New Horizons in Industry, Travel, and Culture Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh were both American heroes, in their way. And both were fairly controversial figures. Ford launched the Ford Motor Company, with several partners, in 1903. In 1908 he introduced the Model T, a car that proved durable and efficient and highly successful in the auto market. In order to keep up with demand, Ford developed new mass production methods, including the moving assembly line. He bought out his partners in 1919, introduced the Lincoln luxury line of automobiles in 1922, and by 1923 was producing more than half of all US vehicles. Such heights could not be sustained, however, as competitor General Motors began to make inroads into the market. In 1926, facing dwindling sales, Ford suspended production of the Model T. The next year he brought out the Model A, to great success. Ford strove to treat his workers well, on the premise that successful workers (and their families) become car owners and therefore likely consumers of Ford products. He observed an eight-hour workday and paid his employees well above the average. By and large, Ford exerted a positive influence on American life. On the other hand, he kept track of employee conduct outside the plant, strenuously opposed labor unions, blamed greedy financiers for the creation of wars, and was an anti-Semite and sympathizer of Nazism. In what follows, we present a selection from his 1922 memoir, My Life and Work.

Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh were both American heroes, in their way. And both were fairly controversial figures. Ford launched the Ford Motor Company, with several partners, in 1903. In 1908 he introduced the Model T, a car that proved durable and efficient and highly successful in the auto market. In order to keep up with demand, Ford developed new mass production methods, including the moving assembly line. He bought out his partners in 1919, introduced the Lincoln luxury line of automobiles in 1922, and by 1923 was producing more than half of all US vehicles. Such heights could not be sustained, however, as competitor General Motors began to make inroads into the market. In 1926, facing dwindling sales, Ford suspended production of the Model T. The next year he brought out the Model A, to great success. Ford strove to treat his workers well, on the premise that successful workers (and their families) become car owners and therefore likely consumers of Ford products. He observed an eight-hour workday and paid his employees well above the average. By and large, Ford exerted a positive influence on American life. On the other hand, he kept track of employee conduct outside the plant, strenuously opposed labor unions, blamed greedy financiers for the creation of wars, and was an anti-Semite and sympathizer of Nazism. In what follows, we present a selection from his 1922 memoir, My Life and Work.

Charles Lindbergh was the first aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, a feat he accomplished in 1927 by flying nonstop from New York to Paris. He had been working as an airmail pilot out of St. Louis when he received backing to enter a competition for crossing the Atlantic. His 3,600-mile flight, in the Spirit of St. Louis, took 33½ hours and made him an instant hero not only in the United States but in Europe. Several aviators had died trying to accomplish this feat in the year prior to Lindbergh’s flight. “Lucky Lindy” was such a hero that President Calvin Coolidge had an ocean cruiser sent to bring him home, where he was awarded the Medal of Honor, granted the rank of colonel in the US Army Reserve, and given a ticker-tape parade in New York City. Like Ford, however, controversy–and, in Lindbergh’s case, tragedy–visited him. After marrying the writer Anne Morrow, he saw the couple’s first son kidnapped (1932) and, ultimately, murdered. In the lead-up to World War II, Lindbergh leaned toward support of the Nazis and promoted US isolation under the “America First” banner. He harbored racist sentiments about “purity.” In later years, however, he moderated his views somewhat and became active in conservationist causes. In the present section, we present a news account–one of thousands of such accounts–regarding Lindbergh’s 1927 Paris landing.

Other technological and cultural achievements reviewed in this section are the first “talking” motion picture, The Jazz Singer of 1927; and a radio entertainment show called “The Floating Palace of Wonder,” an example of popular radio in the late 1920s.

Categories: History Content