Summary of The People's Tycoon

Looking for the book?
We have the summary! Get the key insights in just 10 minutes.

The People's Tycoon book summary
Start getting smarter:
or see our plans




  • Innovative


Henry Ford did not invent the automobile, but he invented something bigger - twentieth century America. It is no exaggeration to say that without Ford’s system of production, without his understanding of the mass market, without his Model T, that century would have been a very different phenomenon. Ford epitomized the contradictions, complexities and confusion of that America. Self-taught and utterly confident in what he knew, he despised what he did not know. A radical who created an industrial cornucopia for workers by introducing the five-dollar daily wage, he was an industrial tyrant who hired organized criminal gangs to intimidate labor union organizers. strongly recommends this thorough biography. Author Steven Watts offers a new way of looking at the facts, and at Ford - and does so with engaging style.

About the Author

Steven Watts is professor of history at the University of Missouri. He is the award-winning author of four books, including The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life and Practicing Primitive: A Handbook of Aboriginal Skills.



The People’s Tycoon

In 1919, Henry Ford found himself on the witness stand being cross-examined by a lawyer for the Chicago Tribune. Ford had filed a libel lawsuit against the Tribune for describing him as "an ignorant anarchistic enemy of the nation." The lawyer who cross-examined Ford certainly made him demonstrate the truth in the charge that he was ignorant. He dated the American Revolution to 1812, said chili con carne was an army and identified Benedict Arnold as a writer.

The jury ultimately found the newspaper liable for accusing Ford of anarchism, and awarded him six cents in damages. Notwithstanding Ford’s demonstration of ignorance, perhaps even because of it, his popularity grew. Ford achieved the status of a folk hero, and more. A survey of American workers conducted in 1940 found that they considered Henry Ford even more helpful to labor than union leader Walter Reuther or New Deal President Franklin Roosevelt. Both Vladimir Lenin and Adolf Hitler expressed their admiration for Ford.

Ford epitomized the values that dominated the American century. He recognized that without mass consumption, mass production could not exist. He laid...

More on this topic

When the Center Held
Kissinger the Negotiator
How Innovation Works
Leadership Is Language
The Right Way to Win
The Relationship Economy

Related Channels

Comment on this summary