobile to replace the Model T, but was repeatedly overruled by his father. Flagging sales and dwindling market share for the company, however, finally made introduction of a new model inevitable, the Model A.

During the design phase for the Model A in 1927, Henry Ford assured mechanical quality and reliability, leaving it to his son to develop the body design, with the help of designer József Galamb. Edsel also prevailed upon his father to allow the inclusion of four-wheel mechanical brakes and a sliding-gear transmission on this model. The resulting Model A was a commercial success, selling over four million during four years of production.

As president, Edsel Ford often disagreed with his father on major decisions, and was occasionally humiliated in public by the older man. The relationship between the father and son was always close but also always fraught with unhealthy aspects. However, Edsel managed to introduce many lasting changes. He founded and named the Mercury division. He was responsible for the Lincoln Zephyr and Lincoln Continental. He significantly strengthened Ford Motors' overseas production, and he worked to modernize the company's cars, such as by the introduction of hydraulic brakes.

Death and legacy

Edsel Ford died due to stomach cancer in 1943 at 'Gaukler Point' in Grosse Pointe Shores at the age of 49. His father, Henry, resumed the presidency of the company. All of Edsel Ford's nonvoting stock was donated through a codicil in his will to the Ford Foundation, which he had founded with his father seven years earlier. He was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan.

Each of Edsel Ford's children inherited many shares in the Ford company, and the three sons all worked in the family business. Henry Ford II succeeded his grandfather as president of Ford on September 21, 1945. He is generally credited with rescuing the company after World War II.

Edsel Ford was one of the most significant art benefactors in Detroit history. As president of the Detroit Arts Commission, he commissioned the famous Diego Rivera Detroit Industry mural contained within the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). He was an early collector of African art and his contributions became part of the core of the original DIA African art collection. After his death his family continued to make significant contributions.

Edsel also helped to finance exploratory expeditions, including the historic flight of Admiral Richard Byrd over the North Pole in 1926. Byrd, in his Antarctic expeditions, also financed by Edsel, named the Edsel Ford Range of mountains after him. Other Antarctic homages include Ford Massif, Ford Nunataks, and Ford Peak.

Two of the three high schools in Dearborn are named after Edsel Ford: Edsel Ford High School and Fordson High School; Fordson was the brand name of a line of tractors and was originally started as a separate company, Henry Ford & Son, later absorbed into the Ford Motor Company. Interstate 94 in the Detroit Metropolitan Area is named the Edsel Ford Freeway.

In September, 1957, Ford Motor Company unveiled a new brand of cars called the Edsel. The Edsel is remembered as a significant commercial failure, although the car sold moderately well in its first year. The Edsel brand was discontinued soon after the 1960 models were introduced.

Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

In 1929 the Ford family moved into 'Gaukler Point', their new home designed by Albert Kahn in 1929, on shores of Lake St. Clair in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan. The estate's gardens were designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen with his traditional 'long view' giving visitors a glimpse of the residence down the long meadow before revealing the entire house at drive's end.

He also designed the gardens for Edsel and Eleanor's summer estate 'Skylands' in Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island in Maine. (1922). Jensen did design work for their two other Michigan residences, one being 'Haven Hill,' between 1922 and 1935. 'Haven Hill', now within the Highland Recreation Area near White Lake Township in southeastern Michigan, is designated as both a Michigan State Historical Landmark and State Natural Preserve. Jensen's landscape elements, with the diversity of tree, plant and animal life, combine aesthetics, history and nature.

Edsel Ford died at 'Gaukler Point', the Grosse Pointe Shores house, in 1943. His wife Eleanor continued living there until her death in 1976. It was her wish that the property be used for "the benefit of the public." The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is now open to the public. Located on 87 acres (350,000 m2), the house has an excellent collection of the Ford's original antiques and art, and the historical landscape grounds on the lakefront. The museum currently hosts tours, classes, lectures, and special events. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Edsel Bryant Ford's Timeline

November 6, 1893
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, United States
September 4, 1917
Age 23
Detroit, Wayne Co., MI
January 1, 1919
Age 25
July 20, 1919
Age 25
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, United States
Age 26
July 7, 1923
Age 29
March 14, 1925
Age 31
May 26, 1943
Age 49
Grosse Pointe Shores, Wayne County, Michigan, United States
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, United States