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Celebrate Henry Ford's Life with a New Bio!

April 7 is the anniversary of Henry Ford's death. Ford's life is the focus of a new bio for young readers by author Catherine Gourley.

Wheels of Time Book Cover Henry Ford didn't relish farm chores or sports, the way most boys did. Instead he fashioned screwdrivers out of his mother's knitting needles and tiny tweezers out of her corset stays. He used those improvised tools -- and the odd watch pieces that always filled his pockets -- to repair malfunctioning timepieces.


"Tools were Henry's toys. His father called him a tinkerer. His mother called him 'her born mechanic.' Being different was a strength, not a weakness, she told Henry. You must find the thing that you do best, she said, and then do it the best you can."

In Wheels of Time, a biography of Henry Ford by author Catherine Gourley, the story of Ford's early interest in watches sets "time" as a recurring theme. Indeed, when young Henry's mother died, he recalls that he felt "like a watch without a mainspring." Years afterward, Ford would pioneer the assembly line -- "carefully calibrated, like a giant moving timepiece," to assemble 5,000 parts into a working automobile. He also introduced the 8-hour workday. And his interest in collecting potbelly stoves, wooden farm plows, horse-drawn buggies, and other artifacts of his childhood -- a seeming effort to turn back time -- led Ford to establish Greenfield Village, which today stands as a museum to an era.


"Henry's ideas about time and motion had helped to transform America from a rural country into and industrialized nation," Gourley concludes. And she has drawn upon the rich resources of the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, including family home movies and reminiscences of those close to Ford, to bring that transformation to life.

Along the road in Wheels of Time, readers learn of Ford's marriage to Clara -- a believer and encourager, as his mother had been. We eavesdrop on Ford's first meeting with inventor Thomas Edison. We laugh as Ford knocks out the wall of his workshop because the automobile he's just completed won't fit through the door! And finally -- at the end of an alphabet-soup of early Ford models -- we are introduced to the Model T (1921), "lightweight but strong, inexpensive but dependable."

By this time, workers in Ford's factory were turning out 8,000 cars a day!

Creative teachers might use Wheels of Time to inspire additional learning about Henry Ford, his times, and his impact -- for better or for worse -- on the day-to-day lives of Americans. Students might use the book as they produce a timeline of Ford's life.

Wheels of Time, by Catherine Gourley, is published in association with the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village by Millbrook Press. Ask your bookseller to order a copy for you, or contact Millbrook Press, 2 Old Milford Road, Brookfield, CT 06804.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1998 Education World